Winter Is Coming: Climate, Morality, and Whiteness

I recently started re-reading A Game of Thrones, which means I’ve had the Stark words lodged in my head more than usual. Winter is coming. Also, I looked outside, and as frost starts to coat the grass in the morning, Ned might have a point.

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A Song of Ice and Fire is always heavy-handed with its climate metaphors, but it is not alone in ascribing certain moral values to different weather patterns. H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe placed their monstrous horrors beneath the ice, and C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien show a preference for temperate climes while fearing the tropics.

While superficially harmless, there begins to be a clear pattern that uses climate, particularly this kind of temperate climate marked by warm summers and cold winters, as a shorthand to remind the reader of certain parts of the United States and Europe. By continually centering this one ecological structure, authors, intentionally or otherwise, privilege a kind of Anglo-American whiteness, culturally as well as physically. The underlying message, therefore, is one of white supremacy, particularly Anglo supremacy.

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Werewolf Soldiers as Allegory in The Lunar Chronicles

Since this is our last post before Christmas (we’ll be back January 6th), I have a Christmas present for you all: a new awesome YA series for you to check out! I’ve been dying to write about The Lunar Chronicles for months, and now that my semester has finally ended, I can! Be ready for a barrage of Lunar Chronicles posts from me over the next few months.

Many fantasy series use fantastical or sci-fi aspects as a commentary on issues relevant to the society in which the books were published. For instance, in the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling attempted to use lycanthropy as an allegory for AIDS. The Lunar Chronicles, a quartet of cyberpunk fairy tale retellings by Marissa Meyer, similarly uses werewolves to get a point across. But in this case, the “werewolves” are genetically modified human soldiers, forced to fight for an oppressive regime, just like other indoctrinated soldiers throughout real history.

Spoilers for the second and fourth books in the series, Scarlet and Winter, below.

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