The problem with Evil races is not what you think

VelvetViolet

Adventurer
Well, a vast amount of the Mythos "doesn't add up" of course. HPL wanted to write about secret hidden stuff, not an all-out war of annihilation between Deep Ones and humans. Also I think he would say that Stross' Deep Ones, with their more pragmatic and fundamentally utilitarian view of humanity are less mysterious in some fashion. That is, the HPL Deep Ones REALLY DON'T CARE, maybe they cannot take on the US Military in a way that achieves their objectives, but we cannot even fathom what those are, and their actions make no sense to us at all.
I understand that modern stories like The Sick Land love to wallow in surrealist incomprehensibility, but a lot of the HPL stories are largely explainable. Largely. Like, we know what the mermen want because they explain it to the human characters: give them sacrifices, marry them, convert to their religion, etc and they'll give immortality and gold jewelry in return. We don't get much detail, but what little we do see appears pretty comprehensible.

The whole "you can't understand it" thing seems to be more a part of what fans think HPL's work is more than what it is actually is. (I recall that several Lovecraft scholars have complained about Chaosium messing up fandom's perception of the mythos, but I don't recall much of what they said.) There's this fascinating online article on how to write a Lovecraftian monster, and most of HPL's stories actually break the rules it sets (whereas a military scifi story like Knights of Sidonia follows far more).

That's the entire reason that Hahn was able to write such detailed analyses in the first place. One story that Hahn notably went full Derrida on was "The Whisperer in the Darkness." Although HPL's tone says one thing, the actual events of the story say something completely different. The fungus crabs come across as (by HPL standards) incredibly moral and restrained beings, but also as incompetent morons more appropriate for slapstick comedy.

Let that sink in for a moment. When I said Hahn was the most original take on HPL since HPL, I meant it. Hahn was so somethinged with the story that no analysis was made of the fungus crabs, even tho xenology posts were a regular part of the Let's Read.
 

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le Redoutable

Ich bin El Glouglou :)
I have not read the 27 pages of this topic,
still I can tell you something which is worth:
there is no such thing as Evil;
there is place for Cruelty, Betrayal etc
but those who inherit the bad mood ( french le mauvais rôle )
let others have ( le bon rôle ) ;
if noone would take the bad mood their opponents could never act like Paladins
( si vous arrivez à comprendre my translation you are genius lol )
 

I have not read the 27 pages of this topic,
still I can tell you something which is worth:
there is no such thing as Evil;
there is place for Cruelty, Betrayal etc
but those who inherit the bad mood ( french le mauvais rôle )
let others have ( le bon rôle ) ;
if noone would take the bad mood their opponents could never act like Paladins
( si vous arrivez à comprendre my translation you are genius lol )
Je suis un génie! 🙌

However, I don't think a story necessarily needs explicit bad guys, albeit it is harder to construct a conflict that way. But the most interesting conflicts are usually those in which both sides actually have a legit point.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
However, I don't think a story necessarily needs explicit bad guys, albeit it is harder to construct a conflict that way. But the most interesting conflicts are usually those in which both sides actually have a legit point.
Exactly this!

My campaigns tend to work similarly to the MCU, in theme (comedy, epic stakes, and large, diverse casts), and a specific criticism that I've seen of MCU movies dozens of times is the "this movie's villain is just evil for the purpose of being evil, and thus isn't a compelling villain". The most popular MCU villains (Infinity War Thanos, Killmonger, Loki, etc) have motivations/identities other than "I'm evil and here to be the guy that the heroes fight against".

Sometimes those villains are perfectly fine, especially for party members that just want to cut through armies of enemies without having to do any critical thinking about whether or not it's a good thing to kill them, but the more memorable and compelling villains are the ones that have a point. The ones that have motivations that we can relate to and understand (revenge/retribution, survival, justice, the willingness to do what others won't, jealousy, etc) are often better and more epic villains than those that have more obscure/alien motivations (destroying the world(s) just 'cause, power/wealth/title, bloodlust).
 

VelvetViolet

Adventurer
I think that's subjective. Morally complex villains were pretty rare up until the mid 20th century and now it's a bandwagon that writers are criticized for not jumping on. Less than admirable heroes, on the other hand, go back to Gilgamesh. (As in, the story itself criticizes his actions, not in the sense that the ancients were less morally enlightened than secular humanists.)
 

Hussar

Legend
I think that's subjective. Morally complex villains were pretty rare up until the mid 20th century and now it's a bandwagon that writers are criticized for not jumping on. Less than admirable heroes, on the other hand, go back to Gilgamesh. (As in, the story itself criticizes his actions, not in the sense that the ancients were less morally enlightened than secular humanists.)
I'm not sure you can claim that to be honest. Shakespeare has morally complex villains - Hamlet is a good example, Lear. Goethe's Faust is pretty complex. Arthurian stories feature all sorts of moral complexity.

The main thing to remember when we start talking about stories, is that the novel form doesn't really explode until the 20th century and has done nothing but continue to explode as an art form. Just looking at fantasy genre stories, there have been more original fantasy novels published in the past 20 years than in the past century. And that number just keeps climbing.

So, it does make sense that with such a crowded form, nuance becomes far more important in order to distinguish one work from another. Simple black hats vs white hats is a really limited palate to draw from. Particularly when you're trying to make your story stand out from a much, MUCH larger pack.
 

I think that's subjective. Morally complex villains were pretty rare up until the mid 20th century and now it's a bandwagon that writers are criticized for not jumping on. Less than admirable heroes, on the other hand, go back to Gilgamesh. (As in, the story itself criticizes his actions, not in the sense that the ancients were less morally enlightened than secular humanists.)
That's because being a "Hero" didn't originally refer to moral character, but rather physical and martial prowess. Paris and Achilles are in a sense heroic villains, or villainous heroes. Hector, more virtuous.
 

I'm not sure you can claim that to be honest. Shakespeare has morally complex villains - Hamlet is a good example, Lear. Goethe's Faust is pretty complex. Arthurian stories feature all sorts of moral complexity.

The main thing to remember when we start talking about stories, is that the novel form doesn't really explode until the 20th century and has done nothing but continue to explode as an art form. Just looking at fantasy genre stories, there have been more original fantasy novels published in the past 20 years than in the past century. And that number just keeps climbing.

So, it does make sense that with such a crowded form, nuance becomes far more important in order to distinguish one work from another. Simple black hats vs white hats is a really limited palate to draw from. Particularly when you're trying to make your story stand out from a much, MUCH larger pack.
Careful, most people today are utterly unaware of the sheer scope and size of the 'pulp' and associated categories of fiction in the last 19th and early 20th Centuries. They could easily swamp the entirety of modern fantasy and sci-fi and not even burp. There were INDIVIDUAL AUTHORS who had output in the 100's of millions of words. Yet most of it was basically low grade formula trash with cardboard cut-out characters and stock material.

For whatever reason, these authors saw no need to produce a better grade of material, and apparently the publishers were perfectly happy selling 1 cent 'dreadfulls' to kids and aspired to little else. It wasn't until the 20's and Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories that there was SOME improvement. That was mostly caused by the fact that paper and distribution costs increased, so the available page space shrank, and with higher cover prices you got a bit more demanding audience. Even so, most of what was in the 20's pulps is pretty bad stuff.

So, I would attribute any improvement, such as it may be, more to an audience that is more discerning and well-educated and the fact that even mass-market paperbacks are not really dirt cheap at $12 and up! Even so, there's plenty of schlock out there, though IMHO it seems to cluster more in the serial military-sci-fi sub-genre than anywhere else...
 

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