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Culture Based on Destruction

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Creed, Oct 15, 2014.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Hello all,
    So an idea that is central to the plot/world of my WIP is Chaos as a force of creation and destruction, vs Order, a force of laws and stasis. It’s a theme that’s central in magic and the nature of certain species (attunement to Chaos means greater magical spectrum, less social organization (humans are slightly attuned to Order, which makes magic come easily to them only in the shape of metaphors, and they are highly organised creatures)). There are two races on the spectrum attuned to Chaos which are naturally gifted with the ability to speak words and make things happen. The problem is that they each represent one side of Chaos; creation (Cred’an) and destruction (Orthic).

    So here’s my question: What might a culture based on destruction look like? How would it work?
    I’ll clarify what their abilities are here. They can temporarily destroy things like Laws (gravity), Natures (luminescence, energy potential, movement), or more abstract ideas (distance, some can break time barriers briefly). Whether you are Orthic (can destroy) or Cred’an (can create) you can generally do the same things. So while an Orthic might destroy the idea of distance for a nanosecond to teleport, a Cred’an would create a portal. An Orthic could make people fly by temporarily destroying gravity or mass, and yet they could also increase their mass or their pull to the earth by destroying certain parts of a Law/Nature/Idea. It’s like rewriting code, and there are multiple ways to do it. They can also destroy energy itself, for the most part, so a battle between a Cred’an and an Orthic would be a continuous stalemate as one created attacks and the other destroyed it, or vice versa.
    The Cred’an were great builders and used much of their time and resources on colonizing and shaping infrastructure (which was eventually all torn down by the Orthic eons before mankind evolved). Creation is part of their instinct and psychology. I'm very curious as to what you guys and gals think might be central to a destruction-based society.
    Note: Destroying things takes energy to do (like all magic), and that energy must be returned, so breaking most things will be reversed (i.e. a contra gravity field). The exception is like shattering stone or something.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2014
  2. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

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    One thing I could see is how they view natural disasters. In the real world, human beings are drawn to order and predictability. Psychologically, this makes us feel safe and secure. When a disaster hits, such as a tornado, fire or flood, people feel a wide range of emotions including; fear, sorrow, and anger. They may wonder how such a thing could happen, even if they took every precaution imaginable.

    Your Orthic characters may see natural disasters as simply that, natural. They may not feel the wide range of emotions a person would. Perhaps they could see destruction as a natural and necessary part of life. It could be that they recognize that destruction is all around them, from vast forest fires to a decomposing animal. They could recognize that without some form of destruction, life could not happen. Without fires, forests would get choked with undergrowth and new seeds cannot be planted. The decomposing remains of an animal return nutrients to the soil.

    I would also make them more neutral, as a lot of stories have gods/cultures of destruction portrayed as evil. If you were to go with the idea that they do not have the same reaction to disasters as others, then outsiders may see them as cold, emotionless and distant, when in reality, they could look beyond the current disaster, and look at the future potential. They focus less on what is, and more on what could be.
     
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  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Maybe it's because I've been doing mythopoeia stuff for a bit but when I read your thing, I immediately thought of Shaivism.
    That's the branch of Hinduism that regards Shiva (aka the Destroyer) as the Supreme being.
    There are different branches of Shaivism in different parts of India and many of them have their own look and way of doing stuff. I remember reading about one Shaivist sect who were ascetic types who had very few possessions and were all about simple living, self-discipline and modesty. That might be a good counterpart to your Cred'an.

    The big, kind-of philosophical heart of "destruction" in Hinduism (generally speaking) is that destruction is part of change which is what existence is all about. Stasis is unnatural and horrible while change is great. And this ties into the whole Indian worldview on time and death and so forth.
    Hinduism has a bunch of creation-destruction dichotomies and different cultures within an area practicing different - sometimes contradicting, sometimes complementary - philosophies. That might be a good place to look for ideas.

    Personally, I based my destruction-oriented culture off of Shaker Quakers so, y'know, do whatever works.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2014
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  4. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    As I see it you want the particular type of gift to somehow match the natures / beliefs of the races.

    Well destruction as a general thing fits into the nihilistic spectrum of philosophical thought. Nihilists generally don't believe that certain things are real. Moral nihilists for example don't accept that there are things like true morals, and that what we call them are simply laws and social mores that we all seem to follow. By breaking things down someone with this sort of world view might simply be aiming for "honesty". They object to the lies of the world around them, whatever they perceive those lies to be.

    However there's also another reason for destruction which is to rebuild. So this is the Nietzsche philosophy of what doesn't kill you making you stronger. (I'm often tempted to punch a Nietzsche follower in the nose and then ask him if he feels stronger - but that's another story!) This also fits that line from Batman perfectly - "Why do we fall down? So we can get back up." A follower of this philosophy might well see the value of destruction in making himself and perhaps the rest of the world, stronger.

    This would be the philosophy of the shadows from Babylon Five who encourage war and destruction, as opposed to their arch enemies the Vorlons.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  5. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    All I can offer is my own impression and, to be honest, it's not based on anything in particular.

    Since it's impossible to have a race entirely based on destruction, since they would either never come into being or destroy themselves out of existence in short order, I tried to imagine a race that continued while never creating anything other than more of themselves. They could be very intellectually developed insofar as understanding but not in communication because that would imply they created language. Perhaps making them telepathic would eliminate this issue but their communication with others would be very difficult. I imagine a primitive existence but not primitive people. Rites of passage where those seeking adulthood must be tied outdoors naked during a hurricane. Since they are not Chaotic but Destructive, they might worship the Void or Fire or a god thereof.

    Since they would not build homes/villages I see them as nomadic, living off of the land with their wits and their magic, leaving everything expertly burned in their wake almost like a combination of farmers and fireman but as mobile as necessary.

    I'd love to brainstorm this more and probably won't be able to stop now...
     
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  6. technically every culture is based on destruction...
     
  7. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Thank you everyone for your very interesting replies! I had never considered natural disasters but that's a very interesting thing to take into account, too! It could certainly tie in with their mythology and history. As for the rest, you hit it on the head. They view destruction as the natural terminus for all things. It’s just how they think.
    I really like the idea of starting forest fires to promote growth. I was also interested in the idea of Nihilism being brought up because one of my characters, who kind of is the embodiment of destruction (the second half of Creed) is a little girl named Nihility. I’ll have to consider how that plays out with their social norms and values.
    And thanks, WooHooMan, that seems like a very cool ideology to research. I’ve certainly had some Egyptian and Mayan influence in the years-long evolution of the idea but this is mostly new to me (I encountered a small note about the universe being destroyed a lot in a Hindu calendar system when I was researching those).
    I keep going, but Trick brings up some good points too! :) The language they speak is the Tongue of Chaos, which is how they manipulate the world and it is intrinsic to their nature (like crying for a baby) but maybe I should write their dialogue and thought processes in shorter, less elaborate terms. The Orthic are infantile in comparison to the “godlings” who are far more Chaotic in nature, obsess over the duality of creation/destruction, and actually are capable of telepathy. The only other thing I’d mention is that they’ve been around for too long to have a “god.” For most of their history they simply worship Chaos, destruction, and the idea of a terminus.
    Also, most of my characters are human and will not understand the ideology behind their efforts. They aren’t evil, but they are working towards the destruction of the Universe so it can be reborn. Adding a more evil evil (Order incarnate) should help them seem less cardboard and villainous.
    Thanks again! Of course I welcome your brainstorm! I think they'll be a very interesting culture to write. :)
     
  8. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Technically every culture 'has' destruction but they are not 'based' on it.
     
  9. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    It sounds to me that if the culture and race was primarily good at destroying then they would destroy themselves in internal squabbles because they would bring ruin on each other fast than they could rebuild.
     
  10. Erudite

    Erudite Scribe

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    I think Raymond E. Feist wrote a bit about something similar, a race that was based on pure destruction.
     
  11. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    A fair point, but their primitive social organisation (they roam their homeworld in "families" of no more than 100) prevents much enmity from breeding and resulting in mutual destruction. They are all loyal to the High Aldrae but beyond that they work independently, isolated from one another without cities. They also only work towards a natural terminus. They do not murder with their magic unless it is necessary- like self-defense, hunting, or removing an obstacle from the path towards the Endtime.

    I'll admit I'd never heard of him or his books, which is surprising. Looking at the mixed reviews on Goodreads I'm a little enticed to try him out. Some (very general) things mentioned in the reviews are quite interesting and could well relate to some of the things I'm including in my WIP. I would have to read it to understand what you're saying. But it is a 30 book series so I don't know how helpful that is...
    At the very least I thank you for the suggestion. :)
     
  12. Erudite

    Erudite Scribe

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    Sorry, epic fantasy authors - we write, lots. :p
     
  13. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    Indeed, Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is one of my favourite series of all time, alongside R. Scot Bakker' Prince of Nothing trilogy. I myself am aiming for a humble quartet at the moment, with smaller projects branching off of it like Ian C. Esselmont's contribution to the Malaz world.
    On (perhaps) a more relevant note, I'd just like to say thank you once more and provide an update. As a direct result of this thread and the ideas you guys have given me I've made a leap forward in plot structure and worldbuilding! I was incredibly giddy for like two hours. :D
     
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  14. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

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    Right away I thought that the culture based on destruction would be nomads due to them leaving wreckage and carnage in their wake. Then I thought the culture based on destruction is what every human culture is so they would be like us. We destroy nature to build whatever we need or want. Last I thought that their home/city would constantly be changing as people destroy something to do what they need and then leave it in a way that still does the original function but looks different or does it in a different manner. It would be like if a person teleports to work then they would need to destroy a wall in their home to create a portal. Once they have left the wall reforms but with a different colour or material.
    Sounds really interesting, good luck.
     
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  15. Creed

    Creed Sage

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    I came to a similar conclusion, Crooks. It would not be in the Orthic nature to build cities, so they rely on simply roaming and destroying parts of their environment for shelter (i.e. carving out caves with their Tongue). However, as much as us humans may be linked with destruction (I think consumption is a more appropriate word) the idea that humans and Orthic would be alike is far from the truth. The Orthic worship destruction, the idea of terminus, with the ultimate version of that being their envisioned Endtime. For them the end does more than justify the means- it justifies everything, including existence. The addition of their form of the Tongue, allowing them to destroy pretty much anything, creates a very inhuman, alien culture.
     
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