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In this world, there are several (around 7) "races" of humans. This has less to do with "Race" in the modern sense, more like a "subspecies" in that they can interbreed, but barely and have different latent magical abilities.

About 400-500 years before the time-period the story is set in, on of the races, for spoiler reasons, released a magical energy wave that wiped out everyone's memories. Except they messed it up, so the people closer to the source had more of their memory wiped than the people away from the source. While most races are not geographically concentrated, some are, as was the one that released this energy. The one race that was concentrated very far from the energy wave had the least memory wiped.

What memory gets wiped? In order of severity, where the more severe affects become more common the closer you go to the source:

  1. Forgetting personal memories/people's names
  2. Forgetting skills and knowledge
  3. Forgetting how to read
  4. Forgetting how to even speak, forgetting language entirely
  5. Forgetting base instincts like eating. Obviously, most such people died very quickly, but this is mostly centered very close to the source.

The farthest-away people were only affected with item 1, so it did cause mass disorientation, but even then the exact things forgotten varied from person to person. Given that the human subspecies in this world are extremely xenophobic (at least, the ones that dominate the world), why is it then 400 years later, all the races are still alive, with only the original race that released the wave being pushed to extinction? (They only managed to survive because others could use their strong magical powers for their own purposes.)

The answer should not be ideological, as in "They all forgot their xenophobia" or "they realized the error of their ways" because the mind-wipe was not uniform and even if many people collectively decided to be good, a few evil people in power can influence the minds of the many, especially in times of crisis (like this mind-wipe.) See: Basically any totalitarian real-life hellhole.

EDIT 1: Some info on tech/magic level and race distribution: Let's call the races A,...,G, and the source of the mind-wipe the "epicenter" and the point at the opposite pole the "anticenter." Gs lived near the epicenter and set it off, As live near the anticenter and the rest of the races are more generally distributed in between. None of them have much climatic or other preferences other than simply cultural adaptation (like you may say Europeans prefer cold climates).

They DO have different magic abilities, but in most regular people it is too little to have any effect. They can pass on their abilities to others so only a few individuals have the "concentrated" abilities of lots of people. Most of the abilities do not have direct uses in war. A relevant ability (not in A) is the preservation of generational memory and knowledge but it is severely "corrupted" due to the mind-wipe. One of the reasons many groups are warlike and genocidal is that that can force captives to pass on their abilities to them, even if they are on a different race, and this can interact in new and powerful ways. The mind-wipe, in a way, also results in the dying-out of "concentrated abilities" in many regions because of people forgetting how to pass on their abilities to others; if not passed on, your power dies with you.

The tech-level of the pre-wipe era is varying, but on average 17th century, with the As being somewhat behind having only recently gotten proficient with gunpowder. An Age of Exploration is in its early beginnings, with some races having colonized nations of other races. All this is of course lost when the mind-wipe occurs. Though irrelevant to this particular question, the tech-level of the current day is early 20th century, between WW1 to WW2 depending on the nation but with aviation being a very recent invention. I think this is a plausible level of advancement in 500 years, despite the setbacks caused by the mind-wipe.

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think that there is a single answer to this question? Questions with many valid answers are not permitted in the SE model or on this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 13:09

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Short answer: It's really hard to Genocide an entire group of people.

Longer answer:

If we look to certain events in History: 1940s Germany, 1990s Rwanda and 1970s Cambodia - all countries that in some form or another undertook a campaign of extermination - and none of them (thankfully) achieved complete erasure of the targeted group.

Now, combine that with mass amnesia of varying degrees - those most affected who didn't die immediately have got a strange world, full of strange things to reverse engineer and figure out.

That has the potential to keep the busy for quite some time, perhaps even those xenophobic instincts would be directed internally - they wouldn't hate the other subspecies because they forgot they even existed - but the next town over from them - they can't be trusted...

So we allow for a century and a bit of both re-discovery and for a little bit of in-fighting amongst the sub-species until they start to rediscover each other - by which time they have recovered some of their knowledge and technology, but not the most cutting edge and complex dangerous weaponary - so infighting is restricted to limited tribal-esque skirmish warfare, with those furthest away from the magic blast having a technological advantage but perhaps not a martial or espirit du corp advantage. Also, with 7 other subspecies, there's the potential that the constant dividing of attentions (much like European history) keeps a sort of stalemate leading to no mass genociding....

Except for the weakest - those closest to the blast - although in a beastial state, the will to survive is strong - and just like the survivors of those aforementioned terrible moments in history - the severe adversity breeds (quite literally) a generation of resilient people, where on the strong, clever and ruthless survive.

In effect, the attempt at Genocide by the other groups has created a force hyper-darwinian evolution of the society.

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  • $\begingroup$ This actually offers really good explanations for a lot of stuff. Specifically the EXTREME xenophobia in the present times, which exceeds even what was there before the mind-wipe. And yes, the races turning on each-other alongside others is somewhat an intended effect, as in the current times the biggest threat is caused by the technomagically advanced and warlike race being united under one empire after a long time $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:22
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You ask:

Why is it then 400 years later, all the races are still alive, with only the original race that released the wave being pushed to extinction?

If I'm correctly understanding your question, you want to know why the race with the most remaining memories did not wipe out the other races while they had the chance. If this is the case (but maybe I'm missing something), it seems you answered your own question:

They only managed to survive because others could use their strong magical powers for their own purposes.

There you go. Race A did not wipe out races B-G because their powers are valuable. Maybe they don't like B-G. Maybe they are even extremely xenophobic, and maybe they don't interbreed. But if B-G have different latent magical abilities - something that A cannot do on its own - then As would not wipe out Bs-Gs because they want their powers. Those races need to keep breeding in order for their magical abilities to be harnessed.

If B-G had their memories wiped, even better for A. Races B-G don't remember how to pass on their abilities, so if left alone, their abilities would die with them. But if A still recalls how to pass on abilities, they could coerce B-G into passing their abilities on.

Why doesn't A take those abilities for themselves?

Ah. Why did any Imperialist nation coerce their colonies into producing resources, when they could just as easily take those resources for themselves? For example, why would Britain force Ireland to plant potatoes when they could take home potato seeds and plant them on their own? You can see how ridiculous that would be. Britain was too cool to waste their time and energy planting, plowing, and picking potatoes. So much easier to rely on the Irish.

Same with race A.

They could take the others' powers for themselves, but then they would need to cultivate them.

And of course, abilities only get stronger with consistent training, effort, practice. Instead of harnessing the weak magical abilities of B-G, they prefer to force those races to cultivate their powers, strengthening them. Then race A siphons off their powers bit by bit, so they can benefit from those magical abilities while preserving their slaves to do the dirty work. Hence, B-G exist and continue to breed, preserving their subspecies, but they are nothing more than ability-cultivating machines.

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Since you added a lot of data to the question, I'm making another answer as the one I gave is now out of sense.

You're saying that it's about 17th century, ocean travelling is unstable, shoreline travelling is abundant, and at least some of the A-G are in secure contact with each other, meaning cold/hot wars, espionage, maybe something like sabotaging eaach other already in place. Then Gs made a mind wipe, destroying some aspects of memory and abilities defined as 1-5. Thus, G are hit with 4-5 and are pretty much animalized/extinct, and are off the table; F are hit with 4, E with 3-4, D with 2-4, C with 2-3, B with 1-3 and A with 1-2. Now to extrapolate this for 500 years, and find out why A won't be able to exterminate B-F.

A civil war in A

In fact, with people forgetting who are they and who are their neighbors might be enough to cause some marginalized persons to start declaring themselves "kings" effectively splitting A into a large number of competing kingdoms, or rather, "barondoms" or whatever, meaning that however strong could a certain king be as a person, he can't hold to much land and people as he's pretty much alone. This causes major declination of A on top of what could the mind wipe result in, as some people might forget how to breathe, being too susceptible to magic. Given that gunpowder is already present in A, the violence level might be big enough to exterminate all the "wizards" present among A, dropping them to about par level with B and unable to dominate B.

Of course, similar processes would certainly arise in B and below, but since there is at least one person who can still preserve memory of past generations, even if it's corrupted, located in B (or elsewhere), the country he's in might be able to consolidate faster under his rule, even if most of that memory would have to be transferred to external media (quipu as an example that doesn't require paper) and then relearned by future generations. So, eventually A would consolidate under a rule of the most lucky and tricky "king", but will be weakened by violence so much that B would become more powerful than them. So, xenophobia or no, the open war would not be a good move for A, and B remained alive.

If such person would happen to survive in C to E, those people could consolidate on a religious basis, should that person survive, and he'll be a Grand Shaman, leading to even faster re-consolidation of their people, although lack of language would cause a split in that race, with "civilized" part being able to talk shunning "uncivilized" away, where they could still survive as savages. If he'd appear in F, he would be the only person with knowledge of their language, and only a few people that he'd do a magical knowledge transfer would remain civilized, setting them down to primitivism and the rest of F into savagery or worse, effectively disabling F as an influencing power on the world scale.

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About the question definition

First, your question seems to be too overly well "artificial". And once you put unspecified and unbounded magical abilities, you open the pandora box and everything and anything can happen, making the question too broad. But on the other hand, I don't think that you really need this in your question, so, aside from the mind-wiping event, let's put the magical abilities aside.

Mind-wiping

People who are affected by 1 still can get food and water and although initially disoriented and confused, most of them won't die and they would be able to resume normal business in a few weeks.

People affected by 2 or 3 can still drink water from nearby rivers or from pots and still get some fruits to eats and also are still able to perform simple works than can be learnt easily and requires few training needed for surviving, so, after some months of chaos, they would also likely reorient themselves.

4 is similar to 2 and 3, but will need years to reorient themselves and a lot of people would die in the process.

5 is irrelevant because they are dead.

Races distribution

Now, just put all the races sparsely spread across different continents and preferring different habitats and you are done.

To be more specific, let's say that your races are elves, orcs, goblins, dwarfs, mermen, vampires and werewolves.

So, let's say that there is an elf village in the middle of a forest somewhere. Not far from there, in a mountain range, there is a cave full of goblins and another mountain with a dwarven city. Some kilometers from there, in the ocean, there is a city of mermen. Across the mountain range, in a dry steppe, there is a village of orcs.

Let's say that elves are mostly vegetarians and have a natural habitat in humid forests, so their life really sucks in dry steppes. Although they can and do eat meat, it is something hard to digest for them. Also, the dry air makes their skin dry to the point of cracking and bleeding. This isn't enough to kill or seriously hurt any of them, but getting some free skin disease full of open sores and possibility of infection is very bad. Also, they are mostly active during the day and have trouble being asleep in the night.

Orcs, in the other hand, are roughly the opposite of elves, being mostly carnivorous and adapted for living in dry steppes. They can and do eat vegetables sometimes, but a salad of lettuce could be as uneatable as a salad of common grass. Also, they don't thermoregulate well in humid air, overheating when it is hot and getting slow, weak and sleepy when it is cold. They are also mostly active during the day, but don't have as much trouble when needing to switch to being asleep at nights.

Vampires need a blood-rich diet and won't live for long on a diet of fruits or bloodless meat. Most, but not all, of the eaten solids eventually and painfully turns into stool. Drinking something like coca-cola doesn't help much either. Also, they are extremely prone to sunburns, so they are active only in night.

Mermen are laughable struggling when moving in land, but are unbeatable in water. They live underwater and can breathe underwater.

And so on...

Xenophobia

A lot of conflicts arise, for sure. But since the populations are sparse and the habitats different, their mutual interaction is low, at least for the last 500 years. When they meet, they might want to make business and profit, make alliances or make war. This is exactly what happened to humans for thousands of years. Also the separation of habitats is the main reason why a species of animal or plant will eventually evolve into divergent species.

But when they meet, most of time is for war, and not for profit. There is a reason for that, they are natural enemies, like cats and dogs. Although cats and dogs can become friends and cooperate sometimes, this is rare, and in most cases they hate each other. The reason is simply because this is hardcoded in their DNA and end up being hardcoded in their brain. Most humans have some hardcoded hate for bats, cockroaches, mice and snakes, so it is not so farfetched.

As long as you don't get a scenario like Spaniards reaching the Americas, it should work and none of the races will get extinct.

Interbreeding

Let us start with this:

In this world, there are several (around 7) "races" of humans. This has less to do with "Race" in the modern sense, more like a "subspecies" in that they can interbreed, but barely [...]

Well, in that case, they are not different races or subspecies, they are already different species. Otherwise, by the very definition of species, they would be able to interbreed without problem. Black people and white people can interbreed with no problem because they are the same species. But goats and sheep can interbreed just barely because they are different, although near, species.

About our races, elves and orcs mutually sees each other as horrible, ridiculous and disgusting beings, so they are very unlikely to be mutually sexually attracted. But let's say that an elf boy engages with an orc girl.

Then, the societies of both races would likely see this couple as an disgusting odd aberration, a taboo, making this even more unlikely to happen, so both societies would kill/mistreat/expel/hate/whatever the couple.

But let's say that the couple go on and try to get a baby. Then, due to genetic incompatibilities, most of the attempts to make a baby would likely end in a miscarriage, a stillborn baby or a baby that dies in its infancy. And also, there is a risk of the mother dieing during labor.

If they ever manage to get a baby that lives into adulthood, it would likely be unhealthy, sterile and be seen as an aberration by both elves and orcs and also everyone else.

In fact, in this context, it would be much more likely that any hybrids would be the product of rapes than of love.

Or, just putting it simply, the races very rarely interbreed by the reason why animals of different species rarely interbreed or the reason why very few people would enjoy the idea of practicing zoophilia.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree it is too broad. I'll edit it to include some specifics $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 10:07
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Now there are too many of them to wipe out.

Maybe right after the wipe the least affected race could have pulled it off. But they didn't. They were busy trying to survive.

Now 400 years later there is tech to make war. When people with modern tech show up in other lands there are a lot of people there. It has been 400 years and all. Those people are impressed by the tech and ready to trade. It is easier to trade with them than it is to wipe them out.

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