Tweet of the Day: The Writing Publishing Pit and the Pendulum
In many works of speculative fiction, humanity comes in somewhere in the middle of things.
Neither too strong or too weak.
Not the smartest nor the dumbest.
Not the most advanced or the most primitive.
In essence humans are the baseline.
More so in RPGs (tabletop and computer ones) where the player can chose between different races (such as elves,dwarves, Vulcans, Wookies, Little Grey Men (you get the picture.)
The first reason for this is that most writers and audience members (yes most, I met a few characters that, well push the boundaries of any definition of human, even the old “opposable thumbs and tool makers” definition) are human. So they tend to relate to humans in any setting. It is harder to create a connection with the audience if the main character is too alien for them to understand be it in looks, attitude, language, etc, I mean just look at the success of foreign film in the U.S.
The second reason is that it makes the other races that much cooler, because they are similar too the “standard” ( ye old humanity) but different in some way that humans. Human characters serve as translators to the audience in understanding the culture of other races by providing useful analogs, not unlike all those western faces you see in the Travel Channel explaining how wonderful X country’s culture, customs and food is to a western audience.
The third reason is that if you’re going to have a interstellar war of some sort or a horde is about to wipe the peaceful kingdom from the face of the world, it will certainly look/sound more dramatic if they are stronger, faster and more advance than humans. It is an easy way to stack up the odds without handicapping the heroes to much.
A final reason is that it makes it easier to hang your hat on other species and through them explore aspect of humanity!
But this last point, I fear, requires another post on the subject, which I shall deliver soon enough.
Until then I leave you with Terry Pratchett of Discworld fame.