Since I was a young boy, first exposed to the works of Tolkein and other high fantasy authors, I found myself confronted by a philosophical conundrum. I wondered at the motivations of Sauron, and any personal incarnation of evil ever created. I supposed I wondered about the purposes behind Ultimate Evil, and why certain creatures would set themselves up as the enemy of all that is Just and Good.
Now, this might seem a strange and remarkable question for a young child to ask, and it's true that I didn't find myself asking it for a few years after first reading The Lord of the Rings, but I wasn't yet out of elementary school, and beginning my long love affair with writing, when I began contemplating this question. As I explored various churches and their variations of the same basic set of beliefs, I delved deep into the philosophical underpinnings of the eternal battle between Good and Evil. As I grew older, I started asking even more complicated questions about the nature of all of this.
Now I understand the Biblical viewpoint, so much that it's actually comprehensible at all. Lucifer was the greatest of God's angels and, out of pride and arrogance, led an attempted revolution in heaven. Setting aside why such a being would even think it had a chance against a deity described as all-knowing and all-powerful, I'm still left wondering why any being would dedicate itself to being the manifestation of death, destruction, and entropy. From my experience, the joy of destruction for destruction's sake is only present in those who never seem to get past the mentality of an 11 year old boy.
I, of course, didn't just read fantasy as a child. I read just about everything I could get my hands on, from fantasy to science fiction to classic literature to adventure fiction to mysteries and westerns. High Fantasy is a pretty singular form of literature, from that perspective, the only one really geared to the direct conflict between Ultimate Evil and the mortals given to serving what might be seen as Ultimate Good. And the list of those novels which uses this as a theme is extensive, and growing all the time. But few books really take the time to examine the nature of Ultimate Evil to my satisfaction, and thus I find myself growing increasingly bored with the concept.
Most villains of any kind don't necessarily want to think of themselves as the villains. It is the nature of sentient beings to justify their actions, no matter how foul, as somehow 'good' within the framework of their personal and cultural mores. The notion of an incredibly powerful being that glories in being evil simply rings false.
That is not to say that it hasn't been done particularly well a time or two. One of my favorite series is a Young Adult work known collectively as the "Young Wizards" series by noted author Diane Duane. I happen to consider it among the best of all works of High Fantasy, though there are those who would probably disagree with me. Thankfully, tastes in literature, like tastes in music, vary widely from individual to individual and it might actually be the case that there is no ultimate authority in either.
In this particular universe, the Lone Power is the being that created Entropy, and spends an awful lot of time trying to sell death to the residents of this and other universes. It is proud of its creation, which is among the most unique of all of those offered by all of its brethren, the other Powers. I can grasp the motivations of this one, to a limited extent, and have to cheer when it is hailed in person by various wizards with their "Greetings and defiance" mantra, and celebrate internally when it suffers setbacks or falls upon a path to possible redemption.
But the Lone Power believes that its contribution has value, and thus goes to great lengths to defend it, even though it has long since wearied of the battle.
In my work, all of the evils described are little evils. There is no great, over-shadowing evil. Not even the mighty Cen Empire, the alien civilization that survives and thrives by consuming other civilizations, and other sentient beings, is in any way an Ultimate Evil. It's just one of many evils, more powerful than most.
Thus, what I write is classified as Low Fantasy. The characters, heroes and villains, exist within a vast spectrum between good and evil, perhaps so vast that neither term really applies. There are those heroes who are as ruthless as any villain in their own way, who show those they perceive as evil no particular mercy or compassion. Characters like Jasmine Tashae, who looks upon any who would threaten innocents as a complete waste of good oxygen and better off dead. And is quite willing to see to that little problem with no hesitation. Or her partner Nyx Deathweb, whose personal pet peeve is abuse of authority. She too is quite willing to kill for the cause.
It is not the so much any philosophy that dictates their position on the spectrum of good and evil, but what they do based on that philosophy. The immortal Athena, who is initially introduced in my first novel, "Loki's Sin," begins as a somewhat hesitant, uninvolved character, becomes the Head of an Interworld agency devoted to enforcing its own non-negotiable strictures concerning technology on worlds not ready for said technology. She becomes a strict, uncompromising crusader for law and order. And, from her point of view, Good. But she is also in many ways a nemesis for some of the other characters, who find her authoritarian ways to be quite annoying. She is not a villain, per se, but she is often portrayed as something of an antagonist.
My fantasy often bends as many unwritten rules of fiction as it bends the various genres. It encompasses elements of science fiction and fantasy, and certain aspects of action and adventure fiction too. Occasionally it delves into matters of philosophy, and of scientific theory, and expounds on the various moral and ethical points of view espoused by some of the main characters. There are few places I'm unwilling to tread, for good or ill.
I also explore the concept of redemption in several different ways. That perhaps no one is so far gone that they cannot turn away from destruction to embrace some other way of being. I do so in my first novel with the creature Kali, and later on with the notorious dark immortal Hades.
Thus, I find that I can't write High Fantasy. I cannot in fact come to terms with the very concept of Ultimate Evil. Or Ultimate Good, for that matter. All sentient beings are, in my eyes, merely representatives of their own personal battle between good and evil, and that's just the way it shakes out.
But I can live with that.