Literary Things to Love…at the End of a Hard Week

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found this to be a tough week, both on a personal and global kind of level. Right now, the sky is gray, the government is still shut down, I don’t feel great, and I generally need a pick-me-up.

So I went and found one…or maybe a few.

First off, here’s author Terry Pratchett, sporting a shirt he apparently wears to conventions. More reason to love Terry Pratchett? I’d say so.

terry pratchett's t-shirt

And here’s a picture of Mark Twain and Helen Keller, who apparently had a lovely dinner together way back in 1901. If you want to read what he wrote in his journal about this encounter (and, seriously, why would you NOT want to read something Mark Twain wrote?), check out this piece in The Huffington Post.

mark twain 1

And as a parting shot, you can find a whopping 19 kick-butt book-related manicurescourtesy of Buzzfeed. But I had to share my favorite here, because someday, somehow I must have this on my nails.

One literary manicure to rule them all, one literary manicure to find them, one literary manicure to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Lord Of The Rings



Building a Better Villain (With a Little Help from Magneto, Loki, and Gollum)

I never read comic books as a kid, so when I went to see the very first X-Men movie, I didn’t quite know what to expect. So, imagine my surprise when the movie began at the gates of Auschwitz as a young Eric Lensherr is being ripped away from his parents. Imagine my even greater surprise when, at this horrific moment, his powers emerge.

It takes guts to tell a story in which the reader or viewer so immediately sympathizes with the person who’s supposed to be the villain in the story. Of course Eric becomes Magneto. How could he not? And that he and Charles Xavier are such old friends adds still a layer of depth to this character.

Now, it doesn’t hurt that Magneto is played by Ian McKellan in the movie, who is, without question, a source of amazingness in the world. But the depth of the character lies in the comic books and in the story they chose to tell on the screen as well. This is not your run of the mill villain. This guy’s got a purpose—and one you can thoroughly understand.

What got me thinking about villains, you might ask? Well, I’m currently revising a story that has a (completely non-supernatural, fantasy-based) villain in it. And I want her to be more than just the villain.

But it’s also because I saw this on The MarySue:

Tom Hiddleston, Loki

A movie poster featuring the villain, and only the villain. Sure, there’s one of Thor, too. But having seen both the first Thor movie and The Avengers, I am here to tell you that there’s a reason why folks love Loki—and it’s not just Tom Hiddleston’s boyish good looks (though that helps, of course). It’s just that he’s a much more interesting, nuanced character than Thor is.

And being someone who reads a lot of fan/geekgirl stuff, it’s clear that the makers of the second Thor movie (and the second Avengers movie) are fully aware of this. In fact, in a recent interview, Joss Whedon tried to explain why Loki’s not going in the next Avengers movie, basically by admitting that the movie’s about the Avengers, not the villain. Or in other words, Loki might be just a hair more popular than some of the actual Avengers.

The Lord of the Rings, GollumThen there’s Gollum, both on the page and on the screen as performed by Andy Serkis. But for an accidental finding of a ring, Smeagol (who becomes Gollum) might have lived, if not a happy life, at least an uneventful one. The hints of Smeagol still emerge in Gollum, making for a heart-wrenchingly duality in him. Alas, the ring eats away at him and ultimately destroys him. Sure, the supposed villain in The Lord of the Rings is Sauron (and even Saruman). But Gollum steals the villainy show on every level, just because he’s so much more than just a villain.

So, how do you build a better villain? I guess the only answer I’ve come up with thus far is to make him or her a real person as well as a force of badness—to make a really compelling villain you first have to make a really compelling character. Which is no small task.

And with that, my little exploration of sci-fi and fantasy villainy is finally over. Just be glad I spared you my treatise on Anakin Skywalker….