Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Races on the Ilvenworld

One fantasy trope is the inclusion of exotic races.  The level of exotics' participation varies, depending on the author, plot and sub-genre, but it's a rare fantasy book that has no exotic species at all.

Common exotics are fay-folk, elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins, unicorns, dragons, or creatures based on these.  Usually variants of known animals, exotics are predominantly variants of humans.  Sci-fi cousins refer to these as "humans in funny suits".  All add spice to fantasy novels.

Interactions between the species - usually referred to as Races in the fantasy genre - throw up interesting plotlines or sub-plots in most stories, with the potential for conflict deepening the texture of any novel.

My "humans in funny suits" - and which are openly acknowledged to be such - are called sylphs.  The background to these creatures is sci-fi rather than fantasy and, although there are many hints in the book, I do not go into minute detail about their origins.  [For those who enjoy such detail, a free ebook will be available later in the year through Smashwords]

In mythology, sylphs are air nymphs, and the sylphs in my books are descended from flying creatures.  However, they are a hybrid and effectively a variant of humans.  They serve their human masters, although there are tribes of free sylphs dotted about.  They are domestic servants, menial workers, agriculturalists, nurses, army scouts...

Humans in my books have a very mediaeval world view, so I use the sylphs to show the characters from a more modern viewpoint.  Originally intended to play a minor role, they rapidly evolved into major characters; indeed the first character met in the book is a sylph.

As they are an exotic species, they must be different from humans.  Blue-blooded, they have blue skins, silver-grey hair and eyes, and their eye-pupils are cat-slit.  Their most striking feature are their ears, which rise to graceful earpoints that, when fully erect are the highest point on a sylph's body.  Those earpoints are fully manoeuvrable and are used to help express emotions.  Their hearing range and sensitivity, as well as their eyesight, is far superior to anything humans can manage.

There are free sylphs, who live apart from humans in their own tribes.  The two groups - civilised and wild - tend to ignore each other as far as possible, but when they do meet, an exchange of ideas is inevitable, and that ensuing debate is an exciting additional thread that grows in tempo as the books progress.

Sylphs are not the only exotic in my books, there are also ilven, after whom the world - the Ilvenworld - is named.  These shy creatures are far more mysterious and I will deal with them in a future posting, Religion on the Ilvenworld.

Until the next time, be well. 

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