So this isn’t actually a question that someone asked. It’s something I’m currently encountering in a book I’m working on. Not only that, we see it in various other stories as well. In The Orville, we see an amoeba-like creature hitting on a human woman. She rejects his advances of course, but that got me thinking.

So the question stands… in Fantasy, where does a humanoid and non-humanoid romance or just affection become taboo? Where are you crossing moral or ethical lines… or just pretty much driving away a more squeamish audience?

Humans have a tendency to look at non-humanoid species in fantasy as almost animal in nature. Now, one could argue that apes are also humanoid, but as they’re of lesser intelligence, and not entirely self-aware, a relationship there would be also be considered gross and rightly so.

All right, so now that I’ve grossed you all out… let’s go into Sci-Fi and fantasy. Where do we draw the line between a relationship and… what would be considered bestiality? Well… that’s tough…

First of all, the defintion of bestiality is as follows:
“sexual intercourse between a person and an animal.”

Okay, fair enough. However what is a person and what is an animal?
Well let’s look at the definition of an animal:
a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli.
“animals such as spiders”
  • a living organism other than a human being.
    “are humans superior to animals, or just different?”
  • a mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, or insect.
    “the snowfall seemed to have chased all birds, animals, and men indoors”
  • a person whose behavior is regarded as devoid of human attributes or civilizing influences, especially someone who is very cruel, violent, or repulsive.
    “those men have to be animals—what they did to that boy was savage”
  • a particular type of person or thing.
Okay… well what’s the definition of a person
noun: person; plural noun: people; plural noun: persons; noun: first person; noun: second person; noun: third person
  1. 1.
    a human being regarded as an individual.
    “the porter was the last person to see her”
    • used in legal or formal contexts to refer to an unspecified individual.
      “the entrance fee is $10.00 per person”
    • an individual characterized by a preference or liking for a specified thing.
      “she’s not a cat person”
    • an individual’s body.
      “I have publicity photographs on my person at all times”
    • a character in a play or story.
      “his previous roles in the person of a fallible cop”
So just so we get everything straight, an animal is a non-human mammal, or a human devoid of being civilized. Or, more ambiguously, a particular person or thing…
While a person is a human being regarded as an individual.
So by that definition, only a human being can be a person. Okay, fine. Fair enough, but then what is an elf? Elves typically (unless you’re a Harry Potter fan) are superior forms of life to humans. They’re in tune with nature and are actually more intelligent, or at the very least, equally intelligent. Are they animals? Or is it because they look similar to humans that this somehow satisfies the requirement.
So then perhaps… perhaps in terms of fantasy, we need to set aside the dictionary definition of what a person is. I think in many cases, we as fantasy writers, have already done that.
So what should the definition be?
Perhaps… “A sentient, self-aware, life form”?
Some might say that you should add the ‘humanoid’ to that definition. I do not necessarily think that’s necessary. How can something be taboo if it’s two creatures, both of sentient, self-aware level of intelligence?
However… I could be wrong, what does everyone think? If you made it this far and aren’t icked out too much, let me know!


Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

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Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!


4 Comments on “Interspecies Romances in Fantasy: Where Do You Draw The Line?

  1. I agree that the sentience of the involved species is an important factor. I think that having a good explanation of why is it possible is maybe more important than anything in such cases, so the pairing doesn’t feel like a complete deus-ex-machina. This may not be an issue between species that are both very humanoid (such as human-elf pairings) though those won’t hurt having an explanation either (in my case, they share a common ancestor on the evolutionary tree) but anything that goes further away may need it. This is one of the reasons why I had issues with the human-dragon coupling in World of Warcraft, where it came from nowhere. And likewise with the demon-human offspring (none of them voluntary, though) in Daniel Arenson’s Dawn of Dragons trilogy where a lot of stuff happened way too conveniently.


    • Fascinating. I have to ask, what was your opinion of human-dragon coupling in my books? It didn’t seem like you took issue with it there.


      • You’ve done well to develop the emotional aspect first, that’s one important thing – something that helps to understand the possibility. Sentience is another aspect. And you’ve explained how the ‘shifting’ works in #3 to a point that gives a good reasoning for how it’s possible, both physically and emotionally. Thus, you avoided the ‘out of nowhere’ issue.


  2. What about aliens? What about aliens who are based on anthropomorphic cats and other creatures usually mindless animals on Earth (or our Earth if we’re back to fantasy)? Science fiction and fantasy worlds aren’t our world and thus altered rules apply. Not completely. An alien animal is still an animal but a race of fox people who are not just foxes standing up isn’t. Now we’re working “humanoid” into the mix and that’s where things have gotten tricky for those who classify all furries for example under one group but nobody complains when they make art with sexy elves or Klingons. Humans and all other humanoids I’m okay with. Sonic The Hedgehog characters would not get that benefit.


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