Today I have a new person to introduce you to. Ami Mercury recently followed me on Twitter and when I put out a call for potential Orctober guest posts, she answered. Turns out she’s making a webcomic and wanted to share her love for orcs. And that is what Orctober is all about. So here’s Ami.
Orcs are, without a doubt, my favorite fantasy race. I loved the Warcraft universe’s shamanistic, Native American-inspired inspired take on them, and had a blast playing them in my college DnD games. Their big, brutish nature makes them strangely lovable despite their sometimes violent behavior.
In general, I’ve always been attracted to the tragic monster trope in pop culture. From Erik in the Phantom of the Opera, to Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Edward Scissorhands, even King Kong or The Creature from the Black Lagoon, there’s something very appealing about a character who has been labeled a “monster” simply because society refuses to see him as anything else. I feel that orcs exemplify this sentiment, as they are almost always the “villain” in fantasy stories. And naturally villains are typically doomed to some type of dramatic demise.
But what really makes a “villain?” Taken at face value, many of the characters I listed above are defined as the villains of their respective stories, but on closer examination their behavior seems less and less antagonistic and more desperate. Was the Phantom of the Opera really a menace? Or was he just a deformed, awkward genius whose appearance doomed him to a life of loneliness? Was King Kong a violent beast? Or was he just a frightened animal with a thing for blondes? Are orcs really mindless, blood thirsty creatures? Or, depending on the universe they’re in, are they being manipulated by a force more powerful than them? Or maybe they just have customs and beliefs that differ from humans? It would seem that many villains are equally the victims of society’s lack of understanding.
So when I sat down to write Orc Girl, I had several goals in mind. Number 1: I wanted to create a story that portrayed orcs in a more favorable light. Number 2: I wanted a female protagonist who was flawed, multi-faceted and relatable. Women are often portrayed as either victim or villain in most stories. I wanted a character who was realistically both. And Number 3: I wanted it to be a romance. That part is more personal indulgence than anything else. I did say that I’ve always been attracted to the tragic monster trope. Just once I’d like to the see the “monster” get the girl, with the end result not about him becoming human, or in her looking past his exterior to find the beauty within, but rather how the “beauty” learns to look past her own flaws and short comings, through the love of the “beast.”
Jenny Harper, my protagonist, is dealing with the remaining guilt of some mistakes in her recent past. The story begins in the modern world as we know it. Jenny has been experiencing “episodes” that she believes to be hallucinations, until she finds herself transported to another world, similar to the ones in her favorite fantasy stories. There, she is kidnapped by mercenaries only to be “rescued,” or so she thinks by the leader and king of the orcs, Vargan. Vargan gives her a choice: he can free her and let her wander the forest of a foreign land alone, or he can offer her shelter and protection in exchange for one thing… she must surrender her freedom as his human pet!
Now of course this begs the question… Why orcs, specifically? If I wanted a fantasy romance, or an adventure story about a young woman learning to accept herself, there are plenty of other races to choose from. I suppose I could have chosen about any race really, but I felt that orcs would serve as the analog for the statement I wished to make in this piece. That good and evil sometimes depends on who is writing the story.
Jenny’s time spent with the orcs, specifically with Vargan, helps her learn that even good people do bad things. Vargan, for example, has a hard time reconciling many of the mistakes he made while at war and with his own family. He blames himself for things that he really had no control over. The story is about coming to terms with one’s transgressions. We all make mistakes and sometimes we’re just going to be the villain in someone’s narratives no matter what we do. However, if we stick to our own sense of honor and integrity we can at least be the heroes of our own existence.