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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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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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