I don’t write much here anymore. But I will write more soon. Much more. If you read me often, you’ll know it’s because of my job: it takes up all my thoughts and energy, and by the time I get home in the afternoon/evening, I don’t have much left to dedicate to other thought. I’m one of those strange people who need to live a balanced life: up time and down time. So instead of writing, I make dinner, or unwind some other way. Go on dates.
One of those dates incorporated watching a recent release, Seventh Son, with a Don Quixote-lookin’ Jeff Bridges mumbling into dragon mouths and the guy from Stardust proving he could wrestle witches with the best of them. Spoilers aside, I give it a five. I think it’s two movies smashed into one. The bad guys are ten times cooler than the good guys.
It highlit a trend I’ve been seeing in movies, TV series, and books of late: the evolution of the antihero. I like it. I want to talk about it.
I don’t have much fantasy in my DVD lineup. There is no High Fantasy to speak of (not even LOTR). And most of my fantasy falls into the “super hero” type, with Hellboy and The Dark Knight. I have a few high concept fantasies, such as The Fountain and The Fall, which are more psychological storytelling than otherwise, but very little fantasy overall. You’d think that, as a fantasy writer, I’d be brimming with stuff. Eh.
Why? That clear-cut good-and-evil story doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not a good guy. I’m not an evil guy. I am not a passive person, so the Everyman trope doesn’t enthrall me. Most fantasy compartmentalizes whole groups of people: Seventh Son does this, where all the evil guys are moorish assassins and black-woman-panthers and aborigine “warlocks.” Oh. And the Chinese “bear.” I digress. All the “good guys” were white. And blonde, or light brown-haired. I know it’s part of the environment. But it hurt to see. This is why I don’t like high fantasy. Black people are a “race.” Chinese people are a “race.” Doesn’t do it for me.
What I kind-of liked was the fact that Mr. Bridges was an antihero. He wasn’t a good person. But he did good things. I like broken characters. The more in the limelight, and the more broken, the better.
One of my earliest realizations of this dark-is-good theme came from a Peter Watts scifi novel called Starfish, about a bunch of mentally unstable criminals living in the deep-ocean trench to clean geothermal power plants. The MC was a girl who seemed feral, and really vindictive. A badass down on her money. This is a book about a broken character among broken characters. She mingles. She tries to be a part of this busted-up wolf pack. And it doesn’t work: they find something out, the government nukes the place, and she survives by swimming twenty miles to the shore. Or something.
Doesn’t sound very anti-hero, I guess. But the second two books has her walking across the dystopic USofA, single-handedly dismantling it from the underbelly up. She infects herself with a deadly virus and simply takes revenge. Opportunistic cyber-viruses attach themselves to her name, she has a lover-killer watching over her, and she simply does whatever she wants. With purpose. I read into this thinking she had no chance, would get caught and tortured and whatnot, and then maybe something huge happens at the end. No. A long, complicating, slow death of something outdated and obscene.
So that’s my pulse. I want to start there. All of my characters, in all my novels, are kinds of anti-heroes. Soren only wants peace, so he goes to great lengths to find it. Shane wants to suffer, and he doesn’t care how he gets it. Artema simply walks, and demons rise to follow her. And Lotus Crow. And Halo. And Haley. Let’s not get started on them.
I’ve been on this kick since college. I love the idea of broken people trying to get better. Perhaps it’s because I’m broken. Perhaps I understand that “broken” is such a misnomer. I’d prefer “experienced” or “reinforced” to broken. The ones who fancy themselves not broken are the ones that shatter the easiest, that are the least aware when something serious happens. They are boring people. Uninteresting. Apologies to the stable ones in the world. The ones who conform. The world needs you. My books need you. I need you. But not because you’re more important–but because everyone has a place.
Anyways. I fell in love with two ideas while I watched Seventh Son (even though neither has anything to do with the movie): 1) I should stop dancing around the idea of writing a Quixotic character and just write him already, and 2) I should write about an object (or person) that is in itself a damaging idea, and a group of Status Quo people who stop at nothing to get it, only to have it blow up in their faces because they can’t control everything. (Think the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil or the Corporation from the Aliens series)
Don Quixote was the most sublime of anti-heroes. He simply walked with a mirror on his back. The roaming jester that would not stop being laughed at by those who stared into the mirror. Until, ultimately, nobody laughed. A quixotic character, while alive, could be humorous and tragic, and once dead, could be explosively destructive as a message. I’ve been thinking about this idea for a few days. I can’t grasp the details yet, but I know it’s something worth biting into.
On that note, I wrote two pages on a story using both of these ideas! With world-building notes under way, and the first page (tentatively) processed, I might have to continue down this line of thought. Perhaps I’ll even combine several stories into one.
Have a great week.