Humans Aren’t Beige

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 I came across this on tumblr the other day, and it got me thinking. In genre writing, humans so often draw the very short straw. It’s inevitable really – familiarity is boring so the exotic races get all the fun stuff. We all know what humans can do and none of it seems like a superpower. This is also a serious challenge in most RPGs, where humans frequently get marginally better stats across the board rather than a specialisation, in a weak attempt to create racially balanced packages.

But it’s really just a question of perspective, as that tumblr post shows. Our bodies are incredible things, as are our minds. Fragile elves must see humans as incredibly durable and strong; dumb orcs must consider them geniuses (I’m generalising massively here, as I’ve already covered racial stereotypes earlier). The trick is to look at it through a different set of eyes.

Ever since the raptor and I went on the London walk about madness, I’ve been playing idly with this idea. What if you tell the story from the other side’s perspective? There are these incredibly violent creatures that can punch through the veil, bringing with them science and technology which simple magic can’t possibly understand. You can take it either way, really – either the Conquistadors bringing disease and death to South America, or something a bit more upbeat where there’s wonder and education and help offered from both sides for dealing with whatever the plot problems are. Either way, you get to look at humans as something special, and fairies/demons/whatever as the boring norm.

There’s a challenge associated, of course. You need to explain the alien stuff to your unfamiliar audience without losing its sense of ordinariness. That’s a bit of a challenge, particularly if you have slightly complex world-building/magic to cover, but I think in the end it really comes down to the light in which the information is presented. If your narrator is dismissive of – or at least utterly comfortable with – magic, but fascinated by the (possibly exaggerated?) details of humanity, that ought to get the point across. I don’t really know yet because I haven’t played with it properly, but I do feel that we humans deserve a chance to be amazing.

Is there anyone who has already done this? Any recommendations for authors or books?

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One response »

  1. I find looking at the photographs other people take of place I know fascinating for seeing through others eyes, some fb friends from the Philippines visited the UK and took lots of pictures of shop windows, I scratched my head puzzled at the interest so I asked and the logical reply came back because of the weather they have huge walls of glass are not possible – they had never seen the same sights we walk past everyday without looking twice at.

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