Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Antagonist in Science Fiction

I am a fan of science fiction. I wouldn't go as far as to say I am a fanatical fan; but I am a fan. Lately, I noticed that science fiction plots are becoming a little bit too familiar—especially when it comes to the antagonist.

It seems that the antagonist is usually one of or a compilation of the following:

  1. Power Hungry, Corrupt Politician/Government Leader, planning on world, galactic or universal domination. I must admit, this person is intriguing and presents multiple facets to the storyline. But in the end, it is all about power, getting more of it, keeping it, or taking it away from someone else. This character is probably the most overused antagonist in literature and visual arts. This character is usually pitted against the protagonist in a good vs. evil battle.
  2. Arrogant Military Leader. This character is probably the second most overused antagonist in literature and visual arts. This character deems everything they can't control, use or order around a threat, and then they want to destroy it. This character is usually pitted against the protagonist in a life and death battle.
  3. Delusional Scientist: This character wants to know all there is about life, the universe and what makes it tick, and then this character wants to recreate it—usually in their own image. This character is so psychotic that they don't care about or so driven that they don't see the errors of their ways.
  4. Greedy businessman: This character is motivated by wealth…accumulating at all cost, no matter what. This person's moral compass is broken. This character is a true blend of the first three. This person is evil, untrusting and psychotic. Add the broken moral compass and you get things like the economic down turn we are experiencing today.

The challenge for today's writer is to be fresh and build new adversarial relationships not seen before, or at least not seen often. Today's writer must create a perfect balance between the antagonist and the protagonist. A fantastic plot would have the reader feeling sympathetic for the antagonist. The reader should be able to understand the antagonist without condoning the characters action. At the same time the writer must get the reader to cheer on the protagonist to do the right thing, while scolding the character for doing something stupid. In other words, the antagonist can't be a devil and the protagonist can't be a saint. Demons should ride inside the main character and angels should haunt the bad guys.

Have you read any new and interesting antagonist lately? Writers, have you created an adversarial relationship different than the norm? Please hit the blog and share your thoughts.

I will discuss this and other topics at my book signing for the Osguards: Guardians of the Universe, this Saturday at Borders Bookstore from 1 to 3 PM. Discussion to follow:





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