So I’m sitting here watching Conan The Destroyer, which includes the age-old premise that a virgin will be sacrificed. Personally, I think that’s a waste of a perfectly good virgin, but what struck me is the silliness of this. There’s no way to know for sure that someone is a virgin unless they’re very closely watched. And if you’re sacrificing to a god who demands one and you sacrifice a non-virgin by mistake, aren’t you asking for trouble? I’d like to see a story where something terrible happens to the god (and then those sacrificing) when that mistake is made.
This virgin from Conan the Destroyer clearly doesn’t want to die. I will save her!
For guys, it’s physically impossible to tell they’re a virgin, which is probably why girls are the usual victims. The other reasons are likely misogyny and the fact that fantasy readers were mostly male for a long time, meaning the male hero like Conan can rescue the virgin and stop her from being one as his reward. Readers can live vicariously.
For girls, the hymen being intact offers proof of virginity, but it’s entirely possible she’s had other kinds of sex besides vaginal. That raises the debate of just how much of a virgin a girl has to be to get sacrificed. If she’s performed fellatio, is she still a virgin? Given a hand job? Open-mouth kissed? Would the god agree she’s s virgin? How chaste is chaste enough? And how would you ever know what’s she’s done and hasn’t done? And how many times? With how many guys? Or girls?
How would the god know? Is that god omnipotent?
If I was a girl chosen to be sacrificed, I’d loudly claim I’d performed fellatio on half the village. Which is better, being called a slut or being dead?
A girl can still be a virgin even if her hymen is broken, as that can break during strenuous physical activity, for example. Granted, in “olden times”, girls weren’t doing sports like they are today, reducing this as an issue, but that raises a different point – just because a girl’s hymen is broken doesn’t mean she’s not a virgin and unavailable for sacrifice.
During these virgin sacrifice stories, there’s never a scene where a doctor examines a girl and determines her hymen is intact. That she’s a virgin is always assumed to be true, maybe because there’s no way to tell for sure. And because it’s considered “icky” to show an exam, as if that’s somehow worse than the girl being killed? I suspect this is one of those “not worth being realistic” things.
If there are no definitive changes to the body, why does being a virgin matter? Are we saying there’s a change to something else about a person? What? Their soul? Their mind? We’re after innocence or purity? I had a dirty mind long before I lost my virginity, so what does that prove? If we’re saying their soul is “better”, well, there are plenty of other ways (besides sexual congress) to not be that innocent anymore. Murder, theft, deceit, a vice, the list goes on and on.
The whole virgin sacrifice thing is kind of stupid. But then you didn’t need a blog to tell you that, did you? Sorry for wasting your time.
If you’ve seen any SciFi or fantasy films over the last 20 years, you know the fight scenes are ridiculous and unbelievable. When did it become okay for archers to make impossible shots time after time, sometimes with two arrows fired from the same bow at once (Legolas in The Hobbit and Lord of the […]
I just saw the second installment of “The Hobbit” movies, “The Desolation of Smaug“, and thought it suffered from the same problem as the original, which is no real surprise as they were filmed at the same time. I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, or if they succeed. None of […]
So I’m sitting here watching Conan The Destroyer, which includes the age-old premise that a virgin will be sacrificed. Personally, I think that’s a waste of a perfectly good virgin, but what struck me is the silliness of this. There’s no way to know for sure that someone is a virgin unless they’re very closely watched. […]
In this three part series, we’ll look at creating races in fantasy books. This entry focuses on the physical considerations, while Part 2 will discuss the mental ones. Part 3 includes a downloadable template you can use.
While using the standard elves, dwarves, dragons, and other usual suspects in fantasy fiction is fine, and maybe even a wise idea, authors sometimes want to create their own races. As someone who’s created seven species (I use that term instead), I’ve listed some considerations that may help you do the same.
One thing to keep in mind is whether any fantasy race will be able to masquerade as another. A giant spider can’t put on a cloak and sneak into a city as if it’s a human. Less extremely, a seven foot can’t do this as if they’re a three foot one; two three foot tall ones can climb on top of each other and possibly imitate the taller one, but you get the idea.
There’s a tendency to create races that are humanoid, like elves and dwarves, instead of spider-like, for example. Humanoid species are fairly close to our own and we don’t have to figure out things like what they eat, how often they sleep, and other biological basics. They mingle well with humans, being able to live in similar buildings, use horses, and need fewer unusual physical things.
Would a giant spider sleep in a bed, or eat with utensils, or consume the same food? How would one travel if not on foot? Such considerations might be needed if you go this route. It could make things interesting in a hurry.
Chewie as shown in Star Wars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With a non-humanoid, the “weirdness” factor rises, so sometimes creators stick to only one for a prominent character, like Star Wars, where there’s only one wookie, Chewbacca. Non-humanoids arguably work better in a visual media (film and TV) because we don’t have to keep reminding the reader what they look like.
If you’re building a world for many fantasy books and stories, you’ll have more stories to explore and show what they’re like, but if they’ve made your books weird, the weirdness can also be a turnoff. If your world, and this race, will only be used once, being experimental is less of a risk.
Building a fantasy race starting at the body makes sense from an anthropological stance; our bodies come before our minds and habitat influences everything, especially physical features. A water-dwelling race likely has gills and maybe webbed toes, even fins. Something living in smaller trees likely climbs well, has an unusually strong grip, and might have a tail to help. If living in giant trees whose branches can be walked on casually, like in Avatar, then maybe not
The race’s skin color might be affected, too, if camouflage from predators matters. If they have little to fear, then perhaps the race is colorful in the manner of tropical birds.
Overall size and mass can help determine other aspects of your race, like strength, endurance, and capabilities. Enemies and allies will be also affected. For example, if your race is three feet tall, does it just run away from something over six feet tall, or do they swarm?
Have a fairly complete description ready to go even if you’ll seldom use more than a few lines of it at once (to avoid too much exposition). People sometimes prefer having a basic idea, not being killed with detail. As they read on, they’ll likely form their own slightly different picture anyway.
You don’t need me to tell you that pointed ears, slanted eyes, hair styles, round or square faces, pointed or bulbous noses, square jaws and chins, and brow prominence are just a few of the facial features you can manipulate. Try to have a decent idea before you just throw them together. Delicate or blunt features tend to go together. You don’t want it to seem like a mishmash that would look ridiculous if someone drew it, unless being weird is your thing.
It can be helpful to start with a known species and begin imagining variations.
In Part 2, we’ll look at the mental aspects of creating races in fantasy books, including worldview and inter-race relations.
Without cities, towns, and villages, no fantasy world building project is complete. In part 1, we’ll look at some things to consider. Part 2 will be the template I use for creating a new settlement. Location, Location, Location No settlement stands alone. A city has towns nearby, and towns have villages nearby. However, when drawing […]
Below is the template I use when creating a fantasy city during world building. Feel free to adapt it your purposes. You can read Part 1 here. Download the PDF or Word template. City/Town Name General Alliances Independent city or part of a kingdom? Allies? Identification Symbol and Banner: City Colors: Slogans: Famous For What […]
Depending on your ability, creating names for people, places, and beings in fantasy books can either be fun or a pain. I’ve been doing this for three decades and will provide some tricks and thoughts to help. KISS KISS doesn’t really stand for “keep it simple, stupid”, but it’s a good principle to follow when […]
What’s the difference between “race” and “species” and when should you use what in your fantasy settings? I’ve taken a look into this myself and made the right choice for me. Read on for ideas on making the right choice for you. Race What’s a race? The answer can be complicated (but interesting reading), but […]
In this three part series, we’ll look at creating races in fantasy books. This entry focuses on the physical considerations, while Part 2 will discuss the mental ones. Part 3 includes a downloadable template you can use. While using the standard elves, dwarves, dragons, and other usual suspects in fantasy fiction is fine, and maybe […]
In part 1, we looked at some physical considerations when creating races in fantasy books, while building your own world. Now we’ll look at some mental aspects. Mental Considerations Worldview When I watch alien species/races on TV or see them in print, more often than not, I feel like they’re just humans in costume, for […]
In Part 1 we discussed the physical aspects of creating races in fantasy books. Part 2 covers the mental. Now we’ll look at a downloadable template you can use as a starting point to aid your creative writing. Download the PDF or Word template. The Template Fantasy Race/Species Name Here Nicknames: “” Famous For General […]
In another blog, I discussed whether you should create plants and animals for your fantasy setting. Assuming you’ve decided to do it, here are tips for doing so. New Ideas If you already have ideas, you can just write them up according to a template like the one I’ve provided here: The Template Animal/Plant Name: […]
One of the fun aspects of fantasy world building is drawing maps. This blog provides some ideas to keep in mind and tools to help. Some of this is kind of obvious but worth mentioning anyway. Where to Start A good working unit is the continent. Despite the term “world building,” fantasy authors usually write […]
In Part 1, we looked at where to start and basic continent considerations for drawing a fantasy map. Now we’ll look at some geographical considerations. Remember Geography Having a basic sense of geography is important or your map won’t make sense. Some of this is obvious but is still worth pointing out. Rivers For example, […]
Today, author John Robin was kind enough to publish a guest post of mine about species and races in world building. You can read it here. The article is drawn from Creating Life (The Art of World Building, #1), which Amazon has listed as a hot new release in its category, currently at #4 (down […]
When world building, I used to think there was no point in inventing animals and plants for a fantasy setting. After all, they’re often just variations on real Earth animals, in which case, why bother? For example, maybe you have a horse with an extra pair of legs, or a tomato that’s yellow and poisonous, […]