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MartinD
12-12-2014, 06:52 PM
I've written my first fantasy, set on a different world. The story is told from the viewpoint of a Terran -- space travel is involved, too -- but includes a liberal amount of goblins, fairies and orcs. One of the members of my small writing group told me yesterday that I can't use the orcs.

According to her, orcs are a Tolkien creation and they can't be used in someone else's fantasy. It's the same as wanting to use hobbits in a fictional piece; it isn't allowed without legal permission. I can substitute a different kind of beastie in place of the orcs, I guess, but I kind of enjoy my orcs. I'd like to know if she's correct.

She doesn't write fantasy herself so she may not be the expert I need. I'm hoping I can find a suitable expert here.

efreysson
12-12-2014, 07:08 PM
I don't know anything about the legal side of things, but I would advice you to call them something else. "Orc" immediately makes me think of Tolkien and D&D. Just create your own evil, ugly race and stamp a name on them.

mrsmig
12-12-2014, 07:11 PM
You can use orcs. Others have: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orc

But your friend has a point. There's something to be said for creating your own race, rather than use one that is so specific to a particular author.

waylander
12-12-2014, 07:31 PM
Google 'Bodyguard of Lightning' and show the result to your fellow writing group member

Marian Perera
12-12-2014, 07:40 PM
But your friend has a point. There's something to be said for creating your own race, rather than use one that is so specific to a particular author.

This.

R. A. Salvatore has a novel titled The Thousand Orcs, but he's R. A. Salvatore. If I see orcs featured in a fantasy novel, I check if it's a satire, like Mary Gentle's Grunts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grunts!). If not... well, hopefully something about the blurb will overcome my been-there-read-that feeling.

Robert Dawson
12-12-2014, 08:04 PM
MartinD: My own $2E-02:

(1) Fairies and orcs aren't part of the same tradition. Unless you handle a syncretic world like this rather carefully, it will feel to many people (me, at least) more like a role playing game than mainstream spec fic.

(2) If your goblins and fairies are meant to have come from Earth, like rats in a ship's hold, or as crew members, you have a really neat idea. But you will need to make this very clear, before *bookwall*

If they are not meant to have come from Earth, I will concede that it is slightly more likely that fairies are there to meet the first space-ship than that (say) hedgehogs are. But you had better have everybody astonished on your readers' behalf if it's the first evidence for Fairy Panspermia.

Otherwise, I suggest doing the safe thing and make them some local supernatural beings that are not fairies or goblins, but fill a similar ecological niche. (If this is made very clear, you can have people calling them this, especially if they do not speak to humans so nobody knows what they call themselves - but it might be safer and more fun not to.)

MartinD
12-12-2014, 08:46 PM
Thanks to all. So much education in a very short period of time. I don't even know what *bookwall* means.

I'm pleased to know I can use orcs, even if I shouldn't. So my story -involving Terrans traveling to an entire world populated by goblins (the ruling class), orcs (the enforcers) and fairies (the evil creatures) - is likely to be hated on sight?

Maryn
12-12-2014, 08:55 PM
*bookwall* means throwing one's book at the wall in frustration with its content.

Although I usually go for a more Frisbee-like approach and can get some distance that way.

Maryn, who sometimes buys poorly

MartinD
12-12-2014, 09:57 PM
*bookwall* means throwing one's book at the wall in frustration with its content.

Oh. So, not good. Appreciate the enlightenment.

Robert Dawson
12-12-2014, 10:27 PM
So my story -involving Terrans traveling to an entire world populated by goblins (the ruling class), orcs (the enforcers) and fairies (the evil creatures) - is likely to be hated on sight?

Only if you use those names, or slavishly follow the stereotypes. Throw in a few touches of your own, avoid (or alter) very specific cliches, call all three races something new, and you're fine.

Otherwise, I'm afraid my likely reaction as a reader would be that you just hadn't bothered to do appropriate worldbuilding. That's unless you do something really clever to explain their presence (like the witches in Ray Bradbury's "The Exiles"), or do a brilliant job of Terry-Pratchett-style self-aware genre parody. I have to say both of these seem like hard things to do...there aren't a lot of Bradburys and Pratchetts out there.

MartinD
12-12-2014, 10:59 PM
Robert, thanks again for jumping in here. I absolutely followed the stereotypes as I (vaguely) knew them so changes will be made. I think it's a fun story and I'm proud of it but it stays on the hard drive until I've tinkered some more.

You guys have been great.

secolbert
12-13-2014, 01:22 AM
While Tolkien may have popularized Orcs the way we now think of them, he is by no means their creator. Orc is a derivative of Orcus, the Roman God of Death. Use of Orcs, or Orkes began as early as the mid 1600's. Tolkien himself has stated in writings his use of the word Orc was based in Old English.

Then there are the Orcs in World of Warcraft and many other games too numerous to list.

Roxxsmom
12-13-2014, 04:16 AM
According to her, orcs are a Tolkien creation and they can't be used in someone else's fantasy.

Someone had better tell this to the creators of the D and D and Warcraft (an countless other fantasy RPG) universes, then.

Seriously, though, I'm fairly certain that orcs are not trademarked the way the word "hobbits" is, and in fact, Tolkien took the word from mythology. The earliest version of Dungeons and Dragons had "hobbits" in it, but the creators had to change the word to "halflings" in later editions, as per it being unique to Tolkien's work. The same thing didn't happen with orcs.

There are also fantasy books with orcs in them, such as Mary Gentle's Grunts. Methinks your friend doesn't read fantasy or play fantasy games much.

King Neptune
12-13-2014, 05:26 AM
Yes, use "orc" if you wish it. The word has ancient origin. "Ogre" and "orc" are related words; "orc" is just one form.

ethantribal
12-13-2014, 05:52 AM
I always wondered this. But I do imagine if someone sees orcs in a book they'll think "Middle-earth". This may not be a bad thing but I would try to avoid using the name.

rwm4768
12-13-2014, 09:08 AM
Yes.

The real question: should you use orcs in your story?

Back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, there were a lot of fantasy authors who used some of the races from LOTR. Recently, though, you see very few of them, and those that do use them usually put a different twist on them.

BradCarsten
12-13-2014, 02:26 PM
As others have said, there are numerous other works referencing them, and not all are massive IPs. "Orc attack flatulent rebellion", and "Of orcs and men" comes to mind.


I don't know anything about the legal side of things, but I would advice you to call them something else. "Orc" immediately makes me think of Tolkien and D&D. Just create your own evil, ugly race and stamp a name on them.

Funny enough the first thing I thought of was Warcraft 2 - orcs and humans, so I guess Tolkien isn't always a given.

Once!
12-13-2014, 03:33 PM
Interesting question. When Games Workshop used the word "ork" instead of orc (before they got the LOTR deal) I presumed this was to keep the legal eagles happy. After all, I don't think we can use "hobbit".

The examples in this thread suggest that orc predates Tolkien, so we should be safe. But as others have said, even if you can use "orc" there is a bigger question about whether you would want to.

Cathy C
12-13-2014, 04:56 PM
You CAN use orc, but I'd advise against it and here's why: because the reader could get a pre-conceived notion of the look and traits of the creature that will defeat any world building you create. I actually had this same situation come up in a WIP I was trying to sell to my publisher. My editor's concern was with the word "demon." I had varying levels and types of demons in a weird society, which she liked but was spoiled by the word. She suggested I rework it and pick names that were unique. I did, by looking at a random word generator that allows for obscure nouns. I discovered I liked the sounds of words that are scientific flora names and parts of plants. They sound surprisingly arcane and evil. :ROFL:

Filigree
12-13-2014, 08:38 PM
This. If you get a chance to make your work stand out and be different, take the chance. We've already read Tolkien and Dragonlance. Pratchett and Hines have a different and fresher take that doesn't read like notes cribbed from someone's D&D game circa 1986.

In a sword & planet fantasy mms I'm revising, I have big brawny orc-like people (but somewhat more photogenic) and diminutive elf-like people (the last remnants of a high-tech civilization), uneasily coexisting in a world that doesn't like either group.* I do not use those names, nor will I. But hints come through in description.

Because why would they call themselves 'orcs' or 'elves'? Humans would, but colonizing humans are extinct on that planet.

*If anything, I stole that trope more from the Pini's Elfquest graphic novels, but it has evolved well beyond that.

Roxxsmom
12-14-2014, 05:34 AM
In a SF setting, it's not outside the realm of possibility than humans would name an alien race (or modified human variant) that is vaguely reminiscent of mythological beings something like "orcs," "elves," or "trolls." I'm not sure that's what these people would call themselves,though, unless they're been dominated by ordinary humans (in a cultural sense) for so long that they've forgotten the original context or what their own name for themselves was.

Alessandra Kelley
12-14-2014, 05:57 AM
Tolkien did invent "orcs" as they are currently understood.

The word existed earlier, but it just meant a demon, or sometimes a ferocious sea creature.

It was Tolkien who made the term mean the tribes of warlike goblinoid creatures that the word now evokes.

Roxxsmom
12-14-2014, 08:06 AM
Tolkien did invent "orcs" as they are currently understood.

The word existed earlier, but it just meant a demon, or sometimes a ferocious sea creature.

It was Tolkien who made the term mean the tribes of warlike goblinoid creatures that the word now evokes.

Even so, for whatever reason, the word hasn't been trademarked (or whatever it is that prevents people from using the term "hobbits" without permission).

I think the can be used is another issue than the "should" be used, however. As some have pointed out, fantasy that feels like it takes place in a Tolkienesque world has become less common in the past decade or so (in novels, orcs, and elves and dwarves are still going strong in video games).

But chasing fashions is inadvisable, because by the time a novel that's stared now is submitted, let alone published, who knows what will be popular?

Treehouseman
12-14-2014, 12:04 PM
The travellers could use the terms sarcastically, as if they see these beings that have fantasy-book equivalents and out of sheer, I dunno, laziness name them thus. "Hey. it's an uigly alien, looks like a Orc from Lord Of The Rings!"

Otherwise they could be "Ron Jeremies", "Liberaces" and "Rush Limbaughs". (shrugs!)

MartinD
12-14-2014, 02:00 PM
Well, at least I'll have some interesting thoughts to share with my fellow writer next Wednesday.

Seriously, I appreciate knowing I can use the the term even if I shouldn't use it. And I see now why I shouldn't. Time to find a random word generator and then go from there.

Thewitt
12-14-2014, 02:54 PM
I don't have any issue using orcs, just like I use elves, goblins, pixies, dwarves, wizards, dragons.....

Sorry. I don't buy into the "Tolkien owns orcs" argument.

My orcs are grown frm a seed, a human seed....and I go thru great detail describing how this works and how the process is different from creating life from scratch.

If Tolkien protected the name, like the estate did with Hobbit, I would certainly honor that. They did not.

Hypatia
12-16-2014, 05:14 AM
Just because Tolkien doesn't own orcs doesn't mean that using creatures identical to Tolkien's isn't cliche. How would you explain them being Always Chaotic Evil?

And if they are not, then how do you justify the heroes killing them, without knowing whether they have actually done anything evil?

Sorry to harp on this, but it bothers me, the way ugly beings just *are* evil, every single one, because they were born that way, so the good guys can slaughter them with worry.

Lillith1991
12-16-2014, 05:38 AM
Just because Tolkien doesn't own orcs doesn't mean that using creatures identical to Tolkien's isn't cliche. How would you explain them being Always Chaotic Evil?

And if they are not, then how do you justify the heroes killing them, without knowing whether they have actually done anything evil?

Sorry to harp on this, but it bothers me, the way ugly beings just *are* evil, every single one, because they were born that way, so the good guys can slaughter them with worry.

Why assume someone is going to use them in the exact same way he used orcs and uruk-hai? That seems ridiculous if you haven't seen the person's MSS. I know I use them in one of my stories, and I certainly don't make them evil. In fact, I made their society complex. The orc character that gets the most time in this particular story is actually my favorite character.

Bartholomew
12-16-2014, 05:44 AM
I've written my first fantasy, set on a different world. The story is told from the viewpoint of a Terran -- space travel is involved, too -- but includes a liberal amount of goblins, fairies and orcs.


You got some comments saying that you'd have to handle this carefully and that perhaps implied it's a bad idea. I'm just popping through to say that I love this sort of tropebending and would absolutely give it a shot.

Roxxsmom
12-16-2014, 08:17 AM
Sorry to harp on this, but it bothers me, the way ugly beings just *are* evil, every single one, because they were born that way, so the good guys can slaughter them with worry.

I agree that it's unfair to always assume that beings who are ugly (by human standards, as they would presumably not think of themselves in this way) are evil, but there have actually been many different takes on orcs already. Warcraft orcs aren't inherently evil, and whether the Horde or Alliance are the bad or good guys depends on which side you're playing (and Thrall was actually my favorite npc back when I played the game). And there have been novels where orcs, goblins and so on are actually the protagonists. We don't know the OP is looking to write a D&D type story with orcs as mindless baddies that are there to give the protagonists experience.

Thewitt
12-16-2014, 09:24 AM
Just because Tolkien doesn't own orcs doesn't mean that using creatures identical to Tolkien's isn't cliche. How would you explain them being Always Chaotic Evil?

And if they are not, then how do you justify the heroes killing them, without knowing whether they have actually done anything evil?

Sorry to harp on this, but it bothers me, the way ugly beings just *are* evil, every single one, because they were born that way, so the good guys can slaughter them with worry.

Not sure if this is being addressed to me or not, but You know nothing about how I've introduced orcs, their behavior in my books or whether or not they are "slaughtered without worry."

Fairly presumptuous of you I would say.

I develop the different breeds, spend considerable time on their origin and the roles they play in the dark wizard's army, and then introduce several twists in later books in the series.

The fact that they are orcs, grown grom seed using corrupted creation magic, is really the only thing my orcs share with others - though even that can be argued.

In my mind it's no different than long lived elves or dwarves who live in caverns and mine underground.

Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us. This makes a book comfortable and believable. Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.

Can you imagine every epic fantasy being written where none of the races in the book had ever been used before? Of course not. Orcs are no different from goblins, elves or dwarves.

Roxxsmom
12-16-2014, 02:33 PM
Can you imagine every epic fantasy being written where none of the races in the book had ever been used before? Of course not. Orcs are no different from goblins, elves or dwarves.

Yes, actually, I can imagine it very easily. I'd have to say that the overwhelming majority of fantasy novels I've read over the past few years haven't had the standard fantasy races at all, and the ones that did have put some unusual spins on them.

Not saying there's anything wrong with shooting for comfortable and familiar if that's what you like. You should write the kind of stuff you like to read, or the kind of stuff that you wish was out there for you to read.

Once!
12-16-2014, 02:56 PM
Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us. This makes a book comfortable and believable. Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.

Um. Well, yes and no.

Some readers want books to be comfortable and familiar. They really enjoyed book X, so they want their next book to be X2. Then after that they will read X3.

It's why Hollywood makes so many damned sequels. And why just about every book is part of a series. Or at least that is how it seems sometimes. And it's why there are so many Tolkien clones. And why so many books have orcs, elves, dragons and wizards.

And if that is the market that you want to appeal to, then go right ahead. It's one point of view. There are plenty of readers out there who share it.

But it's not the only point of view. Comfy isn't always good. It's a bit like buying knickers. Yes you want some comfortable everyday knickers for chillaxing in a One Direction onesie. But you might also want some racy lacy numbers for when life gets a little spicy.

If I come across the word "orc" in a story, I immediately get a whole barrow-load of imagery and ideas. It's a word laden with baggage. Orcs are mindless and savage. Unintelligent. Unremittingly evil. Brutish. No sense of humour. Convenient sword and archery fodder. Footsoldiers of someone more cunning.

The orcs in a particular story might be a little bit different. They might be kind to their kids, nice to the older orcs. They might sing songs, play the flute, crochet their own underwear, pick wild mountain flowers.

But because they are called orcs I will start out by imagining them as ... well, orcs. There is no easy way to say it.

By all means have orcs if you want to. There are gazillions of books out there with orcs in them. Or decide that you don't want orcs because ... ahem ... there gazillions of books out there with orcs in them.

But please let's not kid ourselves that there is only one point of view here. Comfy knickers or sexy red racing thongs?

There's a time and a place for each.

Marian Perera
12-16-2014, 03:18 PM
Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us. This makes a book comfortable and believable. Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.

If it's OK to deviate from this, why tell us that races "should" have characteristics that make for a comfortable read? Sometimes I'm not in the mood for comfort. And personally, I'd rather read about khepri, sentient moles, the Wasp Empire or the White Walkers than the usual elves, dwarves and orcs.

I like getting a taste of the unusual and unexpected in fantasy. And it's possible to make a fantasy world convincing even with races very different from the norm.

By all means write about orcs if you want, but as Once! said, there are different points of view here.

Thewitt
12-16-2014, 04:30 PM
Yes, actually, I can imagine it very easily. I'd have to say that the overwhelming majority of fantasy novels I've read over the past few years haven't had the standard fantasy races at all, and the ones that did have put some unusual spins on them.

Not saying there's anything wrong with shooting for comfortable and familiar if that's what you like. You should write the kind of stuff you like to read, or the kind of stuff that you wish was out there for you to read.


So no elves, dwarves, goblins, Wizards, dragons, nothing of the classic fantasy races?

Thewitt
12-16-2014, 04:33 PM
But please let's not kid ourselves that there is only one point of view here. Comfy knickers or sexy red racing thongs?

There's a time and a place for each.

I have NEVER said there is only one point of view, so I hope you are not attributing that to me.

The people who say once Tolkien uses orcs they are off limits are the single view camp.

Marian Perera
12-16-2014, 05:01 PM
So no elves, dwarves, goblins, Wizards, dragons, nothing of the classic fantasy races?

I've read two of China Mieville's Bas-Lag novels, and they didn't mention any of these. Though I wasn't aware "Wizards" were considered a race.

Ditto for Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel novels, Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys (at least the two I've read), and Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series. Getting into more urban fantasy, I've read a few Downside Ghosts novels and one of Francis Knight's books, and they seemed to do fine without elves, dwarves, orcs, etc.

Bartholomew
12-16-2014, 05:29 PM
but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.

The Goblin Hero (http://www.amazon.com/Goblin-Hero-Series-Jim-Hines/dp/0756404428) books work because the entire arc is about one goblin changing himself for the better, and (IIRC) elevating his people out of the pettiness that had come to define them.

The goblins of World of Warcraft are brilliant but deranged scientists with a penchant for trading.

The goblins of Goblin Market (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174262) are different still.

From which field are people straying? :)

Filigree
12-16-2014, 05:45 PM
Correction: Martin was the OP, not Thewitt. Mea culpa. Thewitt has already published works.


So no elves, dwarves, goblins, Wizards, dragons, nothing of the classic fantasy races?

...Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us. This makes a book comfortable and believable. Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.

(My bolding) No, it just becomes another kind of speculative fiction. I may not necessarily want to court a readership with those expectations. At the very least, I want to startle and intrigue them with a new take on, say, elves, orcs, sorcerers, or dragons.

Sigh. I've only been on AW for six years, counting lurk time, and I've lost count of the iterations of this very discussion.

Look, some readers are going to say, 'Oooo, goody, more accepted tropes that are easy for me to understand'. Others are going to say, 'God, not again, I'm so bored by these damn things now.'

It's up to you as the author of your own work to decide the tack you take. I could cite half a dozen great novels that use the fantasy-race-trope almost exactly as you propose, six that don't, and another six that twist the trope in some interesting way. What is 'unbelieveable' to one reader is a refreshing change to another.

But that doesn't really matter, because those books are not your novel. You're right, we don't know how you've handled the tropes. We won't, until you either post a snippet in the SYW section or publish elsewhere.

Thewitt*, what is *your* goal here, your reason for asking the question to begin with?

Confirmation? I can't tell you whether the writing works until I see some of it up in the SYW section**. My gut feeling is to avoid anything that smells too much of Dragonlance, Warhammer, and the other Tolkien clones I've been seeing since 1977, but I can always be persuaded to at least look.

Permission? Absolution? No one can give you that but the market and the readers. Every published story is a gamble and a compromise.

Are you looking for a spirited discussion with a lot of different opinions? That, we can do here on AW. But it might help if we knew what you wanted out of the conversation.

* See correction above.

** Thewitt has work available on Amazon; I don't know about the OP. .

Thewitt
12-16-2014, 07:09 PM
Thewitt, what is *your* goal here, your reason for asking the question to begin with?

It wasn't my question. I'm defending the OPs right to use Orcs in his book if he wants, when others have told him it's forbidden...

Marian Perera
12-16-2014, 07:18 PM
It wasn't my question. I'm defending the OPs right to use Orcs in his book if he wants, when others have told him it's forbidden...

I don't think anyone on this thread said it's "forbidden".

Most people said yes, you can use orcs, but here's why we wouldn't advise you to do so. That's not the same as, "You can't! It's forbidden!"

Filigree
12-16-2014, 07:19 PM
I did catch that, post-coffee. Sorry, Thewitt.

I'm not one of those saying it's 'forbidden', BTW. I'm just in the camp of wanting to see new takes on fantasy race tropes. I think they add to the spec-fic experience as a whole, whereas the tried-n-true versions may come across as too safe and predictable to some readers. But then, the rules of expectation may tend to be different in YA, which I don't write.

It all boils down to the skill of the writer. Great writers can turn staid tropes into brilliant portrayals. Dull writers tend to slog along in the 'me, too!' shuffle.

snafu1056
12-16-2014, 09:39 PM
Just make them Orcs and substitute another name. You could even just invent fiction sub-races of familiar ones like "Swamp Goblins" or "Ice trolls". Ultimately I think what fans are looking for is not familiar terminology so much as familiar characteristics. If you took a race like dwarfs, gave them all the familiar dwarven traits, but stuck boar's heads on them called them "Snortfolk", people would still get that, for all intents and purposes, these are dwarfs. I think they would let you slide on the name.

Kaidonni
12-16-2014, 10:49 PM
Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us. This makes a book comfortable and believable. Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.


I'm personally interpreting this differently to everybody else - what I think Thewitt means is, if you are going to use one of the more established races, to an extent there are certain features associated with them that straying too far from those features can leave the readership lost. It's a little like calling a smeerp a rabbit - rabbits have certain baggage. Words like orc, elve and dwarf can conjure up certain imagery, and if you turn it on its head too much, you may as well come up with a different name for that race. This isn't to say to not play with those races a great deal; but again, there is baggage.


Can you imagine every epic fantasy being written where none of the races in the book had ever been used before? Of course not. Orcs are no different from goblins, elves or dwarves.

It is very easy to imagine such a thing - there are cultures in this world that operate outside of Western mindsets and beliefs. Studio Ghibli does amazing work on their movies, most relevant to this conversation ones such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Howl's Moving Castle is another - and while based on a non-Asian/Japanese novel - has wizards and magic and fantasy kingdoms, but no orcs, et al in sight.

Kitsune and Hú​li​jīng of Japanese and Chinese mythology are an example of other non-Western beliefs - fox 'spirits', and they are the inspiration for my work. I think they are absolutely wonderful (excepting the sexist connotations they can have, but things can be done about that!). There will be other non-human races present; but there will be no orcs, goblins, elves or dwarves in my work because they do not fit.

Of course, I could also interpret the quote slightly differently - everything has been done before in some form, case in point my fox spirits are drawing from a whole swath of sources from Japanese and Chinese folklore and mythology, and there are modern novels that use these beings too. Even if I'm not to include the typical Western culture fantasy races, I'm still including beings that other groups will be very familiar with.

Mr Flibble
12-16-2014, 11:08 PM
If I come across the word "orc" in a story, I immediately get a whole barrow-load of imagery and ideas. It's a word laden with baggage. Orcs are mindless and savage. Unintelligent. Unremittingly evil. Brutish.

Is it very bad of me that when I misread Brutish as British that I immediately thought of Farage?




So no elves, dwarves, goblins, Wizards, dragons, nothing of the classic fantasy races?

There are plenty of books with none of those races, though you might find humans who are wizards. And some without even them.

I write magic users, that's about it for "races", though ofc they aren't a race. Oh, wait, there was a dragon once. For about a page.

And if you look up mannerpunk you'll find lots of stories with no magic or races in them.


Anyway, ofc you can use orcs. It may be inadvisable, maybe not, depending on what you're going to do with them/who you see your market as being. Didn't do Stan Nicholls any harm...

MartinD
12-17-2014, 03:24 AM
I wandered away from this post because I thought everything that was going to be said, had been said. When I peeked in today, I see I was wrong.

After reading the opinions expressed earlier, I left in the goblins, replaced the orcs (but understood I could have kept them if I wanted), ramped up the fairies, and found a reader to beta the manuscript. My reader loves fantasy and fantasy worlds and doesn't have any idea of this discussion. She's fairly blunt when expressing her opinion and I'm looking forward to hearing her thoughts.

She says she'll get back to me by the end of the year so I'll know what one person thinks about the story, anyway. One beta is never enough but it's a start.

I'm impressed by the different opinions here and the depth of the knowledge presented. Thanks. You guys rock.

Thewitt
12-17-2014, 06:52 AM
Good luck with your book MartinD

Once!
12-17-2014, 02:24 PM
I have NEVER said there is only one point of view, so I hope you are not attributing that to me.

The people who say once Tolkien uses orcs they are off limits are the single view camp.

"The single view camp"??? - you mean there is only one single view camp?

Let's imagine a sliding scale of orc-acceptability. It goes all the way from zero to 100. At zero we have the group of people who don't like orcs at all. They believe that Tolkien has trodden this ground pretty much flat. They are your single view camp.

At the other extreme, say 100 on our orc-acceptability scale, we have the people who say that orcs are fabulous, utterly brilliant. In fact, so brilliant that they have to be included in every fantasy story. My contention is that they are also a single view camp.

Most of us are somewhere in the middle. I'm pretty bored of orcs but I'm prepared to be convinced if someone has written a good story that includes them. I'd say I'm about 30% on the orc-acceptability scale.

Where I struggle is when someone says:



"Races used in fantasy books should inherit the general characteristics readers have come to expect in those races from the authors who have come before us."


Or



Yes it's ok to deviate from this, but the father afield you go, the more unbelievable your world becomes.


I don't agree with this. It is far too close to the 100% mark on the orc acceptability scale. For me, fantasy becomes more believable the further it gets from Tolkien. It has become so clichéd that when someone puts an orc in their book, I don't see their orc. I see Tolkien's orcs.

Hypatia
12-17-2014, 09:01 PM
I have little desire for comfortable, familiar fantasy. We have the vast realm of the imagination to explore! And what makes a world with blisthren less "realistic" than a world with elves?

(Elves aren't real.)

Lillith1991
12-17-2014, 09:18 PM
I have little desire for comfortable, familiar fantasy. We have the vast realm of the imagination to explore! And what makes a world with blisthren less "realistic" than a world with elves?

(Elves aren't real.)

Wow, I'm impressed. You managed to use the word familiar in a obviously insulting way.

Honestly, what makes Blisthren unrealistic to some people is the whole smeerp thing. In an effort to not call them elves or other established mythological creatures, people tend to do something like give them vile tempers and blue skin. Well, that doesn't work. And if you're going to make a new being, you may as well really make a new one. A blue elf is a blue elf. The idea that elves and the like are boring and crontrived only adds to the amount of lazy paint it blue and call it something else elves.

I personally would much rather people just write elves if they're only going to paint the things blue and make them war-like. Less hassel for me when I realise the damn things are really elves, and feel cheated because I was promised something new to read about.

Mr Flibble
12-17-2014, 10:32 PM
I personally would much rather people just write elves if they're only going to paint the things blue and make them war-like.

That's the first time I've seen the Nac Mac Feegle compared to elves. You realise they'll nut you for it :D

Roxxsmom
12-18-2014, 11:11 AM
So no elves, dwarves, goblins, Wizards, dragons, nothing of the classic fantasy races?

Nope. Not in most of the books I've read for the past 10 years or so. Except for practitioners of various kinds of magic (none really resembling the D and D type wizards, however--wizards, even the traditional kind with pointy hats, aren't a race, though), and an occasional dragon.

The only recently written books (as in within the past 5 years or so) I can even think of with elves, dwarves and so on would be Michael Sullivan's Rirya books (I don't remember his having orcs in the ones I read, however), and Jim C. Hines has some books with Goblins as the protags, but those were a lighter style of fantasy. I'm sure I've missed some, but that's the thing. Fantasy is huge, and it's possible to read tons of books that reflect one's own tastes and miss the ones that don't. Dragons turn up sometimes still . Hobbs and Martin have used them in recent years (and Rothfuss had one that was really a giant lizard). But none of them had orcs, elves, dwarves etc. that I can remember.

Oh, there was Eragon too. That's the only recent book I've run across in recent years with all the races. Didn't get into those really. It really seems to me that traditional fantasy races have taken a hit in recent years, actually. There have been threads here on AW where people have even asked where all those stories have gone. Might mean there's a desire for them still. If you have them in your novel, you'd know better than I do who the target readers are.


It wasn't my question. I'm defending the OPs right to use Orcs in his book if he wants, when others have told him it's forbidden...

I don't think anyone here has said it's forbidden, just that there are potential issues that can arise. That's true with anything, though.

Shadowwriter
05-04-2017, 09:32 AM
Thanks to all. So much education in a very short period of time. I don't even know what *bookwall* means.

I'm pleased to know I can use orcs, even if I shouldn't. So my story -involving Terrans traveling to an entire world populated by goblins (the ruling class), orcs (the enforcers) and fairies (the evil creatures) - is likely to be hated on sight?

MartinD, I read many of the posts in this thread, and, writer to writer, I want to say one thing: It's your story. Remember that. If you want to write something purely for the fans, go for it. But if you, like me, are writing to share a piece of your imagination--your heart--with the world, there comes a point where you can't give a f*ck what anyone thinks or says. Do what you know will make you happy, and do it well. J.R.R. Tolkein, a huge writing inspiration of mine, was once complained to vehemently by a fellow Inkling for writing too many Elves into LOTR (sounds a little like the situation that prompted your above question). I love your receptive attitude, but don't sell yourself or your story short! I'm paraphrasing a quote I saw on the topic saying something like "Remember, YOU are the only one who can write your story." I'm not saying people with critiques or advice don't mean well, and sometimes there are gems in their criticism, but know where you draw your line, and remember not to let others write your story. They can't; they don't know how. It's YOURS. Happy writing. :)

Roxxsmom
05-04-2017, 10:07 AM
This is what I could find online on the subject.

http://ask.metafilter.com/234724/Are-Orcs-copyrighted

Most fantasy fans will think of Tolkien's orcs if you use the term and have them be similar kinds of creatures, but that doesn't mean you can't put your own spin on them (the WoW orcs are similar to, yet different from, Tolkien's orcs, for instance). I think Tolkien himself got "orc" from Beowulf. Tolkien used "orc" and "goblin" synonymously, while fantasy games and other writers often distinguish orcs from goblins. If you're really concerned about this, you could simply call your orcs goblins instead.

But I just noticed that this is a very old thread, so old I forgot I posted in it years ago. Is there a reason it's been dredged up again? How many pages was it back in the forums to be found?

Dennis E. Taylor
05-04-2017, 07:40 PM
We couldn't find any zombies, so we picked an orc thread.
;)

zanzjan
05-04-2017, 08:31 PM
Closing thread for zombiness :)