Pokemon: The Origin of Species FAQ

Isn’t it unrealistic to have Red, Blue and Leaf so intelligent/mature for 11-12 year olds?

I’m actually of two minds on this. On the one hand, I’m perfectly fine saying that environmental pressures have made humans in the pokemon world a standard deviation more mature and intelligent than they would be in our world; any kids that didn’t treat pokemon like the deadly monsters they are would not have survived the dark ages before pokeballs were invented.

On the other hand, I honestly do believe that many kids, even in our world, are more adult-like than most people give them credit for. I especially believe that almost all kids, when raised in certain circumstances, can grow to be as mature as their environment dictates. There are child soldiers in war torn countries that are forced to fight at the age Red and Blue and Leaf are. Throughout history, boys in particularly military cultures have been trained to fight since pre-adolescence.

Whether these are the healthiest or best ways to raise children is obviously a different question. But when humanity’s survival relies on training children to be soldiers, they’re sure as hell going to be more mature than the average 21st century western 11 year old.

As for intelligence, Red, Blue and Leaf are all gifted youngsters, even among their peers. Perhaps that doesn’t account for ALL their intelligence, but I work with kids, and every once in awhile I’ll meet an 11 or 12 year old who’s as intelligent and well spoken as their older siblings and parents. They’re not typical kids, but to me they’re realistic enough… and they’re not even producing nuclear fusion in their garage at the age of 14 or going to one of the top tech colleges in the US at 12 or getting a physics degree by 11.

Ok, but why are children still being allowed to become trainers at all?

So my options on this were basically to either retcon canon (games, manga, and shows) and make all trainers in the world like 16+, or try to rationalize the world as presented, despite upgrading its dangers to a realistic level.

I ultimately decided on the latter for a couple reasons: first, because I think it adds a lot to the themes of the story to make the pokemon journey one of childhood ambition and adventure, and second because I think that the pokemon world has sufficient history to justify their children being different from our own.

They still travel in a group to help increase safety, and CoRRNet is such a universal presence to help improve safety further. But at the end of the day, the in-universe reason for why kids are allowed to train monsters is that in-universe they need kids to, and expect kids to.

Their world went through thousands of years of dark ages where humanity survived by the skin of its teeth against these monsters, and over time learned to domesticate and train them. Their history is full of stories of heroes who, at a young age, managed to capture and raise dangerous pokemon that they then used for their villages/towns/tribes’ safety.

With the advance of the world’s technology, both in capturing pokemon and in training them, I don’t see why they would shift to suddenly having lower expectations of their children. In a sense that’s what we’ve done in our world, but that’s because we don’t have pressures on society not to. Their world is still one of an existential struggle against monsters, and they need as many soldiers ready to defend against them as they can get, as quickly as they can get them.

Why did you make pokemon have animal-level intelligence?

Okay, so here’s the thing.

I have yet to find any fanfic do pokemon with human level intelligence justice: not only do their characters take the enslavement of sapient beings for granted, but the pokemon inevitably end up acting just like animals who can speak English (or whatever language) anyway, rather than treating them like actual people who have wills and goals and plans of their own beyond “survive and kill” if wild or “serve my master” if caught (or “rebel for a bit then realize I just want to serve my master” if caught but unruly).

Which is basically why I took my cue from the games and made them animal level intelligence. Any story that actually treats them like people would have to be about the liberation and eventual equality of pokemon to be rational and, in my view, have likable characters. No humans working against those goals could really be “good” people. And that would be an awesome story to tell (kind of like the Temeraire series), but not one that I have an interest in writing, personally.

Some fics try to justify the pokemon world with the whole “pokemon just really love fighting/getting stronger, so they join trainers to do that,” but that still should totally upend the world of pokemon as most people know it. If such a thing were true, humans would not need to struggle to catch pokemon at all: they would instead be in a mutual partnership, where pokemon are actually competing to find the best trainers and join their teams.

This is what I mean by treating pokemon like people, with their own thoughts and feelings and rationally pursued goals. All the added justifications never alter the intrinsic dynamic that’s central to the pokemon world of the games and anime and manga: where people fight pokemon in the wild, who struggle not to get caught, and upon getting caught they suddenly are willing to die for their trainer/to get stronger. And they really, really should alter that dynamic, if pokemon were as intelligent as people.

Even if it’s a case of “So human, you have caught me fairly and thus proven your worth as a trainer…” What stops pokemon from just joining another trainer that beats theirs? The central conceit of pokemon (again as most people know/represent it) relies on pokemon being essentially less than people.

Whatever levels of intelligence might come between humans and animals doesn’t really interest me as possibilities, if it doesn’t change those essential dynamics. If they’re ultimately treated like animals anyway, they might as well just be animals, so that people now have to deal with that reality the way we would rather than have convenient “cheats” that don’t make consistent sense, and the story can explore all the ethical issues that exist between human-animal relations in our world.

If someone else has written a story where the pokemon are treated like they have human intelligence, though, and does it justice, I’d love to read it!

Why don’t people use guns? Or any weapons at all, like swords or bows?

So the simplest answer to the question of guns in the pokemon world is that they were just never invented. There aren’t any in the games, and they’re not really used in the anime, outside of appearing once in awhile without solving any actual problems that come up.  But even if they were invented, they would not be all that useful.

Remember that pokemon are not regular animals: some breathe fire or shoot lightning. Others have skin as hard as rock or steel, or are made of poisonous slime, or are ghosts. Others are incredibly fast, and can attack from underground.

The idea of people using guns against them seems like it would work out okay in some situations and not at all in others. The same applies even more for swords or bows. In the pokemon world, the deadliest thing you can hold in your hand is a pokeball, because inside it is a monster that can be at least as powerful as the ones you face.  Any trainer that decides to carry a sword into battle is just gimping themselves, because that’s one less hand they can use for swapping pokemon or applying medicine or catching enemy pokemon.

Shouldn’t Leaf be named Green? And why is she from Unova?

The first generation character names in pokemon are weird: Blue Oak was originally Green in Japan, and became Blue in the US release when they decided to make Red and Blue the two versions. Which left the third color to the female character introduced in FireRed and LeafGreen remakes, except which third color is the problem, since the “Rival” is either Green or Blue depending on Japanese or English version.  So while the female character is also referred to as Blue or Green in the comics, for the games she goes by Leaf, which is far less ambiguous.

I made her from Unova because she’s not really a canon character in the games, just an alternative player avatar for Red, so I decided to make her a foreigner for storytelling reasons: it gives us an outsider’s perspective on the region, ignorant of local customs and information, and with a different set of values (partially encouraged through exposure to the early Team Plasma incarnation).

How is pokemon nativity decided?

I’m basically going off of the latest version of Kanto region available in the games, which is Heart Gold and Soul Silver. There might be some minor changes made for realism (like evolutions of pokemon being around, since there isn’t an artificial limit on what level they can be) or based on information from other media, but for the most part I’m sticking to what bulbapedia lists for each route and zone, including all their evolutionary stages.

Have you read [insert pokemon comic/fanfic]?

Probably not: the only pokemon fanfic I’ve read to “completion” was Game of Champions while writing chapter 11. I’ve never read any of the various manga stories, and other fanfic like Sun Soul and Traveler haven’t been able to maintain my interest beyond the first few chapters. More recently, I’ve enjoyed Pokemon: The Line too. New recommendations are always welcome, however!

Is [name of character] a reference to [show/story/real-life-person]?

Probably. I’m incredibly bad at naming characters, and leap gratefully at any lifeline my brain spits out, referential or not. Some are more intentional than others, and some are shoutouts to other Rationalist authors or readers whose feedback have helped me improve the story, but none have any deeper meaning or foreshadowing: the plot isn’t trying to be a puzzle only solvable by those who have access to the same reference pools, with the possible exception of pokemon itself.

How do the people in your story know what a lizard is, or a rat, or a bird?

Though a number of amusing comics have pointed out the confusion of a pokemon world native to words like “rat” or “dog” in the pokedex despite the lack of our world’s animals in the games, I’ve never found this particular detail to be problematic. “Dog” is not a specific animal: it’s a wide family of very closely related animals, more specific than canid but less specific than German Shepard. Houndour and Stoutland are dogs. There are no American Bald Eagles in Pokemon, or even Unovan Bald Eagles, but there are still eagles, such as Braviary and Staraptor, the latter of which could also be called a hawk depending on what features you focus on. The point is that ekans is a snake and onix is a snake, despite them both being very different creatures, because both share enough descriptive traits to be grouped under the category “snake.” It might make for a more colloquial and less scientific taxonomy in the pokemon world than in ours, but labels are just boxes that we draw around things that are similar enough to ease communication, and there’s no reason that would be less true in a world of wildly different magical beasts just because they also have other labels to use, like Fire Type and Rock Type.

Why don’t pokeballs in your world “shake” when catching, or pokemon try to fight their way out?

The main issue with the way the game and anime treats this is it makes no sense (as usual) for a pokemon to “fight” its way out while it’s nothing but a ball of energy inside. Furthermore, “damaging” a pokemon so it can get caught is also weird: does how “tired” or “hurt” it is translate to being made of “less energy” somehow?

So I scrapped the idea that any ball can hold any pokemon, and decided to put technical limits on them. The difficulty of capturing pokemon is in locking on and hitting the pokemon with the ball, which requires slowing it down through fatigue/injury or immobilizing it first. The only way hurting a pokemon can legitimately help the pokeball contain it is if it loses so much blood or so many body parts that its mass becomes low enough to meet the ball’s limits.

The way I see the tech working, they can hold virtually anything, but the more energy being contained, the more it wears out the internal matrix that safely suspends it. If you catch something too big, it overloads it very quickly. Kind of like how you can run X volts through a lightbulb for months, but if you try to shove 3X volts through it, you’ll blow it out in moments.

So stronger balls are capable of storing larger pokemon, or pokemon that transmute into larger amounts of energy, but unless you try to use a basic pokeball on a snorlax or something, the balls won’t break while trying to catch one.

Why is it so hard for people in your world to figure out type interactions?

Without health bars or messages popping up saying “Super Effective!” or similar, it’s very difficult to determine what, exactly, the effects of an attack on a certain pokemon are influenced by. This goes double for less obvious attacks, like Psychic or Ghost moves, which can deal ”damage” in ways other than physical trauma.

Are Fairy Type pokemon in the story, since it takes place before Gen VI?

So far, Fairy pokemon are considered a myth by people in the story. I don’t know if they will ever appear in its current plot, so pokemon like clefairy and jigglypuff will likely stay Normal Types.

For now my current idea for how it works is that the Fairy Type is an inactive gene in pokemon that have it. When Xerneas is close to awakening from its millenia long hibernation, its Fairy Aura will saturate the pokemon around it, activating their Fairy attributes and awakening their powers. They in turn would activate the Fairy pokemon they come in contact with, and so on.

Until then, all mono Fairy pokemon like snubbull just seem like Normal types if pure, and if they’re mixed types like gardevoir, they’re just considered their other type.

Why are Psychic and Ghost and some other attacks so different?

The answer to this requires going a bit into the mechanics of how I envision “damage” working realistically compared to the games.

Without the ability to distill the effects of all attacks into the raw numbers of “damage” to “HP,” attacks by physical, mental, and emotional means can manifest in many different ways. The damage they do is often based on their effects, like status conditions. A mental attack may cause “confusion,” like in the games, but it may also cause more specific status conditions, like “go catatonic with fear” or “become hyper-sensitive to stimulus.”

So in the games, the attack “Psybeam” does damage and has a chance of causing the status condition “confused,” which might give you a chance of hurting yourself further. But in the “real world,” the two things are one and the same: a Psybeam attack causes you to hurt yourself due to mental impairment, a more severe impairment than the weaker “Confusion” attack.

Ghost attacks are similar. Most don’t inflict status conditions, but the “damage” they do are the result of the effects they have. A pokemon or person can be incapacitated by crippling emotional anguish just as much as excessive physical trauma, and any physical damage they sustain in the meantime is secondary to that.

Why can’t pokeballs do X/Why can’t people do X with pokeball technology?

Pokeballs are so arbitrarily powerful that the temptation to include more features and failsafes and capabilities than those included in the games/anime, like wireless data backup and automatic registry, or cloning and replicators, have to be resisted. Since I need to draw the line of how powerful they are somewhere, I’m trying to stick to the games’ capabilities as much as possible, and even come up with various miscellaneous restrictions (battery life, mass limits, “lock on” requirement) to explain why people in the games and anime don’t, for example, fly over wild pokemon dropping dozens of pokeballs on them repeatedly until they’re caught.

Otherwise, taken at face value with how they seem to work, the resulting munchkinry would be so powerful and so obvious that the only explanation for why people in the games and anime don’t use them that way and are still smart enough to tie their shoelaces in the morning is that pokeball-tech can’t be used that way, and it’s just up to our imagination, or in this case mine, to come up with reasons why.

For example, why don’t the characters in the anime use powerful slingshots to catch pokemon from far away? Either they’re pants-on-head levels of stupid, or there are restrictions disallowing them from being used that way. Since the games and anime don’t specify those restrictions, I need to make them up, and that may mean re-imagining some of the blatantly contradictory or nonsensical parts of canon.

Why do all pokemon come from eggs? (aka, “How do skitty and wailord breed?”)

I’m actually retconning this: it’s something I think falls under the “clearly a game conceit because the makers of Pokemon couldn’t be bothered to think out the complications of an alternative and to make it easier for children” classification of justified departures from canon.

On  top of which, the idea that all pokemon come from eggs is contradicted in canon anyway: the pokedex is full of all sorts of nonsensical bullshit, but how much can we discount things like grimer as being born from sludge exposed to “x-rays from the moon?”  It’s not outside the realm of possibility that they can be produced both by natural occurrences and from eggs, but it strikes me as simply a game convenience to have all pokemon that can reproduce do so in the same way mechanically.

Suffice to say, pokemon like gastly do not come from eggs in my world.

Why aren’t  pokemon species always capitalized?

In my view, species names are non-capitalized when not referring to a specific pokemon the same way animals in our world are non-capitalized. There’s no reason to consider pokemon names proper nouns other than the convention set in the games.

What about the restriction of 6 pokeballs?

This is another thing that’s clearly a gaming conceit. It’ll be reinforced by official battle limits for League Sanctioned games, but realistically anyone can walk around with however many full-size pokeballs they want to carry.

Are Pokemon restricted to 4 moves?

Another gaming conceit that’s being ignored.  The smarter the pokemon, and the better trained it is, the more moves it will be able to learn. But a trainer has to reinforce moves it learns, or else a pokemon might forget them after enough time.

How are you treating stat raising/lowering moves like Growl?

In my world, usually these are less “moves” as they are side effects of pokemon’s normal activities. If a bulbasaur “growls” at something, it might become more wary and less effective at attacking. If a pidgeot “screeches” at something, it might flinch and be more vulnerable to attacks.  Other moves like Tail Whip I’ve changed to better fit their name and be more realistic. I have Charmander use the move as an attack because it makes sense for him to do so, and “Tail Whip” wasn’t called that in Japanese anyway: its direct translation is “Tail Wag,” which makes much more sense considering it’s not actually using your tail as a whipping attack, as I describe in the fiction, but rather “wagging” it as a sort of taunt, to make the opponent less cautious or whatever would translate to a “lower defense.” If I’m going to use the English attack names, I’m going to have them represent what they actually sound like: not what they were badly translated to and kept out of convention.

Do moves gain Same Type Attack Bonus? (If a pokemon uses an attack that shares a type with it, the damage is boosted by 1.5x)

The concept behind STAB in the games is fine in theory, and makes sense to me in many regards. But simply following the game’s mechanics without question, and then trying to rationalize that, doesn’t interest me as much as reconstructing and reframing the world in a rational manner. As such, perhaps a raticate has a stronger Tackle because it’s a normal pokemon that relies on nothing else, but there’s no really rational explanation for why a nidorino’s tackles would be any weaker, considering that’s how it uses the poison spike on its forehead anyway. Similarly, Bite is Dark Type move in the games starting in Generation 2 because that’s when Dark pokemon were introduced and they needed moves that were Dark, but there’s no reason to think raticate, whose entire strength is his powerful jaws and teeth, should have weaker Bites than a houndour, who can rely on his fire breathing as well. The way I’m implementing it, pokemon that use moves of Types they aren’t are going to be at a disadvantage for “natural” reasons. If you use a TM to hack a Rock pokemon’s biology to allow it to shoot fire out of its mouth, for example, it might be able to do it, but not as well as a Fire pokemon who naturally evolved to would.

Are the routes going to be progressively harder to traverse, like in the games?

Obviously there’s no rational reason for pokemon to be staggered in strength merely by what route they’re on. This is one of the previously mentioned game conceits: it always bothered me as a kid to wonder how trainers that start from other towns would have to go about their journeys surrounded by such strong pokemon.

The way I’m writing the world, the vast majority of wild pokemon directly around civilization are about the same average strength: all the incredibly dangerous ones have already been cleared out of the most traveled paths, and are kept away by the resident trainers and Rangers. There are no “levels,” and certain species are not just inherently always found at higher strengths than others, like in the games. While some species are on average stronger or more dangerous than others, location doesn’t dictate that.

Of course, there are outliers (like the nidorino that Pallet Town’s raticate Swift fought off), but the really powerful pokemon are found farther in the wild, rather than the well-traveled areas between towns or cities.

Why not just use fences?

A fence is pretty useless unless it’s defended. Pokemon aren’t like our animals. Even ignoring the ones that fly or burrow, some of them breathe fire, or are made of rocks, or can smash rocks with their fists. What fence can hold them? Eventually pokemon are going to get over or under or through it, and now the false sense of security leaves everyone traveling that path even more vulnerable.

Can you please, please,  publish more often?

Believe me, I’m as eager to get more chapters out faster as anyone: there’s a lot of great story bouncing around in my head that I can’t wait to get on paper and have you all read. Unfortunately I have a full time job and a lot of other responsibilities and projects at the moment that make it hard to deliver on a consistently faster basis, and I don’t see much point in publishing a week earlier one month when I’ll probably take the entire next month to get the following chapter out anyway: I’d rather have a slow but steady publishing schedule that gives me room to make each chapter as high quality as I can with the time I can spare, and be as reliable as possible with it (9+ years without a missed deadline and counting!)

Is there anything that might help make writing easier/faster for you?

So, I’ve thought about this a lot and realized that the main thing that really drags out the writing process is the research.

Some chapters it’s not so bad, a few hours here and there throughout the month. Other times I’ll spend 5 hours in a week just to figure something out for one scene. And other times, I’ll spend 5 hours in a week just to figure out that I have to scrap the scene I had in mind and come up with a new one, because reality just doesn’t match the pokemon world enough for something to make sense (stupid reality).

As an example, for the chapter they encounter wigglytuff I spent maybe 3 hours learning about sound before I realized I would have to change the chapter’s main source of conflict completely. That’s 3 hours I would have saved if I had a Sound Expert I could just ask, but that’s just one example, and every chapter could require a different expert.

So I’ve thought about delegating research duties to readers. I have a few readers that I checked some of my Japanese with back when I was wasting time figuring out translations that weren’t terrible, but it’s a bit harder when it comes to all the various scientific topics that could come up at any given time.

On top of that, the few times when I have had someone in my readership or real life that I could directly ask a question, it doesn’t always save a significant amount of time. Some questions result in a quick “yes, that’s how it works” or “no, that’s stupid,” but for others I need to understand them well enough to incorporate the concept into the story properly, and not just on a surface level.

Having others help with proof reading and editing wouldn’t save a significant amount of time, as I do it in dribs and drabs when I have spare minutes that won’t be put toward anything more productive. Research is the real time sink, and maybe I’ll figure something out once my website is done and I can have an easier flow of communication with my readers (and my readers can with each other too). One idea I have is to put a blog post up about a question I have, and see if anyone knows the answer. We’ll see what works best, and maybe someday I can get chapters out a bit faster. Thanks for your patience in the meantime!

Walk with me a spell.

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