January 20, 2021, 10:36:04 AM

Author Topic: The nature of evil  (Read 200 times)

Online Eli_Freysson

The nature of evil
« on: January 12, 2021, 03:54:03 PM »
I am, very very slowly, putting together a general plot for an old-fashioned epic fantasy series.

The antagonist is an evil god, whose body was destroyed long ago. His essence survives, in extremely diluted form, in an orc-like species that are basically humans with all the good parts removed. Their chieftain starts a war against the world of mankind, but as more of the not-orcs are slain and more bloodshed is done in the god's name, towards the end of the series he takes on physical form again the lead the final march on the setting's dominant superpower.

All fairly standard fantasy stuff. But I wonder if I'm somewhat obligated to make some sort of statement on the nature of evil. While the god has his army of degenerate monsters, as the war turns his way various human tribes and nobles join him just for the sake of being on the winning side. And one of the main heroes is a human descended from angels, who has a somewhat autistically simple view of right and wrong. Not in a Mary Sue-ish, "beloved by everyone" kind of way, but more in a "constantly frustrated with human shortcomings and at odds with more pragmatic characters" way.

So on one side I have pure good to a somewhat impractical degree, and on the other I have... what?

The idea is that the god embodies mankind's worst impulses, and considers himself the true god of mankind, made up of its true essence, which is why he can never be truly destroyed. The semi-angel is all about mercy, love, unflinching honesty, empathy for even the worst people, and has no tolerance for short-term evils in the name of supposed long-term benefit. That, in my mind, makes up a theoretical pure good.

Much of human evil, it seems to me, springs from fear and ignorance, and those two are closely related. It's people's ignorance of others, wilful or otherwise, that makes it easy to dehumanise them and/or assume the worst. And fear can easily override someone's better angels. With that in mind I suppose I can have the god be all about preying on people's fears and stoking prejudices. Even among his monsters there can only be any kind of major long-term cooperation when a single strong leader can drag everyone along, while his lieutenants are all sharpening their knives.

Basically, the god is out to bring about an anarchic hell on Earth, with small enclaves in constant conflict with one another. An evil that is ultimately just self-destructive and useless. But I'm not sure how to have that as a theme, or be embodied by a character.

Does anyone have any suggestions?
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Bender

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2021, 06:34:01 PM »
Evil god believes that humans are inherently evil (immoral). It's Good God/Angels who have imposed a moral structure so they can continue to be worshipped (not altruistic from the good guys). You can invoke a bit of survival of the fittest theme which would mandate a power based society with people/groups constantly vying for power by any means.
"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6

Offline Peat

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2021, 09:53:05 PM »
I think your ideas here are interesting. They do also tread on familiar territory, but interesting nevertheless.

This is trite and cliche and hypocritical, but I think the theme will build itself as you write. Don't worry too much if you can't get much at this stage. And honestly, having more than a few planned points in the story skeleton where the theme comes up big could constrain you. I'd be very wary of having characters that embody more than small aspects of this

What interests me at this point, and what I think will help you, are questions.

Take the Evil God. Has he always been evil? Does he take pleasure out of the situations he inspires? Does he favour his Orc worshippers over the humans?

Are there priests who've known about the potential for this scenario? Have angels warned? Does bloodshed *against* Orcs make him more powerful? Etc.etc.
This is the blog of Peat - https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

Online Eli_Freysson

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2021, 03:45:51 PM »
This is trite and cliche and hypocritical, but I think the theme will build itself as you write.

Yeah, it probably will. Going in blind just makes me a bit nervous.

Quote
Take the Evil God. Has he always been evil? Does he take pleasure out of the situations he inspires? Does he favour his Orc worshippers over the humans?

Are there priests who've known about the potential for this scenario? Have angels warned? Does bloodshed *against* Orcs make him more powerful? Etc.etc.

Since I am an atheist, I actually am a bit reluctant to take on the concept of divinity here, and to apply human evil or good to anything other than ourselves. I think I might go with the angle that the god isn't the SOURCE of evil and war; he's just a manifestation of it. Basically, mankind indirectly created him, and now can't get rid of him.
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Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2021, 04:54:06 PM »
Yeah, it probably will. Going in blind just makes me a bit nervous.

I have that issue as well, but the fact is that I tend to wait waaaay too long before I actually start writing. It's an "I just need to build a complete world and all the characters first," type of thing. But the world doesn't create the story, it enables it. So when I do go in a little blind, I tend to apprectiate the freedom I get of shaping the world after the needs of the story. At some point, I have to decide something pivotal about the worldbuilding to go on, and then I take a break and build the world some more. When I do that, it always turns out better.

I just need to learn to do that a whole lot more. I keep repeating that mistake...

Offline Peat

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2021, 05:05:27 PM »
This is trite and cliche and hypocritical, but I think the theme will build itself as you write.

Yeah, it probably will. Going in blind just makes me a bit nervous.

Quote
Take the Evil God. Has he always been evil? Does he take pleasure out of the situations he inspires? Does he favour his Orc worshippers over the humans?

Are there priests who've known about the potential for this scenario? Have angels warned? Does bloodshed *against* Orcs make him more powerful? Etc.etc.

Since I am an atheist, I actually am a bit reluctant to take on the concept of divinity here, and to apply human evil or good to anything other than ourselves. I think I might go with the angle that the god isn't the SOURCE of evil and war; he's just a manifestation of it. Basically, mankind indirectly created him, and now can't get rid of him.

But to what extent is he a conscious manifestation? To what extent does he have will and desires and the ability to make decisions?
This is the blog of Peat - https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

Online Eli_Freysson

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2021, 07:20:50 PM »
This is trite and cliche and hypocritical, but I think the theme will build itself as you write.

Yeah, it probably will. Going in blind just makes me a bit nervous.

Quote
Take the Evil God. Has he always been evil? Does he take pleasure out of the situations he inspires? Does he favour his Orc worshippers over the humans?

Are there priests who've known about the potential for this scenario? Have angels warned? Does bloodshed *against* Orcs make him more powerful? Etc.etc.

Since I am an atheist, I actually am a bit reluctant to take on the concept of divinity here, and to apply human evil or good to anything other than ourselves. I think I might go with the angle that the god isn't the SOURCE of evil and war; he's just a manifestation of it. Basically, mankind indirectly created him, and now can't get rid of him.

But to what extent is he a conscious manifestation? To what extent does he have will and desires and the ability to make decisions?

He has all of those things. The idea is just that violence and cruelty created him, rather than him creating it. I might even go all the way and have him talk about mankind having created him, and believed in him, because they needed some outsider to blame for all of their own misdeeds.

Which actually is exactly how I feel about people's relationship with Satan. Hm. I may have stumbled upon something here.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!

Offline Peat

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2021, 09:19:02 PM »
The pot is beginning to bubble then  8)
This is the blog of Peat - https://peatlong.wordpress.com/

Offline Bender

Re: The nature of evil
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2021, 09:46:01 PM »
That's close to City of Stairs where Gods are manipulated by the people they worship and if majority of worshipers beliefs change over the course of time, the behavior of gods have to change too.
"I shall hunt your firstborn children and laugh with glee as I tell them of your death in terrible detail, with many unpleasant adjectives!" - M-Bot

"Who needs science when you have a dragon?" - Neil DeGrasse Tyson in Sharknado 6