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I’m really proud of how they all came out, and I had fun throwing challenging questions at the brilliant hapless panelists toward the end of the podcasts on the role of hospitality in stories, systems of communication, and making art while the world burns.
I’m also a panelist on the podcast about meal gatherings in fantasy, along with Elizabeth Bear, DongWon Song, Fonda Lee, and Ruthanna Emrys!
Here’s the description of what we talked about:
The Fantasy Feast
Meal gatherings are a prominent feature in fantasy. It’s not just the geographical availability of the food that details our worlds, but how characters interact with food and what it says about them. Whether characters’ staple foods are rice or bread, for instance, or if they have access to both, there’s still a choice of what to serve. A character who has more difficulty acquiring meat but nevertheless serves it to guests—or doesn’t—tells us something; likewise a character who can barely afford their own rice but still shares it.
A meal gathering is about the food, but it’s also about more than that: narratively, we can use meals to manipulate tension, build atmosphere, and create social frameworks that underpin our stories. Familiar mealtime customs and ways of interacting with food can work as anchors for the reader, while unfamiliar ones can make an experience as universal as sharing a meal feel alien. Fantasy has a particular reputation for devoting time to depicting not just food, but meals: let’s tease out why.