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Always Chaotic Evil - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Always Chaotic Evil
Here's an interesting essay about "evil races" in speculative fiction.  Plenty of writers find it convenient to have large numbers of unquestionably awful opponents for their heroes to hack and slash on the glory road.

For me, the appeal is different.  I like to look for the misfits, the imperfectly evil, the ineptly evil, the secretly good, the illegitimate or accidental or unexpected offspring, that sort of thing.  Always Chaotic Evil is okay as plot filler, but not really as interesting as the exceptions.  Some good examples may be found in my poetic series Sort Of Heroes.  Brod is a troll, introduced at the beginning with his friend Nib.  Later on we also meet the quarter-orc Hicket.  I have a half-orc healer simmering in the back of my mind too.

Of course, since this author mentioned the idea, but did not actually write it, I'm seriously tempted to create something along these lines:

Inspired by varied African folklore, they’re definitively not Orcs–nor are they based on any existing human phenotypic differences. No “tall, broad-chested, sharp-nosed, pale-skinned, with thin mouths and blue eyes degraded and repulsive versions of the (to POC) least lovely Caucasian-types” in my stories…cuz that would be ridiculous. 

I don't think it would be ridiculous, I think it would be awesome, especially with handsome and dashing heroes of color.  Caucasian body type doesn't get mocked enough.  I was deeply amused to discover that my Tingo, who are anthropomorphic canids, describe Caucasian humans as "the Grub Ones."  Because they look like larvae with their pale skin.

Conversely I'm intrigued by creatures that are expected to be good, but aren't, or aren't entirely so.  Angels who are into naughty sex, or who smoke, or corrupt the innocent.  Paladins gone awry, like Johan attempting to bail out of service; or paladins of evil, like Bodil.  One of my very early creations was a violent and raunchy red unicorn.

Expect the unexpected.  Look for patterns in literature, smash them with a sledgehammer, and decoupage the pieces.

EDIT 6/24/12:  Inspired by a prompt from marina_bonomi, I have written a poem featuring demons with Caucasian-type features.  "A Hole in the Blanket" tells about a young warrior whose little brother is stolen by demons, and she is determined to get him back.  marina_bonomi has expressed interest in opening this for microfunding, so you can watch for it to appear later.  138 lines, Buy It Now = $69

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(Deleted comment)
siege From: siege Date: June 22nd, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I might be. I'll think on this through the afternoon, and if something comes out I'll link back to it.
siege From: siege Date: June 22nd, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Congratulations, you inspired an epic!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 04:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Or...maybe...write what you want to write, and if you're lucky, when you look back, that's what you'll have done.<<

This sort of thing has happened to me more than once. The Adventures of Aldornia and Zenobia is all about lesbians who go sane, run away from home, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Essentially the opposite of what happens to lesbians in almost every other story, movie, etc.

>> Creatures that are expected to be good, but aren't, or aren't entirely so, to me, are humans, or might as well be. <<

For me it makes a difference. (YMMV, and that's okay.) Take a unicorn, that's a symbol of purity, but more subtly about sexuality. So if I make a violent raunchy unicorn then I'm saying something about purity and sexuality (or the lack thereof) that is different from what a violent raunchy human would say.

Coming from the other angle, Hicket belongs (partly) to a race that actually is horrid much of the time. There's a physiological and perhaps mystical basis to that beyond what there is for humans. Yet he's not a mindless thug, anyhow. It matters that he has this current to swim against. It matters that he's gotten into henchman work because pretty much nobody wants him for anything else, because they look at him and think "orc = evil" -- and there is actually some basis to that as a general concept despite the fact their specific assessment is wrong. So that's different from humans again, where race is really just an illusion not backed by genes or much of anything else.

>>The truly terrifying, relentless force of goodness, as such, hasn't been explored, as far as I know; the only glimpse I've had of it is a few seconds of music in a couple of Hammer films. And I know for a fact that I'm not up to doing it.<<

I am intrigued by this as well, and it comes up in some of my writing. Path of the Paladins has some of it. There's an aspect of the insidious pull of good in "Falling Up" from Sort of Heroes.

Anyhow, thanks for the comment, because it inspired someone else's epic, and that was just awesome.
lyonesse From: lyonesse Date: June 22nd, 2012 09:11 am (UTC) (Link)
asian stereotypes of white folks might make an interesting starting point (and i suspect long have in asia). there's the demons with white skin, green eyes, and red hair (coincidentally a big "magic person" look in white folks' fantasy lit), and the typical term meaning "big nose".

i don't write about unified groups of people enough to indulge in this kind of thing myself. even my werewolves are a mixed lot -- the one who gets the most text is hispanic, though my protagonist can't really identify him to race other than a brief "not white".
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> there's the demons with white skin, green eyes, and red hair (coincidentally a big "magic person" look in white folks' fantasy lit), and the typical term meaning "big nose".<<

That's a good point, must remember that one.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: June 22nd, 2012 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)
If you have a pantheon whose gods deal with different subjects from different points of view, then what the angels that serve them do will depend on what their divine masters require.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's basically what I figure, yes. No reason Gorrein can't have angels and paladins just because he has the personality of a psychotic 15-year-old boy.
amaebi From: amaebi Date: June 22nd, 2012 01:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

I've spent nearly two decades sorrowing for the young orc who really wants to spend his life playing cocktail piano. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I don't know what-all his aspirations are, but I direct your attention to Hicket (who is a quarter-orc) in "A Catalog of Flaws" and "The Fading Tower." You can request more about your favorite characters in any Poetry Fishbowl with a relevant theme.
livejournal From: livejournal Date: June 22nd, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

As always, it's Tolkien's fault

User marina_bonomi referenced to your post from As always, it's Tolkien's fault saying: [...] Browsing my friends' page I happened across this post [...]
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: As always, it's Tolkien's fault

I've recommended this in a separate post so more people will see it.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> I chose to take what I called a "shades of white" approach, where none of the different races could be called evil in any objective sense, but they still clashed all the time because of personal clashes between leaders, fights over scarce resources, grudges between individuals that escalated, and the fact that some of them had "raiding cultures", as one of the comments over there put it. <<

That sounds similar to what I have in The Ocracies: a bunch of very different cultures, each with its own political system. Sometimes they get along but other times they just totally drive each other nuts.

>>I usually go with non-willful Undead or Constructs. It only takes one person with the right kind of power going off the deep end and turning evil to get a full on horde going there, and since all those Skeletons and Zombies are really just puppets animated by his or her will and magic, it sidesteps the entire issue of culture.<<

Ah, that's a good solution, particularly the undead. Constructs, well, you know my penchant for sentient androids.

>>Also, one of the tipoffs that almost no one in Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series is white is when they run across a bunch of white supremacists, and refer to them as "fishbellies" because they're so pale.<<

Now you've got me imagining other subtle tipoffs for that. Like you go into a store and the bandaids are all brown. The makeup is chocolate-colored. There are lists, somewhere, of things that are geared towards white people ... it would be nifty to find one of those and reverse it all. And never say one explicit word about anyone's skin color in the story.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>"Constructs" is a pretty broad term. Plenty of room in there for both controlled and sentient versions.<<

Yes, that's true.

>>I'm clearly seeing some kind of hierarchy of sentience for Constructs, analogous to some of those for the Undead. So there could be very simple forms that are only animated directly by their creator's will, like the Zombies and Skeletons in my first example, some that can be self-directed, but are non-sentient, sort of on the "beast of burden" level, equivalent to Ghouls in some systems and some Ghosts, and then the fully sentient forms, on par with the Vampires and Liches.<<

I like this idea. It goes along with some things I've hinted in the Steamsmith series. The automatons there come in different types, some essentially just factory robots and others that can do more complex tasks. But they all have an animating 'spirit' that can take a template of what they are supposed to do. That leaves an opening for further development that people might not be expecting. Also it ties into takwin, the goal of Arabic alchemists to create life in the laboratory.

>>And I really like the idea of never explicitly giving anyone's skin colour, but dropping in all kinds of supporting evidence that makes it undeniable to a thorough reader that this is a non-white culture.<<

Yeah, I can't resist the temptation to poke people's assumed gaze in the eye with dinner forks.
siege From: siege Date: June 23rd, 2012 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

If you read "American Gods", there is only once sentence that gives a direct hint as to the protagonist's race, and otherwise no explicit mentions. But somehow, knowing only that much, and especially as a riddle instead of a fact, gives the whole book a slightly different color.
(Deleted comment)
siege From: siege Date: June 23rd, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

His name is Shadow. And whether or not he's Baldr, remember the description of that "spot the hidden things" puzzle, toward the end of the book?
(Deleted comment)
paka From: paka Date: June 22nd, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's interesting here is that the Maori already had elves who looked a lot like Europeans (patupaierehe) - I'm not entirely sure the "colorless" name came from these elf dudes or whether it's an independent thing. So they certainly didn't look at the weird pale people and go EWW ITS HIDEOUSLY UGLY AND EVIL, but I kinda think they're an exception rather than the rule. I mean, east Asian descriptions of westerners sort of make us the evil weird goblin bad guys in places.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 22nd, 2012 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I think it's interesting to compare descriptions of elves, dwarves, fey, and other mystical beings from different cultures. There are lots of good ideas in there.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
In an unfinished fantasy/scifi story of mine, I have a race of beings that look like beautiful Caucasian angels... and are terribly evil and cruel creatures that regularly do things like eviscerate pregnant women and eat the babies.

And one of the nicest people in my Lyria stories is a man-sized rat with cockroach wings and a poison-barbed tail.

Oh, and in a humor universe of mine, I have a character named Harry Fangballs who is an intelligent zombie lawyer fighting for the civil rights of non-human beings. (Or maybe it was Henry? I forget, offhand.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 02:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>In an unfinished fantasy/scifi story of mine, I have a race of beings that look like beautiful Caucasian angels... and are terribly evil and cruel creatures that regularly do things like eviscerate pregnant women and eat the babies.<<

That is freakishly disturbing.

>>And one of the nicest people in my Lyria stories is a man-sized rat with cockroach wings and a poison-barbed tail.<<

I do like characters with a soft and chewy center.

>>Oh, and in a humor universe of mine, I have a character named Harry Fangballs who is an intelligent zombie lawyer fighting for the civil rights of non-human beings. (Or maybe it was Henry? I forget, offhand.)<<

No, it should be Harry. *chuckle* You come up with the best names.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I think it *was* Harry, just because that's funnier.

Oh by the way, I'm doing something in my newest novel that might interest you, in terms of "different societies/societies have different rules." What it is, is that there are no negative genetic consequences on Traipah to inbreeding, due to some quirk of the planet's evolution. And so there is no incest taboo. Outbreeding is still encouraged, and polyamory is common, but I've got two Ah'Koi Bahnis characters, the siblings Nokwahl and D'Reenah, whose relationship was always a little slashy, and so because I wanted to explore that side of Traipahni society, I will be very tastefully be exploring the "nest mates" phenomena on Traipah. I'm just curious about your take on this.

Oh, have you seen this, too? Among other things, it mentions how the Ah'Koi Bahnis think differently from humans... that high functioning autism is the *norm* for them:
http://fayanora.livejournal.com/1117781.html
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>I wanted to explore that side of Traipahni society, I will be very tastefully be exploring the "nest mates" phenomena on Traipah. I'm just curious about your take on this.<<

I think it's awesome. I like exploring aliens that do things humans can't or won't do.

I have a race of aliens, introduced in the unpublished poem "Courting on the Porch," whose two sexes are sessile and mobile. It requires three parents -- one sessile and two mobiles -- to beget offspring. First there is a couple formed of one sessile and one mobile who are siblings; the mobile stays to tend the sessile and entertain possible mates. Other mobiles travel around looking for a mate, and will court them with gifts. The sessile is about the size of a hut or a small cottage, so the two mobiles go inside to mate. The genetic material comes from that homosexual pairing. The offspring are then gestated inside the sessile, who does not contribute genes directly but does have some influence over which genes manifest. This allows them to, for instance, favor their own family's genes, or turn off defective copies, or turn on traits that were latent but would be advantageous in current circumstances. So their social structure requires aspects of homosexuality, bisexuality, and is heavily weighted toward incest -- as the natural order of things.

>>Among other things, it mentions how the Ah'Koi Bahnis think differently from humans... that high functioning autism is the *norm* for them:<<

I think that using different neuro-atypical patterns is a great way to generate aliens that really are alien rather than humans of the author's own culture in funny suits. Yet it seems quite rare. I've only seen a few authors do it.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 03:24 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Oh, I love that motile/sessile thing, all of it. :-)

A short story in the Nokwahl series, called "Extended Vacation," has been exploring more about planimals, with some Ah'Koi Bahnis hunting wild planimals for food. (Planimals being motile plants. Some eat plants or other planimals, others eat animals.)

In the same vein, I keep pondering the possibility of Chahm'ah'kaag gengineers uplifting a planimal called a Kohr'vah into full sophont status. At present, they're about as intelligent as chimpanzees.

One of the neater aliens I've come across in scifi is a species of biological beings that used radio waves to see and speak. I think it was in Great Sky River.

Oh, another thing: in the Traipah universe, many people have these implants that, among other things, can translate languages. But the translator isn't universal; languages have to be programmed in or downloaded from a website. Also, even the best translators have difficulty with some languages. Shaokennah language doesn't seem to translate well into English, for instance. At best, about 75% of it will get translated, and what comes out may not always make sense.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)

PS

Oh, and I almost forgot: most planimals reproduce with seeds. And in many cases, the seeds are motile, too. The most common motile seed is a seed that looks like a little green worm.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Another thing

It also occurs to me, that since the people of Traipah have only one sex (except for the occasional mutant), then homosexuality is the norm for them. :-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 23rd, 2012 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another thing

Yeah, my silicos are like that, and the Branchians are hermaphrodites.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: June 23rd, 2012 06:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Another thing

Well the people of Traipah are hermaphrodites, which is essentially "one sex."
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