C4P: Charul Palmer-Patel & Matthew J Elder-Imperialism as Evil in Epic Fantasy



Luna's third Call for Papers, A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Wednesday the 14th of August, at Dublin Worldcon. Explore the 21 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Charul Palmer-Patel (Canada) and Matthew J Elder (New Zealand). Charul has a Doctorate from Lancaster University, UK; independent researcher of fantasy fiction; head editor of Fantastika Journal; Matthew is a PhD Candidate at the University of Waikato; Researcher of contemporary fantasy literature, magic, and identity construction.

Presenting the paper: Imperialism as “Evil” in Epic Fantasy: An Analysis of the Fantasy Works of Eddings, Jordan, Sanderson, and Brett.

Charul and Matthew say:

"For better or worse, modern and contemporary Fantasy has always had a relationship with good and evil. In recent literature, the roles of characters, heroes and villains, while tied to these concepts, have become more nuanced in a way that is critical of the genre’s problematic traditions. David Eddings and Robert Jordan’s works are both wary of invading Empires, but in Othering that Evil fail to recognise the inherent oppression in the Empires that their heroes build. Progressing forwards into the twenty-first century with Brandon Sanderson and Peter V. Brett, this complicity becomes more recognised and is represented in part through more nuanced and complicated villains. These contemporary villains move through arcs structured such that they explore a justification of Empire, shift to a critique of that perspective, and ultimately shift to deny that worldview. Such a process recognises the complex nature of hegemonic Empire in a way that challenges the too-simple good versus evil binary of the genre’s past. These authors have been selected as representative of the popular commercial Fantasy of the last four decades. Through these dominant – white American male – voices within the genre, there can be seen a progression towards a self-reflexive problematising of both imperialism and the imposition of a single dominant ideology. The evolution of evil becomes more nuanced through the decades as authors begin to write in a more globalized, culturally aware space.

Eddings’s Belgariad (1982-1984) and Malloreon (1987-1991) series convey the struggle between the forces of Light and Dark as a eons-long war between the nations of the West and East respectively.

The Western protagonists ultimately “save” the Eastern nations, an action of colonisation that is seen as benevolent within the context of the narrative.

Jordan’s Wheel of Time series (1990-2012) expands on the role of the hero as imperialistic saviour and complicates it further. As the character slowly goes mad and demonstrates schizophrenic tendencies, Rand’s tyrannical actions as hero and saviour are problematically linked to insanity.

Sanderson’s Elantris (2005) brings an awareness of the way hegemonic oppression forms and sustains Empires. The novel critiques such efforts through the character’s change in perspective that is mirrored in the structure of the novel itself.

Brett’s The Demon Cycle (2008-2017) works to explore the justifications for an imperial perspective from someone who believes they are literally saving the world from Demons by enforcing rule through religious and cultural conversion. The Demon Cycle comes to reject all forms of Empire, even the apparently salvific ones formed by heroes.

Through a brief examination of Eddings, Jordan, Sanderson, and Brett, we will examine how there has been an evolution in the complexity of the role of villainous characters in order to critique imperialism as evil. Ultimately, these critiques of imperialism acknowledge the limitations of single dominant narratives, and engage with the more diverse, globalised space within which these texts exist and are read."

Charul Palmer-Patel received a doctorate from Lancaster University, UK in 2017.

Her first monograph, The Shape of Fantasy (Routledge, 2019), examines structures of post-1990 American Epic Fantasy. Palmer-Patel is head editor of Fantastika Journal (www.fantastikajournal.com), a journal that brings together the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Gothic/Horror, among others. Palmer-Patel currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Matthew J. Elder is a PhD candidate and tutor at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. He is also Reviews Editor at Fantastika Journal.

His research interests include contemporary fantasy literature, magic, and identity construction. Sacrifice in long-form contemporary fantasy is the subject of his doctoral research. He finds hope in the notion that exploring impossible worlds might help make our own world better.

For Luna Press Publishing: A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction

A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction

is now in pre-order!

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