Friday, May 3, 2013

Heroes & Villains Blog Hop


Welcome to the Heroes & Villains Blog Hop, which will be running on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.  Various authors of fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction will be giving us their insights on the heroes and villains of their stories, or perhaps those created by authors they admire.  A complete list can be found at the bottom of this article - please visit as many of them as you can.


I'll be giving away a free copy of my fantasy ebook The Treason of Memory, published by Musa Publishing.  To enter the draw, simply follow this blog and then post a comment to let me know you've done so.  After the hop is over, I'll pick a name using the latest high-tech randomising device (the exact design is a trade secret, but it involves slips of paper and a hat) and announce the winner.

For excerpts of the three publications mentioned below, click on the cover images.



Heroes and villains.  Well, that seems simple enough.  In one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for instance, Giles explains to Buffy that heroes are always stalwart and true, while villains can be easily recognised by their horns or black hats.  But all it not what it seems — this is a response to her plea, "Lie to me," and is conspicuously untrue of the rest of the show.

It's never as straightforward as that, at least not in the more interesting stories.  It's not that some people aren't admirable, trying their best to do the right thing regardless of the cost to themselves, or that other people aren't despicable, selfish and vicious, but people are too complex to pigeonhole into angels and demons.  In any case, the most interesting characters tend to be those who fall awkwardly between the absolutes.

The main character of my novel, At An Uncertain Hour, certainly looks like a hero.  Known only as the Traveller, he wanders the world, helping the oppressed and fighting evil.  On the other hand, he doesn't really want to take up noble causes, just to see the world and enjoy himself, and he frequently resents giving in to his feeling of duty.


He can be mischievous, stubborn and thoughtless; and, as an immortal, he has the potential to be dangerous, too.  In another story in which he appears, he tries to explain his insistence on keeping a promise against reason by saying, If I were to let myself abandon a clear sense of right and wrong, I could be far more dangerous than Kargor [the "villain" of the story].  The lure to abuse his power and immortality is always there.  He's a hero, not because he's simply "stalwart and true", but because he succeeds in fighting temptation.

The main villain in the novel, the Demon Queen of the South, is for much of the story an intangible, distant figure, much like Sauron, but that's not all there is to her.  She's a human being who's been hurt — appallingly — and has chosen to do anything it takes to prevent herself from being hurt again.  This has led her to unspeakable evils, but her reasons have always been very human and make sense to her.

In my novella The Treason of Memory, the situation is less defined.  There are certainly people struggling to uncover and fight an ancient evil, and there are people hoping to gain from that evil, but the heroes aren't especially heroic: a young innocent who remembers the guilt of a terrible crime he probably didn't commit, and a seedy spy who doesn't remember a terrible crime he probably did commit.  The villains (mainly politicians) aren't really what this story's about.  If anything, the theme is that it's always difficult to know who's hero and who's villain.  The point is to try the best you can to do the right thing.

The Temple of Taak-Resh could be said not to have heroes or villains, just people we root for and people we don't.  It's the third of a series of stories (the first two were published by the sadly defunct webzine Golden Visions) about Karaghr and Failiu (Kari and Fai to their friends), young, wandering sorcerers.  Air-headed and irresponsible, they could be described as juvenile delinquents — but, being teenagers, they naturally prefer to think of themselves as a pair of outlaws, together against the world.  They take sides in the story not so much on moral grounds, but according to their personal interests.


Kari, though, has a long and strange life, and these tales are actually his back-story.  He originated as the villain of my trilogy The Winter Legend (referred to above as Kargor).  When I first came up with the story, many years ago, he was simply a traditional Evil Overlord, but I gradually realised that, for many reasons, this didn't work.  He needed to be nice.

That might seem a contradiction in terms, since he was still going to be the villain, but it's been much more interesting to write him that way, and I hope he'll be equally interesting to read.  He still conquers and terrorises the neighbouring countries, but he's not only charming on a personal level, he really cares about his friends and those under his protection.  Forget telling your minions that they're less than worms under your feet — this is an Evil Overlord with genuine people skills.

Like the Demon Queen, Kari took a step that seemed reasonable at the time, and that led to another and another, till he feels now he has no choice but to continue on his course.  Also like the Demon Queen, his main concern is his own safety.  Doing the right thing is all very well, but he always falls back in the end on doing whatever safeguards him.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Kari goes from hero to villain (antihero to villain, perhaps) but I hope he illustrates that, fundamentally, no-one is simply either.  Just a human being, who leads their life better or worse than others.



Heroes & Villains taking part are:

 


 

19 comments:

  1. I am much more interested in villains who have both good and bad in them, and complicated back-story. I love that you have actually written about the back-story!

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    1. Thanks Rhiannon. Yes, I get attached to characters, good, evil or inbetween, and I like to explore them in more detail.

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  2. Hmmm. I've done so, but I'm not sure if I've done so in the proper place. I clicked on your name made a comment there on your interview and now I've covered my bases and made one here too. I'll visit some more as I have the chance.
    RSL

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  3. I'm following! And I'd love to win a copy!!!

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  4. Yes, RS & Paula are both entered

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  5. I agree with Rhiannon. Shades of grey are far more interesting than black or white villains or heroes. Thanks for sharing your character's back story and inner workings with us, Nyki. I'd also love a copy if I may enter. Karin Cox

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  6. OOps sorry thought it rude of me not to comment on the post. I like what you said about the Demon Queen being a terribly damaged human being. I wondered what sort of character she was before she was damaged and whether or not she had the propensity for evil or could have gone the other way if she hadn't been so hurt. It made me think of Theodora in The new wizard of OZ film.

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  7. Thanks. Who the Demon Queen was before - that's a spoiler. But it's not always even a question of whether someone has the propensity for evil. I have a character in a new book, currently in the revision stage, who's described as "Anywhere else, you'd just be a nasty, spoilt brat. Here, you've found the opportunity to be evil."

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  8. Buffy! Hoooray for Buffy! As for interesting villains, sometimes the sickos are the MOST interesting. Sauron is the best of all, mainly because Tolkien brilliantly keeps us from seeing him. That allow for the creation of true menace. In thrillers, the truly sick and twisted are the most interesting, at least for me. Take Heath Ledger's Joker. Unbelievable. That kind of mindless, rampaging evil can be just as good as the complex brooding villain, and often more charismatic.

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  9. Probably I should have commented on the content here also, but, since most of my stories are light-hearted in nature, I don't really have any serious heroes of villains. I haven't delved into the reasons why someone would go one direction or the other, other than possible upbringing or maybe, as Nyki points out, just taking that first wrong step and not being willing or able to go back. I'll have to think on that.

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  10. One of literature's best vilains is Milton's Satan. So much more interesting as a character than God or Adam. And the strange thing is Milton was such a religious chap that I'm sure he would be appalled to know how much us moderns love and sympathise with his baddie. Was it the poet over riding the priest? Was he even aware of it?

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    1. Absolutely. It's not even a particularly modern view - Blake regarded Satan as Milton's hero more than two hundred years ago. He seems very much the archetype of the Byronic antihero, such as Heathcliffe.

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  11. This sounds like something I'd really like to read, and I like your blog, so I'm now following. Please enter me for the drawing - thanks!

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    1. Thanks Tinney - you're duly entered.

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  12. Your books sound fantastic! Definitely something i can absorb myself into! :) Thanks for sharing and being apart of this awesome hop! :)
    GFC: shadow_kohler
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

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  13. I think you've been secretly meeting with my husband! Great post, Nyki, and thank you for commenting on mine. I appreciate your professionalism!

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  14. OK, I lied - I used a bag instead of a hat. But the winner of the draw is Shadow, who wins an ecopy of The Treason of Memory. Congratulations.

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