Who cries for the Orc?

I have to confess that I don’t read much fantasy fiction, especially if it’s been published in the past 40 years. In fact I find modern fiction mostly not very interesting. I generally prefer the older stuff: Lovecraft of course, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance and the 19th century supernaturalists. People for whom the language was as important as the story.

I am not a fan of stories where everything is black and white, particularly when it’s a horde of ugly creatures serving Evil against the lily-white champions of Good. I always find myself wondering about the poor Orc or Ur-Vile who just got skewered on the trusty blade of the peerless hero, ugly though he may be, sucked into a war he never made. Is he really bad, or is he just serving his current master out of loyalty or fear or patriotism like any other soldier? Doesn’t he have a home, a family, or even just a life which is ultimately as precious as anyone else’s? Who is telling his story?

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