Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Races and Fantasy




I have reached a certain conundrum with my current work in progress. Should I use traditional races? There are plenty of epic fantasy and sword and sorcery books that use the traditional elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. 

But should I?

At first I started to avoid this pit fall, only to realize that I had created several races, all of whom just turned out as analogues for the traditional ones.

Using them is not a bad thing. When you mention dwarf, or elf, or even gnome, you create a very specific image inside the head of a reader. And movies like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have only helped in that regard.

At the same time you run the risk of becoming crystallized into what those races can and cannot do, and what those races are and are not. That risk does not change regardless of where you first encountered these different humanoid creatures. Only the details do. Elves from Tolkien and elves from a popular game like Dungeons and Dragons have some very distinct differences, and yes both are amazing in their own way, but with those archetypes stuck in your head it can be difficult to own them.

It brings up questions I am not sure I have all the answers to. Elves from Tolkien are pretty much divine beings that live until killed (or at least that is the way it seems).  Do I want that?  

The elves from dungeons and dragons can see in the dark, and are magical in nature along with a myriad of other special qualities. Do I want anything like that? Do I want o use part of each? How would using anything like that change how these creatures would act and interact within the story?

My biggest problem with changing the traditional names and going with my own creations that are similar, is that having so many could get confusing to the reader and that I would lose some of that imagery that these words conjure in the minds of reader.

And in all honesty I want some of that imagery, and some of that tone. I want to tap into that feeling that someone gets when they read about an elf, and their mind goes back to that first time they EVER read about or saw an elf.

It’s kind of a cheat, but it is a cheat that all writers use. When a writer describes someone as looking 

like Santa Claus a very specific image pops into your head. If a writer describes someone as looking 

like Santa Clause, if he were Hell’s Angel, then a similar, and yet very different image will pop into your head.

It’s not really about making others happy on which choice I make. There are some readers who hate the traditional creatures of fantasy, and there are some readers who really love them.

It is about my biggest concern. If I use them and change them will I end up changing them too much? Would I end up with sparkly vampires that aren’t vampires? And if that is the case then why even use the word elf or dwarf at all? 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Realms: Second Meeting with Sherlen

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Realms: Second Meeting with Sherlen: Marpenoth 19, 1367 DR - Year of the Shield             With nary a wave farewell Remenissions mounted his horse and galloped so...

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Lance: Disease and Blades

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Lance: Disease and Blades: Bright Eye, Winter Night 2, 354 AC Surprised the cleric of Morgion turned to face the intruders. "What are you doing here? You...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Ethnicity/Race/Gender and Superheroes



In one of the many groups I am part of this really talented person made himself a truly epic Batman cosplay costume. This young man also happens to be black. Shouldn't be a big deal. A costume is a costume and fun is fun. Some people tried to tell him that "historically Batman is white", usually right after the phrase "I'm not racist but". Then they would go on and say he should dress as a character that is already black.

There is so much wrong here I am not sure where to start.

First off, if someone does a lot of hard work creating a costume for a character they love then either applaud the hard work or shut your mouth. Unless you are applauding their hard work or you have something constructive  to say (I see you did Technique A for the gloves, you can do Technique B instead and save yourself some time, money  and aggravation) or a question (What material did you use to create the six pack ab effect?) then you have nothing to say.

Second, bringing up a fictional character as some sort of historical context for the validity of your racism is mind boggling backward. Even Lenny from of Mice and Men wouldn’t use that kind of argument.

If we go into the REAL history of many of our beloved superheroes we will find racist motivations behind many of the reason a character was white. Batman was created at a time when no publisher would have allowed a black superhero.  Same with Superman.  Nineteen thirties America was not an enlightened place, and we still have a long way to go. 

And even many of the non male, non white superheroes feel a bit like token characters. Not all of them, just many of them. 

At the same time I do think that doing a gender swap, or a skin color swap on a superhero does change that superhero, but I think it adds a much needed level of depth and complexity. Imagine a Batman who was black. How would police perceive him? Would have ever get the praise he deserves or would he always be treated as a criminal just as bad as those he pursues?

And no you don’t need to make him Batwing, or Batkid, or some other bullshit Bat-deviation.  All that does is place the character in a lesser position than the actual Batman. You may not think this is important. But really it kind of is. There is something call stereotype threat.   

You may not think it affects you, but it does. That is its nature. Study after study (not linking to them here, because there are too many and if you are really interested do the research your own damn self) has shown that just being aware of a stereotype is enough for it to have an effect on your performance. This Batman is “historically” white is just an extension of Asians being good at math. And yes a positive stereotype for one group will have negative consequences on another group. If you sit a group of people down and say Asians always score better on this test, all those who are not of Asian descent will do much worse than the control group.

That is my rant.
If you’re not helping the cause for equality, keep your damn mouth shut.

No, this is not the costume.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Realms: Amulets and Hammers

Jesse Magnan's Blog of the Realms: Amulets and Hammers: Marpenoth 19, 1367 DR - Year of the Shield Coryn tied the small pouch to his belt, “Many thanks milady, I only wish we could ha...