April 12, 2021, 09:25:18 PM

Author Topic: I have a new story idea. It heavily involves slavery.  (Read 270 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

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I have a new story idea. It heavily involves slavery.
« on: March 01, 2021, 09:44:32 PM »
I always have way too many stories for a novel going on at once. I've just come up with a new one for a standalone that is quite a bit different from my usual fare, most notably the moral ambiguity.

To make a long story short, the main character is a sorceress and the plot does an unexpected twist early on when she gets overpowered by another sorceress and given an magical slave mark. This forces her to obey the other one's will and she is made to join the household as a slave.

Part of why I'm interested in doing this story is having a main character who has to be really clever and really subtle, while trying to salvage her plans at an enormous disadvantage.

Now here's the twist: The protagonist was planning to do the exact same thing to Sorceress #2. The attempt just went catastrophically wrong.

The idea is that magically-enforced slavery is a common practice in the setting, and that they are both trying to survive in very dog-eat-dog circumstances of cutthroat scheming, politics, and noble houses being crushed by their rivals if they show weakness, or the king if they look at him funny.

The other reason I want to do with is for the battle of wills between the two of them. They ultimately both have a sympathetic goal in wanting to survive and protect their own group. Even if they go about it in equally ruthless fashion, that is just a reflection of their environment and sheer desperation. So neither has the moral high ground, and #2 tries to force this new advantage to comply and play along, while #1 fights for her pride and dignity, while also scheming to find a way out of her predicament.

I'm also interested in the way humans adapt to bad situations, such as prison or homelessness. #1 wants to be all defiant and proud, but gradually finds that she has to balance that out with playing along for her own good, such as by making friends among the other slaves. She also has to help defend the estate, basically because an enemy ship sinking isn't good when you're held prisoner on board it.

How does this sound? Too morally bankrupt for sympathy? Or interesting, in a gritty reality kind of way?
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Offline cupiscent

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Re: I have a new story idea. It heavily involves slavery.
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2021, 11:19:10 PM »
I don't necessarily have all the right vocabulary for talking around this issue, as it's not one that presses upon me personally, but I think if you pursue this idea you'd want to be careful digging into both slavery as a personal situation, and slavery as an institutional situation, because they raise complementary but not identical issues, and the latter can obviously open a massive and ongoing can of worms.

The way you handle a situation between two characters where one deprives the other of liberty and free will is one thing - and there's a lot to dig into in that in terms of emotional responses, intellectual justifications, personal experiences.

There's also a difference between a slavery system where it's a temporary state that just about anybody might wind up in for a while (like a system where slaves are taken in war to serve out an indenture period, or a debt-slavery situation) and a system that insists certain people are just property from birth to death because they just are. What is the humanity status of slaves? How socially mobile are they? All of this is going to feed into how you deal with slavery thematically and in the plot. Consider why you're showing this system, and what you're saying about it within your story.

If you include systems of slavery and don't engage with the philosophical concepts around them, I think you run the risk of seeming facile and tone-deaf in a world where people-trafficking still exists, and the weight of historical slavery systems still presses down on many populations.

Offline Eli_Freysson

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Re: I have a new story idea. It heavily involves slavery.
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2021, 08:16:43 AM »
There's also a difference between a slavery system where it's a temporary state that just about anybody might wind up in for a while (like a system where slaves are taken in war to serve out an indenture period, or a debt-slavery situation) and a system that insists certain people are just property from birth to death because they just are. What is the humanity status of slaves? How socially mobile are they? All of this is going to feed into how you deal with slavery thematically and in the plot. Consider why you're showing this system, and what you're saying about it within your story.

More the former than the latter. I'm not going to touch on ethnic slavery.

Quote
If you include systems of slavery and don't engage with the philosophical concepts around them, I think you run the risk of seeming facile and tone-deaf in a world where people-trafficking still exists, and the weight of historical slavery systems still presses down on many populations.

I am totally going to go on about how abusive the system is, and how toxic it ultimately is to the human soul and the overall character of the fantasy society. It's just that the main characters are completely powerless to do anything to change it.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2021, 10:27:07 AM by Eli_Freysson »
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Offline Bender

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Re: I have a new story idea. It heavily involves slavery.
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2021, 03:42:11 AM »
I can think of some parallels, Compulsion in WoT and that weird vodoo doll magic in Gwynne's FatF. They force one party to act on orders of other.

Now if you're looking for a witty battle of wills, then it may resemble the binding demons analogy, where the master has to be specific in commands, else the demon will twist it to it's advantage. Is that the dynamic you're going for?

The concept of forcing another to do your will isn't new and doesn't really need magic. Fear of self and loved one has made and kept people of slaves even without magic. So as a concept, it certainly is good to write about.
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