Tropes in Genre Fiction: Beyond the Beards – Deciphering the Surly Dwarf! by Josh Vogt

My guest today is Josh Vogt, novelist with Pathfinder Tales.  His new novel will be released June 9th, and is available for preorder just about everywhere. (click on the cover to go to Amazon.)

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But today, he’s here to talk about something he knows all too well…dwarves!

So take it away, Josh!

Tropes in Genre Fiction

Beyond the Beards – Deciphering the Surly Dwarf!

What could be more of a fantasy trope than angry, violence-prone dwarves? Even people who aren’t into fantasy at all can name familiar elements that define dwarves in our cultural mindset. These often include “short and stout,” “love of gold/mining,” “lots of ale,” beards, beards, and more beards,” and “never toss one.” Oh, and their penchant for swinging axes in the thick of battle.

In Forge of Ashes, my Pathfinder Tales sword and sorcery adventure set in the world of Golarion, my main character is Akina, a dwarven barbarian. While she lacks the beard, she definitely has the “battletude” dwarves are famous for, preferring to solve problems with a good whack of her maulaxe or laying into foes with her fists. On the surface, she exhibits a lot of the traditional dwarven characteristics (aside from the beard). However, one of my goals in the story was to dig deeper with her and discover what really drove her unique passions and what it really means to be a dwarf in this world.

Akina has a bit of a different perspective because, as the adventure begins, she’s just returning home from fighting abroad for a decade. She’s lost touch with her cultural identity to a degree and is wanting to reconnect with her family and rediscover a sense of purpose beyond just fighting to live beyond the next battle. Unfortunately, things hardly go as planned and she’s plunged into a quest to save those she cares about from a terrible fate.

And that’s the thing. She truly does care about others, though she certainly shows it in odd ways. In fact, one of the quickest ways to rouse her fury is to malign or threaten her companions or family. She’s willing to step into the breach for their sakes, even if they aren’t able or willing to return the gesture. Why? Because, while Akina might not say it outright, she sees other lives as holding inherent value. They’re worth protecting at all costs. She fights to defy all that’s wicked and vile, to preserve the rich legacy of her people, and to make the world just a little bit safer for those who aren’t always able to defend themselves.

This is where things go beyond “a dwarf fights because she’s a dwarf and dwarves fight…” It’s more than mercenary work, where it’s just a job with the promise of gold at the end. The dwarves of Golarion are a proud people, with a vibrant culture and infinite variety in their pursuits and passions. I enjoyed writing Forge of Ashes because I got to explore more unique facets of dwarven identity and culture, questioning the stereotypes while finding fresher approaches to how they’re represented. I got to write about dwarves as priests, as explorers, as lovers, as villains, as heroes, as artists, and more.

Yes, the axes and mugs of ale are still there but, once readers finish the story, my hope is they come away with a better understanding of how dwarves can remain relevant and fascinating despite how much they’ve been boxed-in over the years. There’s always new layers to uncover; we just have to be willing to delve deeper.

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Josh Vogt has been published in dozens of genre markets with work ranging from flash fiction to short stories to doorstopper novels that cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, pulp, and more. His debut fantasy novel, Forge of Ashes, adds to the RPG Pathfinder Tales tie-in line. WordFire Press is also launching his urban fantasy series, The Cleaners, with Enter the Janitor (2015) and The Maids of Wrath (2016). You can find him at JRVogt.com or on Twitter @JRVogt. He’s a member of SFWA as well as the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers

Thanks for visiting, Josh!

#SFWAPro

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