Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Try 100 Years, Instead of 1,000

So, we've all had a chance to sit down and watch Netflix's Original Bright by now, right? A modern-fantasy cop drama that deals with the first orc being allowed on the force in L.A., the casual racism that orcs have to deal with, and the bizarre, Tolkien-esque world that everyone now inhabits.

If you didn't see it, relax. They give away pretty much everything in the trailer.

One thing Bright does is try to offer some token justification for all the orc racism we see all over the place. In short, about 2,000 years ago, orcs sided with some mysterious Dark Lord, and had to be defeated by an alliance of all the other races (humans, elves, centaurs, fey, etc., etc.). And, according to the world's lore, orcs have done literally nothing else to earn that awful rep since those dark days.

Do you remember how long it took Germany to stop being thought of as the place that bred jackbooted genocide soldiers? Well, if you looked around recently, it's been less than a century before they left that reputation behind. Now Germany is thought of as respected leaders of a union of nations, and a strong, guiding force.

Roll that around in your head for a moment. There are still people alive today who remember the atrocities of the S.S., and who survived the Holocaust. Yet only a few generations later, the identity of that nation has been remade into a different image.

Are you seeing the disconnect, here?

I Blame Tolkien, Really

As with so many other genre-setting trends, I lay this one at the feet of the famed author and professor. Because, since Middle Earth dealt with time by thousands of years, it seems that every other fantasy setting chose to do the same thing. Not because it was what felt right for their stories, or because it was inherently more interesting, but because it was what worked in The Lord of The Rings, and that was the mold they happened to be using.

Thanks, Tolkien...
The problem that you run into is that a lot of stuff changes over 1,000 years. Empires crumble, cultures shift, language changes, and governments are entirely rebuilt. Hell, depending on your world's doings, the very shape of the landscape might change entirely.

If we're talking about lost civilizations, ancient artifacts, and forgotten treasures, then it's perfectly reasonable to talk in millennia. However, if you're talking about the perceptions of a group of people, the lifespan of a nation, or even how long a certain fighting style or weapon has been in use, it might be worth asking yourself whether you should narrow your timeline. Especially if your protagonists lead relatively human lifespans, indicating that generational turnover happens fairly fast by the standards of elves, dwarves, and other long-lived races.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. Hopefully it got some wheels turning, and gave some folks a little insight. If you like my work, you can find more of it in my Vocal archive. To stay on top of all my latest releases, simply follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and/or Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to support me, head to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, there's a free book in it for you.


  1. I disagree.

    Have you even heard of the Jews?

    Have you even heard of the Kurds?

    Have you heard of the Untouchables?

    Have you heard of the Gypsies?

    Have you heard of Gays?

    Sure, these examples are also dependent on culture and region of the world, the closest to being universally hated (in the western hemisphere) is probably the Jews under Christendom and Islam. And yes, things like Anti Semetism are indeed on the decline in many places, though it ebbs and flows, however, there is still a great deal of of animosity toward Jews.

    Racism vs African Lineage Americans is also not dead, not even close, and its been several Hundred years since their introduction into the Americas as slaves.

    The Irish were persecuted for several hundred of years as well.

    But even still, Jews have been maligned with blood libel and other atrocities for the last 2k years.

    So yeah, I disagree.

    I disagree vehemently.

    Because even after 1900 years, they were dragged into concentration camps and slaughtered for their heritage, religion and culture.

    Dude, your logic doesnt parse.

    If anything, in bright, society as a whole is basically a reformed Nazi Germany, or an America that took MUCH longer to get civil rights.

    1. While I see your point, it bears consideration that those things came in cycles. No group you mention has ever been universally prejudiced by every culture they've come across without cessation. Homosexuality is probably the easiest example, since it has been accepted without question at various times in history, and has only come back into the crosshairs of being a maligned group when culture shifted. Ditto being of a certain nationality, or being from a certain religious group.

      My point is that if you have someone in your society, and they are a part of your fabric, and they've been there forever, you need something RECENT in order to justify prejudice of them. Recent can vary, but typically if you're milking a single grudge from more than a century ago, then it loses credibility if you're using it as a wide-scale justification. Small, tribal groups who never interact with outsiders can hold onto dogma much longer, but when you see people from these groups every day, and you come to know them, vehemence gets a lot less believable.

    2. Your making the assumption that the entire world of Bright hates orcs as well.

    3. "but when you see people from these groups every day, and you come to know them, vehemence gets a lot less believable."


      Christendom and Islam have basically been at war with eachother for 1500 years.

      There is a great deal of crossover between the cultures throughout the western world, and yet, this hate and ager between them as groups as a whole, still bears its ugly face on a moderately regular basis.

      What we see in bright are regional extremes. We have very little reason to believe otherwise as it is the sotry of one small group in one city.

      It would be logically improper to believe that the WHOLE world sees things the same way, and extraordinarily narrow minded of you to do so, which is ironic considering the subject matter of the post.

      "No group you mention has ever been universally prejudiced by every culture they've come across without cessation."

      Seriously, do you even Europe bro?

      It wasnt until the last century that Jews could own property in Europe at all. It was almost universally forbidden for them to do so, and when they did gain property, it was often taken from them.

      This is actually one of the reasons why the Hebrew people are more likely to be in finance and banking, because even though they had a hard time being able to keep their property from malicious offenders, they were able to keep their money.

      Sorry dude, your logic is flawed in a very fundamental way, its based on MASSIVE assumptions, with very few facts.

      If you want to criticize their world building, then criticize their lack of it, the lack of information beyond the story they told, etc. . . Thats fine. But dont commit the same sin of narrow mindedness.

    4. Addendum

      It wasnt until the last century (or so) that Jews could own property in Europe at all. It was ~!almost!~ universally forbidden for them to do so, and when they did gain property, it was ~!often!~ taken from them.


      I would also like to point out that the Orcs do indeed seem to have civil rights in society, WHICH MEANS that at SOME POINT, someone LIKELY would have had to of lobbied on their behalf. Because if they had not, I doubt there would have been orcs in the city at all, or they would have been a slave race, etc. . .

    5. ^---in otherwords, the fact that an Orc was allowed to become a cop, means that not EVERYONE in that society hates them, even if they are indeed hated by most people.

    6. I have a few comments. For starters, don't say "the Jews" or "the Gypsies" or "the Kurds." It treats hose groups as objects and comes off as vaguely bigoted. Just say Jews, gypsies, Kurds etc etc. To a certain extent though I feel Neal is more correct than wrong. Setting up the hatred of a race based on a single event is nonsensical. Maintaining the level of hate that Bright would want you to believe about Orcs requires more or less a consistent pogrom against them. Typically it also comes with constantly blaming such groups for all your problems. Jews have a long history of hate aimed at them. But it was not always the case and there are periods in history, however brief they may be, where they weren't the most hated group around. Jewish history in the US had periods of varying degree of societal acceptances or at least tolerance. They certainly weren't the most hated group in the early US, that was reserved for slaves and Native Americans.

      1,000 to 2,000 years of hate requires a constant vigil. It requires a society blaming a group for it's ills constantly. It will never be tied to one event. Jews (sticking with just one group as talking about all the ones listed would become unwieldy) face consistent scapegoating throughout history. There really is no singular event that lead to the Holocaust, for example. There was no single one event that lead to Jewish persecution throughout history. It was a consistent use of the Jewish people as scapegoats that allowed hate and bigotry of them to continue. No one alive today can say they hate Jews because of some great conflict long ago.

      Which is why Neal is making a valid point about world building. Tying the hatred of orcs to a single 2,000 year old event is lazy world building. It also kinda sorta nullfies your critque that Neal is being narrowminded. There was no LA 2,000 years ago. There was no United States. There was no New World. The event that caused the bigotry against the orcs occured in the far flung past no where near where the story takes place. This indicates that the view on orcs is a global view, not something that is just a part of the United States. That hate was transported to the US. For a 2,000 year old grudge to be alive and well in the United States, it would require that hate to be a global thing. Coming back to your example of Jews, their dislike was not limited to a single country or region. It got transported from place to place. Other cultures opinions of Jews were influenced by European dislike and hate for them. It is logically improper to claim that the whole world doesn't hate them, as the orcish position in American society wouldn't be affect by a 2,000 year event unless that hate was near global.

      Thus the charge of narrow mindedness falls a part. At 2,000 years you are basically talking about Rome and the birth of Christ. The world then was incredible small compared to today. There is very little we still hate in the world today from that far back. And the few things we do have been because of a consistent fight, not a singular event. The conflict between Christians and Muslims is not based on a single event that occurred 1,500 years ago. It's based on a series of events that happened throughout history. Even then there have been periods of times when we didn't have anything against Muslims. They were not consistently hated. We did not consistently war against them. Even then, most of our conflicts with Islam from the past are more political based than hate based. Several of the Crusades, as an example, were undertaken due to politics of the day in Europe as opposed to some kind of pressing hate against Muslims that needed to be dealt with. Even today, our conflict with the Middle East is not about hate between Christendom and Islam, but one of politics.

    7. The fact of the matter is that 2,000 years of hate is not maintained on the back of a single event. The characters in the movie consistently reference a single event that would have had no impact on the lives of anyone living in LA. Yes, the world building is bad. But Neal is not that far off on his analysis. 2,000 years shapes and changes people. The hatred against orcs makes no sense unless it was somehow global. There is far too much change over 2,000 years to make a single event the source of your prejudice. A single event would have worked better had it been restricted to something that happened within the last 500 years. Very few people, cultures, ethnicity, are hated for 2,000 years on the back of a single event. A single event may have started it but there HAS to be more in order to maintain it for 2,000 years and have it spread to parts of the world not yet even known at the time it occurred. There is no single event for hatred against Jews. No such event exists for racism against African Americans (though that little gem is a bit to complex for me to break down in a single post). The same can be said of gypsies, Muslims, Kurds, etc etc. That level of hate is just not practical on a 2,000 scale on one of event. An entire society that oppresses them would need something more recent than a 2,000 year old event. African Americans don't face racism in the US due to an event that happened 2,000 years ago. The problems of African Americans are a relatively recent series of events (when the scope of time being discussed is 2,000 years 500 years is recent events).

      Though, it does amuse me that you talk about the sin of narrow-mindness. You restricted most of your argument to Europe which is just as narrow-minded, if not more so, than anything Neal advocated.

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