Fantasy/sc-fi races observation

edited 2017-12-04 01:47:53 in General
Putting all fantasy/sci-fi races on a three dimensional scale with the axes x: short/tall, y: narrow/broad, z: furry/scaly, humans will almost inevitably be relatively high on x and y and towards the center of z compared to the majority of fantasy races and relatively low on x, y, and z compared to sci-fi races.

Thesis: This reflects the differing approaches of fantasy and sci-fi. Fantasy conceives of an entire world on the very edges of perception, reflected in the "smallness" of other races (and thus their difficulty to perceive). Sci-fi conceives of the universe as being much bigger than humanity, by having many races be literally bigger than humans, and alien to our understanding, by having many races take on a reptilian or insectoid appearance.
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  • edited 2017-12-04 01:58:02
    Amendment: Fantasy tends to have one scaly race at most while having a relatively greater variety of furry races, putting humans relatively higher on the z axis.
  • Although that being said, as an additional observation, fantasy seems to subdivide more based off of x and y than it does z. The breakdown on z tends to be one furry race, one or two hairy races, one human race, and an optional lizardy race.
  • I don't have so much in the way of observing this, especially since I typically prefer settings where there aren't very many "human-like-but-different" races, but I do know D&D, and so I'm familiar with the usual gnome/hobbithalfling/half-orc/dwarf/human/half-elf/elf system, and that's a system that just screams "obviously anthropocentric" to me.  so you have the half-orcs, who are literally the embodiment of the stereotype of "dumb and ugly and brutish", and elves and to a lesser extent half-elves, who are literally the embodiment of the stereotype "mystical and cool and sexy", and then you have a couple "toy" races ("toy" in the "toy poodle" sense), one for cutesy cleverness and one because hobbits lol.
  • edited 2017-12-04 02:41:46
    “His thoughts were red thoughts, and his teeth were white.”
    There is, to be fair, less variety of living scaled things than furred things in terms of land animals. It's also worth noting that a lot of more "postmodern" fantasy, which is to say that which is aware of literary theory and partakes in genre concepts outside of the sword-and-sorcery and post-Tolkien traditions, tends to be far more varied and exotic when it comes to non-human races in a fashion which owes more to science fiction or, perhaps more so, to the cosmicist strain in supernatural horror, not to mention folkloric and mythological traditions of utterly inhuman races of various shapes, sizes and forms.
  • I think differences like those account for why a lot of fantasy feels more like sci fi and vice versa.
  • “His thoughts were red thoughts, and his teeth were white.”
    Also, I don't mean to be rude, but while there is plenty of somewhat generic fantasy and science fiction prose in the vein which you describe, you seem to be better acquainted with video games and television here than with the literature inspiring them. Bog-standard post-Tolkien high fantasy is a lot more common in interactive media these days than it is in book form.
  • edited 2017-12-04 02:51:50
    Nah, you're assuredly right and honestly even my video game reference pools are pretty small. I've been trying to really acquaint myself with fantasy and sci fi but, well, I got as far as Children of Dune over the past year, bc I'm bad at reading.
  • edited 2017-12-04 03:02:53
    “His thoughts were red thoughts, and his teeth were white.”
    I think that one of the many things which has turned me off regarding video games for so long, but is really more of an issue with AAA games in particular, is the fact that so many of them feel like they've scarcely kept up with the advancements of prose in the same genres in the past fifty-odd years, or pick and choose what newer trappings to adopt in order to just put a thin new coat of paint on standard military shoot-shoot-boom or stab-stab-XP! mechanics. There will be interesting background lore, quite often, but the conceptual heart of these games is often depressingly conservative. Not that there aren't exceptions, Dark Souls being especially noteworthy, but...

    Indie games fare somewhat better in this respect, I think.
  • There is, to be fair, less variety of living scaled things than furred things in terms of land animals.

    This also depends on where you are in the world.  Like, climate-wise, and thus also latitude.

    At the risk of pointing out something obvious (but just to put it out there, not specifically a reply to you), reptiles and other ectothermic (i.e. "cold-blooded") animals tend to do a lot better in warmer places, because their body doesn't spend as much energy regulating internal temperature and keeping them running.  So naturally, you don't have lizards running around New England gardens the way you have them running around Florida gardens.  This in turn has probably influenced folklore traditions.  A lot of stereotypical fantasy literature derives a good amount of material from British, central-western European, and Nordic mythological traditions, with some ancient Roman, ancient Greek, and ancient Middle Eastern influences.  Tolkien, specifically, I hear, did draw pretty heavily on Norse mythology, while it's not exactly a surprise that English-language works do draw from the mythos of the British isles.  Much of these places are climatically temperate, so the fantasy forests are temperate forests more typically filled with furred things and scaly things are seen more as an anomaly.
  • edited 2017-12-04 03:08:02

    Incidentally yeah I WOULD like to see more fantasy, sci-fi, and anime (in general) stories, that don't treat tropical areas as one-shot resort towns or excuses for one-time jungle outings (or worse, swimsuit episodes) but actually use them as primary settings

    hooray for Heavy Object spending like a minute or two with a close-up of an otherwise unimportant lizard on a palm tree (in an artificially reforested part of Australia)
  • I think that one of the many things which has turned me off regarding video games for so long, but is really more of an issue with AAA games in particular, is the fact that so many of them feel like they've scarcely kept up with the advancements of prose in the same genres in the past fifty-odd years, or pick and choose what newer trappings to adopt in order to just put a thin new coat of paint on standard military shoot-shoot-boom or stab-stab-XP! mechanics. There will be interesting background lore, quite often, but the conceptual heart of these games is often depressingly conservative. Not that there aren't exceptions, Dark Souls being especially noteworthy, but...

    Indie games fare somewhat better in this respect, I think.

    I think video game spec fic exists kind of adjacent to literary spec fic on the whole when it's good, while most bad game spec fic comes from imitating LotR poorly. See: Dragon Age

    That said, I'd like you to elaborate a bit more.
  • Really video games in general suffer from a "mire of mediocrity with pockets of brilliance" problem. Even bad video game spec fic has good bits but good video game spec fic always comes with caveats.
  • edited 2017-12-04 03:26:59
    I will just say I will disagree with Hexartes about the "mire of mediocrity" thing. I just think you're wrong.
  • edited 2017-12-04 03:33:53
    Well, I just think there are quite creative with their settings and making them feel diverse if that is your point you're getting at. If not, I horribly misread your points.

    But at the same time, I admit I am intensely bias towards games. Like I will choose a video game over a book or movie 99% of the time. I will never give up my love for them.
    [/I have no idea what I'm saying.]
  • kill living beings
    Hexartes said:

    hesis: This reflects the differing approaches of fantasy and sci-fi. Fantasy conceives of an entire world on the very edges of perception, reflected in the "smallness" of other races (and thus their difficulty to perceive). Sci-fi conceives of the universe as being much bigger than humanity, by having many races be literally bigger than humans, and alien to our understanding, by having many races take on a reptilian or insectoid appearance.

    This is a super just-so story. The second part I can kind of buy, though.
  • A... super just-so story? What do you mean?
  • So basically, an unfounded explanation for a phenomenon.
  • :(

    I don't intend to give an explanation for why these elements exist, just an explanation for the tedture they lend a story.
  • Honestly I still don't understand what you mean by that. I know what the term literally means but I've no idea how it applies to what I was saying?
  • Moreover I don't really see what just saying "eh, you're really really wrong" apropos of nothing adds to the conversation
  • edited 2017-12-04 06:42:51
    I'm sorry. I knee-jeered reacted there because of my own insecurities concerning this.

    As for my points or rather lack thereof, I admit I don't fully understand the situation so I rambled.
  • Nah, was talking to Klino, sorty for the misunderstanding
  • Ah, it's no problem then.
  • Hexartes said:

    Honestly I still don't understand what you mean by that. I know what the term literally means but I've no idea how it applies to what I was saying?

    I _think_ Klino is saying that the reasoning presented in your hypothesis feels a bit reaching and/or is hard to prove?  Not really sure either.
  • I mean, again, I don't really see what he's adding is my point. Like, maybe it's dumb to critique someone's argumentative tactics in a casual convo, but it's at least equally dumb to just shut someone down in a casual convo
    without actually providing anything in return.
  • christmas witch with left mom
    I think Klino may have actually just like, gone to bed, rather than intending to shut you down and then ghost the conversation.
  • Nah almost certainly that's what happened, and I'm sure he'd elaborate if asked him to a second time, but I already asked a first time is the problem
  • kill living beings
    I went to sleep like right after I posted that yeah. I shouldn't have been awake at that time to begin with.

    When I said "just-so story" i mean to imply a whole constellation of things that you probably don't actually know because you're not conversant in evolutionary biology. In evolutionary biology it's not uncommon for people to come up with "just-so stories" to explain some bodily feature or another. You might be familiar via MRA fucks, who tend to nonsensically attribute a whole lot of bullshit to evolution. "Women like pink because they had to search for berries" kind of stuff. It's common enough (including outside of MRAdom, obviously you're nothing like that) to have sparked several debates in the field and people making fun of it.

    To elaborate on what's wrong with these kind of stories, they tend to propose a causal link that could intuitively make some kind of sense - like, I can imagine an animal such as humans actually evolving to have one group or even sex more attracted to bright colors for finding berries - without having any kind of evidence or, indeed, any idea of how to prove or disprove it from evidence. This prevents it from being taken seriously as a theory, but because it is plausible it tends to stick around in a nebulous state where people can say things like "but what if it's true" which is generally unpleasant.

    They also tend to gloss over the actual facts involved. Like, women aren't actually intrinsically attracted to bright colors. That's cultural.

    So, what I meant to say was that I think the fantasy = shorties idea is in this vein. It's possible that someone consciously had this in mind at some point. It's vaguely possible that this was subconsciously passed down to World of Warcraft developers trying to make a game about murdering pseudopeople. But I don't see any way one could conclusively say one way or the other whether this is why fantasy races are actually shorter. Furthermore I don't actually know if fantasy races are shorter to begin with.

    Sorry for bein all solipsistic about what words mean.
    Hexartes said:

    I don't intend to give an explanation for why these elements exist, just an explanation for the [texture] they lend a story.

    I definitely have no idea what this means. I don't see how to interpret what you're saying other than saying that fantasy races tend to be smaller than sci-fi races, and that this is because of them being conceptually on the fringe.
  • edited 2017-12-04 22:22:24
    Basically if the majority of your races are smaller than humans, this communicates that you're dealing with something more fantasy-esque, in the same way that, say, the presence of swords would.

    And for all your explanation you missed the fact that I wasn't saying there's a direct causal link.
  • Also I didn't really claim to have made an objective, conclusive statement? Not everything is a science, dude. Fiction is subjective and open to interpretation.
  • I can all but hear the chimes
    They are long and loud and slow

    I went to sleep like right after I posted that yeah. I shouldn't have been awake at that time to begin with.


    When I said "just-so story" i mean to imply a whole constellation of things that you probably don't actually know because you're not conversant in evolutionary biology. In evolutionary biology it's not uncommon for people to come up with "just-so stories" to explain some bodily feature or another. You might be familiar via MRA fucks, who tend to nonsensically attribute a whole lot of bullshit to evolution. "Women like pink because they had to search for berries" kind of stuff. It's common enough (including outside of MRAdom, obviously you're nothing like that) to have sparked several debates in the field and people making fun of it.

    To elaborate on what's wrong with these kind of stories, they tend to propose a causal link that could intuitively make some kind of sense - like, I can imagine an animal such as humans actually evolving to have one group or even sex more attracted to bright colors for finding berries - without having any kind of evidence or, indeed, any idea of how to prove or disprove it from evidence. This prevents it from being taken seriously as a theory, but because it is plausible it tends to stick around in a nebulous state where people can say things like "but what if it's true" which is generally unpleasant.

    They also tend to gloss over the actual facts involved. Like, women aren't actually intrinsically attracted to bright colors. That's cultural.

    So, what I meant to say was that I think the fantasy = shorties idea is in this vein. It's possible that someone consciously had this in mind at some point. It's vaguely possible that this was subconsciously passed down to World of Warcraft developers trying to make a game about murdering pseudopeople. But I don't see any way one could conclusively say one way or the other whether this is why fantasy races are actually shorter. Furthermore I don't actually know if fantasy races are shorter to begin with.

    Sorry for bein all solipsistic about what words mean.
    Man

    This like

    This fucking nails everything I've hated about my design courses thusfar, most of the stuff we learn kinda feels like this?
  • Basically whether or not someone consciously made a decision to represent x with y doesn't actually change much of anything about my observation, which boils down to "fantasy fiction is generally more inclined to make its creatures smaller than humans, so having your made up creatures be smaller than humans communicates fantasy"
  • kill living beings
    you're making objective statements about fantasy and people's understanding of it. "fantasy conveys" "this communicates" so on. don't retreat from them just because I disagreed. "open to interpretation" shouldn't mean that I can't disagree. really, it's the opposite. i interpret things differently from you and thought I would explain a little about why.

    whether a conscious decision was involved is indeed irrelevant. i just mentioned it as a possibility, and included the subconscious bit to imply the other possibility. (i assume you don't think tolkien is some kind of platonic shadow uninfluenced by peoples' minds.) I don't think either is very likely, because it is not like my experience of how people think about things.

    and don't tell me i'm being too sciencey when you started out with a three dimensional graph, mon.
  • edited 2017-12-05 00:24:39
    I still don't see what your point is? You haven't really addressed what I was actually saying which, again, is that that a certain trope acts as a signifier for a genre. And let's say you even disagree with that premise- fine, what do you have to add that's constructive? Or even why do you disagree with that premise other than doubting there was conscious/subconscious motivation for writing things a certain way?

    Neither of which possibility is really relevant to what I'm saying! Which is that the net effect of a foundational decision in a genre is that the use of that decision signifies the genre itself. Which I don't really see *how* you can disagree with, beyond doubting that the decision ever actually happened, ie in this case not agreeing that fantasy races are subdivided by smallness moreso than bigness. Which relies on us having the same defintion of fantasy, too.
  • Hearts invoke the everlasting song. Multitudes, the Chariot of God.
    Hexartes said:

    what I was actually saying which, again, is that that a certain trope acts as a signifier for a genre.

    Well, is height of the non-human species really a signifier for the genre? If you make a TV series that's a ripoff of Star Trek, with the only significant difference that the intelligent aliens are all much smaller than humans, are any fans or critics going to say, "It's like Star Trek, but with a fantasy twist!"
    Hexartes said:

    Amendment: Fantasy tends to have one scaly race at most while having a relatively greater variety of furry races, putting humans relatively higher on the z axis.

    Scaly creatures are much easier to render with CGI than furry ones. I'd be interested in seeing an analysis of variance to determine if the growing use of CGI has affected the ratios of scaly and furry creatures in TV shows and movies, both as a whole and within SF and fantasy in particular.
  • kill living beings
    i'm saying it doesn't act as a signifier. if you want another reason, plenty of fantasy has huge ogres and dragons and plenty of sci-fi has tribbles and moties and R2-D2 and shit. of course, you only talked about a tendency (except for "almost inevitably") but i think a tendency in fantasy fiction that doesn't include dragons is suspect.

    but more fundamentally i disagree that the way people think is remotely this simplistic, which is why that's what i led with. i don't know what to give you there but analogies. it's like saying bright colors are for berries, or wolves in a tree means walking in on your parents doing the horizontal fuck, or that if you say "florida" to people they'll walk slower because they think of old people. it's an essentially simplisitic view of cognition that doesn't concord with anything i've ever experienced of the thought processes of myself or others. it is absurd. people do not think like this. they do not recognize size as a signifier in this way. there is nothing for me to construct.

    incidentally this view of thinking is why i care about this. i don't care about tolkien or whatever.
    Hexartes said:

    Or even why do you disagree with that premise other than doubting there was conscious/subconscious motivation for writing things a certain way?

    If there was no conscious nor subconscious motivation for writing fantasy fiction to have smaller creatures in it, how could fantasy fiction have possibly ended up having smaller creatures in it? I am confused.
    Hexartes said:

    Neither of which possibility is really relevant to what I'm saying! Which is that the net effect of a foundational decision in a genre is that the use of that decision signifies the genre itself. Which I don't really see *how* you can disagree with,

    Not that it's what I'm arguing, but there could be plenty of ways. For example, Tolkien was a foundation and did plenty of stuff that later fiction hasn't, thus eliminating any association between the genre and that stuff.
  • Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
    Every Star Wars movie up until Attack of the Clones had a new race of little duders. ANH had Jawas, ESB had Uggnauts, ROJ had Ewoks, and TPM had Pit Droids
  • Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
    I like calling little aliens "little duders"
  • kill living beings
    they're good little duders.

    (whether star wars is Really sci fi is admittedly debatable. i do not want to have such a debate, so i threw in a hard sci fi novel)
  • But the taxonomy of genre is all about those kinds of little signifiers, is part of my point. No, the mere presence of a sword in a sci fi story doesn't immediately make it science fantasy, but the presence of swords and some kind of space magic makes it lean more heavily in that direction. Not necessarily pulling it over fully, but those things add up.

    Also my point wasn't that fantasy doesn't have large creatures, just that
    1. It tends to have fewer of them, maybe (remember, dragons weren't always depicted as large)
    2. They aren't as minutely divided in terms of *how big* they are.
    3. This is especially true in terms of humanoid creatures.
  • Odradek said:

    Every Star Wars movie up until Attack of the Clones had a new race of little duders. ANH had Jawas, ESB had Uggnauts, ROJ had Ewoks, and TPM had Pit Droids

    they're good little duders.

    (whether star wars is Really sci fi is admittedly debatable. i do not want to have such a debate, so i threw in a hard sci fi novel)

    This exchange comes profoundly close to getting The Point but then doesn't
  • Which is that: consider that maybe this is one of the many genre signifiers that makes Star Wars feel fantasy-esque despite its sci fi setting?
  • Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers; the kingdom belongs to a child.
    So you're thinking of it like that aspect ratio films are in, where people don't consciously notice it really, but people do it in parodies to make their TV show suddenly look more filmy
  • Like you've got me fucked if you think I'm interested in categorizing different works as a single genre and only that genre as if genre is objective fact and not more or less arbitrary groupings, but I am indeed interested in looking at the components of genre and how they create emotional effect.

    I'm not interested, for example, in the question "Is Mass Effect hard sci fi?" because the component elements of hard sci fi, the component elements of how Mass Effect constructs genre, the origins of each, the motivations of each, and the emotional impact created by each, are far more interesting to me. I vaguely disagree with the sentiment that it is hard sci fi, but that's more because I find the concept of actively categorizing any work as one genre to the exclusion of another is silly.
  • Odradek said:

    So you're thinking of it like that aspect ratio films are in, where people don't consciously notice it really, but people do it in parodies to make their TV show suddenly look more filmy

    Yeah, basically.

    Look I don't know enough about evolutionary biology to debate you on that front (though the implication that the answer to "why do I want to eat dishwasher packets?" isn't "their texture and bright color indicates that they're a berry" is one I'd probably disagree with on the grounds of why the hell else would it be that way and also it's funny) but I think the assorted elements that comprise the relatively recent invention of genre and the cultural awareness thereof are a bit more clear cut than the links between evolution and modern human behavior.
  • kill living beings
    Hexartes said:

    Which is that: consider that maybe this is one of the many genre signifiers that makes Star Wars feel fantasy-esque despite its sci fi setting?

    i had not thought of that. now i have, and i think that ewoks feel fantasylike more because they live in trees, sing, and overcome an evil empire using improvised weaponry than because they are physically small.

    beyond that. you know you are still making objective statements, right? you're saying the effect is subtler than i understood. that's possible. but a subtle, difficult to measure effect is well, subtle. it's easy to explain away exceptions and so on, so i'm naturally skeptical.

    like. let's turn this around. let's say it's me saying something is a signifier, and you disagree. say i say that brown signifies fantasy. my reasoning is that brown is the color of the earth, and sci-fi is in large part about exploring alien and dark space. also a common color for fur. like chewie!

    Alternately I could say brown signifies sci-fi. The earth may be underlied by brown but it's generally green and blue, including the sky, one of the most obvious parts of our visual experience. Sci-fi can have worlds with brown sky or brown vistas stretching into the distance, as well as brown lizardy aliens. furthermore, it can indicate a world damaged by industrialization.

    You could argue either way. How would you determine which is the truth? Would any number of examples matter? Could any logic not be reflected?

    i say the short-tall thing is similar. it is too subtle. it is not a signifier of genre any more than a color or tone.
  • kill living beings
    Hexartes said:

    Like you've got me fucked if you think I'm interested in categorizing different works as a single genre and only that genre as if genre is objective fact and not more or less arbitrary groupings, but I am indeed interested in looking at the components of genre and how they create emotional effect.

    I'm not interested, for example, in the question "Is Mass Effect hard sci fi?" because the component elements of hard sci fi, the component elements of how Mass Effect constructs genre, the origins of each, the motivations of each, and the emotional impact created by each, are far more interesting to me. I vaguely disagree with the sentiment that it is hard sci fi, but that's more because I find the concept of actively categorizing any work as one genre to the exclusion of another is silly.

    good, i don't care about that either.
    Hexartes said:

    Odradek said:

    So you're thinking of it like that aspect ratio films are in, where people don't consciously notice it really, but people do it in parodies to make their TV show suddenly look more filmy

    Yeah, basically.

    Look I don't know enough about evolutionary biology to debate you on that front (though the implication that the answer to "why do I want to eat dishwasher packets?" isn't "their texture and bright color indicates that they're a berry" is one I'd probably disagree with on the grounds of why the hell else would it be that way and also it's funny) but I think the assorted elements that comprise the relatively recent invention of genre and the cultural awareness thereof are a bit more clear cut than the links between evolution and modern human behavior.
    i don't want to debate evolutionary biology with you any more than you want to debate it with me.

    if you think this is more clear cut than an actual science, why on earth did you tell me i'm thinking of it in overly scientific terms?
  • When I say fictional taxonomies work fundamentally differently than scientific taxonomies it's because every definition you're working with is fluid. "It is a possibility" is tantamount to "it is," because it's the closest you can get to "it is." And the only way you can say "it isn't" is to eliminate the possibility, which you can't do terribly often.
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