Grammar on fictional races

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bluejester12

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Let's say I create a fictional race called Gorbos. When do I capitalize it?

examples:

She walked into the room. Two elves and one gorbo sat at the chair.

"What kind of creature are you?" "I am a gorbo," he replied.
 

DeleyanLee

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Per English rules, when it's a proper name, it gets capitalized. If you're writing in English, I'd follow that rule.

Personally, I have various other races of human in my MIP (troll, were, fae, goblin, etc.). I don't capitalize them for the same reason the word "human", "cat", "horse", "walrus" isn't capitalized--it's the generic species name. When I get to specifics (like English, American, etc.), that'll get capitalized because those are proper nouns.

Hope that helps.
 

mhdragon

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I agree, you can bend the rules if you want, but you need to know why, and it may be frowned upon. The main thing is to be consistent. If you capitalize something on page 1, and it's not capitalized on page 3, people will notice.
 

ChaseJxyz

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There's no right answer here. In my book, humans, phoenixes, dragons etc are lower case, as most species names are. But Surryans are capitalized since they're from their (eponymous) country/empire of Surrya. Regular elves are lower case but High Elves are upper case because the "author" is a High Elf and they are incredibly pretentious.

Things are capitalized when they're proper nouns, aka when they're Important™. We can say a president, but when we're talking about the President, who is a Very Important Person, then it's capitalized. So if your gorbos are from Gorbopolis, then capitalize. If the narrator (or the mass consciousness of the people that determine the language being used by the character speaking) thinks they're important or named after a place, then capitalize. But if they're just regular dudes then you don't need to. If you pick up the AP or MLA stylebook (or even google around for the NYT or NPR's) and check out their rules, it should give you some idea. Of course you don't have to conform 100% to a journalistic/academic stylebook, but they usually give reasons why they chose certain things and it can help inform your decision.
 

LarsonFan

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If Cormac McCarthy doesn't have to use quotation marks I don't think you need to capitalize names if you don't want to.
 

benbenberi

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The current trend in real-world contexts (at least in the US) appears to be capitalizing the names of races. Here's an article about it. And another. And another. There are lots more out there. Granted, this is generally being done in the real world in the context of social tensions and "conversation" about racial identity and racial issues within a racialized society that may not be directly applicable to a fantasy world.

But that brings up the question, what do you mean when you talk about "races" in fantasy? Are you just using the word as a conventional lazy replacement for "species"? The word "race" in Ye Olde Days, had many meanings -- it referred to ancestry generally, and for centuries was used as much to mean lineage or family or community or ethnicity or nation as what came in the 18-19c to be considered biological race. But that last came to dominate and nearly drive out the other meanings in normal usage. And the notion of biological race interacted oddly with the fantasy genre deriving from Tolkien, through derivatives like Dungeons-and-Dragons, to give "race" a function as marking different types of creature -- a biological distinction, not primarily a cultural one, which uncomfortably echoes the way "race" was considered in the early 20c to separate biologically distinct human populations.

Is that really a word and concept you want to use in the 21c?

I suggest, if your non-human creatures are actually non-human, don't call them races. They're not races, they're species. And capitalize them or not according to the rules for capitalizing species.

If they are actually races, capitalize them. And note the common humanity among them all.
 

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