For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work before purchasing it on the Kindle store; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.
Creating villains: Every good story needs a good villain – or, rather, a bad villain, I should say. There have been some great fantasy literary villains in the past, such a Dracula or Professor Moriarty or Fu Manchu or Fantomas. To those villains I would add the likes of Baron Mordo, from the Doctor Strange Marvel Comics series. Baron Mordo would fit very well as a villain in a gas-lamp fantasy Victorian world.
Those characters, though, and others – like Baron Frankenstein and the monster which he created, have become iconic characters. It is not easy to create a good villain – no easier, I suppose, than to create an iconic hero. I have spoken, in the past, of creating literary icons, and my long-running creations, Briggs and Prenderghast, and I will not dwell on them here.
I like my villains to be interesting. There should always be a reason why they are going around committing crimes; only very rarely will I have a character who is simply a psychopath or sociopath.
The main villains for my gas-lamp novels – or for some of them – are Rex Mundi, Dzinshung Tse and Lord Scoresby. There is also a villain by the name of Doctor Omen who appears in two of the Briggs and Prenderghast short stories. There were reasons for why each of the men acted the way in which they did, reasons which I will attempt to delve into now.
(I am not going to discuss Jack the Ripper here, as he was a character adapted for my world, even though the Jack the Ripper of He Sees His World In Red is undoubtedly very different to what the real-life Jack the Ripper was like).
Warning: The rest of the post will reveal plot details, etcetera, which may spoils your enjoyment of my gas-lamp fantasy novels and stories. If you intend to read those books I suggest that you read no further. Otherwise, enjoy.
Rex Mundi: The first of the characters listed above which I created was Rex Mundi. He was to be the main villain of the eponymous second novel, Rex Mundi.
Rex Mundi had the power that anybody who looked on his naked face would be effectively entranced by Rex Mundi. This was not a conscious power on the effect of Rex Mundi, or anything which he could control. It was something which functioned all of the time, leading Rex Mundi to wear a wooden face mask when around his underlings.
Rex Mundi, when a child, was sent to High Tor, a school for wizards in Glastonbury. His power had not really developed, back then, but it was noted that there was something odd about the child, and it was thought that he had Magickal talent. It was found, though, that he did not have any talent for casting spells, and after a single year at the school, without any progress, the young Rex Mundi was asked to leave the school.
That year, though, had a big impact on his life. It caused him to feel that the world hated him, because the other children bullied him mercilessly about the fact that he was no good at Magick. It led to his talent developing of its own accord, so that eventually people could not look at him without becoming under his control.
At some stage Rex Mundi decided to get his revenge on a world which had belittled him. He decided not to merely get those who had made fun of him, but to become Rex Mundi – the King of the World.
Rex Mundi was the only villain in my Briggs and Prenderghast novels who attempted to conquer the entire world. Each of my villains had his own shtick, and I have always tried to make my villains original, both in appearance and in motives. I think that, of all of the villains who I have written, that Rex Mundi is probably the closest that I have come to a real iconic arch-villain.
Dzinshung Tse: Dzinshung Tse first appeared in the novel Rex Mundi. He was a renegade wizard from Shangri-La who assisted Rex Mundi, for reasons which were Dzinshung Tse’s. Dzinshung Tse, despite being a wizard, was immune to the controlling effects which Rex Mundi had on other people who saw his face.
When I came up with Dzinshung Tse I knew that he was too interesting a character to be nothing more than just a henchman of Rex Mundi. While writing that novel I worked out, in my head, some of the details which would become The Sifter of the Sands of Time. The title of that book, by the way, is supposed to echo The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, by Michael Moorcock. The two books aren’t the least bit connected, of course; but I though that was a great title by Moorcock, and I wanted something similar.
Dzinshung Tse might be considered to be evil, as evil was committed as a result of him. But I don’t see that Shambhallan wizard as being evil. I feel that he only intended to survive, and that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to ensure his survival.
In quantum mechanics there is an idea called Quantum immortality. This idea depends on there being a multiverse (meaning that the Copenhagen Interpretation is wrong), with many different universes nestled together. In at least one of those universes the person will survive, becoming effectively immortal.
In the world of Prenderghast Dzinshung Tse, through studying the Sands of Time, could see what he must do to ensure his own survival; and how to make sure that he was always on a timeline where he would survive. I think something like that might send a person a little bit mad. And I must admit that I like villains with a tinge of madness to them. And I have always liked villainous users of Magick, from Jadis in the Lion, the Witch and the wardrobe onwards. They do make very good villains; and I hope that Dzinshung Tse will one day be spoken of in the same breath as the likes of her.
Lord Scoresby: Lord Scoresby was the villain of the novel Serpent Rising. He wanted to turn Britain into what would have been, effectively, a fascist state, and he was prepared to do anything to achieve his ends. Yet, although he used some of the most despicable means at his disposal, Lord Scoresby did not consider himself to be a villain. He considered himself to be a patriot, and that what he was doing would make Britain strong. He wanted to become a dictator, modelled after the dictator’s of places like Athens when it had been a city state under Pericles, or when Julius Caesar had taken power in Rome at the end of the First Triumvirate.
Did I succeed in making Lord Scoresby an iconic villain? No, probably not, even though he was a pretty effective bad guy. But he did not possess that villainous je ne sais quois. He did not have anything which made him stand out from the crowd of a group of would be dictators, both fictional and real.
He was certainly a villain, though, and sometimes those sort of driven villains, who actually think that what they are doing is for the best, in the long run (the end justifying the means, and so on) make the best villains of them all.
Doctor Omen: Doctor Omen was the last of the four of these villains who I created. He was created because I had an idea for a short story built around a spell. Doctor Omen was the delivery system for that spell.
Doctor Omen – Dr Nemo Omen – was an assumed name of somebody who was at High Tor at the same time as Prenderghast. His real name was Adam Ormeroyd. Unlike Prenderghast, who made a living patenting minor inventions, Dr Omen fell on hard times. He came to see Prenderghast, asking his old school associate for money. But Prenderghast refused.
It was that refusal which tipped Ormeroyd over the edge. Had Prenderghast lent the money, then perhaps Ormeroyd might never have become a villain. But that refusal was the straw which broke the camel’s back.
Omen was stopped, thanks to the actions of John Briggs, and sent to Bradley Tower, the prison for wizards, where he spent ten years for the attempted murder of William Prenderghast. That time in prison did not serve to help him mend his ways. Instead he spent ten long years feeling embittered, blaming all of his misfortunes on Prenderghast, so that by the time he was released he intended to deal with Prenderghast for once and for all. Prison had not served to mend his ways. But, then again, it rarely does.
The name of the villain was a play on words: Nemo Omen, chosen by Ormeroyd, is palindromic. Omen also sounds mysterious, befitting a wizard. And Nemo is Latin for nobody.
I like word games.
I think that is enough talking about villains, at least for this post. The above are, of course, merely the villains from my gas-lamp fantasy novels, and only the ones featuring Briggs and Prenderghast. At some stage I may discuss some of the villainous characters from some of my other works.
Until then, adieu.