By Russ Linton, Author of Crimson Son
People have been reading heroic literature for around 4000 years and telling those same stories even longer. The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the world’s first Gary Stu story about a guy that “surpasses all Kings” and his feral, Wolverine stand-in buddy, Enkidu, as they wreak havoc across the ancient Sumerian world. Gilgamesh turns down a goddesses sexual advances, Enkidu is “tamed” by a prostitute, and in the end, they almost discover the secret to eternal life but settle for a rivermud spa treatment to shave off a few years.
Who wouldn’t read that?
Heroic stories are so widely enjoyed because they are larger than life. Larger than we will ever experience and bound only by our imagination. These stories endure for millennia because they speak to an innate sense of mystery and a desire to be bigger, more fantastic than our squishy mortal forms allow.
For me though, it isn’t necessarily the “greatness” that attracts.
The way literature has evolved since those days has created ever more engaging heroes. Instead of only hearing tales about deities and demigods (there’s a geek joke in there somewhere…) our heroes have grown. And not only in the fantastic feats they accomplish but in their humanity.
A hero today must have flaws. They must be relatable as fragile human beings to begin engaging our more sophisticated audiences.
This isn’t all that different from our ancestors who were busy meticulously chiseling stories into stone. We all still like a good fight with a god – as anyone who watched Cap face off against Loki in Avengers would agree. But we expect our heroes to be more like us. Cap isn’t a king, he’s a scrawny kid lost in time. And Loki isn’t simply a god. He’s a not-so-redheaded step child with some serious daddy issues.
Across genres, I don’t think these traits differ. Science Fiction heroes need the same depth as those in fantasy and other genre fiction. What differs is our expectations about how the story unfolds and the subset of tropes we’ve built up around the characters. But strip that away and I honestly feel all heroes are the same.
They are layered, often broken people who are driven to be or do something “other”. Whether that means chasing the secret of eternal life or fighting for their country, there is always an ideal bigger than they are which they strive to achieve. At times, they fail and often they struggle. When they do, that’s the human side of things showing through.
For me, that’s what gives me a “spark”. That struggle. The more human and fallible I can make my heroes and still get away with giving them the title, the better. I strive to write not only entertaining stories but put these broken and even unlikely heroes into the driver’s seat and let them take the narrative wherever it needs to go.
About the Author
In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.
Russ creates character-driven speculative fiction. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.
Russ lives in Denton, Texas where he writes beside an unnervingly quiet dog with the support of his history-obsessed son and his extremely patient wife. He regularly pursues community service and is currently scoutmaster for his son’s Boy Scout troop. He is a regular at the North Branch Writers’ Critique Group and has honed his craft through creative writing courses with Stanford University’s continuing studies program as well as writing workshops at local conventions.
Russ holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do which was marginally more useful in a former life not making his living from behind a desk. He enjoys the outdoors and when he isn’t leading his scouts on virtual campouts in Minecraft, he’s making them haul their gear across state parks in the North Texas area.
Website – www.russlinton.com
Facebook – facebook.com/RussLinton
Twitter – twitter.com/Russ_Linton
Google Plus – https://plus.google.com/+RussLinton
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Crimson-Son-Russ-Linton-ebook/dp/B00KZ87P2S/
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