Tag Archives: Writing 101

Xenophobia vs. Fantasy

I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft, back in my Gamer days (as millions of people did). And I’ve always read a lot of Fantasy, including classic High Fantasy (i.e. Tolkien-esque) with Dwarves, Elves, Dragons, and so on. Lord of the Rings; you’ve seen the movies.

One thing that’s always struck me as a little odd, both in video games and literature. In all of these formats, we have lots of intelligent species, living in the same settings, on the same planets. In the case of Warcraft, it is literally hundreds of intelligent species, all sharing the same world and striving and competing for land area, resources, dominance.

In World of Warcraft, these species are at war (at least a cool, ongoing-skirmish sort of war), grouped into Factions. Alliance and Horde, specifically, but just two generally large groups of five major species, and another hundred unaligned individual species.

In Tolkien-esque High Fantasy, it’s generally a Dark Lord of some sort controlling one power sphere (Orcs, Trolls, etc.), and the Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Others in a second power group. Surprise, they don’t like each other very much. Generally a huge battle takes place, the Dark Lord loses and everyone goes home.

But I look around at America, and I just don’t see this kind of outcome as particularly likely. We are one species, and we separate ourselves into nations and races and cultures. We rattle our swords at each other until somebody starts something. Our border is closed, immigrants must asked us nicely to be included pretty please (or risk being criminals). We just can’t get along, at all. And that’s just within a single species, other Humans.

Given that level of Xenophobia the Homo Sapiens constantly displays, I would expect a world of several hundred separate species to be at War every single day, a bloody and full-on genocidal war of extinction, until only a single species remained. As we would expect evolutionary imperative to direct, right Mr. Darwin?

Or is every other race less paranoid and less frightened of Others, and more accepting of cultural differences than we are? If that is the case, we can expect Humans to be wiped out by the combined might of every other species combined, right? They’d group up to protect themselves from us, in self defense?

A lot of high fantasy just doesn’t work on this basis; it soft-sells the likely Nastiness of the conflicts. Even the Dark Lord is less dangerous, in general terms, than those nasty and aggressive humans and their little elf buddies. (Why would Elves have any reason to tolerate us, anyway? We’re the rude and low-class neighbors, scum on the boots.)

Where I would expect bloody, full-on, non-stop attrition war of genocide to be taking place, we’re picking up our Nerf-bat swords and playing by the rules. Humans are never portrayed a tenth as rotten in Fantasy lit as humans are, demonstrably.

And all of those other races, even the “mean” old Orcs and Trolls, play by the rules too (except when they have a Dark Lord to stir things up for a while).

The problem is only multiplied by the sheer number of species contestants in a Warcraft-style setting. All of those murlocs and furbolgs and what have you…the more species you put into competition for supremacy, the more likely an outbreak of the Final War becomes, right?

Thank goodness that game designers exhibit a little restraint, because internecine warfare probably wouldn’t be a very fun game to play. At least not for very long.

There’s probably something important we should learn from that.

RecDave Seal

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.


Swamp Boogie

“Look, you really don’t need to go along,” Sandy said, as she peered into the darkness of the swamp just in front of them.

“Yes ma’am, I do.” Corporal Sikes gripped his assault rifle nervously, eyes darting back and forth in the gloom.

“I assure you, Corporal, that I’m an experienced traveler in the swamplands. I grew up on the bayou in Louisiana, for heaven’s sakes.”


“Look, whatever this–thing we’re looking for is, it’s got to be miles away by now. You saw how fast it was moving, right?”

Corporal Sikes checked his magazine, again. “Yep. I sure did.”

Sandy’s eyes rolled up to the heavens, and she shifted her pack to the other shoulder. “So just why do you believe an escort is required here, Corporal?”

“Well ma’am,” he said, never taking his eyes from the trees. “Do you like horror films?”

She blinked at him. “Horror films?”

“I’ve seen thousands and thousands of horror movies, miss. I love them and I’ve seen all kinds, from zombie flicks to alien abductions to demon summoning bloodbaths to crazy inbred machete hacker hicks.”

“What’s your point, Corporal?”

“There are places to avoid, and things you just don’t do,” said the Corporal. “At the top of that list are “Creepy Southern Backwood Swamps After Dark”. If you go alone into the woods you can kiss your ass goodbye.”

“That’s Hollywood! You know that’s fiction, right?”

“Well, sure. I also know that you don’t leave ladies unescorted–not in the town where I grew up, and certainly not alone in a swamp after dark. Guys just don’t do that.”

“Your sense of chivalry died out about a century ago, Corporal. I’ll make much better time alone, I can assure you.” She plucked his out-of-place flak vest and pointed at his heavy combat boots. “Particularly when you’re dressed like that.”

“Yes’m.” Sikes shifted his weight and looked stubborn.

Any further objections she may have had we interrupted by a booming, deep-throated wail. Something unnatural–a much larger animal than was normally ever found in this swamp. Almost a lion’s roar in volume, but higher and oddly syncopated. CHaaRAP-ACK-AP-ACHchchch.

Sandy’s wide eyes locked on Sikes’. She was far more pale than just moments before.

“I—believe I would appreciate your company after all, Corporal Sikes,” she faltered.

Sikes hefted his assault rifle and switched off the safety with an audible *click*.

“Yes ma’am.”

RecDave Seal

This particular piece was inspired by the Jun 24 Writing 101 prompt:

What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.

No, my fear isn’t swamps. My fear is (currently) scenes with a lot of dialog.

Corporal Sikes isn’t too different from me (I use a lot of ‘ma’ams’ too, with strangers, because I was a Kid From The South). Maybe not quite that many, but it’s still a  first-reaction.

But Sandy’s a little much more stilted and formal, at least initially. I’d need a longer piece to emphasize that more. She’s just getting all set to turn concescending-professor on his ass–until The Creature bellows out of the swamp…

This post should be back-dated to June (like the rest of the Writing 101 prompts are), but I got tired of maintaining that.

20 minutes of free writing

To get started, let’s loosen up. Let’s unlock the mind. Today, take twenty minutes to free write. And don’t think about what you’ll write. Just write.

9:50 PM

Mr. Toad shifted his weight unhappily.  A bit of undigested fly was making itself known, and Mr. Toad was having difficulties. His waistcoat seemed tighter and the day before, and beads of sweat were collecting around the band of  his bowler.

What a waste of a beautiful afternoon. Bright sun, cool breeze, shade from the trees at the edge of the lake. All in all, a quite enjoyable day, except for Mr. Toad’s somewhat rebellious lunch and the ominous gurgling making itself audible from the region of his cummerbund.

Oh bother.

“Mr. Toad! Mr. Toad?” The damned otter twins, Burt and Alex, smooth ripples spreading out in bow-waves behind as the two sharp, wet noses drove directly for Mr. Toad’s chosen lily pad.

“So much for my afternoon nap,” muttered Mr. Toad, quite unhappily.

“Mr. Toad, Mum said you was to watch over the Holt while she’s away visiting with Auntie El.”

Oh double bother. He had promised.

“Boys, you know I can watch your holt quite easily from this very spot, if you can manage to stay out of trouble for just a few hours,” grumped Mr. Toad.

“Who, us?” The two otters barked quiet laughter. “Why Mr. Toad, you know we never get up to any mischief.” The picture of innocence, the otters did their very best “perfect angels behaving themselves in church” poses.

Rolling his big  eyes, Mr. Toad harrumphed and kept his doubts entirely to himself.


RecDave Seal