This week, we’re going to try separating out the Hentaiculture and commentary, both to make it easier to respond to one or the other, and to allow people to form an opinion of the Hentaiculture on its own before being told what it was “supposed” to be doing. This is about yesterday’s Hentaiculture post, The Dark Elves of Nahui-Citli.
This entire hentaiculture was built up around a single scene image/idea: A mother impregnates her daughter, with a child that daughter will eventually impregnate, with… etc, etc, in an endless cycle. For this reason, all of them have to be futanari. Now, I personally love futanari, and would be happy replacing all the men in every hentaiculture with them, but I know not many share this opinion, so I am already on the back foot: most people prefer their fantasy realms with men and women, and I do like making things that can appeal to people who don’t share all of my interests. So, I decide to use some strategic ambiguity so that, depending on what you are looking for, you can interpret this society as an endless self-perpetuating cycle of psychologically scarring abuse, as well as the bizarre-but-happy beautiful cycle of renewal and rebirth I originally envisioned. If you’re reading charitably, you should see whatever you prefer most, and if you are reading uncharitably, nothing would have salvaged your opinion anyway. Images that are different depending on what angle you see them from are made with “lenticular printing”, and “lenticular” will be a good way to think of what I am trying to do with their morality and tone.
Dark Elves will be perfect for this morally-lenticular society, because there’s equal associations of them just being Neutral Evil dominators and bouncy hentai sluts, someone can see hints of what they want to see. Also, I can explain how a cultural norm wherein all children produce at least one baby hasn’t resulted in complete overpopulation: as Elves live a very long time, their gestation period is a very long time, too, so making babies as fast as they can is not all that fast. I also need a handwave for why incest hasn’t imploded their gene pool, so I say, well, immortals have funny DNA stuff anyway don’t worry about it.
Since, at least in my mind, a good deal of the fun of Dark Elves is their sense of control and composure, and that has them highly associated with bondage and domination anyway, I decide almost immediately there is a bondage and slavery element in this cycle. Now, slavery, especially the incestuous sort, comes across as evil way more easily than as positive, and it is hard to load it positively enough to make it seem okay to people who want it to be okay, while still being fucked up and abusive for those who want it to be fucked up and abusive.
So, I decide, I have to use their physiology and situation to justify it. By framing it as the inevitable result of their physical and cultural evolution, they can credibly say “Hey, we weren’t *trying* to be weird, we just operate differently from other species, and things that would hurt you are very positive for us.” But you can also, if you choose, read it as either rationalization, or cruel fate of biology inflicting terrible trauma, especially if it is phrased as “inevitable”. The long gestation period helps justify the bondage-slavery part easily: pregnant people are more vulnerable and weaker and must be taken care of, Dark Elves are pregnant for a very long time, they need a long-term dependence and custodial situation that is separate from the normal form of childhood, as pregnancy comes after it. To justify the incest and dominance, I say that they need a very large and very tight family structure to discourage betrayal. Dark Elves, at least the evil D&D sort, are usually portrayed as being scheming and traitorous, so I acknowledge this as being part of their old history, that they have now moved away from by aligning their societal traditions to prevent it. Hopefully, this will be another thing allowing the lenticular interpretations, because it can either be “remnants of an evil society” or “yeah, we used to be evil, but we’re all right now.”
It also helps to justify why they aren’t technologically advanced beyond everyone else, they were too busy murdering and betraying each other to progress. There was a sourcebook on Drow for D&D 3.5 that I really liked that said Drow had invented the steam engine on several different occasions, but were so paranoid and unwilling to share information or fairly compete that it just sparked another string of betrayal-murders instead of the Industrial Revolution. I liked that detail, but couldn’t find a way to fit it in, as the time period it describes was Long Ago and mostly-irrelevant.
As I detail the cultural associations of the bondage play, I originally say that handmade harnesses are only for the really poor or the really rich, but on reflection, I cut the ‘really poor’ part. People who want to see oppression can infer the presence of an expoited underclass from the presence of an upper class, while people who want to see a big, happy, weird family-society can see an upper class and everyone else taking care of each other as family in order to make a middle-class lifestyle. Adding the bit about passive-aggressive one-upsmanship is dialing back, in order to alleviate the tension that might be building around a slavery-focused society by showing them engaging in humanizing foibles even through their bizarre sex culture, and demonstrate “see, they don’t exist just to create incest-slaves, they are people as well”. Then, on reflection, I add the “crashing on the couch” explanation for much the same purpose, to get a few tension-defusing giggles and hint, for those who wish to believe it, that we can trust this society mostly works because we are being told where it doesn’t.
Then, I realize this is too involved and too futa-tastic for the first installment of Hentaiculture, so I do the Vampire Duchies instead, and let this draft stay fallow for about a month. I figure, this is a weekly column, best to “ease into” more kink-intensive and potentially-alientating stuff, so people can get an idea that there is a range here, and not see the first one is black-diamond level lewdness and think the whole column is not for them. So I pass the partial draft around to the other editors for a while, who respond generally positively. One who favors Dark Kink says that it reads perfectly as Dark Kink, another says it leans to the Light side interpretation. I consider adding a bit about the dangerous halls of power, which fit what people expect of Dark Elves and can be another point that you can interpret as dark or light – “the evil machinations of the masters filter down to the population” or “the extent of their evil machinations is family bickering and most everyone else stays out of it.” – as well as a note about foreigners hotly debating whether the society is a self-perpetuating cycle of abuse or just a weird thing that works for another species. An editor advises me, rightly, that the latter one is way too on the nose. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t have “powerful, scantily clad, sexy and dangerous” Dark Elf Mistresses in there somewhere, so we get a bit about how they are scheming at the top and the high classes scheme underneath them. And I throw in a bit about how they wear latex and patent leather, foremost because I think it actually makes sense given it is damp underground so you want waterproofing and there aren’t many textiles, and only secondary to that because they are associated with bondage and because I think they’re hot.
I decide on a Mesoamerican/Aztec flavor for their names, because of the “their telenovelas are fucking bonkers” joke I wanted to tell, the long-past history of bloody ritual sacrifice of the Aztec empire matching the long-past history of bloody betrayals, the fixation on natural cycles, and, let’s face it, the fact that Nahuatl names sound cool as all hell. At first, I try to find the name of the Aztec spider goddess to name the society after, only to discover that nobody KNOWS the name of the Aztec spider goddess, and she is just referred to as “Teotihuacan Spider Woman”. But in poking around, I do find other nifty bits of Nahuatl phraseology, which I misused, but hopefully I haven’t misused too badly. I wrote the ritual impregnation cycle as being a 53-year gestation called the “Cycle of Love”, but looking up Mesoamerican names for cyclical things, I find the “tonalpohualli”, a name for a 260-day count… that syncs up with the 365-day calendar count every 52 years. I switch the gestation period to 52 years and rename the Cycle of Love “tonalpohualli”, specifying it means “sacred count” instead of “cycle of love”. Then, noting that my previous hentaicultures haven’t had nearly enough names, I sprinkle in some more terms that seem appropriate and give off a feel of things being from a foreign culture. Since their society is ruled by matriarchs, it is appropriate they have a special name for their rulers: cihuachpilli is cihuapilli, meaning “noblewoman”, mixed with achpilli, meaning “great-grandmother”. Nobility who are great-grandmothers. Since becoming a grandmother means you have completed the Sacred Count, it would make sense that those at the top of society would be referred to as great-grandmothers. Then I take that “grandmother” theme and name the civilization after it: “Nahui-Citli” means “Grandmother Sun”, patterned after the Aztec names of the five suns, or five ages of the world. “Sun” is not really all that appropriate for dark elves, but screw it, say the grandmothers replace the sun. The Aztec names of the five ages of the world are Nahui-Ocelotl, Nahui-Ehécatl, Nahui-Quiahuitl,
Nahui-Atl, and the current age, Nahui-Ollin, meaning respectively “Jaguar Sun”, “Wind Sun”, “Rain Sun”, “Water Sun”, and “Earthquake Sun”. Each of these names comes from what would define and destroy the world that sun shined upon (The Aztecs believed this world would end in catastrophic earthquakes). Does this mean that this society is defined by grandmothers, or will be destroyed by grandmothers, or has been destroyed by grandmothers when the cycle of the Sacred Count obsoleted the old murderous society? Mysteries!
It’s just as important to note everything I did not define as what I did define, in order to meet the goal of a morally-lenticular culture. At no point do I ever specify what happens to the rare females that are born to the majority of futanari, so they can either be just a weird quirk that sometimes happens, or a hated, punished, exploited underclass tormented by futanari supremacists. I never specify if they enslave anyone else, implying that they do not, but if you are pre-disposed to see evil futa supremacist slavemasters formenting males and females, nothing stops you. I never specify what age or age-equivalent the Sacred Count starts at, just that it’s “maturity”. If you want that to mean “18 in Elf Years″, you will see that, and if you want that to mean “10 in Elf Years″, you will see that. I never say if the slavery is brutal and degrading or not; the fact that Dark Elves in the second acts of their life willingly seek out dominant/submissive relationships implies to me that they like dominance play and the term of slavery is mutually enjoyable and a vital part of helping them determine whether they are dominants or submissives, but if you want to see people abused and twisted until they think evil is good and seek to re-enact their abuse as the only form of love they understand, you can see that too. Is high society truly that vicious or just family drama most people can safely ignore? They seem to think it’s nasty and dangerous but they have nothing to compare it to, and the stories they tell about it in the telenovelas are really silly. Foreigners say their Sacred Count is evil, they say it’s perfectly fine and works for them – are they normalizing their own abuse, or is it another humorous example of people getting offended on behalf of others who are fine?
Did it work? Did you like the Dark Elves of Nahui-Citli? And if so, did you like them because they were dark and fucked up or because they were fun and quirky? Did the whole “lenticular tone” work for them? Would you like to see more stories about them, or any of the previous Hentaicultures, or how any two of them interact? Please, reblog and let us know!
Intellectually, I figured while reading the post that it was meant to be morally lenticular, and that the author personally preferred the fluffier interpretation and so was unlikely to view that interpretation as less true (in whatever sense). (I did read the main post before this afterword went up, but previous posts in the series–thinking particularly of the Orcs here–have been the same way, and I suspected it was the same person behind them.)
However, the lenticularity read to my story-analysing widget as foreshadowing: “this is being portrayed as happy and healthy on the surface, but it’s leading up to a reveal that it’s actually evil and fucked up”. I, too, like the fluffier side of things, but when I tried to view it that way I was left with the nagging sense that I was sticking my head in the sand and denying the indications of what was really going on in that story.
(It probably doesn’t help that most erotica I see is horror–by circumstance, not by choice–and the proportion used to be even worse. As such, my first reaction when learning a fiction piece is meant to be erotic tends to be something like “oh god, what is the poor bottom going to suffer through this time”.)
I’m not saying you should have done differently, mind you. It does seem like a reasonable compromise.
Yes, please! I’m leaning toward the interaction one, but any would be good.