Men of the Hour

Men of the Hour

On the never-ending quest to create the perfect character, my favorite exercises is examining the characters I’ve grown to love over the years. By looking at the things that attach you to a character, you can pick out traits or themes which make a character interesting. After all, if you don’t care about a character, you’re unlikely to care about their story. So here are my top five favorite male characters of all time (ladies coming in another post) and the reasons why I adore them.

General disclaimer: this post may be spoiler rich in some areas. Read at your own risk.

5. Data – Star Trek: the Next Generation
Why I love him:
The first episode of Star Trek I ever watched was The Offspring wherein Data creates an android in his image and considers it his child. My encounters with Star Trek up until that point were few and unfavorable, but this episode captivated me. I fell in love with Data instantly. I couldn’t get enough of him. Of course my love for Data can partly be contributed to his brilliant portrayal by Brent Spiner.

Nothing asks the question ‘what does it mean to be human’ better than the false construct searching for a way to become human. Data admires humans and aspires to be one. People are constantly pointing out that Data is a superior being, yet Data insists he’s imperfect in comparison. In his quest to understand humanity, Data takes up art, writes poetry, owns a cat and makes endless attempts at humor. Data never succeeds at being funny, except unintentionally. Yet in for all his failures, he never stops trying.

Despite his lack of emotions, Data is a sympathetic character. On several occasions he points out the value of life different from our own, even fighting for the rights of a group of automated digging tools he perceives have gained consciousness. He has a strange sort of innocence and he’s remarkably forgiving. When Riker is forced to advocate against him in court, trying to convince the judge Data is not an autonomous, sentient being, Data thanks him, understanding the trial could not have moved forward if Riker hadn’t tried.

Far from a boring automaton, Data has several unique character traits that keep him interesting. He also grows throughout the series, eventually gaining emotions and the ability to dream. Data’s struggle to deal with emotions takes the study of humanity to a new level.

Favorite moment: Toss up between Data scanning for lifeforms and the ever classic “oh shit” moment.

Favorite Quote: “I have asked myself that many times as I have struggled to be more human. Until I realized; it is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are, Lal. It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards.” (when asked why he strives to emulate humanity knowing he will fail)

4. Martin Silenus – Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Why I love him:
Martin is a poet. As a writer, his story sings to my soul. I will admit, I am biased when it comes to this character. One of seven pilgrims chosen to undertake the final Shrike Pilgrimage, Martin Silenus’s wish is to finish his Hyperion Cantos. Born at a time when the Earth was dying, Martin lived a sheltered life writing his ’emo’ poetry while the world spasmed in its death throes beneath him. Before he could perish with his dying home, however, his mother shipped him to a far away planet using a form of cryogenic sleep which caused him to suffer horrific brain damage. Reduced to a nine word vocabulary, Silenus struggled to regain his sense of language in order to return to his writing. After inadvertently writing one of the best selling novels of all time, Martin tries his hand at a second opus only to fall flat on his face and spend the next several years writing hack fiction to pay off his debts.

Martin Silenus is an unrepentant asshole. There’s almost nothing redeeming about his character, so it might be hard to imagine how I can love him to bits (most people hate him). I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to like him. There’s something refreshing about a completely unsympathetic character. Silenus believes that the Shrike, a murderous creature constructed of killing blades, is his muse. Whenever the Shrike kills, Silenus’s cantos flow. And despite his knowledge that his inspiration flows from blood and death, Silenus continues to write. Because writers must write. It’s written into the core of our beings.

Martin does all kinds of crazy, selfish, random things. At one point, he surgically alters himself to resemble a satyr. But the heart and soul of Silenus is always his poetry, his cantos, his opus. He’s always searching for the right words and the right form to put them in. Throughout his tale, he takes the time to speak of words and their meaning in his life. It’s that part of him that’s always searching, always reaching, always struggling with words, with language, with putting it onto the page that really speaks to me. All the unique character quirks are just a sweet bonus.

Favorite Moment: When Silenus breaks up with his publisher by handing her a 300 page novel which consists of one BS sentence. Trollolo.

Favorite Quote:“You see, in the beginning was the Word. And the Word was made flesh in the weave of the human universe. And only the poet can expand this universe, finding shortcuts to new realities the way the Hawking drive tunnels under the barriers of Ensteinian space/time… To be a true poet is to become God.”

3. Vanyel Ashkevron – The Last Herald Mage Trilogy
Why I love him:
Vanyel is one of those few homosexual characters that I feel has been really well written. Though it’s the first thing I mention here, it’s not his defining characteristic. But it does cause him to struggle. Vanyel is the son of a rich Lord, but his father is prejudice against what he calls ‘fey’ and refuses to have a son which falls into that category. Vanyel is a black sheep in his family. Instead of a warrior, he wants to be a bard. He’s consistently uninterested in women his age. So his father sends him to the capital to get an education from his aunt and become a man in the process.

Vanyel’s entire life is a series of tragedies. In the capital, Vanyel falls in love with his aunt’s favorite student, the Herald Mage Trainee Tylendel. The two of them are this world’s equivalent of soulmates, until Tylendel’s twin brother is murdered and he becomes obsessed with revenge. Long story short, he dies, but not before he rips some holes in Vanyel’s mind, causing an overload of magical ability to flow through them.

Vanyel eventually find his place among the Heralds and learns there’s nothing wrong with being who he is. The journey is long and hard and enough to leave anyone bitter, especially considering he often dreams of dying horribly if he accepts the mantel of Herald (a guardian of this particular realm). But Vanyel doesn’t become bitter. He becomes a loving, caring, selfless man devoted to the protection of the innocent. Vanyel spends most of his life lonely and misunderstood yet still dedicates himself to defending others. That demonstrates real strength of spirit.

Favorite Moment: After the death of his beloved Tylendel, Vanyel attempts to take his life. It may seem dark for a favorite memory, but the scene is very powerful. In the wake of his failure to kill himself, Vanyel realizes his life has value and many people would be devastated if he were to die. It’s important for everyone to know that. This scene has always stayed with me.

Favorite Quote: “I do it because I have to. Because I’m needed. There isn’t anybody – I’m not boasting, Jervis, you can ask Savil – there isn’t anybody else in the whole kingdom that can do what I can do. I can’t give up, I can’t just shrug things off and tell myself somebody else will take up the slack, because there isn’t anybody else. There are too many people out there who need my protection; because I’m this powerful, I have an obligation to use that power.”

2. Gerald Tarrant – The Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman
Why I love him:
I apparently have an affinity for jerks. Gerald Tarrant is a bad man. Bad to his core. In the opening scene of the novel, he sacrifices his wife and children for a chance at eternal life. Gerald’s story is complex and the layers of his character much deeper than they initially appear. He’s a genius. He’s got an analytical mind and a natural talent for wielding the magic present on this particular world. He is known to some as The Prophet for bringing the faith of the church to Erna (the planet where the story takes place).

But Gerald’s most defining attribute is that he’s selfish. Unwilling to die before seeing the fruits of his labor, Gerald makes a pact with dark powers to sustain himself off fear and death so that he can track the development of his creation. Gerald Tarrant lives by a complex moral code, half determined by the dark powers that sustain him and half determined by his own arrogance. Yet he never breaks his own rules, which is one of the most interesting things about him. He’s also arrogant and narcissistic.

Despite all the aforementioned, Gerald Tarrant somehow ends up on the side of the hero. That’s right, he isn’t even the real villain! But Gerald never does anything for the benefit of others. He fights, and triumphs, for his own selfish reasons.

Favorite Moment: Despite his pact with the dark powers which feed on fear, destruction and death, Gerald shares a vision which prevents an epic world war. It’s an act of sheer selfishness, meant to safeguard his creation – the church. But it violates the pact that keeps him alive, putting him in mortal jeopardy. Oopsies.

Favorite Quote: “I love you. More than everything, save life itself. And I would have surrendered even that for you, in its proper time. But not now. Not when they’ve opened hell beneath me, and bound me to it by the very power I taught them how to use… I need time.”

1. Rodney McKay – Stargate Atlantis
No, it’s not because he’s Canadian (that’s just a nice bonus). Rodney is, you guessed it, a jerk. In fact, he’s so socially clueless, it’s comical. He’s constantly insulting without even realizing that his behavior is insulting. He’s extremely intelligent. In one episode he makes a comment that he’s forgotten more about physics than most people will ever know. He’s the brains of the Atlantis operation. He keeps the city running. He spouts all the technobabble and, in a pinch, he’s the go to guy for figuring out what the hell is going on and how the hell we get out of this mess.

Rodney McKay is the whole reason I fell in love with Stargate Atlantis (I’ll tell you a secret… I may love it more than the original Stargate show. Shhh! Don’t tell!). The writers seem to have figured out early on that, in order to get the most out of Rodney’s character, the best thing to do was throw him in every situation he’s horrible at dealing with from making him babysit children to having a woman stuck in his body. Of course it helps that Rodney is played by the totally awesome David Hewlett.

Rodney’s massive intellect constantly gets him into trouble. He thinks he can handle everything, but sometimes technology is just too advanced for him. At one point, this results in the destruction of an entire solar system. Rodney has a hard time being sympathetic, even when his life depends on it, and he’s skeptical of anything remotely supernatural.

But for all his faults, Rodney eventually grows redeeming characteristics (yeah, he’s devoid of them the first couple times you see him). He learns how to be somewhat brave, even if he’s still cowardly, he learns how to occasionally apologize for being a massive jerk (even if he tries to deny it later), and he manages to make amends with his estranged sister (played by David’s real life sister Kate).

Favorite Moment: Here’s a highlight reel.

Favorite Quote: “I didn’t faint. I passed out… from manly hunger.”

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