This month, my fellow Fantasy Roundtable Bloggers and I discuss what many have argued is inherent and integral to fantasy literature, evil. Is evil necessary in fantasy? Is Good versus Evil an integral and essential conflict? Do heroes need villains? Here are some thoughts on those questions and others on evil and the fantastic.

Warren Rochelle

Evil and the Fantastic
As luck would have it, just last week I asked my English 379 (Fantasy Literature) students to respond to this prompt, while we were reading and discussing The Fellowship of the Ring:

Discuss evil as an element of fantasy, paying attention to how it is presented in The Fellowship of the Ring. Is evil necessary for fantastic literature? Why? Do we have to have evil to understand and appreciate good? What can we learn from evil about human nature?

Their responses were quite interesting. Below is a sample:

According to Wanda*:

“Evil is necessary for all literature, not necessarily in the form of a villain, but in some form that is counter to good. Evil is not black and white because people are not black and white. Each character in a story has flaws, has vices, and has the possibility for evil. The ring in LOTR brings out the corruptibility or weakness in each character that comes into contact with it (besides Tom), even resulting in Boromir’s death.”

Margaret argues that fantasy needs evil—or villains—to be interesting and engaging:

“Is it possible for a fantasy to exist without evil? Or more importantly, without the villain? As much as it would be a perfect utopian setting, it wouldn’t be very interesting. Imagine the Lord of the Rings without Sauron or any of Grimm’s fairytales without the wicked stepmother. The idea just doesn’t fly. But take The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth Narnia book. There are a few scenes in the story where the characters are faced with temptation: a spell to become the most beautiful, a pool that turns all to gold, treasure when hoarded breeds a dragon. However, I don’t necessarily classify these as evil; at least, they don’t fall into the same category as the White Witch or the Calormenes.”

Jed insists that

“The existence of Evil is absolutely paramount in Fantasy. In it the difference between Good and Evil, which is blurred in many genres, is stark and apparent. At [its] very foundation, Fantasy is the valiant struggle of what is pure and good against that which is corrupt and evil.”

Aaron insists we see past the simplistic black and white:

“Ultimately, issues of “good” and “evil” are important elements of any story. Morality, or lack thereof, is a fundamental aspect of the human condition. Good fantasy explores this just as much as any other type of literature. There is no reason why is has to do so in a simplistic way.”

Zeno has this to say

“In the end, conflict is the essence of Fantasy; but the best stories are ones that acknowledge that “evil” is not necessarily a cut and dried force; even books in which there are forces of pure evil and good, there are situations where “good” characters must deal with their own “evil.” Evil, as an idea, is necessary to fantasy, because it provides a stable and easily recognizable theme for the conflict that any book will center around. However, the best books force us to reconsider what is evil, and how best to deal with that evil, and how to respond when, occasionally, good people do bad things, and evil people do good things.”

Arabella doesn’t think evil is essential, arguing that

“I don’t think evil is a necessary element of the fantasy genre, however it is an important element of many fantastical books. Just like in any other genre, the story doesn’t have to be good vs. evil. The plot doesn’t need to center around an evil wizard, ruler, or fantastical creature. What fantasy does is give us the option for those type of plots, making evil an important element, although not a necessary one.

Fantasy opens up new worlds and in those worlds is the opportunity for characters to be truly evil. An opportunity, not a requirement. In the world we live in, I would argue that evil does not truly exist. Our world is categorized in shades of grey and though some may be darker or lighter than others, they are not a pure white or black. The fantasy genre can create worlds in which there is that absolute good and evil we can trust. There is often a distinct line with the good guys on one side and the villains on the other. There can be obvious criteria for those characters who make up good or evil and through these the story can be ruled by the absolutes. Evil is yet another fantastical element that can be a part of fantasy stories. It helps create boundaries and definitions of what is good and through evil the goodness of characters becomes not only more obvious, but also in a way more good. The two opposite ends of the spectrum play against each other to create the good vs. evil fantasy story to which we are accustomed.”

What conclusions, if any, can be drawn from this random sampling of the 43 students enrolled in the 2 sections of Fantasy Lit I am teaching this semester? Many, but not all of them, fall in the category of the “fantasy geek” kids who cut their teeth on Rowling, Tolkien, and a variety of role-playing games, and love, love, love Game of Thrones. They are really into this stuff.  A surprising number came to Tolkien first through the movies. A goodly number want to write the great American fantasy novel, and have reams of various drafts already written.

So, is evil is a necessity in fantastic literature?  Sort of, yes, no, maybe. Conflict, yes—evil, maybe.  Is evil even real?  Is it, as another student noted in class discussion, the absence of good? Is their youth that prevents some of them from seeing that evil can be a matter of degree, that a Dark Lord isn’t a necessary presence? That evil can both be banal and ordinary and a Balrog or a Dark Lord? That evil doesn’t always leaves scars and wounds on the body, but as well on the mind and the heart?

Conflict, as in any story, fantasy or not, is an essential plot element.  In fantasy, this is often—quite often—expressed as good vs. evil. The hero must have an enemy. It is in this conflict and in this exploration of just what is good and evil that we learn what fantasy has to teach us: what it means to be human and that to be human is to be capable of both good and evil.  And here, I would argue, is one of the greatest strengths of fantasy literature.

***

Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, “The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010), all published by Golden Gryphon Press. He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections. His short fiction has been published in such journals and collections as Icarus, Collective Fallout. The Silver Gryphon, North Carolina Literary Review, Romance and Beyond, and Aboriginal Science Fiction.  His short story, “The Boy on McGee Street,” was just published in Queer Fish 2. He is presently working on a novel about a gay werewolf and his godling boyfriend and a collection of gay-themed speculative fiction short stories.

For more information, please see: http://warrenrochelle.com

*All student names have been changed to protect their privacy. Each student gave written or oral permission for their work to appear here.

Deborah Ross

Evil, the Fantastic, and Making Sense Out of Pain

I don’t think it’s possible to discuss evil without talking about the literature of the fantastic. We hear people talk about “evil incarnate,” usually in reference to some person or institution that has committed particularly heinous acts, as if evil were a tangible, measurable thing that exists outside the human imagination. In real life, things are rarely that simplistic.

Certainly, history and even some current religious thought puts forth the notion of those, human or not, who are inherently evil. To this day, some people believe that snakes (or spiders or other animals) are evil (I encountered one such man in a pet store, warning his young son that the garter snake would steal his soul if he weren’t careful). Once the mentally ill (or physically ill, such as those who suffer from epilepsy) were thought to be possessed by demons. Such beliefs persist today on the fringes of mainstream Western society, although they have largely been expunged from medical and psychiatric practice. We believe that such conditions as schizophrenia and sociopathy arise from disorders of neurophysiology, even if we cannot yet pinpoint the precise etiology. Even when we do know exactly what neurotransmitters and part of the brain are involved, it is still a widespread and understandable human tendency to ascribe unexplained phenomena, whether beneficial or destructive, to supernatural agency. Even though intellectually we may understand that a mass murderer is not an incarnation of some demonic spirit, nor is he possessed by one, and even if we cannot explain why such a person is utterly lacking in empathy for other human beings, we still often use words like evil, wicked, damned, devilish, satanic, and demonic.

Humans are capable of cruelty and viciousness so extreme in degree or scope that few of us can comprehend it, let alone the motivation behind it. How can we make sense of atrocities like the Holocaust or its equivalents, historical or modern? Of the massacres in Africa, Central Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, to name but a few?

I think we can’t, not by ordinary thought. The mind numbs with the magnitude of such deliberately inflicted suffering and takes refuge in numbers, pop psychology, and political analysis. It is difficult enough to struggle with the petty unkindnesses of everyday life, the irritations, the mundane acts of thoughtlessness, the emotions like jealousy or vindictiveness. Almost everyone loses their temper with one another at one time or another, or an unhealed resentment prompts them to strike out without thinking. These acts are understandable even when we disapprove of them, because they lie within the scope of our own experience. As we seek forgiveness for ourselves, we find the means to extend it to others. While these moments, and the means of making and accepting amends, smooth our relationships, they don’t make for a very dramatic tale.

Fantastical literature, on the other hand, enlarges the sphere of reality. This could be the introduction of magical elements into the ordinary world (urban fantasy), or parallel worlds (such as Faerie or Narnia) that interact with our own, each with its own set of rules. Or completely independent worlds (Discworld, Middle Earth).

Fantastical literature is also characterized by the use of archetype and metaphor to evoke experiences for which we have no direct vocabulary. We don’t need to have personally surrendered to the Dark Side of the Force in order to understand why the temptation is at once seductive and terrifying. Nor do we need to have witnessed an atomic bomb blast to imagine the devastation of dragonfire or a wrathful volcano god/dess.

In discussing how to portray interesting, multi-dimensional villains, it’s often pointed out that these characters – antagonists to the point of view character – are often heroes in their own eyes. They don’t get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, “I’m going to be evil today” or “Evil! Evil! Rah-rah-rah!” The best and most frightening villains have the same capacity for greatness as do heroes, whether it is physical prowess, intellect, a wounded heart, or simple charisma, only it is applied either in the wrong manner or for the wrong ends. If a tragic hero has a fatal flaw but is nonetheless admirable, then a great villain also has his blind spots, to his ultimate ruin.

Evil in fantastical literature ranges from the motivating force in such otherwise sympathetic villains to a “pure” black-and-white quality, one that is so alien to ordinary human sensibilities as to be utterly incomprehensible. We cannot know what it is, but we can know its effects – what it does to individuals, nations, and entire worlds. Black-and-white evil is in most instances a whole lot less interesting than those who come under its influence but still retain some degree of choice. That choice may be a once-and-for-all decision, informed or otherwise, or it can be the continuing possibility of turning away from the inevitable consequences, a possibility that diminishes with each step toward the abyss.

If Evil is monolithic, unmixed with any goodness, and incapable of change, then the resolution of the story conflict is reduced to either/or, yes/no, win/lose. This is not to say that such tales are less adrenaline-fueled than those that are more complex, only that there are fewer possibilities for a denouement: Evil wins and everyone dies/suffers; Good wins and the hero lives happily ever after; Good wins but the hero meets a tragic, sacrificial end. The first two may lead to an exciting climax and catharsis but are unlikely to offer the deeper emotional resonance of the third. If, on the other hand, Evil is one among many conflicting motivations, other resolutions become possible. The evil character discovers the capacity for love and sacrifices himself for a greater cause; the hero and villain form an alliance; either hero or villain crosses the gulf between them and healing ensues; the villain makes a last-ditch effort to salvage some good from the harm he has done; the possibilities become endless. All these rely on the capacity of sentient beings to choose their future actions, even when they had no power over what happened to them in the past and cannot undo what they have done. And in the course of these journeys, we ourselves gain insight into our own unhealed wounds, our festering resentments, our self-condemnation, and ultimately, our hope for redemption.

**

Deborah J. Ross began writing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with Jaydium and Northlight and short stories in Asimov’s, F & SF, Realms of FantasyY and Star Wars: Tales From Jabba’s Palace. Now under her birth name, Ross, she is continuing the” Darkover” series of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as original work, including the fantasy trilogy The Seven-Petaled Shield, forthcoming from DAW. She is a member of Book View Cafe. She’s lived in France, worked for a cardiologist, studied Hebrew, yoga and kung fu, plays classical piano, loves horses, and is active in the local Jewish and Quaker communities.

http://deborahjross.blogspot.com/

Carole McDonnell

Personalized Personified Evil

Evil comes in many forms. It can be subtle, like a self-loathing thought. It can be impersonal like a famine, man-made like a war. It can be global, like a swarm of alien invaders, or it can be personal where one finds one’s self and only one’s self turning into a fly. It can be brushing like poverty …or falsely joyful soaring like crack cocaine or soma. It can be, invasive and occult like a cancer. It can be deceptive like a double-agent, giving wrong information…like Iago turning all our white to black…or like a demon disguising itself as an angel of light.

I’m a Christian so I guess I’ll write about Personalized Personified Evil. There are so many things to hate about evil — its pettiness, its selfishness, its delusion, its egotism. But what I have always disliked about evil is its relentlessness, its ugly, ugly will. As a Christian, I’ll say it even more clearly: I hate Satan –him and his ugly, ugly will.

The relentlessness of evil is not fascinating, certainly not in daily life. Although sometimes the great villains — as in the scifi film Terminator— are fascinated because they have the human quality of relentlessness.

Sometimes the “evil” is a system –as in The Hunger Games or Stepford Wives or non-human –as in HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or TRON, or the MATRIX or an oligarchy/cult — as with the nine-headed-hydra of Greek myth or Metropolis or Rosemary’s Baby or even Deliverance or of the kind of kin/households one often finds in horror films –then the evil must be endured, made powerless, or systematically dismantled section by section. That is structural relentlessness.

Very often, however, the pattern of evil is of the pattern shown in the Bible.

Evil is contained within one Person. That person has control of many systems, minions of differing hierarchy, has A) superior knowledge, B) a rationalized goal, C) the lack of care for those who must be trampled for the completion of the goal, D) total power or near-total power and E) the utter dislike of personal failure. And finally…relentlessness, which is the mental strength to commit to the goal repeatedly and to reassess and recalibrate until the goal is achieved or the evil Person is destroyed.

Jesus described the Devil as one who comes to kill, to steal, to destroy and the best Biblical representation of evil or Satan is shown in the battle between Moses and Pharaoh. The lines are drawn. A good God and an enslaved people on one side and on the other side a relentless Figure of Power who refuses to let the enslaved people go. It doesn’t matter how defeated the Figure of Evil (or his minions) are — the goal is enslavement of another.

The human characters in fantasy can be considered demonic, even though they don’t represent the Devil himself. So while there are many evil characters in fantasy who come to kill, steal, and destroy, the fact is an evil character can elicit pity, identification, and fear. We fear evil in the fantastic because we recognize its immensity. We identify with the evil because we see our own flaws in them. And we pity the evil (sometimes) because we recognize that at one point or another, we were stopped by a greater power or we realized our own powerlessness.

**

Carole McDonnell is the author of the fantasy novels, Wind Follower and The Constant Tower, both published by Wildside Press.

Chris Howard

Fantastically Evil

I started out with the idea of spinning this topic away from the Saurons of the genre—the supremely bad players with vast armies of hideous soldiers and architecturally magnificent but poorly-lit fortresses, players who want to take over extensive amounts of someone else’s territory, an entire world, or some valuable plane of existence. I wanted to spin this topic toward the blended moralities in Glenn Cook, Joe Abercrombie, Brent Weeks, and others, where the main characters are not always good, and some are clearly great fans of seeing others in pain—proudly wearing their “Go Sauron” jackets when off screen.

On the other hand I know the “evil protagonist” thing is all the rage. Every fantasy and SF discussion group on Goodreads and the Amazon forums has a dozen threads on “books where there main character is evil”, or something like that.

What about the good villain—or apparently good villain?  I don’t mean where the villain thinks he’s doing the right thing, because that’s pretty much what drives every complexly-written scoundrel.  Power-hungry, ladder-climbing, step over the bodies of your superiors to get what you want types of characters are the mainstay.  Power, money, control—these are the things that motivate so many baddies, along with a generous portion of justification for whatever they are after.

Another common theme is the bad guy or girl who must do something evil in order to survive —kill, drink blood, go all Mr. Hyde on us, or do bad things as the result of some curse.  Come on, doesn’t everyone deserve to survive?  Every reader can understand that kind of drive, and in many cases it’s the thoughtful appreciation (and sometimes sympathy) that shapes the reader’s reaction to the villain’s actions, usually based on the physical and emotional price paid by the afflicted character in order to fight or throw off the curse.

Still, that’s still not quite the evil I’m thinking about—or the “good” when I say “good villain.”  Like many writers I spend a lot of time thinking about evil—evil people, as well as their actions and motives. First, someone tell the NSA I was just doing research.  Second, here’s where I’m going:

What if the character or characters who represent evil in a story want to help develop the world instead of destroy it?  What if they benefit as much as the heroes, the shopkeepers, the simple but courageous village gardeners from the worldwide advancement of magic, technology, living conditions, clean water, and green pastures? What if they are as much turned off by a giant volcano spewing reeking sulfurous clouds as any hero? What if they are against war of any kind?

I started down this path in Teller, with the principal evil character making it clear that she wants all of humanity to progress. She’s even willing to help in an underground, organized-movement sort of way—you know, duffle-bags full of cash, “removing obstacles”, and other varieties of influence in the right places.  Teller is contemporary fantasy, and so the characters are living in a world with runes, rockets, and Reddit. Think of hundreds of “evil” characters around the world, nominally working together, with the common goal of getting rid of humans. Not by wiping them out—that would be messy, but by making sure that civilization either advances to the point where humans can travel to other planets—getting the majority of them offworld, or to the point where humans develop the technology to “digitize human consciousness” and go virtual—with two paths from there: withdrawal into some localized computational substrate with a small realworld footprint (e.g., “still here, but quiet and out of the way”), or by extending the range of exploration by sending “digitized human freight” to planets lightyears away and decanting the data into physical forms on the other side (e.g., “grass is always greener colonization strategy”).  The baddies want our world after all—and although they really don’t get along, there is one clear and shared requirement for the take-over: they want the world in move-in condition.

I continued plotting and writing using this flavor of evil with my latest book, Salvage, where the principal evil character, Damaris, is completely open to discussions with one of the protagonists, and even hints that he’s going to invest in the character’s company Knowledgenix, which develops advanced autonomous robots.  Damaris genuinely likes Jon Andreden, and wants to help him succeed.

Evil in the fantasy genre doesn’t have to mean miles of wasteland, ever-present storm clouds, minions with sharp weapons and low morale, or any mode of transportation that involves chiropteran wings—although I am a fan of some of these, especially the wings. To me, a villain who shares values with the protagonist frightens me more than any straightforward grab for money or power.  It totally freaks out the heroes, too.

**

Chris Howard is just a creative guy with a pen and a paint brush, author of Seaborn (Juno Books, 2008), Salvage (Masque/Prime Books, 2013), Nanowhere (Lykeion, 2005), and a shelf-full of other books. His short stories have appeared in a bunch of zines, latest is “Lost Dogs and Fireplace Archeology” in Fantasy Magazine.  His story “Hammers and Snails” was a Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Fiction Contest winner. He writes and illustrates the comic Saltwater Witch.  His art has appeared in Shimmer, BuzzyMag, various RPGs, and on the pages of books, blogs, and other interesting places. Find out everything here:  http://www.SaltwaterWitch.com

Valjeanne Jeffers

Wither the Evil and the Fantastical?

 I have often contemplated the nature of evil. What is it that drives men and women to commit evil deeds? I have concluded that evil folks are made, not born. And there are many reasons that evil doers continue on their path. The quest for power. Selfishness. An abiding hatred of everyone― including themselves.

Thus, as a writer, I have found that villains with myriad layers are more interesting, realistic and more fun than one dimensional evil doers—the villain tormented by love or guilt over his own deeds. The man or woman obsessed with material gain or power. This is the stuff of which great villains are made; such as the antagonists of my Immortal series, “Tehotep” and “Z100,” the villainess of The Switch II: Clockwork.  Art, after all, should imitate life.

Then too, some evil acts may be committed by folks who are not necessarily evil but who have simply made the wrong choices (whatever their motivation). I recently had an inner dialogue about one of my newest characters. I concluded that the character was not evil. But she does make choices that result in mayhem. And who among us has not made bad decisions? And in my Immortal saga and The Switch II: Clockwork (which includes books I and II), I explore these questions through my characters—none of whom are perfect—and plots.

Yet what would a science/fantasy novel be without the fantastical?

Fantastic is described as wondrous and wild; to quote a few definitions. These are perfect metaphors for a SF/fantasy villain: an evil doer with preternatural powers and with dark foreboding or evil intentions. A villain can, and should, wreak havoc with the lives of one’s heroines and heroes.

In my novels my evil doers are imbued with fantastic powers―supernatural or man-made. Of course, I’ve given fantastical gifts to my heroines and heroes, too. And thank goodness for this! For how could they complete their life-changing quests without them? How could the plot twists and turns take place? How could the glorious battles I envisioned, happen? The fantastic too, is a perfect metaphor for speculative fiction. For as writers we don’t want the ordinary. We don’t want the humdrum.

We want the fantastik. This is stuff of which SF/fantasy worlds are made.

In my newest novels, which I’ll release later this year, Mona Livelong: Paranormal and Colony: Ascension, I’ve used both the evil and the fantastic to build my worlds. Take a gander below at the excerpt for Mona Livelong: Paranormal Detective.

Sally looked closer, stretching his mouth further open with a gloved hand. She reached inside. “It looks like a key. . .How did I miss this?” Probing with her fingertips, she pulled the metal from where it was sticking just under his tongue. All at once, she jerked spasmodically.

“Sally—Sally!”

“Yes. . . I. . .” The laboratory waved before her eyes. . .

Light from a single, gas streetlamp pooled upon the empty street. Footfalls echoed behind her, unhurried, yet unrelenting in their step.

She whirled around His big, tattooed body blocked the dim light. 

            He was a swarthy man, with dimpled cheeks and full lips, handsome, except for his glistening gray eyes; and his smile. . . a terrible cold grin, the grimace of a killer: a sadist. . .

 I hope I’ve done justice to my characters. I hope my readers will be pleased.

**

Valjeanne is the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend, Immortal III: Stealer of Souls, and the steampunk novelsImmortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch II: Clockwork (includes books I and II).

 She is a graduate of Spelman College, NCCU and a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective. She has been published under both Valjeanne Jeffers and Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson. Her writing has appeared in: The Obamas: Portrait of America’s New First Family, from the Editors of Essence, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Pembroke Magazine, Revelry, Drumvoices Revue 20th Anniversary, and Liberated Muse: How I Freed My Soul Vol. I. She was also a semi-finalist for the 2007 Rita Dove Poetry Award.

 Valjeanne’s fiction has appeared in Steamfunk! Genesis: An Anthology of Black Science Fiction, Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology, LuneWing, PurpleMag, Genesis Science Fiction Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Possibilities, 31 Days of Steamy Mocha, and Griots II: Sisters of the Spear (in press). She works as an editor for Mocha Memoirs Press and is also co-owner of Q& V Affordable editing. Preview or purchase her novels at: http://www.vjeffersandqveal.com

 Andrea Hosth

Evil in Fantasy

One of the biggest clichés of fantasy is the Dark Lord.  Nameless, faceless and big on Mwahaha, the Dark Lord is Evil because he is Evil.  His motivations include “More Evil Now,” “Evil for the Sake of Evil,” “Can I Get Some Evil with That?” and “Just Because.”  Or World Domination.

Dark Lords are generally accompanied by Minions.  The minions are often nameless, faceless/masked and lack such complexities as a personality.  Created to serve – or just brought up bad – they unswervingly follow orders and are rarely human enough to have a crisis of loyalty.

A Dark Lord, an unequivocal Evil with no reasons other than Evil, can still make for a compelling tale.  Some of the creepiest stories I’ve read, the most genuinely frightening, involve a true nameless, faceless evil: implacable, impossible to reason with, and entirely lacking in easily exploitable weaknesses or Evil Overlord logic.

Despite the fact that my first attempt at a book featured a Dark Lord (Sith the Destroyer) and obedient minions (Tar’Sithans) – at least until I edited them into slightly less paper-thin cyphers – I’m not generally inclined to use “Evil because Evil” primary antagonists (though I’m happy to throw thousands of predatory monsters into my characters’ paths).  Instead I tend to lean toward “greedy people” and “quite reasonable people with conflicting interests”.  The latter are not so much “Evil” as “on the wrong side”.

My greedy people drift quite close to the Faceless Evil archetype, and tend to spend most of the story off the stage.  I’m generally not that interested in detailing the slippery selfishness of a person who, when everyone has enough apples to get by, decides to scheme or manipulate or outright take someone else’s apples.  These people often start out conscienceless, and their development is from greedy to greedier.  I think they constitute a kind of Evil, just one which doesn’t name itself that way.

People with conflicting interests, on the other hand, fascinate me, although I quite often can’t write from their point of view.  The person who steals an apple because their family is starving.  And then realises that by stealing that apple, they’re making someone else’s family suffer.  Would they still steal the next apple?  How do they justify it?  What if that apple becomes two, or twenty, or all?  And that quick, unnoticed theft becomes a need to protect yourself from retribution, and outright damage, and people dying by deliberate act.  At what point do you become Evil?  Is it the first apple?  Or the first awareness of damage?  The irrevocable blow?

Or are people with conflicting needs simply people with conflicting needs, and right to do what to others is wrong?

I try to take care when making the other side in a story “Evil”.  Because if “they’re Evil” is the reason, the excuse, the justification for any and all actions by those the story considers “Good,” at what point will people of that world be able to point to my characters and say: “Evil”?

**

Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia.  She writes fantasy and science fantasy, and enjoys creating stories which give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.  See: www.andreakhost.com

 

4 Responses to “Great Fantasy Traveling Roundtable Blog, September 2013: Evil and the Fantastic”

  1. Evil and the Fantastic | Chris Howard's Writing & Art says:

    […] Ross, Carole McDonnell, Valjeanne Jeffers, Chris Howard, and Andrea K Höst. Read it all here: http://warrenrochelle.com/2013/09/30/great-fantasy-traveling-roundtable-blog-september-2013-evil-and… Share on Tumblr Category: Fantasy, […]

  2. Carole McDonnell says:

    Great posts, guys!

  3. Andrea K says:

    Really fascinating to see all we had to say on this topic!

  4. Deborah J. Ross says:

    I love how we all came at the subject from different angles, seen through different lenses.

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