Musing: White and Black Morality and the joy of Grey.

Bunny Death Star

Under new management.

You see the term “Black and White Morality” a lot in fantasy.   Especially High Fantasy.   There are forces for good and forces for evil painted clear across two factions.   This isn’t a bad concept, just a predictable one.   There’s something about two forces clashing.   It breathes life into a conflict.   Not that good army versus evil army is the only way.  Often good is a piddle force against an unstoppable empire.   Sometimes evil is a tiny inconsequential threat that develops into a severe one.

The question I tend to ask in this situation…  is what defines someone as evil?  Let’s talk about Star Wars.   Sure the rebels were fighting for galactic freedom and such… but why exactly were they the designated good guys?   Is it because they got the ‘good’ stamp of approval from the Jedi?

Try to imagine the mythos of Star Wars if the Sith had sided with the Rebellion and the Jedi sat at the core of the Benevolent Galactic Empire.  Jedi teachings are somewhat oppressive.   If you look at it from a Jedi and Sith standpoint the Jedi are all about suppressing your emotions and being a calm calculating machine of a person.   From a writing standpoint I think it would be interesting to write the Sith as protagonists.   Ones that embrace freedoms.  Then again I haven’t read too many star wars novels.   It might very well exist.   If it does point me to it.   I’d love to read it.

Things look so much better in grey.  When both sides have tangible reasons to accomplish their goals and there is a clear split between rational results that is when I get into a story.   I like sing the designated protagonists fail, suffer losses, and find out that their reasons are wrong.  Growth and adjustment is amazing character development tools.

My recent published short story Wind and Sky, I try to embrace that.   The Nation of the Wind is a rough around the edges gritty industrial giant.  They live in harsh climates of the desert, stifling hot days and freezing cold nights.   The Kingdom of Sky by contrast use high technology and live in a near perfect biome that stays temperate and comfortable at all hours.

Hopefully you’ve read enough fiction to know utopias are rarely ever perfect.   Where there is abundant peace, there usually exists crippling oppression.  A nation of freedoms must struggle with violence and disorder.    This is the very reason why balance is often so important.

This duality is something I am working hard to capture in Dimanagul.   Ideally I’d love to have people think the antagonists are as right as the protagonists.   Their approach and execution being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is something that is in the eyes of the beholder.  Just how I like it.

2 thoughts on “Musing: White and Black Morality and the joy of Grey.

  1. Oh man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the original Star Wars trilogy — and even then, only about one or two times (especially Return of the Jedi). Think I need to change that some time soon.

    But back on topic. I’ll admit that sometimes — sometimes, not always — I don’t mind a good ol’ black and white story. Good guys versus bad guys, heroes versus villains…there’s a certain simplicity and purity to stories like that. And as long as the story’s competent, I’m not likely to complain.

    Buuuuuuuuut I can definitely see the appeal of adding in shades of gray. Like you said, it adds depth and possibilities, and it can set the stage for some surprising twists. Lots of fancy tricks to be had, for sure.

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