Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ilvenworld Races

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".   But all add spice to fantasy novels.

Interactions between the species - usually referred to as Races in the fantasy genre - throw up interesting plotlines or subplots 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, sylphs have their own page on this blog; look under the masthead for the link "About Sylphs"]

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 in their own right; the first person met in Markan Throne 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 irises are cat-slit. Their ears are their most striking feature, rising to graceful earpoints that, when fully erect are the highest part of a sylph's body. Those earpoints are fully manoeuvrable and help to express emotions. Their hearing range and sensitivity, as well as their eyesight, is far superior to anything humans 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, exchanges of ideas are inevitable.  The 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.

[This is a reposting of a blog that originally appeared in March]

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