Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Extinction in fantasy and SF

Here at Fantasy Faction is a post about extinction of species in SFF.

My initial reaction: Does this really happen that often?

After being reminded about ALL THE BOOKS where dragons, once common, have been reduced in number until just a few or no dragons remain, I’m like, Oh, right, I guess it does. From Tolkien on (the poor Ents!), extinction and imminent extinction is everywhere in fantasy.

This post goes beyond extinction to talk about natural or genocidal loss of human cultures, too. Which, come to think of it, is also EVERYWHERE in fantasy. You trip over the giant, impressive ruins of lost civilizations every time you turn around. As I suppose it is in the real world, too, sometimes with giant, impressive ruins included. Indus River civilization, anyone?

And then the post also points out how often Earth (and other worlds) get destroyed in SF. You know, in my space opera, I destroyed Earth in the backstory too. I didn’t realize this was kind of typical until a reader said basically, “Oh, Earth gets destroyed AGAIN, yawn.”

Anyway. Watching a species slowly die out is not my favorite thing in fantasy, far less a genocidal campaign like we see in The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I have to admit that the giant ruins of long-lost civilizations are wonderful for adding a sense of deeper history to a fantasy world.

And sometimes you just have to destroy Earth in the backstory to have your plot work out in the present day…

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4 Comments Extinction in fantasy and SF

  1. Mike S.

    You know, in my space opera, I destroyed Earth in the backstory too. I didn’t realize this was kind of typical until a reader said basically, “Oh, Earth gets destroyed AGAIN, yawn.”

    I find I’m increasingly having the opposite response: the Earth being destroyed bothers me much more than it used to. Probably because I now identify more with the geocide victims than the intrepid survivor types who found the new society. :-)

    (More or less the same reason I’m bugged by the city-toppling finales of Star Trek Into Darkness and Man if Steel. I may be watching the fearless heroes, but I’m more likely to be “person in building in process of being pulverized”.)

  2. Rachel

    I actually am not keen on destroying Earth myself. I think of all the kinkajous and narwhals and quetzels and tamarins and and and … then a bit after that I start to think about people and artwork and everything.

    And yet what can I say? It’s important to the eventual plot that Earth was destroyed a couple hundred years ago. Worse yet, the uut have obviously been destroying living worlds all over the place. Very grim.

  3. Allan

    Steven Erikson’s books handled the cultural turnover rather well. I understand his day job is as an anthropologist, so that’s probably related. He has ascendant cultures, descending cultures, ancient ruins, and everything in between, and I like the fact that they are usually in conflict without there being a clear “good” culture. They’re all different, and interesting, and some of them are going to get wiped out…

  4. Rachel

    I keep meaning to read more by Erikson. I’ve only read one of his and I did like it. He’s an author that’s fallen into the So Many Books pile for me. Someday…

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