1. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    World-building and avoiding triggers

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by LostArtist, Sep 2, 2020.

    I have been in the world-building process for the last few months for a fantasy. Imagining different cultures, histories, customs, varying locations, climates and soft magic systems.

    Some high fantasy Is set in a kind of, European medieval time. Where there were hardly any people of color, women were horribly mistreated if not second class, and different sexualities were persecuted. It's what it was like in those times. But I am not writing about those times. I am writing about a fantasy world.

    Attempting to create a fantasy world a bit different, I had the thought of. "Instead of, What If? Ask, why not?" steering me to create a world where there was no prejudice towards other people's race or sexuality. Why not? Sure, the people in my world may hate people for other reasons, But the thought of singling them out on sexual preference or the color of their skin would never occur to them. Why not? It is a fantasy, I made it up.



    I think I am quite a progressive person, But I am a white male. I have to be able to see things from the POV of other people. Maybe I shouldn't be flippant about it.



    I stopped myself after planning a side plot, a love story between two side characters, Doroline and Alice. With my "Why not?" way of thinking, I ended up making Doroline pregnant with Alice's baby using a soft magic system, thinking. It's a fantasy world, Why can't a baby have two biological mothers.

    "Why not?" needs a "But should I?" or at least definitely feels like I should ask someone. I have no Idea If a lesbian couple would like to dream of that or be offended by the thought. As I said, I am a white man. What do I know? In trying to make an open-minded world, I do not want to come across as narrow-minded.



    Would like to know what people think of the concept and if they understand my concerns, help me out. Also If anyone else has similar concerns with their own world-building, I would hope this would be a good thread to discuss.

    When world building goes too far
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Ask yourself - "Why should I not?"

    Although as far as your worldbuilding goes, I would ask the question, if a woman can become pregnant with another woman, what biologcal purpose does sex (gender) serve?
     
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  3. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    I understand your concern. It's time to break it down piece-by-piece to fully understand the situation.

    I think this is the single most important line in your post.

    These are Victorian lens through which you view European medieval times, and they are mostly wrong. And this is a great point to bring up here; you seem to be most confident in a partially disproved picture, which may have led you to lose confidence in a picture you yourself paint.

    However. Here comes the real issue I feel is at hand here. Unrealistic realism.

    I have faced many points during my research into historical times and life where I realised that writing the truth and writing as things were would have the audience gasp in disbelief; reality is far from the picture they were originally presented with. I could describe to you a scene of naked noblemen and noblewomen bathing together in bubbling hot water, enjoying a frivolous floating feast while they are celebrating. And you'd say it's a decent fantasy; whereas it was reality for a long time until historians decided to paint the ages they called "dark ages" as dark as they could.

    Thus, irony shows that writers tend to be more researched and more factual in matters they are not confident about, and tend to stray into half-truths when all too confident. The healthy middle way is when you are confident enough to not straight-up throw away ideas but when you aren't confident enough to write stuff without putting some research into it. And this research should entail not only a same-sex relationship or the bliss of motherhood, but also the medieval world and its shenanigans.

    Now's a word about internal consistency.

    True, but remember. A world where wine rains from the sky will have river connoisseurs. Make sure to understand the implications of any "change" you implement both on your characters and the greater world around them. If a baby can have two biological mothers, this could - for example - imply possible royal unions between matriarchal houses to create common heirs. It also severely reduces the worth of males in society/nobility.
     
  4. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    Still dosen't have to be two women. say two men also seek out this magic. the conventional way is still the same. as nowadays we can have surrogates for couples trying to conceive. I was thinking of a magic system instead of that, and kind of took it a step further
     
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  5. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    Thank you. It is really nice to get an opinion of someone who has done research in history. The Line about 'Midevil' times was more of a broad example for a fantasy setting.

    In the most basic outline, The Story is about a group of heroes traveling from one end of the world to another. and on their travels, they find a monastery that can make this happen. so it is more of a local thing than a world system. one out of a number of different cultures and systems.
     
  6. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    That's due to the difficulty of long-distance travel, and didn't apply equally across Europe (see the Moors in Spain as an example). It really started changing with improved ships, then railways and finally aircraft allowing people to more easily get to distant countries. If you want to have a more mixed country, a magic system that lets people travel long distances quickly would probably achieve that.

    Pretty much everybody was back then.

    'Why?' might be a better question. You've thrown out potential sources of conflict, which will limit your stories. Remember, you can have characters with views that are abhorrent to you. You could even have character or societal growth with the non-prejudicial stage being the end point of your story.

    You need to see things from the POV of people living in those times. And every author is restricted to not having experienced life from everybody's POV. If you've done away with racism in your world, why does it matter that you're white in the real world?

    Some would. Certainly lesbian couples have babies, but obviously have to use a man's sperm, though they sometimes have one partner's egg implanted in the other woman as the closest they can get to having a baby together - a bit of research should allow you to find out more. There are even novels where society carries on with no men at all. And so what if some lesbians are offended in the real world? What matters if whether it makes sense for your characters. If your desire to not offend anybody or come across as narrow-minded, then the only option I can suggest is not writing at all. Otherwise, you need to have some courage.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
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  7. A.M.P.

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Contributor

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    Like any decent worldbuilding, the only real issue is when things exist in a vaccuum.
     
  8. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Here's my advise. This is the best advise I ever gave:

    To hell with the Twitter mob! To hell with the Twitter mob and it's silly, ridiculous "rules" about who can write what? If you don't write it, who will write it?

    Let the audience decide what they want.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I've yet to see anything that would suggest that equality, justice, or a state of inoffense are natural components of reality. Sounds like the most fantastic of fiction to me.

    Then again, I'm a cynic.
     
  10. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    In my own setting, the explanation is basically: The gods were on the ball early and told everyone to cut that shit out, because they don't really see how one mortal is much different from another and think discrimination on such shallow grounds is pointless and stupid.

    The gods are ageless spirit-beings who can take on a wide variety of forms, lack any real sort of sexuality since they don't need to procreate, and whose primary drive is intellectual or philosophical pursuits. They're actually a bit too inhuman for normal prejudice: They'd look at racism, homophobia etc, and go: "I don't get it."

    I'm in pretty much the same boat, and I do think it's prudent to be careful even if you have good intentions. There is definitely a risk of being accidentally insensitive while dealing with sensitive issues one isn't intimately familiar with. Research helps in the regard.

    Still, we probably shouldn't overthink it too much. In my experience, most people are reasonable - I suspect most minorities would simply appreciate that you tried to represent them in good faith, as long as you didn't accidentally write something harmful to social progress.

    Then there's the few loons who won't be pleased no matter what you write, and the scores of reactionaries who'll be upset simply because you tried to be progressive and attempt to turn it against you. But unfortunately we just sorta have to put up with those people.

    I can't imagine this in itself being seen as offensive - gay people want families too, and I assume that magically conceiving a child in spite of biological limitations has to be a gratifying fantasy for many of them. After all, some go through medical procedures just to get an approximation of that.

    Rather, what matters the most here is probably the context. While the scenario itself is almost certainly not objectionable, the same is not necessarily true for your implementation, nor your motives and justifications for including it in the story. You could still mess it up depending on how you handle it, is what I'm saying.

    So, what you should be thinking about is stuff like: Why is this magical lesbian pregnancy in the story in the first place? Is this relevant to the plot or thematically significant, or something you threw in for flavor? Is it a unique occurrence or commonplace? What do you intended to do with this kid, and what message do you end up sending in the process?

    Hypothetically, say I write a story where a gay couple have a magic baby somehow. Then it turns out the kid is evil. Like, maybe he's a sociopath or was born without a soul or possessed by a demon. Some people would almost definitely argue that this could be read as an allegorical comment on gay parenting, specifically that it could be psychologically harmful to the child.

    Which is of course bullshit, and I know it's bullshit, and that wasn't what I was trying to say, honest. I just didn't realize it could be interpreted that way, because I'm apparently sorta naive in this hypothetical scenario.

    But that doesn't matter because the intentions of the writer are kinda irrelevant to the reading of the text. That's just how literary criticism works. Even if I insist that the parents being gay had nothing at all to do with their kid being the antichrist, the story would still be coded as critical of gay parenting and I will have done the gay community what we here in Sweden refer to as a "bear favor."

    This is an extreme and oversimplified example, of course, but I hope you get the point. This is the sort of stuff we need to be careful about: What does the story say about magical lesbian offspring, if only between the lines?

    Does it have to serve a biological purpose, if that isn't necessary?

    I find it interesting that, even when historical people were prejudiced, their prejudices could be wildly different from our modern ones.

    Like how the old Norse were apparently more likely to be classist rather than racist, not really caring about skin color or where you were from but caring quite a lot about social standing. As in, if you were an Irish peasant or thrall (more or less the same thing, as far as the vikings were concerned) they'd treat you as a subhuman trash but if you were Irish nobility they'd respect you.

    Then there's the ancient Greek attitude towards homosexuality, which was so weird that gay sex between two men could be perfectly acceptable for one of them but at the same time illegal for the other, depending on who was "dominant" and who was "submissive" during the act. Which seems insane, but apparently made sense to them.

    It's almost as if the rules here are totally made up and various societies keep arbitrarily changing them.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
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  11. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Depends. If it *never* served a biological purpose, it would have never evolved.
     
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  12. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Don't be so sure about that. Homosexuality is also something we "evolved," even though it serves no apparent purpose and certainly isn't helpful when it comes to procreation.

    (We still don't really know how it works, but most likely it's an epigenetic expression of some common gene or genes that actually do something completely different.)

    See, it turns out evolution is a random and haphazard process that doesn't always make sense.

    Anyway, I don't see how gay people having kids has anything to do with gender as a biological function. I mean, they're doing exactly the same thing straight people do, just with a person of a gender they find attractive. It's not like anything is going to change for the heterosexuals, except they'd no longer have the monopoly on baby making.
     
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  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I'm afraid I disagree. Homosexuality is a function of heterosexuality. Without one, the other doesn't exist. Species that have asexual reproduction don't engage in homosexuality.
     
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  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I was going to respond in some more detail, but if I do, no matter what I say, some people will be offended, so I'm out of this thread.
     
  15. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Active Member

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    Does being a white male make you not a human? That's what you're writing about: humans. Skip the groups, skip the pretense. No one can keep up with cancel culture anyway.
     
  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    I'm worse than a White male. I'm heterosexual, middle class, middle America, suburban raised, college educated, white collar management, overwhelmingly White upbringing... if you've got a checklist for assholes, I'd score 100.

    None of which, however, prevents me from writing what I want about who I want. I'll "appropriate" anything to round out a good story. Art is supposed to trigger emotion, good and bad. And it should be offensive to at least a few people. If you're not pissing someone off, you're probably not doing a good job.
     
  17. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    I am not worried about cancel culture. just want to make sure I can represent different people fairly. I can't write a woman character without speaking to a few women. I can't write about an ethnicity If I don't speak to people from different ethnic backgrounds.
    I am just asking a question so I can develop the Idea, get more opinions and research. Consider something I haven't yet to flesh out the Idea or rework, just so I don't fall into a pit of Ignorance.
    But your right I should not aim to please specific groups, instead of, just 'humans'
     
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  18. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    But it's fantasy. The people in your fantasy world do not, and will not represent the people of the real world unless your fantasy world is identical to the real one.
     
  19. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    Wow, I just want to say thank you.
    seems like you get my concerns, addressed them and I agree with you. Luckily, they don't have a "demon baby" and it is relevant to the theme and growth of the MC
    Your right, it is my intention to "represent them in good faith" it is not that I am trying to pander.
    You really helped, so Thank you.
    I really appreciate your comment
     
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  20. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    While those statements might be true in broad terms, there's a surprising amount of historical nuance if you look in the right crevices of history. For example, hardly any people of colour? Are you sure about that?

    From a world-building point of view, you'd need to think about what this means for the wider setting. How easy is it to do this, and how well-known is it that such a thing can happen? What would be the legal status of such a family, if that matters? Because if it's common that two women can have a child, that's going to have knock-on effects for the wider setting.[/quote][/QUOTE]
     
  21. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    Personally, my advice is: don't bother worrying. I am a conservative - my ideal society is 8th century Byzantine Empire, so yeah, modern-day Republicans are extreme progressives for me - and I never cared about what people think of the stuff I write. So again: don't worry about "going too far". Go as far as you want.

    The only way worldbuilding can go "too far" in my opinion is if it throws out possibility of conflict. If we are all one big, happy Borg Collective, there is no possibility of conflict. But if there is no possibility for conflict, there is no possibility of having an interesting story. And that is what is the only real problem I see with your worldbuilding: you have thrown out some big sources of conflict. Now, that does not mean that you cannot find other sources of conflict, but a) if something exists, there will always be prejudice based on that something and b) if you imagine that somehow there isn't prejudice based on thing X/Y/Q, you are reducing potential avenues for conflict and thus potential roads your story can take.

    That being said, I have noticed one problem with your worldbuilding. Specifically, how old is that magic that makes it possible for two women to make a baby? Is it inherent or a new creation? Because if it is inherent, then there would be no need to have two biological sexes - you would have, like an Asari, a monogendered (all-female) species. On the other hand, if it is created, then society could well have some leftovers of previous situation - how much and how widespread would depend on how far in the past creation of said magic was. And it would have massive implications, with regards to society and politics - as noted, worth of males would be significantly reduced, and they would only really be useful as physical labourers and soldiers.

    And lastly, just a note that:
    Is not actually correct. It might be correct about some of high fantasy, but it is definitely not correct about influential high fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, and neither was it true in actual Middle Ages. In fact, in Middle Ages, there were black traders in major cities (such as Constantinople) though they were never very numerous, and women actually had very extensive rights. More extensive, in fact, than at any other point before 20th century.
     
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  22. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Never felt I had a problem portraying women, and in fact I greatly prefer using female protagonists. Though, I've suspected for some time now that I don't have a very defined gender identity, so that might have something to do with it.

    On the other hand, I've always had trouble making my characters anything but white people, even though I consider that a problematic tendency. I blame this on growing up with popculture that almost exclusively featured white heroes. (Or in the case of anime, a lot of Asian characters who may as well have been white.) I've been trying to get rid of this habit, since I'd rather not pass it on to future generations.

    As for getting ethnicity right, this is sorta why I basically only write fantasy: If I invent my own cultures I can decide for myself how they should function, what their particular sensitivities and values are, and how they relate to one another.

    Since LostArtist describes this as a magical procedure of some kind, I'd say it's heavily suggested that this isn't a natural ability, if that's what you meant by inherent.
     
  23. Aldarion

    Aldarion Active Member

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    For most of the history, most of the world was not multicultural / multiracial. Only big ports were (like Constantinople, Lisbon, Venice etc.); as for the rest, people typically didn't have contact with those from a neighbouring village, let alone neighbouring continent. So if you are writing historical fiction or fantasy, it is not really a problematic tendency at all - depending, of course, on context (for example, whether it is set in Constantinople or Karynia - former would be multicultural to an extent, latter would very much not be).

    Yes, that is what I meant. So if it isn't natural, then some aspects of bigendered society would remain.
     
  24. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    Do you consider it problematic if a Chinese author writes only Chinese characters, an Indian author writes only Indian characters, a Nigerian author writes only black characters, etc?

    I can understand wanting to get cultural issues right, but then I don't understand your issue with non-white characters. If you have a fantasy culture where people tend to act in a particular way, why does it matter what race the characters from that culture are?
     
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  25. LostArtist

    LostArtist Member

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    I didn't really imagen the most controversial part of my post was saying that some fantasies can be a bit whitewashed.

    Just off the top of my head. I don't remember many black people in 'Lord of the Rings' and even the ones that were there, were on the evil side. Also, the Elves have a massive racist undertone.

    Game of thrones. Dawn did bugger all and most of the attention was on Westeros (the white people continent.)

    Sure that may have been a broad statement. I wasn't trying to annoy anyone. I am certain most people notice this pit-fall and I understand there is a bit of leeway when it comes to what side of history you draw your inspiration from.
    The question is more about making sure when I do represent different sexualities and races, that I can do so well, with tact and understanding.

    Summed up brilliantly
    I really don't want to get carried away with metaphors but If I wrote a story about BLM getting loads of money then everything was fine, I would miss the point that they don't want money they want rights.

    It happens in the plot for a reason. Part of the whole storyline, part of the themes, and responsible for the MC's growth. It is an Adventure story with love heavily weaved into it.

    For a bit of context, this is a brief description of the story world and theme
    After the king is overthrown, a group of heroes is sent to the mythical end of the world, after hundreds of years of the world being separated and divided. Our heroes reconnect with the other cities and rediscover lost worlds. each one becoming more strange and magical as they reach their goal.
    More in the lines of a sacred pilgrimage.
    How long can you walk the path of life before something else becomes important? if your morals get pushed to the limit? When your values and explanations for the world become less and less relevant. When you have to do something no matter the cost, but then the cost becomes too great. Will you become corrupted? Will you stray from the path? Will you carry the trauma of the world on your shoulders and be crushed? will you end up at the end of the world broken beyond repair, scared from the suffering you have witnessed, changed into something unrecognizable?
    Or will Love, keep us going? keep us sane, keep us from falling into darkness, keep us together enough so we could stand at the end of the world with a shard of our soul intact, just enough to do the right thing?

    Don't want to go off track on the thread, and I am a little cagy about the specifics of the world and story. but it is VERY much a work in progress.
    Want to say thank you for everyone who has commented on the thread so far it has been wonderful to responses and opinions of people. It is helping me come out of my shell and be less cripplingly shy on-line.
    SO THANK YOU ALL
     

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