The Fantasy of Beringia, except it’s true

Woolly Rhinoceros
Woolly Rhinoceros

I work at the Beringia Centre, where we preserve Yukon history from 14,000-10,000 years ago. The great land mass of Beringia, situated in what is now the Bering Strait, connecting Siberia and Alaska, was our Atlantis–land that flourished for awhile and then sunk beneath the sea.

While it was here, it was a huge grassland bordered by glaciers and mountains, a refuge untouched by the Ice Age going on in northern North America, a place where plants and animals evolved and lived. And the animals, like the Woolly Rhino to the left, looked like something out of an ancient bestiary.

I think Beringia is a fantasy setting untapped. I would love to get a group of science fiction and fantasy writers to choose Beringia as a setting—scimitar cats, woolly mammoths, hunters crossing the land bridge, giant sloths and beavers, and the magic of the Gwich’in and T’lingit storytelling to go with it. It’s our living fantasy setting, or was.

Everything there is true, and the facts and science could aid a group of writers in developing storylines based on the science and setting of Beringia.

Perhaps one of our assignments in my after school sci-fi/fantasy writing program will be to go to the Beringia Centre and imagine it as a fantasy/sci-fi setting—research the science–develop a story. True, fantasy writers like to come up with settings that utilize wizards, dwarves, dragons, but these are northern European settings, northern European mythology, and Canadian writers have a treasure sitting beneath them.

We don’t have to live by Elves Alone.

Perhaps Beringia will inspire new writers to come up with their own mythology and characters based on this place–and break the European mold. Eh, it’s just an idea. Come visit and see the Fantasy that was really true. I dare Europe to find the bones of a dragon!

3 thoughts on “The Fantasy of Beringia, except it’s true

  1. Fawn August 13, 2008 / 9:59

    In case you haven’t heard of it, there is a series of books by Jean Auel that takes place during the Wuerm Glaciation period. Woolly rhinos, mammoths, aurochs, megaceros, chamois, and mouflon all show up, and the author spends a lot of time constructing and describing the cultures of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal characters (as she imagines them, of course).

    Without elves and wizards, I don’t know how exactly to define “fantasy”, but perhaps the Earth’s Children series qualifies by your definition of the genre.


  2. jstueart August 14, 2008 / 9:59

    Thanks, Fawn!! I’m aware of Auel’s books, yes, but I consider them more historical romance than fantasy. But Auel’s on the page—as her characters are so much a part of their setting, and their setting is so “exotic”–but I guess I’m talking about something more akin to Dinotoping this whole place–imagining a world where Beringia lasted, perhaps, or putting an intelligent peoples and complex society alongside the woolly rhinos… or time traveling, or something altogether creative by altering the history and the plausibility. Fantasy bends reality; Science fiction enhances it through technology–so I’m kind of asking for someone to bend or enhance Beringia in fiction.

    Thanks for responding! Cheers!!

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