This book is out NOW! from Ragnarok Publications. Check out their site here: http://www.ragnarokpub.com/
Everyone is the hero in their own story
By. C.T. Phipps
One of the most interesting compliments I’ve ever been given was when I first released Esoterrorism was when a reader came up to me and said, “This is some of the best grimdark I’ve read in a long time. Kudos.” The book in question was Esoterrorism, my urban fantasy novel about a man named Derek Hawthorne who works for an Illuminati-esque conspiracy to cover up the supernatural and who fights magical terrorists.
My reaction? “Really, you thought it was grimdark? The book with a scene on a flying carpet where they play Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf on an 8-track player?” Of course, that scene was uncharacteristic of the rest of the novel which included a bunch of brooding by our main hero on the issues related to faith, morality, and whether or not he was the bad guy.
Still, I was surprised to find someone thought the book’s subject matter was that dark and discussed it with him. I found out he thought it was grimdark because Derek was an assassin for a conspiracy that was so obviously the bad guys. I didn’t disagree but, from Derek’s perspective, he was working for the good guys.
At least at first.
Really, I love throwing complicated moral conundrums at my leads. I also am not the kind of writer who contents himself by putting my hero up against people who the audience should feel easy about him beating up. One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten from someone was, “Every antagonist should be able to summarize his position in a coherent manner.” Or, phrased another way, “Everyone is the hero of their own story.”
I’ve thought a lot about this piece of advice and it’s really affected everything from my tastes in literature to my enjoyment of movies. For instance, I can’t watch Star Wars anymore without wondering what the Imperials are thinking. Do they think the rebels are terrorists? How did they spin Alderaan? Didn’t Luke want to go to the Imperial Academy to get away from Tatooine? Does that mean, if Uncle Owen had let him go earlier, he might have been in one of those TIE fighters chasing the Millennium Falcon?
Indeed, one of my biggest disappointments with the Star Wars Prequels (aside from everything else *zing*) was the fact the story didn’t deliver on a more complex nuanced tale. Why did Anakin Skywalker turn to the Dark Side? Something-something mother, something-something seeing Padme in a vision with Obi-Wan, something-something “he just did, okay?” I wanted my childhood icon of evil to explain, “So what is the appeal of being the bad guy?” Say what you will about James Bond villains but you don’t have to look far to see absurdly beautiful women, volcano lairs, and nifty henchmen. It’s not a complex reason but it’s an understandable one.
While some people believe this just leads to moral ambiguity, it’s a bit more complex than that. Many people flat-out will disagree with the positions forwarded by other characters. What’s good for one group isn’t necessarily good for anyone else. Sauron may be the ultimate evil from the perspective of the Gondorians but you can bet the orcs are of the mind he’s just making sure those evil Numenorean-descended nutbars don’t slaughter them in the name of Eru. Anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to politics knows two sides can passionately believe in opposite positions when there’s no objective way of saying which side is ‘right.’
I had a lot of fun writing out the mental gymnastics of Esoterrorism’s characters performed in order to justify why they did what they did. I made sure every single one of them thought they were the good guy while everyone else was wrong, evil, or just opposing their (noble) goal. Some of what they did was distasteful to them but, at the end of the day, they all thought it was worth fighting for. It made the story all the more fun to write.
Of course, there’s nothing preventing you from leaving villains as just obstacles for the protagonist but I, generally, think the audience deserves better. Besides, a reason doesn’t have to be a good one to make sense. History is full of people who did terrible things for no more reason than greed, racism, or because they were told to. For me, though, the best antagonists are those, if you listen to them, might make you agree with them. In which case, you should make sure your hero can explain why he’s in the right.
Or have him deal with the consequences.
About the author:
C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on “The United Federation of Charles” (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).
He’s recently released the novels “The Rules of Supervillainy” and “Esoterrorism.” His third novel, “Wraith Knight” is expected to release in January of 2016.
About the book:
- Series: From the Secret Files of the Red Room
- Paperback: 456 pages
- Publisher: Ragnarok Publications; 1 edition (July 6, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1941987559
- ISBN-13: 978-1941987551
There are no good guys in the world of shadows…but maybe some bad men are better than others.
Derek Hawthorne was born to be an agent of the Red Room. Literally. Raised in a conspiracy which has protected the world from the supernatural for centuries, he’s never been anything other than a servant of their agenda. Times are changing, though, and it may not be long before their existence is exposed.
When a routine mission uncovers the latest plan of the magical terrorist, the Wazir, Derek finds himself saddled with a new partner. Who is the mysterious but deadly Shannon O’Reilly? What is her agenda? Couple this with the discovery the Red Room has a mole seeking to frame Derek for treason and you have a plot which might bring down a millennium-old organization. Can he stop the Wazir’s mission to expose the supernatural? And should he?
“A testosterone fueled urban fantasy, the perfect novel for fans who are tired of the paranormal romance trope, and who want to see more of the action and adventure element. It’s big, it’s frantic, it’s violent, and it’s very often funny.”
—Bob R. Milne, Beauty in Ruins