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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sympathy for a Villain (Craft/Opinion)

I'm trying something new (to me...)

Janet Lane Walker invited a series of guest authors to submit one or more of their villains to be interviewed on her blog. If I could relocate the link, I'd post it here, but I can't.

Last Thursday, one of my favorite sfr blogs, The Galaxy Express, had a fabulous piece about what makes Darth Vader such a great villain.

So, if a villain casts his long, dark shadow over an entire series of books (as my ancient, evil Django-Ra does), is a dramatic monologue in his POV a good way to introduce new readers to the last book in the series? LMK.

Here's Django!

Allow me to introduce myself...
I am the god-Prince Django-Ra. To my face, you should call me "Your Highness" or "Sir". Behind my back, I presume you will call me "Django" pronounced "Jan-GO"... The D- of Royal names is silent.

So, little Earthling, you are cautiously curious about me.

Know, then, that I am exceptionally gifted and exceedingly dangerous. I can read or wipe minds with ridiculous ease, just as I am reading yours. I play god-level chess, and am one of the most formidable Duplicate Bridge players in all the galaxies. Certainly I cheat. A god-Prince must be seen to win!

What's that? Ah, yes! You may well wonder whether or not I can read the mind of my favorite great niece, Electra-Djerroldina, the Volnoths' queen. She wears the most perplexing… Hah! but I will not tell you.

As you see, I enjoy excellent health –yes, sexual vigor, also—despite my advanced years. In my day, I was a superb star-fighter pilot with many kills to my credit... and to my discredit. Friendly fire is such a useful expression, isn't it?

Of course I have killed friends. And family. And lovers. We all do. It is inevitable. The Djinn bloodline is almost extinct. There are desperately few full Djinn females left for us to fight over. Those that there are, are taken. Alas! Which leaves lesser beings such as yourself, whose innards are not strong enough to endure multiple impregnations by a Great Djinn.

You are skeptical! Consider my great-nephew, the Crown Prince Tarrant-Arragon. He searched the galaxies for gestates. Yes, gestates. In our World, we measure time by the female cycle, and by the duration of a Royal pregnancy. His new Mate –or "wife"—is half-Earthling. He is beside himself with worry that she may not survive the birth of his heir.

Have I confused you? Every book has a genealogical table either in the front or at the back. Or visit the official family tree at http://www.rowenacherry.com/familytree It is…ah, economical with the truth. My own bastards, for instance, are not attributed to me.

Why do I do… what I do? I daresay I have bad Djinn genes. I enjoyed a deeply disturbing childhood. My twin brother died in what you would call his crib. I had nothing to do with his demise. It would have done me no good to expedite his departure from this life. We had vigorous, older half-brothers who were Heir Apparent and second in line to the Imperial throne, and it was beyond my strength and powers to remove them from my path.

Indeed, I was obliged to feign an interest in lesser-being members of my own sex in order to bask in the variable star-shine of my big brothers' tolerance. As long as they thought me "peculiar", they did not see me as a threat. Eventually, as you see, I...ah... outlived them.

Their untimely deaths brought me no particular joy. I did not get what I've always wanted.

What's that? I want to experience the Great Djinn rut rage. Earthling, do you understand what the rut-rage is? It is a drive, a sexual madness, a mating frenzy. Pure Great Djinn males, such as myself, have saturniid glands that can smell a full-Djinn female who is approaching oestrus from as many as fifty of your miles away. We then fixate upon that "scent love" sight unseen, and become obsessed with her.

Did I once have a "scent love"? Yes, but I never was in a position to claim her. My muscular half-brothers had Helispeta, consecutively. I, alas, would have gladly stood in line but Djohn Kronos and Devoron-Vitan made war over her, and Helispeta took sanctuary on your planet, Earth, beyond my reach. Not that she ever knew of my passion.

After she was lost to me, I tried to experience the rut-rage with others, even with my nephew's Empress, Tarragonia-Marietta, but met only with frustration. You may read my great nephew's love story, Forced Mate, and also Insufficient Mating Material for a less subtle view of my exploits.

Hmmmm. I believe I smell heightened excitement. My foolish, frivolous great-niece Martia-Djulia's forced Mating Ceremony must be about to begin. You will excuse me....

Just as I prefer my heroes to be slightly morally questionable, so I like my villains to be likeable --or at least entertaining-- when they want to be. As I wrote of Tarrant-Arragon (who is either hero or antagonist) his civilized veneer curls up at the edges.

Django-Ra is my most heinous villain. He and Helispeta saw the trouble begin in the electronic prequel Mating Net, and have seen it through Forced Mate, Insufficient Mating Material, and now into Knight's Fork. That's why I chose dramatic monologue by him to introduce you to his wicked world of the Tiger god-Princes of Tigron.

Some villains are too interesting to be killed off. But, if it seems that a happy ending depends upon their death, who is to do the deed? Can the heroine remain a romantic heroine if she kills the villain? Is it acceptable if she kills the villain by accident, or in self-defense, or in defense of the hero or some other vulnerable character?

Princess Leia strangled Jabba The Hutt. That was cool. Eowen killed the undead Ringwraith King. That was cooler.

Ditto for the hero. There's not so much of a double standard about a hero's activities. He's usually a knight or high-ranking professional warrior. Nevertheless... Luke didn't. Aragorn didn't.

Is it a cop out if the villain is simply hoist by his own petard (which literally means blown up by his own bomb)? I don't think so. There is a certain satisfaction --a "thusness"-- to that turn of events.

What inspires my villains? Not just the exquisitely courteous arch-villains of the Bond movies. For me, the most memorably wicked villain in literature was the Duke in Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess". He doesn't make The Daily Telegraph's list of Literature's 50 greatest villains -- http://tinyurl.com/50-villains

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