Animal Compassion Themes in Fantasy Fiction by Vegan Author E.D.E. Bell
“I love Bell’s sensitive and insightful exploration of compassion, connection, and relationships. The Banished Craft provides layers of thought-provoking ideas as well as good old-fashioned escapism.”
-Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, bestselling author of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge
What is E.D.E. Bell’s connection to Veganism?
I am a passionate vegan. I stopped eating meat in the mid-nineties, and every year my beliefs have grown and matured. On this and other issues, I love to work my perspective into my writing. What makes my writing different is that I don’t write books about vegans, I write books with vegans. This treats the ethics of veganism and compassion as a philosophies to be accepted and considered rather than fringe issues. So I write stories with vegan heroes, not quirky vegan sidekicks. And when I write scenes with violence, that violence is explored rather than glorified. I also strive to make my writing accessible to everyone, whatever their views. No matter whether they are interested in the vegan elements or not, I want them to enjoy the story! I write from the perspective of my own beliefs, but I write primarily to entertain. I hope that whether veganism interests you or not, you’ll enjoy reading a different angle on fantasy fiction.
If you aren’t familiar with veganism, it is an ethic and lifestyle that is defined by The Vegan Society as a, “way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Vegans eat a fully plant-based diet (including no dairy or eggs) but also choose non-animal solutions to clothing and other products. It’s a different way of viewing the world and our role in it.
My trilogy, Shkode, beginning with the first book: The Banished Craft, follows the journey of a lost organization of philosophers, viewed as wizards in this fantasy world, who explore the universe and open their mind to possibilities. Now dwindled to a few survivors, the fate of a dying world may lie in their choices. Those who join these philosophers, both humans and dragons, are vegans. Yes, vegan dragons! Because that’s how I think and how I love to write. In the Shkode trilogy, many of the characters struggle with the day-to-day obstacles vegans face – a lack of understanding from friends, being asked to defend their beliefs, and yes – having to bring their own food to a party.
In the second book, The Fettered Flame, there are several highlights of veganism, with more of a stronger ethical tone than in the first book, because I believe the center book of an SFF trilogy is meant for a touch of ethical exploration. For example, a character explains the history behind his opposition to goat milk farming, and a dragon has an emotional reaction to live animals tied up to be served as food. This book also focuses on themes of non-violence, including the stand-up of a dragon society dedicated to offering these ideas.
In my debut novel, Spireseeker, the elves are protectors of all creatures and can communicate with them, as well as feel their emotions. As such, the elves are vegans while, in this society, their human friends are not. (And that’s just the literal interpretation.) The elves struggle with this balance of protecting creatures while understanding their ways. In one scene, Beryl is asked to hunt with her new friends, who are wolves. She is torn between feeling the moose’s pain as he’s devoured, still living, and feeling the joy of her carnivorous friends’ nourishment and satisfaction. She has to answer to the wolves’ hurt and confusion that she chooses not to join them. It’s not all so serious, however. There is also a scene with a roasted squirrel that is as tongue-in-cheek as I tend to be in life. One side note: this novel does include references to honey, which I no longer use. Feel free to assume that honey comes from plants in Beryl’s world.
While Spireseeker explores the nature of compassion in an often metaphorical context and the Shkode trilogy explores the struggles and cruelties of societal exclusion and intolerance, my next project will take an entirely different angle, featuring a fantastical world that is naturally vegan. I am looking forward to this change of style. But I need to finish the trilogy first.
I include vegan ethics in my writing because they are important to me and because I enjoy exploring new approaches to compassion-minded fiction. Whether you share the passion that I do for vegan philosophies or whether you are open-minded and up for something new, I ask that you join me on my literary journey. To each of you, I am grateful.