Fantasy races, but not like this.
With the advanced readers copies of The Dragon’s Path coming out, folks have pointed out that it might be nice to have a primer for the different races. Who am I to disagree, right? So here you go.
Racism in fantasy’s an interesting thing, because having an entirely created world, it becomes possible — in fact necessary — to exoticise the other without excluding any real human beings or cultures from the wide and inclusive sense of “us.”
When I was first building the world of The Dagger and the Coin, I was initially resistant to the idea of having a bunch of different folks — goblins and trolls and elves and dwarfs and on and on and on — but Ty (who is increasingly becoming the unseen force in the steering of all modern fantasy literature) argued that part of what makes fantasy fantasy is that sense of walking into the Goblin Market, of being surrounded by the exotic and strange. And, whether we’re comfortable with it or not (I’m on the “not” side), that means evoking that feeling of being in a different place and surrounded by people that aren’t like you, and — in this case literally — are only kind of human.
High fantasy has the capacity — just the capacity, it’s by no means easy or automatic — to sit with racism defanged. When the races are separated by the intentional design of the race of fallen dragons and not accidents of where a particular person’s ancestors spent the Pleistocene, it turns into something like a needle with no poison.
I don’t know that what I’m doing with The Dagger and the Coin is particularly taking on the toxic aspects of racism, but the more I look at it, the more suspect that some of the issues are necessary. To say Jasuru are warlike and Cinnae are cunning is, I suspect, the same impulse as saying Jews are cheap and Blacks are violent, but without anyone to confront it. If I say that the Haaverkin are one particular way, no one has the authority to disagree.
I feel like I’m juggling with dulled knives here, but they’re still knives.
I’m going to have to think about this some more…