Why do we(*1) fall in love with the antihero(*2) (part 1)?

love antihero 1 pics

  1. By ‘we’ I mean me – or, more properly, I. And maybe you.
  2. Here I’m talking about both the ‘bad’ guy (antagonist), and the character who clearly intends to be the hero of the story but due to some issues, such as personality defects or utterly appalling decision-making, causes mayhem and disaster, up to and occasionally including the end of the world (sit down, Arthur Dent; it wasn’t your fault). I’m very happy to entertain discussions (and even arguments) about all and any points raised here. Much as I love words such as protagonist and antagonist (and for that matter deuteragonist, which is a word I only learned yesterday and already find adorable) I’m lumping them all together for the purposes of this article.

I’ll give you an example. In the film Die Hard, we were invited to admire and give our attention to the flawed hero John McClane. I’d seen Bruce Willis in Moonlighting, I knew that twinkle, I was prepared to buy into the first of what turned out to be a very successful movie franchise. But partway through the film something odd happened (and I know I’m not alone – there’s an entire universe of women who’ve told me they felt the same): I found myself falling for the villain (Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman). The more he curled that lip and uttered his pithy psychopathic monosyllables, the more he threatened (and the more he became aware that he was losing control of his perfect crime) the more I liked him. There was something indefinably attractive about that character – he commanded a level of attention that I just couldn’t give to poor old McClane, who was forced to go to greater and greater lengths (from bodily harm to shootings to exploding half the building) in order to regain my interest.

Don’t let’s get hung up here on whether I’m talking about sexual attraction, the charisma of an intriguing individual, or the kind of stunned fascination a bird feels for the approaching snake – in Die Hard, they were all pretty much the same thing. Here was a masterful portrayal of a malicious, genuinely amoral character who would stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and who had planned from the beginning to kill, and intended to enjoy it – evil through and through, but, damn, did he look good on it! When the bad guy met his inevitable doom, I regretted it. I’d have reached out a hand to save him. The first time I watched Die Hard I dreamed about Hans Gruber – and, yes, it was one of those dreams. (And before I hear a ‘but…’ – I’ve seen Alan Rickman in films and plays where his character was not attractive. That’s acting.)

Of course, the character of John McClane himself was an antihero, of the type that tries to do everything for the best but pretty much messes up whatever he touches (although since it was an American film it got the obligatory happy ending). Attractive enough in his own right – but he spent the whole film playing catch-up to the villain.

Here’s another one. And for me it’s even more disturbing. I’m loving the brand new Starz/Neil Gaiman series ‘American Gods’, starring Ricky Whittle as one of my favourite book characters,  Shadow Moon. I adore Shadow, and Whittle’s portrayal is spot on. This is definitely a flawed hero – an ex –con with a penchant for making friends by his fist. He doesn’t think he’s a hero – in fact, he’s so reluctant to play the role that it’s beginning to become apparent that he’s being slowly pressed into a mould that’s a very bad fit for him indeed. Who is doing the pressing? None other than (spoiler alert) Woden himself, Mr Wednesday, the one-eyed god whose potency is fed by conflict and war.

Played with a horrible and oily charm by Ian McShane, the once-mighty AllFather of Norse myth is now a seedy down-at-heel rogue on a road trip across America, trying to enlist the aid of other gods – from cultures as broad and diverse as the USA’s population – to come to his aid; for what purpose, we do not yet know. So far he’s scammed a first class flight ticket (and who among us wouldn’t do the same, if we could?), set up a bar fight, made a bit of lightning and robbed a bank (it’s early days yet). He’s also made love (on every level from a raised eyebrow to the full naked-girl-on-bed) to an assortment of women – he’s happy to turn his eye on anything female, and they all seem to respond to him. Creepy, right?

Strangely, not. In fact, I find myself watching intently to see who he’ll draw in next. The Mr Wednesday of American Gods is barely hanging on to godhood – Odin’s divine grace is not on show here. All the power he has lies in Ian McShane’s ability to show us a man who believes he is a god: a small-town sleazy snake-oil salesman. What on earth is attractive about that? But he is. God, he is.

I think that in part it’s about flaws. A man with faults is much easier to love than perfection. In fact, in my experience ‘perfection’ really only loves itself. But there’s more to it than that. I’ve known (in real life) snake-oil salesmen with a sweet line in patter and a charm that’s no more than a few microns deep. Most intelligent women (and it took me longer than most) will see through that kind of fakery. Wednesday, however, clearly believes the line he’s selling. He’s better (divinely better) than the average con artist. Hans Gruber, on the other hand, made no attempt to charm the victims of his heist, or indeed the members of the film audience. And yet, the attraction was there.

So what is going on in my head? That’s a question I’ll come back to, because there’s plenty more thinking to be done before I come to a conclusion. I’m still gathering evidence. There may be a list. Or it might be that I’m heading home to watch Die Hard again.

But I’ll leave you with this thought. If Shadow is the flawed hero, and Wednesday his companion – does that make Wednesday an antihero? Or a villain? Keep watching. You’ll find out.

Voice of Monarch Butterflies

voice of monarch butterflies

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Voice-Monarch-Butterflies-Eastern-Anthology/dp/1533565198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466708530&sr=8-1&keywords=voice+of+monarch

I didn’t come to this anthology cold. I am already following two of its poets on Twitter: the editor, Iranian poet Soodabeh Saeidnia, and my friend, Egyptian poet Ash Bahget, host of the #Ashverse poetry thread and a muse to many of us in his own right. I confess I bought the book purely to have the pleasure of reading some of Ash’s longer works. Twitter poetry is a challenge and a pleasure, but there is a different vibe in a longer poem, room to breathe and stretch a little, to let the words spread themselves out and show their depth.

I have a great respect for any writer who has the strength of will to write in a language not their first. Reading these poems, I prepared myself to be tolerant, thinking that quality might easily be hidden under a lack of facility with the language. O woman of little faith, hang your head in shame. Here is the language I have spoken from the cradle, turned and examined and crafted by ten poets, all of whom are completely competent in at least two written languages. I have never had the nerve to write in any language but my mother tongue, and now I find myself outed as a dilettante, a shiftless layabout, a poet only half committed to my craft, speaker of only a single language. And lazy!

Here I find images the mind cannot let go:

Even though the petals fell / blackened like leaves from hell / the tree is still standing…

-Ash Bahget

 

Moments of pure heartache:

I love the people / who left footprints / on my heart beach

Never faded / by waves / of other smiles

-Soodabeh Saeidnia

 

The power of desire:

Take a sip of me / I’ll drift under your skin

-Anooshka Khazaeie

 

Touching:

I tried many times / to forget your words / to unlearn the memories

To untie the knot forever…

…I am prisoning myself in the walls of your words.

-Abu Sufian

 

Heartbreakingly topical:

The girls had dropped their head scarves and dropped shoes along the way

I used that as a guide to follow where the Hashtag came from…

From ‘Hashtag’ by Debasis Mukhopadhyay

 

The walking bomb / frustrated and scared / cannot focus on green gardens any more…

-Aimal Zaman

 

Breadth of scholarship: these poets reference Darwin and Scheherezade, monarch butterflies and sequoias, American poet Anne Sexton, Sufism and ekphrasis, the rose among thorns, the bird in a cage. These are words born out of the absolute necessity of the poet to speak to us, and in reading them we go on a journey for which we were not – could not ever be – prepared.

This book will have a worthy place on my poetry shelf, one day far into the future, when it has stopped being beside my desk tempting me, every day, to open it and read one more poem.

And I am completely in awe of the sheer reckless bravery of the man who has not only read Kafka, but manages to write poetry about the experience! I am leaving the final words to him.

…-Like a dog! Like a dog! I say and fold the page in a hundred folds to unfold a crease that never comes out.

-Debasis Mukhopadhyay

 

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Bee and Let Bee: Carol Anne Hunter

A nice little ramble about bees… I like bees… much more interesting than having me bumble on.

The Romaniacs

We are delighted to welcome Carol Anne Hunter, author of Project Me, to Romaniac HQ. Get your cake and coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy this beautiful story.

Let’s bee having you, Carol Anne …

Carol Hunter Author Pic

My novel, Project Me, a comedy about starting again at fifty, was published last year. I’ve received the usual feedback from friends and family but one two-para piece of romantic rambling about bees is regularly cited as a stand-out point. The thing is, I stole these two paragraphs from a random short story I wrote a couple of years ago, changed the wording a little and used them as a device to give my character hope when she was near breaking point. The ploy worked a treat. So in the hope of warming away your winter blues and giving you something to look forward to, here is the latest version of the whole story…

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Unintended Guardian

mythos legacy

“The Mythos Legacy, where real myths find real love.” Unintended Guardian is a short (too short) but very tasty introduction to the upcoming Mythos Legacy novels. It may be brief, but it gives a very clear flavour of what you can look forward to. I can already tell that the Mythos books are going to contain humour, fun, a gentle eroticism, and that they will reference a whole world of mythological creatures.

What if myths are real? What if there is another world alongside our own, inhabited by creatures we know only from story and legend? What if they are looking for love – an all too human characteristic? And what if one woman chooses to write a series of books about them – and that woman is Jami Gold, whose writing is clever, clear and sublimely entertaining. It’s got to be good, hasn’t it?

The Guardian here is Griff Cyrus, described by Jami’s protagonist as “a Viking of a man, all long tawny hair and broad shoulders.” In the Mythos world he is a gryphon ( part lion, part eagle) and he cannot bear the touch of sunlight – the sun is forbidden to him until he can undo his great error of three hundred years ago, when he lost the treasure he was supposed to be guarding. Solving his problem, and freeing him to walk in the light of day, require the assistance of his human neighbour, Kala, and the way in which she goes about it is very entertaining. No more shall be said on this point…

The first full-length Mythos novel is the upcoming Treasured Claim – a dragon story with a difference. It promises much.

Jami Gold is no stranger to those of us who are practicing the writer’s craft. She has a very good website, full of useful tips and information, and I’ve featured her in my blog before. I find her writers’ worksheets particularly useful. http://jamigold.com/

Here is my interview with Yvonne Marjot

My blog interview with Fiona McVie. Thanks, Fiona.

authorsinterviews

Y Marjot author pic Aug 2014

Name Yvonne Marjot
Age 52
Where are you from? I was born in England but grew up in New Zealand. Now I live on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Yvonne Marjot was born in England, grew up in New Zealand, and now lives on an island off the West Coast of Scotland. She has a Masters in Botany from Victoria University of Wellington, and a keen interest in the interface between the natural and human worlds. She has always made up stories and poems, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition (New Zealand Listener, May 1996). In 2012 she won the Britwriters Award for poetry, and her first volume of poetry, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, was published in 2014 by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

She has worked in schools, libraries and…

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…yeez’ll never guess… what do Crooked Cat Publishing, the Middle East, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull have in common?…

…yeez’ll never guess… what do Crooked Cat Publishing, the Middle East, and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull have in common?….

The Calgary Chessman – new book by Yvonne Marjot

Thanks, Angelika, for coming up with a really fun interview – and for hosting me on your blog.

Angelika Rust

Yvonne Marjot, the name rings a bell, doesn’t it? Right, over the past months, she contributed greatly to my little PublicTransport PoeTry project. Today, her book The Calgary Chessman was published. I’ll admit, I haven’t yet finished reading it, but I’ve read the first few chapters when it was still on authonomy, liked it a lot and thus was delighted when she asked me whether I’d be willing to bang a few drums for her.

So let’s move straight on to what she has to say.

WhoY Marjot author pic Aug 2014 are you?

My name is Yvonne Marjot, and that’s also the name under which I’m published. I did think about having a pseudonym, but my surname’s pretty unusual and I hope that means I stand out. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to pronounce it – even my family aren’t entirely sure!

Until now, I thought it’d be with a j as…

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2014 StAnza Digital Slam Results!

Listen to the winner of the StAnza blog poetry slam, Stephen Watt. A cracking poem.

the StAnza Blog

StAnza 2014 Slam, photo by Helena Fornells Nadal StAnza 2014 Slam, photo by Helena Fornells Nadal

Thanks again to everyone who took part and/or voted in our 2014 Digital Slam, and to this year’s partner, the Badilisha Poetry Exchange. It was a strong shortlist and we received a record number of votes. These have now been counted etc, and we can announce:

In third place: Ama Asantewa Diaka

In second place: Batsirai Chigama

And the WINNER of our 2014 Digital Slam is: Stephen Watt

Congratulations to Stephen! Look out for a special blog about him in a week or so. In the meantime, here’s the winning performance:

4. Stephen Watt (Dumbarton)




And if this has whetted your appetite for slam, don’t forget the heats of this year’s BBC Edinburgh Slam at the Fringe, in which StAnza’s Eleanor Livingstone is again a judge, are currently taking place every evening until Thursday at 8.15pm in the Pink Bubble at Potterrow…

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IGBOLAND: THE MAKING OF A NOVEL

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Jeff about his novel, ‘Igboland’. Here’s some more information about how the book came to be.

Jeff Gardiner's Blog

Igboland cover5My novel, IGBOLAND, is inspired by the photos, diaries and stories of my Mum and Dad, Janet and Gerald. They lived in the Nigerian bush for six years as missionaries, during the Biafran War. They faced many difficulties and hardships, but remember their time with great joy; for them it was a life -changing experience as a young couple. I was born out in Nigeria (in Jos), and my parents brought up two children with relatively few resources.

Below is a selection of some photographs from their time out there – taken between 1964-70.

1037 Village MethodistsA friendly welcome from the brightly-dressed local villagers.

1053 J with manse catMum and the pet cat – mainly kept to catch mice and rats.

box 1021 FrangipaniDad admiring the frangipani blossom. Plants grew very quickly and dramatically in the West African climate.

1080 Usha bridgeMy parents’ VW Beetle attempting to cross another precarious bridge. Most of the roads were dirt tracks, which after…

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‘Igboland’ – a Biafran story

‘Igboland’, by Jeff Gardiner, is published by Crooked Cat Publishing, Edinburgh. It’s fiction, backed up with solid research and factual information – my favourite kind of fiction. I’ll confess an interest straight away – my first novel is also published by Crooked Cat, and Jeff is my editor. I’m enjoying a brief break from writing, and taking the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I’m delighted Jeff agreed to answer a few questions for my blog. Take a look at this book – it’s well worth reading.

Jeff Gardiner – ‘Igboland’

 What started you writing? What made you want to become a writer?

 I’ve always loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was young, I wanted to be able to write something that affected others as much as a book like ‘The Wind in the Willows’ affected me. (Haven’t achieved that yet, but it’s good to aim high). As an adolescent I wrote terrible, self-indulgent poetry and plays, which I hope never see the light of day. Once I had more life experience, I began to write stories and found some success with those. I write because my head is full of images and stories to tell.

 Your book ‘Igboland’ is set in Nigeria during the Biafran conflict of the 1960s. What led you to choose this topic for your story?

 I was born in Nigeria during the Biafran/Civil War. My parents were missionaries living out in Idoma. I’m very proud and sentimental about my Nigerian roots, and the idea of writing a novel set there was always something I wanted to do. ‘Igboland’ uses some context and details from my Mum’s diaries, but the story is fictional. I very much enjoyed researching Igbo culture and their beliefs – known as Odinani. We in the west could learn a great deal from their profound understanding of the world around us.

 How has writing this book changed the way you approach writing?

 ‘Igboland’ involved more research than my previous novel, ‘Myopia’. I had a strong structure, which did change and turn itself almost inside out at one point. I’m better at structures and planning now. ‘Igboland’ went through a number of edits before being sent off to publishers. I learnt a great deal about editing through the process of completing it. Editing is something that writers must take seriously. It’s an essential element of novel writing.

 In what formats is your book available? Do you favour some formats above others (e.g. e-books versus print)?

 My novels ‘Igboland’ and ‘Myopia’, and my collection of short stories (‘A Glimpse of the Numinous’), are available as paperbacks and e-books. My novel ‘Treading On Dreams’ is in e-book only. I always used to favour proper books, but I am slowly coming round to e-books. I now have a kindle and read most books on it now. The only thing I don’t like about e-books is that it’s difficult to flick back quickly to find a previous extract.

 What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 You have to believe in your product. If you don’t then nobody else will. Never give up. Have courage and persistence. Get used to rejection and toughen up. Be business-like, and be prepared to work hard at marketing your books. It doesn’t finish when you write ‘The End’. Enjoy being creative.

 Thanks for reading this, and thanks for having me on your blog, Yvonne.

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