How NOT to Conworld.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by k1234567890y » 02 Jan 2019 01:51

To make a human culture, it is better not to violate the proposed human universals, even the universality if many items of it, or even the existence of such universals, can be controversial.

http://condor.depaul.edu/mfiddler/hyphen/humunivers.htm

This is a list of the proposed human universals. I have never read Brown's book, but I think something needs to be clarified, for example, the "magic" part should be "beliefs of magic" e.g. "magical thinking", and the "magic to increase life", "magic to sustain life" and "magic to win love" parts should be "beliefs in magic that can help increase life, sustain life, or win love, and the practice of beliefs in magic."

Also, I think the "spear" part may actually indicate "tools and weapons used to stab and pierce.

Some persons might claim the "murder proscribed" part has exceptions e.g. human sacrifice, but it seems that human sacrifice is only acceptable in extreme circumstances, and a human sacrifice custom that is practiced on a regular basis always gets widely despised and criticized; also, some cultures have "honour killing", but for peoples who practice honour killing, the killed ones are lawbreakers, so it is more the matter of "what crimes are serious enough to deserve a death.(the definition of criminal behaviour itself can vary, but there seem to be some universals behind it e.g. no group of people would intuitively accept unharmful things such as 'a male or female living to an old age' or 'loving one's own parents and children' or 'having sex with only one person throughout the life' as crimes") and the ban on the killing of innocents(i.e. people who are not criminals) in usual circumstances is still universal.
...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Pabappa » 02 Jan 2019 15:29

I'm on a phone so I can't easily quote without relating the wholebpost... viewtopic.php?p=287085#p287085 courtesy bump


I haven't read this thread, but, I wouldn't say it's wrong to violate human universals, but i would say that if you do it, you should think through the consequences of the change.

For example, in about half of the cultures on planet Teppala, women are taller than men. One result of this is that men don't rape and abuse their wives very much.... instead, they turn their aggression towards other men, and towards children.

_________________
Also, I've heard of a maxim for fantasy and science fiction authors that ... "you're allowed one gimmick". So violating one human universal can make a story, but violating two is a sign of bad writing.
Sorry guys, this one has the worst sting.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by LinguistCat » 02 Jan 2019 17:33

I wouldn't say that breaking multiple "human universals" is a sign of bad writing, but you have to be very careful about WHY they are broken and what effects this has on your conculture. Obviously a good "why" might be that your conculture is not composed of humans. If they reproduce in a way that is very different from us, derive their nutrition very differently, etc. then it's likely that human universals connected to those would change. However, some universals on that list seem likely to be connected to being sentient in itself and we might not be able to change those and have beings that are sentient, or at least not sentient in a way we would recognize. Other things are in a gray area, or if you are conworlding for a book, it might be hard to write characters that break those and make them interesting to an audience as characters.

Also, what would it mean for other areas of interaction if women (or the equivalent) traveled more than men? Or if adults and young were seen as the same socially? Of course you could choose several of these to look at and we would see the likely consequences of some as unsavory at best, while others just seem odd or quirky. But I don't think breaking multiple of these is out of the question unless you are specifically writing humans meant to be relatable as humans. Humans meant to be somewhat strange, aliens and fantasy beings can keep or break as many of these as the writer likes as long as there's still internal logic to it.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by k1234567890y » 02 Jan 2019 20:24

LinguistCat wrote:
02 Jan 2019 17:33
I wouldn't say that breaking multiple "human universals" is a sign of bad writing, but you have to be very careful about WHY they are broken and what effects this has on your conculture. Obviously a good "why" might be that your conculture is not composed of humans. If they reproduce in a way that is very different from us, derive their nutrition very differently, etc. then it's likely that human universals connected to those would change. However, some universals on that list seem likely to be connected to being sentient in itself and we might not be able to change those and have beings that are sentient, or at least not sentient in a way we would recognize. Other things are in a gray area, or if you are conworlding for a book, it might be hard to write characters that break those and make them interesting to an audience as characters.

Also, what would it mean for other areas of interaction if women (or the equivalent) traveled more than men? Or if adults and young were seen as the same socially? Of course you could choose several of these to look at and we would see the likely consequences of some as unsavory at best, while others just seem odd or quirky. But I don't think breaking multiple of these is out of the question unless you are specifically writing humans meant to be relatable as humans. Humans meant to be somewhat strange, aliens and fantasy beings can keep or break as many of these as the writer likes as long as there's still internal logic to it.
ok thanks for the feedbacks (: Individuals can act differently, the universals refer to human as collective bodies mostly.
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by LinguistCat » 02 Jan 2019 21:35

k1234567890y wrote:
02 Jan 2019 20:24
ok thanks for the feedbacks (: Individuals can act differently, the universals refer to human as collective bodies mostly.
I was speaking on the level of societies, not individuals. I'm unsure why you think I was talking about individuals?

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by k1234567890y » 02 Jan 2019 22:35

LinguistCat wrote:
02 Jan 2019 21:35
k1234567890y wrote:
02 Jan 2019 20:24
ok thanks for the feedbacks (: Individuals can act differently, the universals refer to human as collective bodies mostly.
I was speaking on the level of societies, not individuals. I'm unsure why you think I was talking about individuals?
Other things are in a gray area, or if you are conworlding for a book, it might be hard to write characters that break those and make them interesting to an audience as characters. < this part

sorry if I misread you
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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by k1234567890y » 02 Jan 2019 23:42

Pabappa wrote:
02 Jan 2019 15:29
I'm on a phone so I can't easily quote without relating the wholebpost... viewtopic.php?p=287085#p287085 courtesy bump


I haven't read this thread, but, I wouldn't say it's wrong to violate human universals, but i would say that if you do it, you should think through the consequences of the change.

For example, in about half of the cultures on planet Teppala, women are taller than men. One result of this is that men don't rape and abuse their wives very much.... instead, they turn their aggression towards other men, and towards children.

_________________
Also, I've heard of a maxim for fantasy and science fiction authors that ... "you're allowed one gimmick". So violating one human universal can make a story, but violating two is a sign of bad writing.
you are right, so I said "better not to violate"
...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Salmoneus » 03 Jan 2019 01:54

k1234567890y wrote:
02 Jan 2019 01:51
Some persons might claim the "murder proscribed" part has exceptions e.g. human sacrifice
Those persons would necessarily be idiots, however, or ignorant of what words mean.

There are no circumstances under which murder is ever considered not to be a moral wrong. If killing someone is considered to not be a moral wrong for some reason, by definition it is not murder.

All human societies have a rule by which killing people is prohibited, unless special circumstances apply. This is a prohibition against murder. You don't have to tie yourself in knots debating whether monogamy would be an acceptable justification for murder - execution for ANY crime is not an exception to the no-murder rule, because legal executions by definition aren't murders.


This is in contradistinction to, for example, wearing hats. Many human societies do NOT prohibit the wearing of hats, even when special circumstances do not apply.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Salmoneus » 03 Jan 2019 02:20

LinguistCat wrote:
02 Jan 2019 17:33
I wouldn't say that breaking multiple "human universals" is a sign of bad writing, but you have to be very careful about WHY they are broken and what effects this has on your conculture.
Most of ketc's "universals" are just restatements of economic tautologies.
Also, what would it mean for other areas of interaction if women (or the equivalent) traveled more than men?
It would mean that either a) travel was not more dangerous than staying near home; or b) women were less valuable than men. It is hard to see how the latter could be true - in cases of extreme overpopulation and/or total mechanisation of labour, the value of women could decline to be equal to the value of men, and indeed our own society may perhaps be approaching such a point*, but since women can just switch to being, economically speaking, men, if being women isn't profitable, it's hard to see how the value of women could ever be lower than the value of men. [To be sure, men are on average stronger than women... but the difference is very small, relative to the tasks humans would plausibly need to perform.] And the former, travel not being dangerous, seems impossible across a large society almost by definition, although it could conceivably occur in very confined habitats. If, for instance, you live in an alligator-infested swamp, maybe sending your womenfolk out of the swamp for a while may be sensible - but if the environment is really that unsafe, and leaving it is that easy, it's likely that everyone would leave it, not just the women.

[there are some other peripheral possibilities - like the only people who travel are over fifty - but none are very likely]

Or if adults and young were seen as the same socially?
This would mean young would have to develop full intellectual maturity in the womb, and inherit memories directly. Otherwise, somebody looking for a CEO for their company will always pick the experienced adult over the five-year-old.



*broadly speaking, women can either labour productively (having a job) or reproductively (having children), whereas men can only do the former. So long as reproduction is valuable, those who can do it will have a higher value than those who can't. Therefore, society will discourage those who can reproduce from doing dangerous things. Reproduction is valuable if the profit from having a child is greater than the cost of having a child. The cost of having a child is the opportunity cost of missing out on employment opportunities, plus the risk of medical complications, plus the cost of resources invested expressed as the opportunity cost of alternative investments foregone. The cost of missing out and the profit of a child are both functions of the price of labour, so cancel out to a ratio based on time spent vs abilty to extract money from one's offspring, except that having a child incurs a current cost for a future gain. More importantly, however, the opportunity cost of lost investment opportunities is a function of the price of capital. The relative prices of capital and labour, therefore, determine the fertility rate (theoretically, at least... in the very long term, given a relatively steady state). The value of reproduction falls when the relative price of capital increases - that is, when the supply of labour is increasing (population boom), when the demand for labour is falling (labour-saving mechanisation), when the supply of capital is falling (mass flooding?) or when the demand for capital is rising (switching to more land-intensive or mechanism-intensive production)... or when the medical risks increase. But even in a world with no reproduction at all, women are, at worst, just marginally physically weaker men, so should never have an economic value (in society as a whole) substantially less than men... unless they CAN'T stop having children, in which case they can indeed become a burden. This historically occured in mediaeval China, when overpopulation resulted in near-zero birthrates, at least for the well-off, and daughters were indeed seen as a cost (there was a risk they might produce more children to pay for). In particular, slave women were very cheap, much cheaper than slave men. But since most women can choose not to reproduce, and will do so if reproduction is unprofitable, women are unlikely to have negative value across society as a whole for very long.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by DesEsseintes » 04 Jan 2019 12:12

I love the fact that this thread got necro’d or I might never have seen it. [:D]

I don’t really consume much sci-fi or fantasy content. For some reason, I enjoy coming up with stuff for my conworld, and to read about and discuss conworlds in conlanging circles, but don’t really make much effort to otherwise read sci-fi or fantasy.

As world-building goes though, I guess I can identify some things that make me lose interest pretty quickly.

1. A European-y, mediaeval setting. All the more so if there are several kingdoms fighting it out amongst themselves. This is why I cannot bring myself to get into Game of Thrones.
2. Gunpowder. If there be musketeers or any of their ilk around, I hide.
3. Elves.

I may add to this. These are of course merely personal peeves.

Oh, and Salmoneus’ economic analysis of the value of women was extremely interesting! I really should try and apply some economic principles to my conworlding.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas » 04 Jan 2019 13:33

DesEsseintes wrote:
04 Jan 2019 12:12
3. Elves.

I may add to this. These are of course merely personal peeves.
Wait.

What's wrong with Elves?? I mean, sòmebody has to be the apex predator...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Salmoneus » 04 Jan 2019 15:54

DesEsseintes wrote:
04 Jan 2019 12:12


Oh, and Salmoneus’ economic analysis of the value of women was extremely interesting! I really should try and apply some economic principles to my conworlding.
Yes!

A good starting point is the principle that in a resource-rich context (where you have more resources than you have people to extract them), social structures will aim to control the labour supply - you'll tend to have big clans and houses, with high birth rates, and everything geared to bring people into the fold. In a labour-rich context (where you have more people than you have jobs) social structures will aim to control the supply of capital - you'll tend to have nuclear families and systems of exclusion. An easy example is slavery in west africa and in china. In west africa, they had oodles of fertile land, so they tended to have polygyny (which increases birth rates), vast numbers of slaves (20, 30, 50% of society), and a system by which slaves, particularly female (hence labourer-gestating) slaves, were incorporated into the family over time. The whole idea was to end up with as many labourers in your family as possible. Female slaves were expensive; male slaves were cheap. In China, on the other hand, they often had too many people. The idea was to gain and keep capital, mostly productive land, in your family, and if that involved people as well then that was too bad. Many landholding families avoiding having children entirely, and instead bought a single male slave to adopt, to inherit the land - if you go around having sex with your wife, who knows what might happen. There might be babies, and eventually disputes over inheritence. Much easier just to buy an heir. Male slaves were therefore expensive - an expense heightened by the artificial scarcity created by widespread castration (castrated boys didn't count as heirs - if slave-traders castrated nine of their ten boy slaves, the tenth boy slave would fetch far more due to rarity). Female slaves, on the other hand, were cheap, and collected as sex toys - because unlike in Africa, society ruled that the children of slaves were not family members and could not inherit. Of course, this difference also meant that in Africa, their 'open' slave societies necessitated constant warfare to acquire new slaves, as the old ones became family members; whereas in China, that was not necessary, as the children of slaves became slaves, and so on through the generations, as a self-contained and self-restocking pool.


But caution: the economics of things like birth rates take a long time to work themselves out. For instance, europe became massively overpopulated, and in response the late medaeival marriage pattern developed: women married later, had more children, and more of them remained spinsters, so the birth rate plummeted. The problem is, this FAILED to happen as Europe was becoming overpopulated, only started to kick in as Europe was depopulated by the Black Death, and then continued to lead to lower and lower birth rates for the next three hundred years despite the continent no longer being overpopulated at all. Birth rates then rose again, just in time for mechanisation and medicine to lower the demand for labour...

But the lag can itself be interesting. Why was the status of upper-class Victorian women so atrocious? Because culture demanded that women stay at home and have babies, at the same time that economics insisted that having babies was not very valuable...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by k1234567890y » 07 Jan 2019 00:13

elemtilas wrote:
04 Jan 2019 13:33
DesEsseintes wrote:
04 Jan 2019 12:12
3. Elves.

I may add to this. These are of course merely personal peeves.
Wait.

What's wrong with Elves?? I mean, sòmebody has to be the apex predator...
I think he is just tired of the standard medieval Europeanesque fantasy world and things that often appear in those worlds, at least if they are just the replica of the namesakes in other similar fantasy worlds. You know, in some aspects...the standard medieval Europeanesque fantasy world is one of the least creative things.

also @Salmoneus, thanks for replying, maybe I should take time reading your replies.
...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas » 07 Jan 2019 01:49

k1234567890y wrote:
07 Jan 2019 00:13
elemtilas wrote:
04 Jan 2019 13:33
DesEsseintes wrote:
04 Jan 2019 12:12
3. Elves.

I may add to this. These are of course merely personal peeves.
Wait.

What's wrong with Elves?? I mean, sòmebody has to be the apex predator...
I think he is just tired of the standard medieval Europeanesque fantasy world and things that often appear in those worlds, at least if they are just the replica of the namesakes in other similar fantasy worlds.
Oh, no doubt! I was just teasing! Especially because I've mentioned the Elves found in The World. Apex predators. Nasty amoral buggers. Kind of like this:

Image

For those with eyes to see...

For everyone else, the glamour gets in the way. And then they break you and leave you to die. And you love them for their glorious beauty...
You know, in some aspects...the standard medieval Europeanesque fantasy world is one of the least creative things.
When it's done poorly, I agree 100%. But that's also true of any kind of fantasy.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by LinguoFranco » 31 Jan 2019 17:10

I never cared for the Tolkien elf, but I did use Christmas elves as a basis for my conworlds. They have no real connection to Christmas eleven aside from being short and pointy-eared.

Most fantasy races are just humans with one or two differences. My pet peeve is how non-human races are monolithic when humans on earth, and maybe even in some fantasy worlds, have a variety of cultures. Shouldn’t the same apply to non-human races?

For some reason, I’ve never been able to get into high magic settings, or worlds where magic powers everything.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by Tristan Radicz » 31 Jan 2019 17:43

The weird thing with Tolkienesque races in fantasy is they're actually almost never "Tolkienesque", being rather "DnD-esque" instead; that is, the dwarves and elves in most generic high fantasy media are derived (intentionally or not) from the pop-culture image of the respective races as popularised by DnD, which in turn owes more to Legolas and Gimli in particular than it does to Tolkien's elves and dwarves as a whole.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by fruityloops » 31 Jan 2019 18:34

personally don't hate the dnd-esque races all that much. but i never used them in my conworlds as i find it more fun to make up my own or take inspiration from more obscure myths. all that matters is the execution and you're golden.

or just have humans who were the result of a caste system crafted by genetic engineering loving dragons

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas » 31 Jan 2019 19:39

LinguoFranco wrote:
31 Jan 2019 17:10
Most fantasy races are just humans with one or two differences. My pet peeve is how non-human races are monolithic when humans on earth, and maybe even in some fantasy worlds, have a variety of cultures. Shouldn’t the same apply to non-human races?
It certainly ought to! Unless there is a specific reason for them to be otherwise.

Some of this is undoubtedly due to a) Elves & Co. being little more than extras in most settings (where Men are the main race) and b) we don't get to see very many races in enough depth to really come to grips with cultural differences and lastly, c) most writers don't think enough about how non-humans might actually work. It's just easier for humans to be the stars and for everyone else to be window dressing.

But on the other hand, from the outside looking in, humans might appear to be as monolithic as we make Elves out to be...

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by eldin raigmore » 01 Feb 2019 00:00

I’m just starting a multi-“racial” fantasy conworld with four (so far) “races”, at least three of which are hominids (taxonomic family) or hominins (taxonomic “tribe”) or Homo (taxonomic genus).
Since the point of the conworld is to investigate inter”racial” relations, and “realistic”ish ecological-evolutionary physiological differences, and such, rather than to break tropes, I’m making my main “races” more or less fit the tropes, when there are tropes; just “rationalized” somewhat, to my lights, so as to strike me as more “realistic”.

My main race will be trope-“Dwarves”, rationalized somewhat by my lights to strike me as more “realistic”. They will live in mountains and caves, and valleys surrounded by mountains, and will be the “Mine People”. Their women will have facial hair, but the way I think makes more sense rather than the “trope” way.

The “Woods People” or “Forest People” will be trope-“Elves”. They won’t be the natural experts with archery and missile weapons, though; those will be the “Plains People”.

The “Plains People” and “Grasslands People” will be trope-“Men”. They’ll be the con-speaker-community for my Arpien conlang, which hasn’t had one up til now.

The one non-humanoid race will be MerCentaurs. Other people have done such creatures before, but mine aren’t inspired by any of them. They’ll be the Lake People and River People.

The Dwarves will be water-savers who process nitrogenous waste into uric acid, like kangaroo rats or birds.
“Men” will piss urea, like we do.
“Elves” will do one of those; haven’t decided which.
“MerCentaurs” will piss hippuric acid, like horses.

Dwarves are all abolitionists, or, at least, all supposed to be abolitionists.
Of course that means someone will have to be slave-owners.

For any two races X and Y, about 20% of race X will already hate all members of race Y without even meeting them. For any three races X and Y and Z, about 4% of race X will feel that way about both races Y and Z. And 0.8% of each race will feel that way about all three of the other races.

There’ll be situations in which bigotry just won’t work. Ocean-going vessels will be examples. Every vessel will need someone of every race. Depending on the technology of seafaring it uses, a given vessel might need just one crewman of a given race, or may need nearly half its crew to be that race.

It’ll turn out that in general relying on all-free crews will usually turn out better than relying on crews any big fraction of whom are slaves. But I think there’ll be times and places where/when arguments to the contrary will be persuasive to some people.

Aside from what’s already been mentioned, they’ll have different philosophies and customs regarding body adornment and modification. Also, sexual reproduction among the non-humanoid MerCentaurs will be different.

I think, for reasons given above, I might be forgiven for making my Dwarves and Elves and Men mostly fit the tropes.

——————————

Am I wrong? I imagine I could be!
Edit: Oh by the way: Dragons will exist, but they’ll all be artificial, made by Dwarves. Some will be intelligent.

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Re: How NOT to Conworld.

Post by elemtilas » 01 Feb 2019 00:17

eldin raigmore wrote:
01 Feb 2019 00:00
I’m just starting a multi-“racial” fantasy conworld with four (so far) “races”, at least three of which are hominids (taxonomic family) or hominins (taxonomic “tribe”) or Homo (taxonomic genus).
Since the point of the conworld is to investigate inter”racial” relations, and “realistic”ish ecological-evolutionary physiological differences, and such, rather than to break tropes, I’m making my main “races” more or less fit the tropes, when there are tropes; just “rationalized” somewhat, to my lights, so as to strike me as more “realistic”.

I think, for reasons given above, I might be forgiven for making my Dwarves and Elves and Men mostly fit the tropes.

——————————

Am I wrong? I imagine I could be!
Edit: Oh by the way: Dragons will exist, but they’ll all be artificial, made by Dwarves. Some will be intelligent.
Well, at least for my part, you've given a clear reason for their cultures to be monolithic (if indeed the cultures are). You've also given a good rationale for the races to be on trope: the exploration of inter racial tensions & relationships. You're just reducing the equation by an order of magnitude by making everyone (rather) closely related! Of course, this means you'll have to work a little harder to explore those relationships in a way that justifies such a world of hats...

You can't just say "oh, 20% of Dwarves hate Elves" and call it a day. You might just as well insert ordinary human ethnicities and say "oh, 20% of Chinese hate Nigerians" and you can explore the exact same interrelations without the trope-Elves and trope-Dwarves.

The trade-off you've chosen will I'm sure be of interest as you explore this world further!

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