cereus: Cereus cactus blossom (Cereus)
[personal profile] cereus
(this post inspired by this series of posts on my Kemetic blog)

So when we're talking about "representation" in books (and movies and...)

I think that one of the most important types of representation in books for me, personally are desert books.  Even more than trans or disabled characters, for example.

No matter where you are in the United States, the "default paradigm" for stories is very northern temperate forest-based.  Like the whole tolkein and D&D and Arthurian mythos.  And a lot of stuff is built off that mythos.

And you can't just substitute some trees for cactus and have things work either, there's a whole different set of understandings underneath.  For example, the whole idea of Light being purely benevolent and Dark being purely malevolent doesn't work here.  It doesn't map onto reality well at all.  And even the idea of any force being purely malevolent or benevolent starts to become iffy.  Also "purity" is less of a central concept because "pure" things are often not condusive to the flourishing of life and life can use all the help it can get.  Mud isn't always something to wash away, it's something to shelter.

And I think that this stuff is why I latched on to Dune so hard, despite the fact that it is "problematic" as hell and sometimes I want to yell at Frank Herbert through the page..  Because it was also the first book that gave the highest honors to the Kangaroo Rat.

And that is precious.

A (incomplete) list of "Desert Books" -

Bless Me Ultima - Rudolfo Anaya
Territory - Emma Bull
Joshua Tree - Emma Bull (actually a short story)
The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley
Dune - Frank Herbert
Song of the Magdalene - Donna Jo Napoli

And I'm coming to think that the Myst series of video games have some of this too.  It's complicated because your adventures take you across many worlds, few of them desert.  But Atrus and Ti'ana both grew up in the desert, more or less.  And a lot of the attitudes and understandings are there.

Date: 2015-11-02 07:05 pm (UTC)
heartisanawesomepower: A section of the Earth as seen from space, with galactic clouds visible in the distance. (space)
From: [personal profile] heartisanawesomepower
(Corin: Have you read this? It's magic realism that relies heavily on the desert, and I think you'd like it.

I've got a desert-witch friend who I could ask for recs too if you like.)

Date: 2015-11-02 08:41 pm (UTC)
vladdraculea: Rainbow Autistic Pride lemniscate over the black, grey, white, and purple stripes of the Asexuality Pride flag (Default)
From: [personal profile] vladdraculea
Interesting. I hadn't thought about this, but you're right.

You might also enjoy the Dreamblood series by N.K. Jemisin.
Edited (left out a word) Date: 2015-11-02 08:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-11-02 10:17 pm (UTC)
rainbowmessage: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rainbowmessage
This is interesting. I never thought of this before, but it's true- you don't see a lot of books that are set in the desert. I think it's the point where a lot of people aren't even aware that there are deserts in the US (when we used to meet with relatives in a different city, we'd always call our city 'the desert.' And when my cousin, who had only heard about our city from hearing us refer to it at get-togethers as 'the desert' came to visit for the first time, he said he was expecting sand dunes and camels.)

Date: 2016-02-11 03:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
We actually grew up in Texas, so we developed a lust for forest in part BECAUSE of growing up in--well, it wasn't quite DESERT, but it was pretty close.

If you're interested in comic books, a lot of the Hernandez Brothers' "Love and Rockets" take place in the Mexican desert--particularly the "Heartbreak Soup" arcs. Also, if you'll pardon the shameless advertising, my story world of Infinity Smashed (http://lb-lee.livejournal.com/444543.html) is divided between rainy New Zealand forest and Arizona desert city.

I guess it's no surprise I don't associate "light" with purity, healing, or niceness. I just associate it with BURNING. Darkness is the pleasant place, for me!

--Rogan

Date: 2017-05-04 01:45 am (UTC)
starways: Photo of snow-covered trees along a road in winter (winter)
From: [personal profile] starways
So I'm not sure how inclined y'all are to fanfic, or to Star Wars fic in particular, but Fialleril has some absolutely amazing fic that is very heavily rooted in desert culture and understanding - particularly their Double Agent Vader series.

I hadn't really considered just how much of a role the biome plays in conceptions of morality and worth, though. We all really really appreciate this insight - particularly because some of us are writing desert fiction of our own, and those of us who are writing forest fiction (myself included) can now be more aware of the ways that our chosen setting can be played with.

- Mikhail
Edited Date: 2017-05-04 01:45 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-04 07:40 pm (UTC)
starways: Photo of snow-covered trees along a road in winter (winter)
From: [personal profile] starways
Oh, for sure! Right now all we've got at best is half-outlines, but that'll change once we've graduated. We'd love to have you as a beta reader :D

- Mikhail

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