I was asked yesterday to write something fictional that was related to my Malay background. I replied that I wasn't interested in doing that anymore because I was more interested in writing something that was inspired by medieval Arab/Islam.
My friend asked why medieval Arab and not Malay. And while at the time I simply answered, "Cos the medieval Islamic period is more interesting", I feel I should expand on that a little bit.
The truth is, when I first started this blog, I was all about writing something that reflected my roots and heritage. I wanted to write The Great Malaysian Novel. I wanted my stories to be infused with Malaysiana.
And I did. I wrote several short stories of which I feel reflect quite accurately the Malaysia that I personally know. Unfortunately those stories have never really been published, not because I think they're rubbish (although I do occasionally reread them and think they are a bit rubbish) but because I feel they are a little too personal for me to share with the rest of the world. They are just fiction but somehow I have an emotional bond attached to them that I cannot sever by releasing them into the wild. Doing so would be to bare my soul to the judgemental masses and I don't think I can do that.
Publishing those stories would mean exposing them to be criticised by readers and while I'm generally immune to brickbats and am quite welcoming of constructive criticism, I really cannot allow any leeway when it comes to these stories.
After writing those stories I realised that I had needed to write them as a sort of cathartic process and after I had done that I was ready to move on to other things. And so I moved on to writing fantasy inspired by the medieval Arab era.
And why that particular period? Well, it's like asking someone why they like the European Renaissance period. Because the period featured interesting people such as Galileo and Da Vinci.
Well, the medieval Arab period was the Renaissance before the Renaissance. The Muslims had conquered most of what remained of the Roman civilisation during this time and the great Arab scientists and thinkers of the era were lucky to have been able to study well-preserved documents of science, mathematics and history dating back to the Greek period.
Using ancient texts as their reference, the Muslim scientists began to build upon and add new information to what had already existed and these new developments were documented. This was the time of Ibn Sina, Ibn Battuta, Al Khwarizmi and Omar Khayyam.
The discoveries of these Muslim pioneers would later be brought over to Europe where it would inspire the Europeans to greater heights and usher in the Renaissance.
To say that the Medieval Islamic period is rife with inspiration for fantasy and science fiction stories is an understatement. I'm surprised more people haven't dug in this treasure trove of inspiration but hey, more for me I guess?