What happened to heroes?


Moon's artificeGollancz is delighted to bring you a guest post from the brilliant Tom Lloyd, author of our Gollancz Geeks title of the month Moon’s Artifice. We asked Tom to share his thoughts on  fantasy heroes and where they’ve gone, what exactly has happened to them and where we might find a few of them  . . . 

Like most people, I blame Joe Abercrombie for much of what’s wrong in the industry, nay life itself. He mostly ignores this, but there are some subjects fairly close to his black and withered heart, heroes being one of them. Fantasy heroes have got pretty dark these days – not for us the shining knights or wise wizards, there’s more than a bit of dirt under the fingernails of most heroes in fantasy these days. And a bit of grit is a good thing, who wants to be bored by some preaching fool with an unassailable sense of purpose? These days they’re more likely to be the bad guy of the tale, the fanatic who won’t let up and has just crossed the wrong sort of murderer or thief.

But still I like a good hero. For every Logen or Jorg in the world, that’s not all I want all of the time. For every thief or assassin with a heart of gold, I also want a Sam Vimes who feels the law actually reins in the bad in him. Given some of the events of the Twilight Reign, some could view it as fairly grimdark, but it’s avoided that loaded term because of Isak himself. Sure, he’s got rage issues as well as a teenage attitude, but he wants to do the right thing if only he could work out what that is. In Moon’s Artifice you’ve got a main character who’s not much of a hero, just a lowly policeman who gets caught up in events, but again Narin is a man who wants to be better than he is. It probably tells you something about me that they’re looking up at the stars even when they’re wallowing in the gutter, but it’s a reminder that for all the profile the darkness gets, it’d be wrong to claim there were only anti-heroes in this diverse genre of ours.

So who else is there? Fantasy increasingly reflects that the world can be a shit place and people do awful things to each other, but who’re the ones standing against all that horror? I have a few thoughts, but I’m always on the lookout for more!

Marcus D’Ivoire from Django Wexler’s Thousand Names – a man who’d get on with Narin pretty well, possibly even feel cheered in the company of someone more bewildered than he. But he’s a soldier and a leader, pretty tarnished as a shining knight goes but his conscience remains intact.

Cheerwell Maker (and her uncle Stenwold) from Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt – Che grows as a character a huge amount over the course of the series, but she’s never going to be a warrior who cuts through a swathe through her foes. Neither she nor Stenwold are soldiers employed to fight, they’re just unable to stand aside and let it happen. It’s interesting that Che’s long-time friend/foe Major Thalric IS more of a grimdark anti-hero. He’s done some nasty shit, to her and many others over the years, and he’s a central figure of the series as his life is entwined with hers, but Che is the hero as well as possibly being his source of redemption.

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood from Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon – an old man, he just wants to retire from his ghul hunting days – he’s done more than his share of getting in the way, but does he hesitate? No. Does he grumble, hell yes, but when you’re the one putting your life in harm’s way, you get to do that.

Adjunct Tavore from the Malazan Book of the Fallen – not your classic hero, possibly not even considered a hero of the series in the standard way, but she’s a woman who worked hard towards her goal. If there’s a job in the Malazan army an inexperienced officer shouldn’t push for, it’s one anywhere near marines like the Bridgeburners. Dragging her army into exile and across the face of the world hardly makes it any easier, but under her command more than a few heroes are made.

Where have the heroes of Fantasy gone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Want to get your hands on a copy of Moon’s Artifice? We’ve got an exclusive competition, to enter just fill in the form below. And did you miss the first three chapters of Moon’s ArtificeClick here to catch up

Tom Lloyd was born in Berkshire. After a degree in International Relations he went straight into publishing where he still works. He never received the memo about suitable jobs for writers and consequently has never been a kitchen-hand, hospital porter, pigeon hunter, or secret agent. He lives in Oxford, isn’t one of those authors who gives a damn about the history of the font used in his books and only believes in forms of exercise that allow him to hit something. Visit him online at www.tomlloyd.co.uk.