Folkloristics essay is up at Strange Horizons

My essay “The Uses and Limitations of the Folklorist’s Toolkit for Fiction” is up at Strange Horizons.

This essay was a part of An Alphabet of Embers non-fiction rewards, and is dedicated to Arachne Jericho. I chose the topic and made all the choices about the content of this essay. I say this, because some of you may recognize my reference to a problematic editing project as the diverse fairytale anthology from Eggplant Productions, about which Arachne Jericho has written, as well as other people. A lot of things bothered me about that call, centrally its unquestioning use of a folkloristics tool, the Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index, to decide whether something was, or was not, a fairytale.

The essay is not about Eggplant, or any past or present controversies. I wanted to talk about how using academic tools unquestioningly for fiction can be problematic. I discuss how the Eurocentric bias of much of our 19th and early 20th social science scholarship still informs not only academia, but the world beyond academia – and our particular corner of it.

Folklore is an international phenomenon. Groups as small as families and as large as nations have folklore. While documenting, studying, and popularizing folklore has often had a Eurocentric bias (for historical reasons I outline in the essay), folklore itself is not Eurocentric.

I hope this essay is useful to editors and readers alike. Thanks to AJ and other An Alphabet of Embers backers for making this possible, to Nin Harris and Bogi Takács for  great commentary on the first draft, and of course to the Strange Horizons editorial team for publishing it.

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Rose Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Eastern Europe and Israel. Their work has appeared in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Uncanny, and other venues, and has been a finalist for the Nebula, Tiptree, Elgin, Rhysling, and Crawford awards.

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