I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog. As many of my posts will, they grow organically out of previous posts. Scary enemies for your heroes are a particularly powerful type of backgrounding for your story. Some backgrounds come with villains attached, like some of the premises for living castles I came up with last post. More often, you need to be inspired to come up with a villain cool enough to be scary to your readers and make them fear for the heroes. I’ll start with some basic examples of great villains to give you the scent I want you to follow to your own creations. Darth Vader is the greatest villain of all time, unless you count Frankenstein‘s monster or Dracula. All three have a problem, a fundamental wrongness about their nature. Dracula is not alive, yet he is a participant in the lives of his victims. Frankenstein’s monster is cobbled together from dead parts of criminals. Vader is the worst of all because he began good, a great jedi knight who became a monstrous machine devoted to the profane side of the force and tyranny in the galaxy. Darth Vader as a cyborg has interesting aspects in common with Frankenstein’s monster–they are both artificial. Both represent the vanity that death can be triumphed over and that our humanness can be replaced with something somehow lesser if only for being non-human–unnatural, but more powerful.
Why the Artificial Might Scare Us
I’ll take you a step further in my analysis. Technology is always a little anxiety inducing even to those of us who adore and benefit from it. Every time we develop a new tech, we replace an old part of ourselves with something less human, but more powerful. Look at letter writing. None of us will remember the joy that was letter writing to a relation or friend–having to wait for the mail to arrive, and having to compose one’s thoughts in ink and with our hard-learned cursive, each of us with our own style of physical art in scribing. Emails are more powerful than letters, but they are lesser, packed with less meaning, less thought, less sentimentality, and less love.
Replacement of old ways and parts of our lives and ourselves with improvements. Always more powerful or convenient, but less human. Where I’m going is that we are usually so seduced by the increased power of the new tech that we don’t even notice what we are losing. Robot monsters have the unique power to show us what we have left behind and how little is left of the us we loved. Darth Vader is a shadow of the man that Anakin Skywalker, husband, lover, rebel, hero, was. But he is more powerful in every way. With the advent of AI, we all dread the possibility that our technology might finally become perfected and have no need for us. I give you Weeper, inspired by the Terminator movies, a specialist in hunting humans who are clever enough to evade the best killing machines the robots can make. Weeper is a hunter with human hunting instincts built into her mind that help her anticipate how humans are planning to hide from her.
Robots that we see working in auto plants make some people feel uneasy. Automation is another word for humans not needed, and that should make all of us nervous. Robots with AI souls (and that is likely possible, insofar as what we think our souls are outside of a religious context) are perhaps the perfection of technology, and arguably the natural course of evolution of Earth’s inhabitants from flesh creatures to technological ones. I designed Weeper to be the best killing machine that the world of robots and AI people could create. As I’ve mentioned in another post, Orson Scott Card says that the more stories we have percolating in our heads, readying themselves for writing, the better. Weeper is already becoming a profane yet sympathetic character for me that I feel almost ready to start writing my usual character biography for.
I’ve already come to think of Weeper as a very old creature, some centuries in service to the AI creature’s cause. Days and weeks may pass between successful hunts when she discovers a warren of clever or fierce humans with the means to fight back or hide still deeper or more effectively. As such her mission is an old one, scarcely seen as worth the effort by the elites of AI society. The scant human populace left are no longer a threat to AI people. In a sense, she’s a bit like Blade Runner, hunting down artificial humans, but her job is to hunt the real people. But unlike replicants from Blade Runner, humans are less intelligent, less strong, less threatening. As such, Weeper is seen as almost a garbage disposal robot–not at all esteemed in her world of AI people and robots.
Weeper has dreams. All the time she dreams of being a fully AI person with a flesh-like attractive body and a full experience of life among her own kind. She wishes she could discuss literature and world events with her betters and that she had more than a month of time to herself each year to do as she wishes (which is generally plug herself into a dream-designer platform and live out her dream life for a month at a time). But in this story, something changes. Weeper foregoes her usual vacation time because of an unlikely event. She stumbles across some prey–a young woman and her crying baby, nursing from her mother’s breast. Instead of incinerating both human and her child, she becomes their protector, taking them across an urban and suburban cityscape spanning several thousand kilometres, protecting them as she attempts to reunite them with their lost tribe.
I began this post with a short analysis of a few villains as part of backgrounding. Asking questions like “Where does such a strange thing or person come from? What lies behind their strange lives and beings?” But what’s become clear to me as I write this post is that backgrounding can easily yield up characters that are not only villainous, but they could be sympathetic as well. Perhaps even dark heroes. I began Weeper as a skeletal robot monster–that was all I wanted. But the details above allow me so many visuals to play against type as a hero. What I hope you readers are coming to see is how powerful a Lego build, or let’s just say plastic sculpture, is for creating character, background, setting, and detail for fiction.
That’s it for this post, folks. I hope you’re beginning to appreciate how much fiction generating power there is to be found in $500 invested in some Lego sets. In some posts upcoming, I’ll try to guide you to the cheapest way to get an effective set of bricks for you to start your own builds, based upon what you want to make.
Bye for now, Folks, and please tell you friends about this blog and my new YouTube channel, which should be going up tonight!