Friday, January 18, 2013

Follow Friday - The World's Longest Place Name Has Ninety-Two Characters and Is Spelled Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaurehaeaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu


It's Friday again, and this means it's time for Follow Friday. There has been a slight change to the format, as now there are two Follow Friday hosts blogs and two Follow Friday Features Bloggers each week. To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:
  1. Follow both of the Follow My Book Blog Friday Hosts (Parajunkee and Alison Can Read) and any one else you want to follow on the list.
  2. Follow the two Featured Bloggers of the week - Reading Under the Willow Tree and On Starships and Dragonwings.
  3. Put your Blog name and URL in the Linky thing.
  4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments.
  5. Follow, follow, follow as many as you can, as many as you want, or just follow a few. The whole point is to make new friends and find new blogs. Also, don't just follow, comment and say hi. Another blogger might not know you are a new follower if you don't say "Hi".
  6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the love . . . and the followers.
  7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!
  8. If you're new to the Follow Friday Hop, comment and let me know, so I can stop by and check out your blog!
And now for the Follow Friday Question: Who is your favorite villain from a book?

This is an interesting question, because many classic science fiction books have no substantial villain, or a villain who isn't very memorable. The Foundation series (read reviews), for example, has no real villain of note, unless one counts the Mule, and he only shows up for a moderate portion of the series, and other than the fact that he upsets the Seldon Plan, he isn't really very villainous. HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great antagonist, but as he is merely a computer that had been given two contradictory sets of instructions, he isn't really a villain so much as an obstacle. In Starship Troopers, the "bugs" are involved in a war of extermination against humanity (and humanity is returning the favor), but they aren't really "villains", and even if they were, they are more or less just a faceless opponent with no particularly interesting traits. Even some of the classics of Space Opera such as the Lensman series (read reviews), where one would expect delicious scenery chewing villains, the opposition is mostly faceless evil. In many cases, great science fiction doesn't really seem to yield that many great villains.

One might expect fantasy fiction to yield great villains, but in many ways, the field is just as slender there as it is in science fiction, although for different reasons. A lot of fantasy fiction has terrible villains who are so built up during the story that they either can't appear or when they do, turn out to be a disappointment. In The Lord of the Rings, for example, Sauron is clearly a terrible villain, but other than simply being described ominously as "the enemy" many times, he never actually appears in the book, and then dissipates into nothingness when the One Ring is destroyed. He's a scary villain, but not a particularly interesting one. And a lot of other fantasy stories have a similar problem: their villains are more or less just an uninteresting iteration of the evil overlord archetype without much that is particularly noteworthy about them. Other fantasy villains get a lot of stage time, but seem to be something of a disappointment. A case in point would be Voldemort, who is mentioned at the very beginning of the series as "he who must not be named", but in the end is defeated because a teenager is quicker on the draw than he is in a terribly anticlimactic finish to the final volume.

Generally filmed fiction has better villains. There is probably no ones more recognizable today as a villain than Darth Vader, who practically defines the Space Opera movie villain. But the problem with movie villains is how much of the adulation they receive is because of the villain, and how much is because of the actor playing him? Would Vader be as popular without James Earl Jones' voice? I love "the Darkness" from the movie Legend, but do I love the villain himself, or do I just love the character because playing him gave Tim Curry such a great opportunity to portray him? Given that filmed fiction is not what the question is really aimed at, it might be best just to drop those questions rather than chase down the rabbit hole after them.

Having said all that, I think I'll go with the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from the Dune series. Even though he dies in the first book, that doesn't stop him from being a major part of books two and three, and being able to cause trouble for the Atredies even after his own demise. While alive, he is deliciously evil and decadent, accomplishing the rather rare combination of being a fiction character who is both amazingly intelligent and crafty, sexual and lusty, and morbidly obese. While his nephews Feyd and Rabban are pretty bland and a sort of "evil but banal" manner, Vladimir is both interesting and horrifying. And for that, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is my favorite villain in fiction.


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8 comments:

  1. holy moly you wrote alot! however, i can definatly see where you are coming from in your viewpoint. great post.

    Check out my Follow Friday

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  2. I like your thought process. I had a hard time coming up with a villain for a lot of those same reasons.

    New follower! My FF is here!

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  3. Ah, the Baron. Sci fi villains pale in comparison. And he's Paul's grandfather. Makes his role even more delicious. Although I think the Reverend Mother makes a pretty nasty villain - because she's self-righteous.

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  4. Just hopping on thru...Happy Feature & Follow Friday!
    Have urself a great weekend!!

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  5. @Opal Kim: So much of science fiction doesn't really even have a "villain", so much as an opposition. Even H,G, Wells' invading martians are not really villains, but are rather antagonists at most. And fantasy often has poorly defined villains who are evil just because they are evil. Tolkien's work, with Morgoroth and Sauron, seems to be the template for fantasy villains. But Tolkien was making a metaphysical statement with his villains, as opposed to trying to create fully realized characters.

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  6. @Julia Rachel Barrett: True. The initially unknown Harkonnen connection to the Atredies just makes the Baron that much more of a compelling villainous presence.

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