1. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    Why Can't Evil Be Used For Good In SciFi/Fantasy?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Revilo87, Jul 15, 2015.

    Many sci-fi/fantasy stories have main characters that gain access to secret abilities or a device which is usually considered dark/evil/taboo. The main characters then try to use these powers/devices for good although their friends warn against it, and for a while it seems to all work out for the best. But in the end, the naysaying friends are proved right, either b/c the main character temporarily went evil, or b/c he accidentally lost control and hurt a friend or bystander. Thus we readers learn that evil can't be used for good.

    But why not? Can't there ever be a time when this rule doesn't apply? I.E. Why can't a good witch/wizard use dark magic to take out bad witches or wizards?
     
  2. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    The question in and of itself is somewhat confusing because obviously it's not possible to use evil for good. If something is evil then that kind of makes it, well, evil. It is, however, possible to use something that certain people consider to be evil for a good purpose. I think what you're calling evil could be better described as powerful and taboo; something that others believe could be a great source of evil but doesn't necessarily have to be.

    As for why, well, it's basically just the usual canned message that power corrupts.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Erm. Because that means you go over to the Dark Side? Or the Ring enslaves you? Or you don't know when to quit. It's actually a device that has been used before in fantasy and fantasy sci-fi. Apparently dark powers always corrupt, eventually. Which of course can make for a good story, hey?
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Considered evil and being evil are two different things. If used for good it is not evil.
     
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  5. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the device doesn't corrupt and or do something evil. Then wasn't the underline assumption about it being dark or evil wrong?

    I mean sort of like saying why can't the villain save the day. Well if the villain saves the day we tend to call them a hero. lol. If that makes sense.
     
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  6. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    Evil characters can do something good, but it doesn't make them good. Unless, it's about redeeming him or herself and changing their ways. Villains can do something that may make them seem like good or trustworthy characters, but there's usually something behind their actions.

    It isn't always about a bad, evil monster who eats flesh and hides in the dark. They can be handsome or beautiful, smart or stupid and they might have some kind of background that you have no idea about yet. Something that drove them to become an evil character.

    As far as obtaining an "evil" relic with dark powers to do good, it just kind of doesn't make sense. You can write your own story and include something that most characters BELIEVE to be powerful and only for evil hands. Perhaps it's just the fear of enlightenment? The fear of magic? The fear of a good person with a good heart possessing all of that power to themselves.

    There's no rule that says you can't write it your own way. Most classic fantasy has evil as black as night and good as white as the heavens. Modern fantasy readers know what to expect and find themselves bored. Change it up, but make sense!

    Will it make them selfish?

    Will they restore peace on Earth or destroy the planet and enslave us all?

    And if you're wondering if your protagonist can turn into an antagonist also. Of course he can. You're the one writing it. Make it work.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015
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  7. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    To understand why (or why not) I recommend reading Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion by John Morreall. He explains it very well. Just reading chapter two will give you the answer to your question, but I recommend reading the whole thing. Quite an eye-opener for any storyteller.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Two issues with it. The first has already been mentioned - that power corrupts. So your MC risks losing his soul etc.

    The second more basic one is summed up by the phrase - The end doesn't justify the means." This is tricky but ask yourself this - if you can go back in time and bring about a great good by committing one evil act - have you done right? If yes, you've just killed Hitler. But can you call this a good or in any way moral act. Because on the one hand you've just saved millions of lives. On the other hand you've committed murder. Is this justified? What if young Hitler was a baby when you strangled him?

    And it's a slippery slope. So what say instead of killing Hitler you kill someone completely different? Someone who's done no harm to anyone at all. But his organs will save the lives of three or four others. Now you've still helped bring about a good end - but committed murder to do it. Is this justified?

    So where does it end?

    This is why you can't justify the terrible things you do by the positive outcomes they achieve. And so if by using evil objects etc to bring about good ends, you think you are somehow absolved of all your wrong doing, you have to think again.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    If we're talking about a story you're thinking of writing, evil can absolutely be used for good. Things can do whatever you want them to do. You're the author, you make the rules.
     
  10. AsherianCommand
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    AsherianCommand Active Member

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    In one of my stories of my fantasy world, there is a very powerful being that kills innocents and is a servant of a darker power, but he does good things for the local populace, by blessing their children, and protecting them. In return they refer to him as the guardian of bones and basically worship him.

    Is he evil? Oh god yes he is. But he is mostly trying to break away from what the rest of his race does, and is a good being overall. But he is a giant bone dragon, possessed by an ancient being who kills and maims travelers. Not for food but for the thrill of it.

    Usually evil is self serving, only looking out for itself.

    I mean a great example of evil being productive and looking after its peoples is Radovid from the witcher games. He serves his people, but he is a racist and commits mass genocide. Another being dark souls, where the villians you are facing did evil deeds, but they were doing it for the good of their race. I won't spoil of any of that though :p

    It can work, and it is vastly more interesting to see it happen.
     
  11. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because that's how evil works. You compromise doing wrong in the name of doing right. You compromise your morals and eventually it leads to evil anyway. Of course you can have gray characters, but a man who decides to kill criminals versus one who decides to use non-lethal force to save vulnerable victims are two very different people.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Of course your character can use evil for good. It's your story and your world, you set the boundaries and that determines what works.
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    In resolving this, it might help to keep in mind:
    1) everyone is the hero of their own story and therefore doesn't see himself or herself as evil, and
    2) in some philosophies, there is no such thing as 'good' or 'evil.'

    It's a matter of perspective and mindset. The notions of 'collateral damage' and 'acceptable losses' illustrate this.

    For instance, there's construction going on around my building ATM. To repair the garage roof (a good thing) the workers cut down trees that had been growing on the property since the building was erected in 1969 (a bad thing for those of us who loved those trees).
     
  14. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some people might say magic is neutral - it's the magician's intent that determines whether the magic is good or bad, light or dark etc.
     
  15. Topaztock
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    Topaztock Member

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    You're absolutely right, of course. This is something that is definitely worth exploring in your writings.

    A lot of this 'EVIL - DO NOT TOUCH' stuff comes from the idea of hubris, saying man shouldn't try to play god. Even in an increasingly atheist society, that still hangs over us for better or for worse.

    I think the worst thing Doctor Faustus ever did was waste his powers.
     
  16. ToeKneeBlack
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    You could have a device which is super dangerous and can corrupt almost anyone. The device is sought after by villains, who would use it to dominate their competitors (and everyone else).

    However, you could have an "uncorruptable" character who finds the device, which was hidden away so that the forces of evil couldn't find it. The uncorruptable person uses it with the best of intentions, only for them or their closest allies to be threatened by those who seek to use the device for evil.
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Topaztock,

    I think the issue of playing God is a slightly different one to the idea of doing evil to bring about good. Best example I can think of this would be Frankenstein. The doctor had no intention of committing any evil act to bring about good. He did mean to play God though. He intended to bring about a new age and a new race of man free from the burden of death - starting with Adam - and of course it all went horribly wrong making it the cautionary tale it is.

    The Island of Doctor Moreau is of course another variant of this theme, though here we see a doctor blinded to the harm he's doing to his creations by his dreams / pride - his hubris as you say. But again he wasn't intending to do evil. He just lost himself in his ambition.

    But both these characters if presented with an obvious choice to do evil to bring about good, would say no. Dr F certainly since he's painted as a highly moralistic man.

    Faust / Dr Faustus' sin (and it is a biblical play) is actually selling his soul. He did nothing with what he was given because Mephistophilis essentially tricked him. He gave him meaningless answers to his profound questions, making him untrustworthy. Thus the bargain became worthless and Faust had sold his soul for nothing. With nothing to gain from it, he basically sank to the level of the childish and started playing practical jokes, lost in bitterness.

    The cautionary aspect to the tale is not playing God as it were, but rather dealing with the devil / evil.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think doing evil to do good and using evil to do good can be separated. In my RPG world, for example, arcane magic is inherently evil. It's tainted, and inevitably brings about corruption or worse to those who practice it. In the context of the game world, use of arcane magic is evil because you're tapping into a dark or evil source.

    However, one could certainly tap into that evil source of power and use it to do something good, like save a bunch of kids or something. The caster may have to pay consequences personally at some point down the road, but they've done good in the mean time.
     
  19. Scrib
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    Scrib Active Member

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    A very clever protagonist might find a way to manipulate evil so that the outcome is good :superwink:
     
  20. Topaztock
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    Topaztock Member

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    It worked, until Frankenstein abandoned his creature though. Had he given the creature the love it craved, the tragedy could have been averted.

    This is an interesting point. Selling his soul causes his stagnation, regardless of his powers.

    I'm going to think about these points some more and get back to you, you've given me a lot of food for thought. :)
     
  21. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Steerpike said. In my fantasy series, two novels involve the use of the Blood Sword, a malevolent weapon. In the novel Blood Sword, it is retrieved and brought to the battlefield in hopes of changing the tide of war. While in the first novel, the Necromancer King is much more easily identified as a force of (or for) evil. In the second novel, the Fendra Jolain, goddess of healing and the sun isn't so easily pigeonholed, so to speak. Yet, the intent is to obtain the Blood Sword to wield against her and her forces.

    Using an evil tool to accomplish what is considered a good task, at least by the protagonist's side in the war...a war of defense against Fendra Jolain and her forces.

    So it depends on the world created, and the plot, and it is up to you as the writer to make it (evil used for good) believable to the readers.
     
  22. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    Thanks for the input everyone... I haven't started writing yet, but I'm definitely going to try and tackle the idea soon. It's just the more and more I see the "evil can't be used for good/power corrupts" story line I feel this nagging urge to try to counter to it. Whether or not it will makes sense, I don't know... but I'll let you all know how it's coming along once it gets going
     
  23. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Power corrupts people. It's a fact that when someone is given power they typically abuse it. The one thing to remember however is it's not the power that is evil it is the person who wields it who determines whether it's good or bad. Dark magic could be just as good as good magic; it's entirely dependent on the person who uses it though. This begs the question though: If a hero is using dark magic does that make dark magic dark?
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
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  24. dearowl
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    dearowl New Member

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    That's exactly what I was going to say, "It depends on the writer". Everything is a matter of opinion. If a story is engaging, anything is possible, I mean, Alice in Wonderland, up is down and I completely believe it.
     
  25. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    My dictionary defines evil as an adjective. Morally bad or wrong; wicked. And so on.

    Something takes on the characteristic of evil when used to cause harm. That same thing used for good things would not be considered evil. The lever was probably man's earliest invention, great thing for moving stuff, bad thing when it was used to move a boulder off a cliff to kill someone else. Either something is used for good or bad, and it is that bad action that is evil, not the object/thing itself even though it is given that attribute. IMO.
     
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