Tuesday, June 17, 2008

For My Bookworm Friends...

Especially those of you who read sci-fi/fantasy...

We've been eased into "non-traditional" heroes and heroines in these genres over the years. We even have vampire characters who are unarguably blood-suckers, but still good guys. The vamps have come a long way since Bram Stoker.

Is there any reason that a writer couldn't take a leap further into the ever-blurring good/bad character zone?

Is there a line, in your minds, that separates what can be a good guy and what can be a bad guy, based upon what the character is rather than what they do?

With vampire White Hats in books and serial killer vigilantes on TV, is it simply a matter of time, or is there a sensibility line that can't be crossed? And if so, where does it lie? Blood sucking is apparently ok, and being a crazy mofo that does The Bad Thing for the right reasons (Think Edward from the Anita Blake books, god I love that character) but what about animal sacrifice?

If you're squigged out by the idea of animal sacrifice in books and you read Anita Blake though, I'm gonna have to whack you upside the head with a clue.

How about zombies? I mean in the traditional sense (Haitian voodoo) zombies are slaves to their creators, but popular culture has morphed them in many ways over the years. From shambling undead killing machines (either moaning "Braiiiiins" or grunting, it doesn't seem to make much difference) to coherent raised remnants of the dead (a la, you guessed it, Laurell K Hamilton, sorry, I love her books and she pushes the line that I'm addressing so well, it's easy to use her as an example) to movies where they're not really zombies but act like them because of a virus, there's a wide variety of interpretations on zombies now.

Same with werewolves, vampires, witches/wizards, technology, aliens, you name it.

But could you fall in love with a zombie hero?

Is the distinction the characterization? Is it ok to have a creature that would usually be stacked on top of the Black Hat category be a White Hat if he's really a good person, fell into it through no fault of his own, made a mess of things before but had a miraculous bout of leaf-turning and now fights for the side of good?

Or is it the overall tone of the book? Do you prefer a "gray hat" hero in a kick-ass mystery type, or is it easier to love them in a less intense setting like Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels? And does there have to be some kind of "bad" material to the character to make it believable? Ms. Harris makes us love Bill the Vampire right along with Sookie for a while, but then it turns out that he's an ass, although more on a personal level than a life-or-death one.

Where are these lines for you?

Just how smudged and stained can a writer make that white hat before he's not a good guy anymore, to you, the reader?

I'm very curious to see what the responses are on this one.