When I say 'fantasy monoculture', I'm referring to two main problems: firstly, that the world is monocultural in inspiration and existence, and secondly, that each nation, culture, or group is. I'll explain each of these further.
Symptoms of a Monocultural World:
You've been reading (hopefully, otherwise you should probably start now): and you've realised something. The last seven fantasies you've read were all set in a version of quasi-Medieval or Renaissance Europe. They were populated by nations differentiated only by name (and perhaps governance - and even that didn't change much. Monarchy, theocracy... Whatever happened to being picked by enchanted primates?). Their mythologies, legends, values and rituals were all based on those of Europe - with a token dash of familiar Egyptian. Their magic was based around tried-and-tested techniques - or European historical ideas: alchemy and hermeticism, maybe? (Without a twist: though a couple of Rothfuss' - and others' - magic systems might fail in this respect, his success at the other criteria, I think disqualifies him from a 'monocultural' label by far!). And you've realised the problem.
Many fantasies simply rely on the genre's established base and tropes, which in turn are rooted further back: mainly in Tolkien's own inspiration, such as Anglo-Saxon myths. But there's a problem: this one asexually-reproducing source has led to quite a multitude of stories sharing the same inspiration, and it's time to look outside - and outside our familiar landscape as well. (For extra points, please don't characterise one culture as an enemy: try something transformative instead, such as Mark Charan Newton's encroaching ice age!). Think about Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven. Brandon Sanderson's alien, storm-swept landscapes of Roshar. David Anthony Durham's confederacy of nations under Acacia. There are plenty of fantastic examples of this in modern fantasy, and I wholly recommend you sample a few.
Symptoms of a Monocultural Group:
You've realised something else as well. In the fantasy you're reading, ostensibly populated only by variety, there are only as many different characters as there are nations: David Eddings was probably the worst offender here. One or two characteristics were selected for each nation, then every resident shared those traits. Every Sendarian was solid and practical. (And probably described in those same terms). David Eddings did one thing right in this, though: residents of your fantasy world are going to have preconceptions. They're going to have national stereotypes - as Eddings did. But then what you have to do is break this stereotype. Show me that there are different factions, different cultures, different traditions within your group. (And before you do any of that? Show me that there are different people). I'm criticising mainly after the fact here: this trend has largely been deserted, and for good reason. Nevertheless, it's something that I think should be avoided.
So there you have it. What monocultural fantasy is, what it isn't - and why you should read such excellent exceptions -, and why I want to see fantasy inspired by different cultures. Indonesian fantasy, anyone?
(And regarding my second question. Yes, and 15 minutes)