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Why Humanity doesn't interest me in fantasy. (Rant)

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Annoyingkid, Apr 5, 2019.

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  1. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    Lets face it. Humans are a polluting, short sighted , greedy, self destructive, uncontrollably multiplying virus. Destroying ecosystems with reckless abandon. Humans are the closest thing to evil on this planet. Humans alone hunt, kill and torture our own species, much less others, for nothing but enjoyment.

    We are not heroes, and will never be heroes. Attempts to frame us as heroes or benevolent, is to hide and deny our true nature, and an attempt to persuade the audience that we are inherently good. We are not. The reality is we are inherently bad. And only be realizing and accepting it, can progress toward a sustainable future be made by controlling this part of human nature. As opposed to a profit driven machine of western comfort at the expense of the third world.

    Fantasy races represent a clean slate, a chance to contrast humanity in an honest way. If I create a hero of a fantasy race who is benevolent, and driven to do what is right no matter the odds at any cost to themselves, I don't have in the back of my mind that this is BS. That this is really nothing more than territorial tribalism, and instinctive fear of the other. I could believe that a hero of a fantasy race can be incorruptible, can can believe in a bright future for their species without delusion.

    To sum up. If I want to write about a species of petty, small minded creatures who destroy their home planet with reckless abandon, I'd write about humans. Otherwise eww, no.
     
  2. goldhawk

    goldhawk Lore Master

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    Completely false. Chimpanzees have been documented killing other chimpanzees. Male lions kill the young when they take over a pride. Humans are not the only ones killing their own species.
     
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  3. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    I said for nothing but enjoyment. There's no evidence they do it for thrills.

    I think the hero concept breaks down almost entirely when we're dealing with a known destructive species with no benefit to the ecosystem. Liberating such a species becomes an act of villainy compared to the all too common villain motive for removing freedom. Remaking the world or imposing order. I couldn't honestly say that the hero was a better person if one appeals to the consequences of either party's actions. Only by looking at the methods of either party can the designated hero come out as morally better, but I find that to be very thin in terms of righteousness.

    I don't mind portraying us as the orc representation, as I think that fits best. Otherwise one falls into the methods vs consequences problem I mentioned in the previous paragraph.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  4. Helen

    Helen Mystagogue

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    Whoa that's a bit pessimistic!

    Fantasy characters will all have human foibles.
     
  5. Riva

    Riva Acolyte

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    Pretty pessimistic, if I may say so.
    Not that we aren't capable of doing good acts too, there are good people also. I think you are looking only at the negative side.
    It's absolutely true that we as a species did some messed up things, mention any war and you have yourself an example. But this liberty we have to do evil, also give us the possibility to do good, I think. The thing is that often we're driven more by pragmatism than ethic and morality, and maybe we often aren't fully conscious of the consequences of our actions (think of the trees you have to cut to print a book to make a banal example). Maybe it is this that's in our nature, rather than being inherently bad. I don't think anyone is bad just for the sake of being bad, maybe not even people who develop a perverse psychic canvas (not sure though). That said I don't even know if there's an objective morality, if there's one I haven't found it yet. But I get what you're saying, I think. This brings up a question now that I think of it: do you think there's an objective morality? And if so by what is it determined?

    Regarding the hero figure:
    if put in this way I think that a hero would be more like someone who defeats or control the bad and ill intentions inside himself, more than a way for an author to convince an audience that we are inherently good (to what end?). As once an indian prince said: "A man who conquers himself is greater than one who conquers a thousand men in battle".
    Moreover, different works may want to convey different messages. The picture is not necessarily limited to those reasons you listed.
    I would advise you to read "The visit" (Der Besuch der alten Dame) by Dürrenmatt, it brings up some interesting topos on which to reflect that are kind of correlated to your rant. The ending is really grotesque I find, but it comes natural from the tragicomic tone of the story.

    Well, in the end that's only my opinion and you have yours.
    Hope you enjoyed the input.
     
    CupofJoe likes this.
  6. Kalessin

    Kalessin Apprentice

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    Who says humans are bad? Humans.

    Who determines what a "clean" slate is, and then respects hypothetical beings for having traits they gave them? Humans.

    Who experiences fear, uncertainty, starvation, betrayal, etc? All animals, and humans are animals.

    Who asked for these things? In the words of Freddy Mercury, "no one asked for [them]."

    I'm not making a case for justifying "evil" things here. But you are probably a human, right? So stop writing. At the very least stop writing about beings with a "clean" slate, because your argument disqualifies you from even knowing what that is. Unless you're one of those privileged humans who are fit to be idolized in one of those fantasy stories that you call hypocritical. I think I'm hitting on a kind of recursion here.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  7. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    Wow. Well, that is one side of the coin.

    Here is another:

     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
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  8. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    The thing is, even if you argue humans have performed acts of good, which is true, humanity appears to rapidly move to a state of entropy. To the point where we'll be lucky to survive this century. A doomsday clock exists for a reason. We can't even get Brexit right. So how am I supposed to believe the human race can tackle global existential problems? In fantasy, that rampaging dark lord? The idea that humans unite to defeat him strikes me as super unrealistic. A singular human hero even more so.

    More likely a huge chunk of humans joins him out of fear or greed, Another section denies there's a problem. "Dark lord denialists". Another country part tries to sell weapons to the dark lord while magic bombing civillians. There will be a small group of activists who shout into the wind. And only when the enemy threatens to stop profits and terribly threaten the territory of the humans with political power, will anything be done. An extreme solutiion to an extreme problem thats spiralled out of control will be proposed that would cost countless lives, when something could have been done much earlier. But humans don't do that, do we. Massive graveyards will be filled, but they'll be called heroes, and have one day a year dedicated to them where the rest of humanity bothers to remember it. Then the cycle repeats again, different day, different disaster, same outcome. Until one day there is no extreme solution possible, and extinction follows. Dragging many species with it.

    You might say that's an interesting premise for a story, but that's just describing real life with fantasy stand ins. What significance does a hero really have in that mess? I argue very little, especially as an individual and not a collective. And even as a collective, the task of a hero is to exert some control over human suffering. To fight entropy, but it cannot be fought, only delayed a little while, and each invidual only delays it a blip.
     
  9. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    Utopia (compared to human society) can at least be imagined, even if it can't be achieved.
     
  10. pmmg

    pmmg Dark Lord

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    Wow, AK. I don't really even know how to address this, and this does not really seem about writing. I would suggest that if you go looking for something, you tend to find it. And if all you are finding is that, maybe change what you are looking for.

    Sorry you feel we will all be annihilated soon. I think more likely, we will be out in the stars.

    I have an idea. Stop following the news and see if that changes how you feel.
     
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I don't know about everyone else, but I've sure had my totally deprived dark lord span of time. But the rest of my life has felt different from that. I can tell you from experience that it's real and at the same time, that it's not all there is.
     
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  12. Riva

    Riva Acolyte

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    Are we still talking about literature here?

    Just to know, because if the focus shifted to global warming and other global problems of this century we might as well speak about it directly.
     
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    Folks are free to be as pessimistic as they wish. I had a long period where I was fascinated by apocalypse (for my generation it was nuclear war). Curiously, the more I studied history, the more optimistic I got. Not that everything would turn out well, but at least that things were not going to crash soon. It's truly amazing how long things can run badly. Generations, centuries, even. For a grim but interesting take on that, try John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.

    But anyway, as the poet says, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
     
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  14. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Dark Lord

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    There is no “humans doing this” or “humans doing that”. Humans are individuals. They can do evil if they choose to or they could do good. They’re not a collective species and the actions of individuals can’t condemn or exonerate the species.

    That’s why humans are the best fantasy race: they are more often than not treated as individuals while other fantasy races are treated as collectives meant to represent whatever the writer either likes or dislikes. Even individual characters of a fantasy race are often just representatives of their race rather than being their own person.

    (I’m trying to steer this conversation back to fantasy writing just in case the mods don’t shut it down)
     
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  15. Kalessin

    Kalessin Apprentice

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    All I'm saying is that we set the parameters by which we judge ourselves. This includes you. There's no more reason that humans are inherently evil than that they are inherently good. But we can explore good and what it means, without needing the actors to be perfect. In fact far from it. And in the case of more idyllic fantasy, it's simply an exercise in imagining good. It's another expression of your very same introspection, which happens to take a negative cast.

    For me this is a question of orientation. You seem to think that the default state is actually good. Hear me out, because I know that sounds like the opposite. But in thinking the default state is good, every bit of weakness is an objection. Good acts are what should happen, and bad acts are a total failure of something that should be as easy as breathing.

    The reason this conversation is directly tied to literature, and especially fantasy literature, because I know some others are starting to think it's swaying a bit, is that fantasy fiction allows us to explore both the better and worse bits of our nature. Making someone a hero is not the same as saying that humanity itself is inherently good. Heroes exist against our dark natures. Some stories can be naive. Some stories have healthy doses of ambivalence. Good and bad are actually one thing, on different sides, bound to each other by more than the hip.

    My own orientation is the opposite. The default state of things seems to be fear, silence, ignorance, and complacency. I feel as though, at least in this type of discussion, this is what I stand in. Positivity is not optimism, it's a direction of energy, in the non-spiritual sense. "Bad" people never get together and feel despair about all the efforts "good" people are making to stop them. I see no reason to be discouraged from doing whatever I see as "good" in this world any more than they do.

    Really I think you're being too absolute. My point in saying "who calls humans bad? Humans" was to say that the beings you judge so harshly must get something in the way of points for being the ones doing the judging, because lots of people have your opinion. And speaking of opinion, what is your methodology or source for analyzing the trajectory of society so finally? If you simply list bad things that are happening, that's not exactly rigorous. And this type of conclusion requires staggering rigor. You think Brexit is the epitome of all concentrated societal incompetence? Is this based on careful and meticulous analysis of vast historical experience, or are you possibly taking each example of absurdity around you as a new development, and the "good" things for granted as how things should be by default?

    You even admit that some people are doing real things to fight the doom, but that they are each only a blip. If you have any kind of negative feeling towards this doom, doesn't that make demonstrations of these good humans in fantasy settings the very thing that challenges it? When you write about other species in a fantasy setting, such as elves, calling them elf instead of man just feels like an arbitrary detail. It's still your concept of "people."
     
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istari

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    Are you sure you're not a supervillain? You seem to have the motivation. This whole paragraph feels vaguely Ra's al Ghul to me. lol
     
  17. Mel Syreth

    Mel Syreth Journeyman

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    Congratulations AnnoyingKid!

    You have become the perfect plant for the parasitic corporations leeching off your carefully conditioned hopelessness and self-hatred, all ready for the current harvest season.

    Stop reading headlines!
    Start analyzing data!
     
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  18. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Mystagogue

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    We are far from perfect I agree with that but you can't generalise. It's like saying "all Muslims are terrorists" well no they aren't. I know a Muslim family and not only are they more upset with Muslim terrorism than I am they are my number 1 go to people when I have any problem. I've sat in their living room at 3 am crying and they've looked after me. You get good and bad everywhere. Some pollute the atmosphere but there are others who go out of their way not to or to lessen it.

    Honestly, our darker side is why I am so interested in the human race. Elves though cool, seem to be inherently good (apart from the ones designed not to be like dark elves). I find them quite dull. Our potential for darkness is why I like writing about humans. Our potential to be greedy and destructive and selfish is why I find them unpredictable. And gives a reason for other races to dislike them for the exact reasons you state above. It works for my current novel. Dwarves aren't much different from humans - they are greedy and selfish and messy.
     
  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I gotta say I find room for all sorts of indivi, duals in fantasy stories. While purely good and purely evil can be boring and handled badly, it's been done well. Sauron is purely evil, or at least inimical to Middle Earth. We don't need to know any more about him, for the purposes of the story. At the other end of the scale, Faramir is fundamentally good, but has to try to find a good man's path through an evil situation, and I find that interesting as well.

    Pretty much all the characters in the Lord of the Rings are one-dimensional, yet the books enchanted me. I've re-read them more often than any other single work. Why is that? I dunno. I do note that most classic Greek drama and comedy are likewise made up of stock characters, so there you go.

    Yet, I can point to any number of other works that did not catch my fancy at all, and I'd criticize them for having one-dimensional characters.

    WRT the discussion about humans, there's an important distinction to be made. Humans may or not be this or that. We can argue that one down at the local bar. But humans are not people in stories. The characters in stories are *inventions*. By us. We can make them any way we please, and the same goes for elves, dwarves and the rest (see Tolkien, above). They are not inherently anything. So why not write about them all?
     
  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Mystagogue

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    That's not because humans are the best fantasy race, it's because human writers typically treat humans as default and others races as contrasts to humans. And typically portray humans as the jack of all trades. The easiest way to contrast a race of jack of all trades, is to have a race of specialists. So there will be variety in humans, and non variety in dwarves or elves or whatever.

    ----

    Me talking about real world examples and failings of the species known as homo sapiens, is not intended to be off topic, but rather to lay the foundation for the central point that humans are an inherently destructive species. As such, I argue the human hero is an inherently destructive entity, even if he takes benevolent acts in the moment, it sets up a chain of causality that inevitably leads to greater destruction in the aggregate, either through murder, disease, environmental damage, crime, you name it. as he cannot remove or circumvent that part of human nature. We only have the illusion that he has done a net good, because the damaging consequences of his heroic actions are either down the road and/or out of sight and out of mind.

    The argument goes, if humans are an inherently damaging species, the only way to reduce the ultimate damage is to keep the size of the species in check. Which either requires elimination of reproductive freedom, or a cull. The lines between hero and villain suddenly vanish.

    As such, I believe the fantasy story of the human heroes is a half truth at best. The humans have made things better - but only because no one sees all the angles, and the causal chains. If any one of us were all knowing, we'd find the idea of a human hero quite amusing.
     
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