We’re welcoming debut author Rhiannon Held today. Rhiannon’s debut, SILVER (available now from Tor Books) explores werewolves in an enchanting new way. Julia reviewed SILVER earlier this month calling it, “Haunting and romantic, fans of The Wolves of Mercy Falls will find familiar rhythms of changing perspectives and “realistic werewolves” with less poetry and an added dangerous, adult tone.”
Why Rule the (human) World
When I started doing the world-building for the werewolves in my novel, I obviously had to consider how they interacted with humans. Lots of urban fantasy creatures in other books are involved in secret conspiracies that run the human world, but I realized fairly quickly that a secret conspiracy didn’t make sense for my werewolves. It seems like sometimes people take for granted the fact that urban fantasy creatures will want power over humans. But what’s in it for the creatures? From the humans’ point of view, it makes perfect sense. We’re awesome! We always want power over each other. But when you start doing your own world-building, you might want to think about it more carefully from the creatures’ perspective.
After all, humans are messy, complicated, and dangerous. It’s hard enough to get one of us to do something, and then you get a large group and the collective intelligence goes down and they start feeding off each other, and it’s damn near impossible. And we’re so damn inquisitive, too! Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead, so if your creatures bring a few human minions in on their vast shadowy conspiracy, suddenly people are all over them, poking around for information.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your creatures secretly ruling humans, you just have to work out some good reasons for them to go to the trouble. Like the need for tasty snacks! If your creatures want a steady food source, it’s a pretty good idea to keep it controlled somehow so it doesn’t stampede off or trample them to death. The need to survive would definitely give your creatures a little motivation for wading into human political shenanigans.
Your creatures could also enjoy using humans as entertainment. After all, we certainly flail about in a most interesting manner when tricked, hunted, seduced, or otherwise poked by a bored creature looking for a reaction. Boredom perhaps isn’t quite as pressing a problem as starvation, but it still seems like a powerful enough motivation to deal with humans, especially when long lifespans come into play. As a bonus, influencing humans so they don’t notice something’s wrong after your creature’s latest play session is entertainment in and of itself.
The need for power over humans in the two scenarios above also has a lot to do with damage control, you’ll notice. If your creatures are eating or playing with humans, shadowy power helps keep them safe by giving them the means to cover up anything that would draw negative attention to them. A good source of cover-ups is also useful even for a species that doesn’t care much about humans, if they’re busy fighting amongst themselves. Humans get antsy when they find random inexplicable property damage and lots of bodies lying around, especially if they’re not human bodies.
So say that your species isn’t particularly predatory, sadistic, tricksy, or violent. In that case, it might make much more sense for them to skip the conspiracy. It seems pretty silly to bother with power over humans for power’s sake if you identify as other than human. Things like vampires are different, of course—if they were once human, their motivations remain. But if your creatures are demons, kitsune, fae, or whatever else that isn’t human and never was, why not have them make enough money to buy some privacy, and settle in with their own kind?
Here’s where the creatures’ perspective comes in: humans always want power over each other, but do we want power over chimpanzees? We unfortunately hunt them, use them for entertainment, and study them extensively, but have you heard of someone bribing a chimp in the wild with fruit to take his tribe and attack one tribe instead of another? Not so much. Evil creatures are fond of speechifying about how they view humans as insects, but I never really believed that. I’ve never managed to care about an ant to the degree that I’d rant at it about how it’s an insect to me. Chimps, in whom we can recognize our intelligence and many of our emotions, seem a much better comparison.
In the case of my own novel, my werewolves are born, not turned, so they fall into the never-human category, even though werewolves don’t always. I decided that they’d be disinterested in human affairs, except for things like the fact that if they want humans to leave them alone, it helps to pay their taxes. And enroll their kids in some kind of school. And pay their vehicle license fees. And buy themselves literal dog tags. Which leaves them pretty entangled in human society, but humans are pretty entangling. I figured the difference is that they’re never looking for power: humans can fight themselves, and kill themselves, and screw up the planet, and my werewolves are only looking to keep themselves safe as best they can.
So if you want to make some shadowy puppetmasters, there are plenty of excellent motivations for them, you just have to figure out which you want to use. Or if conspiracies aren’t your style, there are plenty of reasons for your creatures to be happy keeping to themselves!
Rhiannon Held was born in Minnesota but moved to the Pacific Northwest young enough that she imprinted there instead. She got her MA in archaeology from Washington State University, and her current day job is as a professional archaeologist. Unfortunately, given that it’s real rather than fictional archaeology, fedoras, bullwhips, aliens, and dinosaurs are in short supply. Most of her work is done on the computer, using databases to organize data, and graphics programs to illustrate it. Her novel Silver, the first in an urban fantasy series from Tor, comes out out June 5, 2012.
SILVER by Rhiannon Held
Available now from Tor
Andrew Dare is a werewolf. He’s the enforcer for the Roanoke pack, and responsible for capturing or killing any Were intruders in Roanoke’s territory. But the lone Were he’s tracking doesn’t smell or act like anyone he’s ever encountered. And when he catches her, it doesn’t get any better. She’s beautiful, she’s crazy, and someone has tortured her by injecting silver into her veins. She says her name is Silver, and that she’s lost her wild self and can’t shift any more.
The packs in North America have a live-and-let-live attitude, and try not to overlap with each other. But Silver represents a terrible threat to every Were on the continent.
Andrew and Silver will join forces to track down this menace while discovering their own power and their passion for each other.
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