By Sophia Whittemore
When I read Zen Cho’s work Sorcerer to the Crown, I expected a fun fantasy romp with a Victorian style of writing. The characters engaged in periodic intrigue, matchmaking, and magical hi-jinks.
I didn’t expect a lovable Malaysian female mentor,(move aside, Merlin), a half-Indian/badass female lead, a POC sorcerer struggling to find his identity in a mostly White kingdom, or monsters that thrive on the blood of women (since women blood magic is the strongest kind, obviously.)
Let’s just say I was very happy to find all of these things in Sorcerer to the Crown.
Reluctantly into this https://t.co/cmjrghjygW
— Zen Cho (@zenaldehyde) July 13, 2017
I was delighted to find out from her twitter timeline that she’s also extremely into nasi lemak (a Malay fragrant rice dish) and the idea of fast food nasi lemak burgers becoming a Singaporean favorite. But her down-to-earth personality is not all there is to be grateful for. It turns out that she’s the poster-author for diversity in literature, leading the fight to remove any thought that sci-fi and fantasy are only for 50-year old White males.
An article in the Independent describes two of her main characters. Zacharias Wythe is England’s first Sorcerer Royal of African descent, and Prunella Gentleman is a fiery and ambitious mixed-race orphan with a gift for magic.
“Zacharias isn’t just a metaphor,” she says. “He’s a character. The same for Prunella. But obviously I wanted to write about the centrality of the colonial territories to the British at that time. Colonialism was fundamental to the way Britain worked. London was built on slavery and imperialism, and I wanted to explore how that worked through a fantastical Regency romance.”
Cho was born and raised in Malaysia. She is the author of Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad and editor of anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia. She has been nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer and honor-listed for the Carl Brandon Society Awards for her short fiction. Sorcerer to the Crown (Ace/Macmillan) won a British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer and was a Locus Awards finalist for Best First Novel. She lives in London.
In short, Cho is using the power of magic, imagination, and culture to fight against intolerance. She’s definitely one to watch when it comes to the diversity in sci-fi/fantasy movement.
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