Sunday, 17 April 2016

Heroes And Villains

Poul Anderson did not write a lot of heroes and villains fiction, did he? Dominic Flandry has Aycharaych and Manse Everard has Merau Varagan. Is that Varagan in the center of the image? In The Corridors Of Time, Brann of the Rangers is initially presented as a bad guy and even answers exactly the same physical description as Varagan except for eye color. See here. However, Anderson shows us good sides of Brann - as he usually does with his heroes' adversaries.

Fictional villains do not often see the error of their ways. Father Brown converts Flambeau but this is unique - I think. Aycharaych, if he survived, would no longer have had any reason to continue working for the Merseians but that is not the same thing. We never see him regretting all the suffering he has caused.

Jerry Pournelle's and SM Stirling's Geoffrey Niles does start to see the error of his ways:

"It had seemed so romantic, help the poor against the Spartan aristocracy, overthrow the tyrants, but the Spartan kings weren't tyrants. Not at all.

"He thought of what Skilly had ordered. Kill all the prisoners. His troops would have obeyed, but of course he hadn't transmitted that order.

"I was on the wrong side. This isn't Lawrence of Arabia. No romance here. This isn't anything I want to be part of."
-Jerry Pournelle and SM Stirling, The Prince (New York, 2002), p. 847.

It is good to see a character who has got things wrong starting to get them right. Does anything like this happen in Anderson's many works?

Lastly, the Smallville TV series presents two very interesting character transformations:

Clark Kent's dishonesty gradually transforms Lex Luthor from his friend into his adversary;
meanwhile, Lex's father, Lionel, somehow changes from a really bad guy into a really good guy, prepared to keep Clark's secret and even to sacrifice himself for Martha Kent.

I really wish that Poul Anderson had applied his skills as a hard sf writer to a Superman novel.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, by and large, Poul Anderson did not write many stories showing an undilutedly bad man or alien being as a villain. Rather, he shows them as being, by their lights, and many of those of their opponents, as being reasonably decent people. The example you gave of Brann being a good example.

You asked if any characters created by Poul Anderson were able to realize that a cause they served did not deserve their loyalty. I can think of at least one, the Merseian spy Dwyr the Hook, whom we see in ENSIGN FLANDRY. It was discovering how his own revered superiors had lied to him about not being able to cure him of war injuries which forced him to reevaluate his loyalty to the Roidhunate. It's plain he decided the Empire, old and decadent as it was, was more deserving of his loyalty.

S.M. Stirling, by contrast, does show us very, very bad people in some of his books. Most notoriously, the Draka. But we see how decency can be found even among the Draka, even if too few of them had the strength of will needed to break their life long "conditioning" and turn against the Domination. Here I had Eric von Shrakenberg and his cousin Andrew in mind.