Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#1
Something I aways found odd was having humans of different races (white, asian, hispanic, etc.) in a fantasy world without any form of justification, even more so if it's a world with other fantasy races like elves and dwarfs.

You see, humans became what we are through evolution and adapting to our environment. However, rarely in fantasy setting is something like this brought up. I remember as a kid, I read a story where all the humans were from one continent, yet they somehow had more diversity in that one land mass then the entirety of Earth.

I know it may seem like I'm just overthinking this topic, which I am, but it's something that always takes me out of a story when it comes up.

So what are everyone's thoughts?

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#2
I like seeing diversity in stories. I love seeing a vibrant array of humans, orcs, elves etc. 

If the story can explain in in the story (like the landmass is HUGE with a very wide range of climates) then fine! Cool! If not, I'll probably just accept it as is because yay diversity. It's nice not to see everyone being the same white-washed Christian based humanity that plagues media and bonus, it makes it easier to self-insert as showing the diversity means it doesn't relegate (X) type of person to headcanon in 'oh, they have to be there in the shadows, on an island we never visit. 

I'll also accept if the author decides to stick to a single culture, skintone, look, etc. As some stories call for that. 

All in all, I just want a good story. 

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#3
I mean... I've never read a one continent fantasy where the entire land mass is uniform.
As you said, humans evolved to have different characteristics based on their environments. I think it makes less sense in such a story to have no human diversity.

Also, I don't know why you would want to read a story like that, to be honest. In my own opinion, a story where the humans are all the same is a bit of a cop out.
I think the real Challenge would be to justify *not* including different human races. Race is an idea integral to the lives of, honestly, the majority of people living on earth today. And I think having alien races is great when we can contrast their cultures and ideas to ours. Reducing every species to a single race would only give a one dimensional cast to the world building, I think.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#4

Lord Wrote: Something I aways found odd was having humans of different races (white, asian, hispanic, etc.) in a fantasy world without any form of justification, even more so if it's a world with other fantasy races like elves and dwarfs.

You see, humans became what we are through evolution and adapting to our environment. However, rarely in fantasy setting is something like this brought up. I remember as a kid, I read a story where all the humans were from one continent, yet they somehow had more diversity in that one land mass then the entirety of Earth.

I know it may seem like I'm just overthinking this topic, which I am, but it's something that always takes me out of a story when it comes up.

So what are everyone's thoughts?

I'm not sure what you mean.


First off, the whole point of humans is that our intelligence allows us to adapt faster than evolution. If someone from a race of humans who evolved in a warm climate moved to a cold climate, they wouldn't need to wait around for evolution to do the work of making them more suited to the cold climate. They could just wear more layers of clothing. 

Second, a continent is pretty damn big. It isn't that out of the question that there'd be a wide variety of climes and races or ethnicities of humans that adapted to them. 

That being said, there are some places you could probably expect more diversity than others, particular with medieval-era technology. If a town lies along a major trade route, for example. Or if we're talking about the imperial capitol of a sprawling empire. You could probably expect more racial and ethnic diversity in these locations than in a more isolated village. 

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#5
I think it’s natural to have different ethnicities and races. I mean, going back to teh continent conversation. It takes billions of years for evolutionary change to happen. So different groups of humans migrate to different continents and are separated. Let’s say a certain group of humans A in this content have a certain gene A (that’s recessive), while a certain group of humans B in another continent have gene B. Because they procreate within that group, gene A for blonde hair, white skin let’s say will be more commonly found in that continent and it will become. Because humans B have gene B for let’s say dark hair, darker skin, they will be more commonly found in continent B.

I know its a terribly explanation and slightly ramble-y but if you have a large group of people in one continent and a large group of people in a different continent, procreation within that group will lead to more of certain genes being ‘visible’/ ‘dominant’ —not in the dominant gene sense entirely— in that group leading to these separate races/ethnicities

Diversity is normal and not something to be like huh ??? Like without genetic diversity, all species would be f*cked.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#7

readerbreathe Wrote: I know its a terribly explanation and slightly ramble-y but if you have a large group of people in one continent and a large group of people in a different continent, procreation within that group will lead to more of certain genes being ‘visible’/ ‘dominant’ —not in the dominant gene sense entirely— in that group leading to these separate races/ethnicities

I suppose that makes sense. I guess I was simply looking at it from an evolutionary view point where changes take a long time that I forgot about the smaller changes that happen as well.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#8
Evolution caused different types of modern human for a reason. It's not a up in my head to explain the concept as similar in a fantasy world. The only part that starts getting a bit...anti-immersion is when the author breaks that concept too with no explinations. It's part of world building that one should consider if they want such things to be in too. Not saying you need to follow exact lines on a chart of evolution, but giving some thought to why a group would evolve a certain physical trait is a really good touch.

Or literally having a god go "I like red heads man, they are hot, your people are now all red heads" is also a way to do it.
DrakanGlasses  and that god would be right

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#10
Humans are incredibly diverse. I mean, just look at the different tribes in north America before colonization!
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And that's not even all of them, just an incomplete picture. Or if we want to talk about a smaller area. The Roman Empire contained people from north Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. They traded regularly with people even further away, with Roman coins  even ending up in Japan! So in that single empire we would see people with vastly different skin tones.

Trade and travel can be vastly improved in some fantasy worlds as well, from magic teleportation, to riding griffons, or wind magic powered sailboats. The moment trade or transport becomes even slightly easier human travel and thus diversity would grow even further. 

Also, it's important to keep in mind that race is entirely made up, and only recently at that. There is no evolutionary differences between humans of different skin colors. So no one from the Middle ages would think of themselves as "white" or "black" or whatever. Even London from its very beginning was  Diverse

Also, like... It's fantasy? Why get hung up on the existence of diverse characters when there's literally magic and monsters and such. It would be far harder to create a believable worlds without dozens upon dozens of cultures, ethnicities, languages and religions than one where all the humans were one bizarrely homogenous group. Again, there are something like 7,100 languages and 4,300 religions in the world today. 2,000 of those languages are African, so just one continent.

That's not to say that every fantasy world needs to flesh out each of the dozens of cultures and what not, just that if a character are traveling long distances they better be there, even if just in passing, or if they live in/visit any kind of city.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#11
It's fiction. Whatevs. 

What usually does bother me a little is that the distinction between human/elf/dwarf/whatever fantasy race are so clear. Logically speaking it would be very strange for these populations to not have significant overlap, if they're genetically compatible and magic isn't somehow messing around with mix-race kids. Like, at some point there should be entire ethnicities different from their parent cultures. 

Onto the topic of diversity in humans tho: I don't think its strange. Here in northern Scandinavia we have a lot of the blonde and blue eyed people most foreigners think of. But there's a not insignificant amount of people with uralic ancestry who have black hair, black eyes, and relatively dark skin. These two complexions have both been here for a very long time and plenty of people have shades of hair in between, and yet neither has gone extinct yet. Apparently there's something similar off in Japan, where I've heard there's an ethnic minority of white people who don't share any significant ancestry with Europeans, it just developed as a trait independently. And there's that one population of black-skinned people with blue eyes and blond hair. Stuff like that happens, too. Genetics be weird.

I do think it's a missed opportunity for MORE diversity, though. No reason to just have any old boring earth humans. My interest is piqued immediately if I come across humans with blue skin or something, still referred to as human, just with a different skin tone from what one might encounter here because evolution favored that for some reason. Or some population of leucistic people, or an ethnicity where most people have vitiligo. Something that wouldn't be the norm on Earth, but is clearly a thing in that fantasy world. 

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#12

Sereminar Wrote: Also, it's important to keep in mind that race is entirely made up, and only recently at that. There is no evolutionary differences between humans of different skin colors. So no one from the Middle ages would think of themselves as "white" or "black" or whatever. Even London from its very beginning was  Diverse



I'm not sure I buy that. They might not have thought in modern racial terms like black and white, or even in terms of 'race' in the modern sense, but I don't believe that diverse people in the middle ages wouldn't think of themselves as biologically distinct from one another. Indeed, many of the ancient and middle-age empires explicitly allowed a degree of autonomy on an ethnic basis (presumably because too heavy an imperial hand would inflame ethnic tensions.) Also, there are obvious evolutionary differences, and they aren't even just skin-deep. Race can have an impact on your risks for different illnesses, for example. The question is not whether evolutionary differences between humans exist, it's whether "race" is a useful concept for delineating those differences (which, as it tends to be a very, very broad category, it's likely not - too much in-group variability makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the differences between the racial groups), whether those differences have confounding factors, and whether those differences *matter* in terms of how you treat people (it shouldn't.)

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#13


Tribes are different from the concept of race and diversity in itself. Many tribes can be of the same culture and race, but still be different groups. Diversity in general is a word with many meanings depending on the person using it and context. In this situation, I believe we are talking diversity "race." Race being defined as the clear, physical differences between groups of people.

Race as a concept is not really claiming them to be different enough to be scientifically a different race, but the notion of "they do not look like us" has always been a thing. So having defined it as thus, it is how I'm using it here.

In reality, groups of peoples will develop different genetic traits to adapt to their locations over long periods of time like any other living creature. Skin color being the most notable as melanin amounts developed in people in areas of greater amounts of sunlight to block said light and prevent harm. Peoples who've lived areas of cold will slowly as time passes develop a tendency for more hair growth across the body.

These are just basic biological realities and these differences don't really impact humanity on any meaningful way outside of  those physical differences. But it's still a reality that taking note of can enhance the story. You don't need to go all in, you just need enough to help craft the illusion of a living world. Building a believable world to get immersed in is the entire point of world building, after all.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#14

Sereminar Wrote: Also, it's important to keep in mind that race is entirely made up, and only recently at that. There is no evolutionary differences between humans of different skin colors.

Sorry, but that's wrong. You are underestimating just how tribalistic humans are, but that's a discussion for another time.


Humans with Lighter skin absorbs a lot more UVB light that it needs to produce vitamin D.
Humans with darker skin helps to keep them safe from harsh sunlight.
Though in modern day this is largely irreverent.


Sereminar Wrote: Also, like... It's fantasy? Why get hung up on the existence of diverse characters when there's literally magic and monsters and such.

Because I like the story I'm reading to make logical sense. For example, if the story takes place on a ice world with viking like humans, the sudden appears of a black guy is going to feel kind of jarring. It's one thing to have an in universe reason for this, it's another to simple have a token black guy.

That being said, I do agree with you that not every fantasy world needs to flesh out it's culture and write whole chapters about it. But it should be something the author keeps in mind.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#15

Lord Wrote:
Quote: and such.

Because I like the story I'm reading to make logical sense. For example, if the story takes place on a ice world with viking like humans, the sudden appears of a black guy is going to feel kind of jarring. It's one thing to have an in universe reason for this, it's another to simple have a token black guy.



How often do you see something like this, really? Idk... Feels like you're making a mountain out of a molehill...

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#16

Lord Wrote:
Sereminar Wrote: Also, it's important to keep in mind that race is entirely made up, and only recently at that. There is no evolutionary differences between humans of different skin colors.

Sorry, but that's wrong. You are underestimating just how tribalistic humans are, but that's a discussion for another time.


Humans with Lighter skin absorbs a lot more UVB light that it needs to produce vitamin D.
Humans with darker skin helps to keep them safe from harsh sunlight.
Though in modern day this is largely irreverent.


Sereminar Wrote: Also, like... It's fantasy? Why get hung up on the existence of diverse characters when there's literally magic and monsters and such.

Because I like the story I'm reading to make logical sense. For example, if the story takes place on a ice world with viking like humans, the sudden appears of a black guy is going to feel kind of jarring. It's one thing to have an in universe reason for this, it's another to simple have a token black guy.

That being said, I do agree with you that not every fantasy world needs to flesh out it's culture and write whole chapters about it. But it should be something the author keeps in mind.



I think older generations, particularly in the US, are kind of touchy when it comes to the subject of race, because they grew up in a time when a fight for racial justice was a big focus of much of their generation. One of the "useful myths", or "noble lies", that they came up with to help further their cause was the idea that differences between different groups of people, even simple physical ones, did not exist. It sticks around now even today, but I think the younger generations are more comfortable with the idea that you don't have to say that everyone is exactly the same to treat people properly. 

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#17

RenamedUser8903457 Wrote:
Lord Wrote:
Quote: and such.

Because I like the story I'm reading to make logical sense. For example, if the story takes place on a ice world with viking like humans, the sudden appears of a black guy is going to feel kind of jarring. It's one thing to have an in universe reason for this, it's another to simple have a token black guy.



How often do you see something like this, really? Idk... Feels like you're making a mountain out of a molehill...



This is more just discussing the concept and giving examples then really "making something out of it." Explanations for one's statements are useful for understanding. Two conflicting thoughts have met and so it's being hashed out by the differing sides.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#19
In my fantasy worlds I like having diversity in humans because one of the neat aspect of humans as while we can pretty us vs them, we also have some great moment once we work together. I like to reflect those moments in my own fiction. Also different features can be something extra to add to the various cultures as rarely are humans unified even in the face of other fantasy races.

Re: How do you feel about having different human races in a fantasy setting

#20

CloverCloverClover Wrote: I think older generations, particularly in the US, are kind of touchy when it comes to the subject of race, because they grew up in a time when a fight for racial justice was a big focus of much of their generation. One of the "useful myths", or "noble lies", that they came up with to help further their cause was the idea that differences between different groups of people, even simple physical ones, did not exist. It sticks around now even today, but I think the younger generations are more comfortable with the idea that you don't have to say that everyone is exactly the same to treat people properly.

I'm not saying that skin color differences don't exist, I'm saying that Race is not genetic from the article:



Quote:Genetic methods do not support the classification of humans into discrete races, [and] racial assumptions are not good biological guideposts. Races are not genetically homogenous and lack clear-cut genetic boundaries. And because of this, using race as a proxy to make clinical predictions is about probability.

 Race absolutely exists as a social construct, I mean, there's a reason European colonizers fought  so hard to create it. From the article:


Quote:Race is a human-invented, shorthand term used to describe and categorize people into various social groups based on characteristics like skin color, physical features, and genetic heredity. Race, while not a valid biological concept, is a real social construction that gives or denies benefits and privileges. American society developed the notion of race early in its formation to justify its new economic system of capitalism, which depended on the institution of forced labor, especially the enslavement of African peoples.



So yah. Race exists solely as a social construct, it didn't exist before the 1400s. Discrimination based on like, xenophobia and ethnicity, and religion and culture and everything else totally existed, for sure. But not racism.

Lord Wrote: For example, if the story takes place on a ice world with viking like humans, the sudden appears of a black guy is going to feel kind of jarring. It's one thing to have an in universe reason for this, it's another to simple have a token black guy.



If people lived on an ice world then they would display similar skin color variations as on earth, with darker skin closer to the equator and lighter skin closer to the poles. The reason why the world is covered by ice matters a lot, is the planet further from the sun, it is it just going through an ice age, or did some terrible magic happen which froze the oceans, or something else entirely. Again, if the cause isn't known than it can be perfectly reasonable for black people to exist.

Heck, could be that the atmosphere is just worse at filtering out uv radiation, which wouldn't be known by the Vikings and thus they couldn't tell you. Is that bad storytelling or the limitations of a creating a different setting? Wouldn't it be far more jarring for such highly specific world building details to be discussed, than to just roll with it?

It would be vastly more difficult to explain the existence of elves or whatever than it would be to explain basic differences in skin tones. And if you can hand wave away one, you can hand wave away the other. I don't think I've ever read a fantasy story where they went in depth explaining how the heck elves evolved alongside humans, except the usual "gods" explanation. And if the answer is "gods" than maybe the god is black and created them in its image?