I have been mind-melded again over at SF Signal, and the theme this time is memorable anti-heroes in S/SF:
Here are three of the most memorable anti-heroes in written SF/F, at least the three that come most readily to my mind when the question comes up.
First is Slippery Jim DiGriz of the Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison. He is the classic example of the lovable rogue, a criminal who is more or less tricked into working for the good guys. Con-man, interplanetary criminal, smooth-talking and charming, and aside from drawing the line at killing people, he’s pretty much without a moral compass at all. In fact, in one of the early books, he goes into a long expository explanation of how robbing a bank is actually a perfectly fine thing to do.
Second we have Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock. If you want memorable, this guy is memorable. In fact, in the whole cannon of SF/F literature, Elric is one of the few characters where the word “unique” is an accurate description. A physical weakling, an albino who needs to take drugs to maintain his strength, emperor of a dying civilization; Elric is not just an anti-hero, he is pretty much the antithesis of any other typical sword and sorcery character. In any other fantasy series, Elric would be the antagonist (and he’d be a bitching one.) He also carries around possibly one of the nastier artifacts created in fantasy fiction.
Lastly, we have Severian from the Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The world he inhabits is strange and fascinating, and he is a rather dark guide. In a genre where there are sympathetic assassins galore, here we have a guy who tortures people as a vocation, and who’s point of disgrace is when he allows one of his victims to kill themselves. That’s kind of hard-core. Also carries a kick-ass sword.
Read the other contributions here.