Villainous characters

The list of villains in literature continues. If you’ve missed the rest of the list, check previous posts.

35. Tom Ripley: A killer who feels no remorse whatsoever, Ripley is the antihero from Patricia Highsmith’s novels about the man, beginning with The Talented Mr. Ripley (Coward-McCann, 1955). Among others, Ripley’s skill set includes murder, confidence schemes, identity theft and impersonation.

It struck Tom like a horrible truth, true for all time, true for the people he had known in the past and for those he would know in the future : each had stood and would stand before him, and he would know time and time again that he would never know them…

34.  Jack Merridew: Perhaps he is just a boy, but that’s one of the things that makes him such an interesting villain.  When a group of English boys is cast away on a deserted island after a shipwreck, Jack quickly becomes the ringleader of the wilder of the boys in William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies (Faber and Faber, 1954).  Jack leads the boys away from an ordered survival plan, missing a passing boat at one point.  The boys follow Jack into primal chaos and he leads them there with great glee.

“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.”

33.  Nurse Ratched: Described as evil by more than a few readers of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Viking Press, 1962), Mildred Ratched rules the mental institution where she works with an iron hand, overseeing nearly all aspects of the institution’s daily operations.  Sadistic and cold, she revels in her power over the patients of the institution.  When the protagonist of the novel arrives to the facility and begins doing everything he can to defy Ratched’s rigid rules, she combats him with electric shock, and when that doesn’t work, finally resorts to lobotomizing the man.

“I thought for a minute there I saw her whipped. Maybe I did. But I see now that it don’t make any difference…. To beat her you don’t have to whip her two out of three or three out of five, but every time you meet. As soon as you let down your guard, as soon as you lose once, she’s won for good. And eventually we all got to lose. Nobody can help that.”

32. Cthulhu: The ultimate freaky monster from beyond, Cthulhu was dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft, making its first appearance in the short story “The Call of Cthulhu,” (Weird Tales Magazine, 1928). In Lovecraft’s fiction, the ancient many tentacled being from beyond was followed by a doomsday cult.  Cthulhu has become such a phenomenal hit with readers, anthologies are still written about the beast today.  It has also become the basis for role playing games, music, and my favorite – Cthulhu slippers! (An item I should be receiving any day now:)

They were not composed altogether of flesh and blood. They had shape…but that shape was not made of matter. When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live. But although They no longer lived, They would never really die. They all lay in stone houses in Their great city of R’lyeh, preserved by the spells of mighty Cthulhu for a glorious resurrection when the stars and the earth might once more be ready for Them.

31. Vladimir Harkonnen: Planetary baron and leader of the house Harkonnen in Frank Herbert’s Dune (Chilton Books, 1965), Vladimir is a master manipulator.  He engineered the death of the protagonist, Paul Atreides’ father, ironically setting into motion events that would later precipitate his own demise.  The baron devised elaborate tortures to be meted out upon his enemies and often used murder and slavery to maintain his power base.  Vladimir was a bad, bad man.

When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual.

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More literary villains

And the list of well written, memorable villains in literature continues:

40. Edgler Vess: The worst kind of psychopath, the kind with authority, we’re introduced to Mr. Vess in the pages of Dean Koontz’s thriller Intensity (1995, Bantam Books).  Vess is a thrill killer with all the knowledge of someone inside law enforcement, thereby allowing him to escape retribution and punishment for his acts.  A self described “homicidal adventurer,” Vess returns home after a spree of rape and murder with a stowaway and it is shortly thereafter that we see the true depths of his depravity.

Edgler Vess knows that there is no such thing as a good or bad sensation -- only raw sensation itself -- and that every sensory experience is worthwhile. Negative and positive values are merely human interpretations of value-neutral stimuli and, therefore, are only as enduring -- which is to say, as meaningless -- as human beings themselves.

39.  Ben Reich: Reich chooses to take a life and this makes him a bad man. But what makes the killer from Alfred Bester’s classic science fiction novel The Demolished Man (1953, Shasta Publications) such a great villain, are the lengths that he goes to in order to attempt to get away with the crime.  In a world in which the police force is telepathic and thus, murder has not been committed in 70 years, Reich has to arrange for mental protection during the commission and planning stage of the crime.

If a man’s got talent and guts to buck society, he’s obviously above average. You want to hold on to him. You straighten him out and turn him into a plus value. Why throw him away? Do that enough and all you’ve got left are the sheep

38.  Grendel: Far from a complex villain, I just had to include Grendel because the creature is the classic monster in literature.  First written about in an old Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf,  dating somewhere between 700 and 1,000 AD, the creature became the inspiration for multiple tales about dragons and other monstrous beasts throughout the years.  A horrible creature, Grendel attacked the mead halls, killing and eating everyone there.

Every nail, claw-scale and spur, every spike
and welt on the hand of that heathen brute
was like barbed steel. Everybody said
there was no honed iron hard enough
to pierce him through, no time proofed blade
that could cut his brutal blood caked claw
37.  The Queen of Hearts: This nasty matriarch frightened children everywhere with the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, Macmillan).  When your answer to every challenge is beheading the offender, sooner or later, there won’t be any challenges left.

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking round.

36.  Brutus: Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here because Brutus is someone from history.  But he’s also a character in William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (1623, First Folio) and this is the Brutus I’m referring to here. This Roman joined in a conspiracy against his close friend Julius Caesar, going so far as to help assassinate him, by plunging a dagger into his back along with the senators.  Granted, Brutus thought what he was doing was right because of a false rumor planted by one of the other conspirators in the Senate, but that just makes him a more tragic villain.

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

– Brutus

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Literary villains

Continuing the list of good villains in literature:

45. Hal 9000: Can a computer get much more sinister? The onboard sentient computer from Arthur C. Clarke‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, New American Library) tried to kill every last member of its crew during its mission to Jupiter. Hal paved the way for other fictional artificial intelligences like Skynet and WOPR.

Even now, he could not fully accept the idea that Frank had been deliberately killed—it was so utterly irrational. It was beyond all reason that Hal, who had performed flawlessly for so long, should suddenly turn assassin.

44. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar: There aren’t many villainous pairs quite as memorable as these two from Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere (1996, BBC Books). A matched pair of assassins from the magical realm of London Below, tasked with finding and eliminating the last of the royal bloodline, princess Door, one of the character traits that makes this dastardly duo stand out so prominently is that they’re just so damn polite.

Croup and Vandemar, the Old Firm, obstacles obliterated, nuisances eradicated, bothersome limbs removed and tutelary dentistry undertaken.

– Mr. Croup

43. Montresor: Who could forget this classic villain from Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story of suspense The Cask of Amontillado (1846, Godey’s Lady’s Book)? So consumed with anger over some hinted at insult, he lures his friend into a wine cellar and then after getting his pal drunk on the spirit, entombs him alive in the cellar wall.  If that’s how Montresor treats his friends I’d sure hate to see what he does to his enemies.

I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.  A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.

42.  Wicked Witch of the West: In Frank L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900, George M. Hill Company), Young Dorothy just wanted to get home after being deposited by a cyclone into a strange land. The Wicked Witch of the West did everything in her power, from casting magical spells to commanding flying monkeys, to capture Dorothy because she wanted the girl’s silver slippers.  The woman is a matriarch who rules Winkie Country with a gnarled iron fist and according to the book, she is so wicked that she doesn’t even bleed when Dorothy’s dog, Toto, bites her in response to being hit with the witch’s umbrella.

See what you have done! In a minute I shall melt away. Didn’t you know water would be the end of me? Well, in a few minutes I shall be all melted, and you will have the castle to yourself. I have been wicked in my day, but I never thought a little girl like you would ever be able to melt me and end my wicked deeds. Look out – here I go!

41.  Max Cady: Sent to prison for rape, Cady believes his attorney Sam Bowden failed to appropriately defend him in court in John D. MacDonald‘s novel The Executioners (1957, Fawcett). When Cady gets out of the Big House he decides to enact the revenge he vowed upon Bowden while locked away.  He proceeds to terrorize the attorney’s family, attempting to seduce the man’s younger daughter in the process. When a restraining order doesn’t work, Bowden hires some men to rough up Cady.  Naturally, this doesn’t dissuade the criminal in the least. Cady is such an engrossing villain, MacDonald’s book has been made into a film twice.

It’s not necessary to lay a foul tongue on me my friend. I could get upset. Things could get out of hand. Then in self defense, I could do something to you that you would not like, right here.

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Good villains in literature

Villains. The characters we love to hate and hate to love. A good fictional villain is not just some evil person, though there are definitely some excellent exceptions. The best villains in fiction are complex characters – sometimes they even believe they are doing the right thing – who have great reason and motivation for their actions. So I’ve put together a list of 50 villainous baddies from the pages of fiction throughout history.

That’s a lot of malice for one post, so I’m going to break it up, presenting five today. Without further ado:

50. General Teuche Kunessin – The main character in K.J. Parker’s The Company (2008, Orbit Books), Kunessin is a special kind of deuche. He spends an entire war inspiring in others the ability to do the impossible, and forms a lifelong bond of loyalty with them, earning their respect and devotion. It isn’t until after Kunessin and company have retired to a captured and unguarded island that it is discovered their beloved leader has betrayed them all.

49. Cruella de Vil: Can you get much more villainous than wearing the fur coats of cute little puppies? The character has been made infamous thanks to the Disney film, but she first appeared in Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. (1956, Heinemann). If she were an actual person, I’m sure she’d have to deal with some of the more radical PETA supporters.

48. Claudia: Any vampire can be seen as an evil character. Let’s face it, undead = bad, especially during today’s current zombie craze. But to corrupt an innocent child by turning her into an undead creature that must kill to survive, that’s good writing. In Anne Rice‘s Interview With the Vampire (1976, Alfred A. Knopf) we read of Claudia’s transformation taking place as well as the cursed effect of her immortal youth upon her psyche.

47. Bill Sikes: A criminal with no redeeming qualities, Sikes can be found murdering, robbing, beating his girlfriend to death and beating his dog in the pages of Oliver Twist (1837, Richard Bentley) by Charles Dickens. Sikes is a brutal, bad man who comes to a suitable end and definitely belongs on this list.

46. Jack: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but playing turned him into a psychopathic attempted murderer in Stephen King‘s The Shining, (1977, Doubleday), so maybe all that work wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Though he didn’t actually kill them, in the grips of madness, Jack tried to murder his own family.  Though he failed, he is still one of King’s most memorable bad guys.  King is well-known for the depth of character he provides not just for his villains, but for all his characters.  Don’t be surprised if you see more of his characters pop up on this list in future posts.

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Save the Poe museum

The Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, MD is in danger of being closed! I first learned of this on Twitter, when Neil Gaiman sent out a tweet.

I’ve signed the petition and am urging other like-minded folks to do the same.  If there’s any author who deserves a museum it is indeed Edgar Allan Poe.  The father of detective fiction (“The Murders in the Rue Morgue”) and a talented poet, the man’s work is taught in high schools and universities throughout the world.  The Mystery Writers of America named their awards for excellence after the man.

Poe’s influence is seen today, not only directly through his classic fiction, “The Tell Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and numerous others, but in the contemporary works of authors influenced by him, such as Stephen King, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, Jefferey Deaver, Lawrence Block, Sue Grafton and Tess Gerritsen.

Now, thanks to budget cuts, the museum could likely become the new home to a Starbucks, or some other chain store with too many locations and overpriced goods, while the museum doors open nevermore.

Really, when’s the last time you saw an award named for a $5 flavored latte?

So please, head here and add your name to the petition.

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Ten Laws of Writing Science Fiction

Some good guidelines for writing science fiction here.

Can’t say I agree with everything on the page, but it’s definitely a good idea to keep some of these points in mind when writing SF.

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Speaking of Steampunk…

Interesting article about Steampunk over at SWFA by Tanita Davis.

By the way, if you like steampunk and haven’t read it yet, you should give Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker a try.

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Upcoming anthology news

So it turns out the anthology from Nightfall Publications has been delayed. From Shadows and Nightmares is now slated for a June release date, instead of the previously reported March publication date.

But that just means more time to get excited about the anthology.  Aside from my first published piece of fiction, “Fetch,” this anthology of the supernatural, the horrific and the paranormal will include tales from writers around the globe, including Japan and the UK.

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, take a gander at the stories and authors appearing in the anthology.

“Penny Dreadful”                                 James Dorr

“Wedding Day Blues”                          Stacey Longo

“The Confession”                                 T.S. Charles

“The Red Blanket”                              Tamara Eaton

“‘Round Midnight”                              Quintin Peterson

“Harbinger”                                          Karyne Corum

“Delirium”                                             Jennifer Moore

“Rattlemaker”                                      Michael O’Neal

“Bobby Bumping”                                 Diana Arrelle

“The New House”                                 Michele Wyan

“Flush”                                                    Barry Rosenberg

“The Little Contractor Tool Kit”         Mark Lee Pearson

“The Furnace”                                       Hall Jameson

“First Date”                                            Jeffrey Wooten

“Room 116”                                            Joyce Frohn

“Fetch”                                                   Steve Coate

“A Ravening Beast”                              Janet Lorimer

“Moving Day”                                       Vince Darcangelo

“Edward”                                               Claire Rowland

“Aloysius Stratton”                               Anne Lessing

“Spider Silk and Banshee Hair”          Mae Empson

As the publication date approaches, I’ll share information on how folks can obtain a copy.

On the submissions front, I’ve sent in a new steampunk/western story to The Library of Science Fiction for a cross genre anthology called Liminality.

Next up, I’m working on a daikaiju tale.

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New Year, New Method

I was recently over at the SFReader community and happened across a post by Samuel Mae about a writing initiative set to begin with the new year called Write 1 Sub 1. Click the link if you want a more … Continue reading

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