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Author Topic: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?  (Read 5675 times)

Offline Lanko

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #30 on: August 07, 2016, 04:39:23 PM »
One problem I have with not only elves and dwarfs, but with new races in general is that a lot of authors make everyone in the entire race all think, behave and live in the exact same way. This happens even when they change the race, like elves becoming arrogant bastards obsessed with beauty and purity of race.
Adding insult to injury, they all say how humans are unique, creative, reckless and such.

I think that's another reason the elves and dwarfs (and the other races) in Dragon Age worked so well for me.
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Offline Peat

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #31 on: August 07, 2016, 04:48:40 PM »
One problem I have with not only elves and dwarfs, but with new races in general is that a lot of authors make everyone in the entire race all think, behave and live in the exact same way. This happens even when they change the race, like elves becoming arrogant bastards obsessed with beauty and purity of race.
Adding insult to injury, they all say how humans are unique, creative, reckless and such.

I think that's another reason the elves and dwarfs (and the other races) in Dragon Age worked so well for me.

The issue with the use of other races as a reflection on a single facet of humanity is one of the reasons I've yet to include any in my own work. I like reading about them but I'm not sure its a tool I care to use.

Well, okay, I do have an idea that riffs very explicitly on the humanity facet reflection thing but I've yet to find a story that fits it/time to develop it.

I think its one of the reasons that Elves and Dwarves are bigger in fantasy games than in fantasy fiction. Gaming seems to find sidestepping that easier for various reasons.
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Offline TBM

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #32 on: August 07, 2016, 05:46:30 PM »
I'm always baffled at the ubiquity of elves and dwarves being included together in stories. If these races were varied and not stereotypical or mono-characterized, would there be a need to include both? Doubtful. There could be elf miners with axes, or dwarf druid like people. You can't extend that argument to humans, because humans aren't a fantasy race, thus have known limitations, which one has to adhere to, lest they be superhuman or transhuman instead.

That's why one can't say "Why not just pick humans then?" You don't get to set the limits of a human. Real life does that.


Online cupiscent

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #33 on: August 08, 2016, 01:59:47 AM »
You don't get to set the limits of a human. Real life does that.

You're writing speculative fiction. "Human" can be whatever you want it to be for your story.

Offline TBM

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #34 on: August 08, 2016, 05:13:03 AM »
That's like calling squares, "circles" cos it's speculative. Like calling a dog something different to what people know. What matters is what audiences are willing to believe.

. Simply calling them human still doesn't make them anything but superhuman to the reader if they're clearly beyond human limits.

Have a human breathe in space and I call bull.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2016, 05:27:11 AM by TBM »

Online cupiscent

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #35 on: August 08, 2016, 02:06:49 PM »
Yes, what matters is what the audience is willing to believe. So it has to be believable. So...

Have a human breathe in space and I call bull.

...have a story where society has progressed to a point where it's possible, useful and even desirable for humans to have their oxygen-spacesuit-breathing-apparatus-whatever cybernetically attached to their lungs, and I call it sci-fi.

The important thing, for my money, is: given [whatever parameters you have around being human in your story], what does it mean to "be human"?

This has taken things quite a bit sideways from the initial discussion, but I think that applies back to the elves-and-dwarves question as well. What do they mean for being human? And what does "being elvish" mean, similarities to and differences from. I mean, one of the more interesting aspects of Tolkien's world, for me, is how the elves look at life and the world versus the shorter-lived humans. There are insights there about perspective and subjectivity.

Offline TBM

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #36 on: August 08, 2016, 03:03:28 PM »
Quote

...have a story where society has progressed to a point where it's possible, useful and even desirable for humans to have their oxygen-spacesuit-breathing-apparatus-whatever cybernetically attached to their lungs, and I call it sci-fi.

You've actually respected the known limits of human beings there by adding cybernetics. I'm talking about writers who don't respect that, who just say my human functions like Superman and is still human cos "it's fantasy, I get to say what human is".  I'm saying to make something human in name only does not make it so.

The point is in arguing for the "humans can be anything you want" that is an argument against fantasy races altogether. Fantasy races would become complexity for the sake of complexity. I actually make this argument with the elves/dwarves/men/orcs. If one wants a disposable race as the opposition that won't get audience sympathy, orcs have their place. If one wishes to explore the human condition ie what if one of us was in this world? We add in humans, in all our varied complexity. If one needs a race that goes beyond human limits, then elves OR dwarves  serve that function. LOTR, Warhammer lore, DnD, countless other games and stories have combined the two and I really question the purpose. Are we writing them to be foils for each other? Than that's exactly what LOTR and all these others stories did. It's ground that's so well trodden. Is it the old cliche of Dwarves have axes and want to mine nature while elves hold that in disdain and lectures the dwarf about how the trees are sacrosanct, while the dwarf calls the elf a feeble sissy? About how their pursuit of riches is selfish/meaningless? Is it the proud dwarf has some ancient grudge with the elves for some past war or slight? We've seen it all before.  The interactions between the two have been so well covered the OP needs to ask what he or she is bringing to the table that's new. 

The way to not be a LOTR knock off is to use what came before if you want, but use the minimum for what you need. Elves for that purpose are pointy ears. That's it. Dwarves? Short stature.  That's the minimum. From there, it's up to the writer. The idea is to be different enough. Enough new elements. It's not to be completely original necessarily.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2016, 03:09:14 PM by TBM »

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #37 on: August 10, 2016, 05:11:06 AM »
Since the discussion has slid to presentations of fantasy races, here's an observation: when authors present a diverse group (humans + elves + dwarves, etc.), they can either spend time exploring the differences between the groups, or the differences between individuals, but not both. This is not so much my idea or belief, but rather a phenomenon that smarter writers seemed to know or learned.

Somewhere I read that Tolkien considered having Glorfindel join the party, but decided against it because he felt that he would be indistinguishable from Legolas within the constraints of the story, and this was unfair, because Glorfindel was a high elf of Noldorin descent, who had seen the Light of Aman with his own eyes, and making him identical to a lowly wood elf was unpalatable. I take this to mean that he felt that unless he burdened the story to highlight those differences, they would disappear to some extent (maybe total?).

I think this is the result of the pressures of the narrative to progress the plot, show nuances of the protagonist, convey setting and mood, and all the other things the narrative flow has to support. These pressures leave insufficient bandwidth to support highlighting nuances between members of each group, if the author is also highlighting differences between the groups as a whole. So either it's "dwarves are this way, elves are that way", or its "This dwarf is X, that dwarf is Y."

And yes, there are plenty of moments in LOTR and other works that do both, but the overall trend is to have many more of one than another, with very unequal emphasis.

I think this is crucial because many times in fantasy fiction, there is a temptation to put in X and spend time on it (in this case, the nuances of individuals in a distinct group) at the expense of the story. Sometimes it's other things, like the fictitious languages or the 18,000 year backstory, or whatever. I think Tolkien was wise to avoid this practice, knowing that readers read the story for the story's sake, and anything that takes away from that undermines the work.

Interestingly, one of fan fiction's chief merits (imho) is that it is permissible to explore these nuances as the central premise, i.e., make X the whole point.

My point is that it seems we have a choice - to invest narrative space to highlight differences between races, which worked very well for Tolkien (Gimli vs. Legolas, Elves vs. Men, etc.), or to explore the differences between individuals ... but not both at the same time, and/or not to the same depth, even when the narrative is as vast as LOTR.

In Tolkien's case, there are clear differences between some individuals (Galadriel vs. Celeborn), but they are not explored to much depth, with the exception of Men (Aragorn vs. Boromir, Faramir vs. Boromir, Gandalf & Théoden vs. Denethor, Grima vs. Eomer & Hama). (Yeah, I know Gandalf isn't a man, but within the narrative, he's looked at as an old man).

Food for thought.
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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #38 on: August 10, 2016, 06:32:00 AM »
Just as a reader I think its great you want to put a new spin on dwarves for example but sometimes I just want to read the traditional grumpy dwarf who hides a heart of gold stereotypical dwarf , Flint from Dragonlance was one of my favourite characters to read.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2016, 07:06:55 AM by Eclipse »
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #39 on: August 12, 2016, 05:59:59 AM »
I don't think you'll have much luck publishing it traditionally, but there is a niche market for Tolkienesque fantasy in the self-publishing world.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2016, 04:27:24 PM by Ryan Mueller »

Offline Peat

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #40 on: August 12, 2016, 11:22:38 AM »
Oddly enough I was thinking the same thing as Gem Cutter the other day (after this thread started making me want to write Tolkien/D&D-esque fantasy). There's only so many room in the pages. So its nice to know I was thinking along the right lines.

Doubtless if Tolkien was writing today, editors would have encouraged him to inflate the word count up enough that he could have included those things.
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Offline Asinus1223

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #41 on: August 17, 2016, 11:42:04 PM »
Just for fun, I should reveal my races:

The Five Elder Races are collectively called rhen, as opposed to humans who come on the scene later and are called the Guests, or uncharitably, the uninvited.

Elves I call ellhen.  They are vegetation elementals and live nearly forever, and as such have a hard time adapting.  They don't reproduce much, and don't fit well into human society.  As they have lost their place in Nature as well, they are truly a sad race.  Men call them "greenies" when they're being nasty, and "green elves" when they are being polite.  A female ellh is an ellhina.

Dwarves are dwarrhen.  They can sense things about rocks and soil that make them natural engineers.  They are much more adaptable than the elves, are sexually egalitarian and have open marriages.  The racial slur for them is "stonies", although politely they are known as "deep elves".  A female dwarrh is a dwarrhina.

Selkies are, of course merrhen.  Sea-elves are aquatic and non-sentient for the first forty years of their lives, which is followed by a hundred or so years of amphibious but mostly land- (actually island) based living.  After finishing the terrestrial part of their lives, a favored few among them become great cetacean/nautiloid entities who assist the Sea god with his responsibilities.  Merrhinas are the female and they are vulgarly referred to as
"blueys".

Pyrrhen or ifreets are known as fire-elves politely or smokeys perjoratively.  They are highly patriarchal and polygamous, dominant males acquiring harems of pyrrhinas.  Surplus males are always a problem, causing conflict anywhere fire-elves and humans mix.   In addition, pyrrhinas do not care for the current sexual constitution.  They are notoriously unfaithful, preferring to have their own human male to sharing one of their own males, even though this does not result in offspring.

Orcs, or orrhen, have been separated from their fellow rhen for millennia.   Since they are eusocial (think ants, bees, or mole-rats), their society is very stable and prosperous.  They know nothing of humans.  Each breeding Queen has a stable of male consorts and is responsible both for governance and population maintenance.  Since orrhen have no contact with the other races, they are not called anything in particular, although the ellhish lorebooks refer to them as "wild elves".  Over the centuries they have lost their warlike ways and have become highly cultured.  Since most orrhen are non-fertile females, the word orrh is a feminine word.  Orrakh is the term for a male orc.
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