Darkstorm: a SciFan Exploration into Philosophy and Moral Ethics



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In Darkstorm, Book One of The Rhenwars Saga, M.L. Spencer abandons the traditional theme of good versus evil to explore the fine gray line between two differing philosophies of moral ethics, deontology and consequentialism.


THE ITALIAN PHILOSOPHER Niccolò Machiavelli is famous for a quote that he never even said: “The ends justify the means.” But while Machiavelli never spoke those exact words, his book The Prince effectively sums up consequentialist moral ethics. In consequentialism, the results of one’s actions are used to determine whether the action was right or wrong. Carried far enough, any method of achieving a morally important goal is deemed justifiable. Which can be kind of reprehensible, if you think about it.

In deontology, on the other hand, the rightness or wrongness of a deed is determined by the action itself – not the resulting consequences. First introduced by philosopher Immanuel Kant, deontology is often referred to as “duty-based ethics” because a person’s actions are often guided by their perceived sense of duty or rules. Most people would think of deontology as being more “ethical” than consequentialism. But taken to the extreme, deontology can actually forbid some actions that are morally right.

In Darkstorm, the main characters exist at various places on a continuum of moral ethics. The main character Braden adheres to strict deontological ethics and is very inflexible in his morals. By contrast, his brother Quin is constantly compromising his values. This pair find themselves facing a cabal of darkmages intent on opening a gateway to Hell in order to save the magic field of their planet – a noble intent, but supported by heinous actions.

The image of the compass rose (pictured above), the eight-pointed star that appears above the chapter headings of Darkstorm, is a symbol that represents a moral compass. The black field behind the right half of the star represents consequentialist moral ethics, while the light half of the field represents deontology. The symbol actually has a dual meaning. Since the novel’s magic system is based on a planetary “magic field”, the compass rose is also representative of the magic system in Spencer’s world.

M.L. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a series. Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She is a member of the California Writers Club and the Science Fantasy Society.


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