The Ugly Truth

If you ask me, there are way too many good-looking people in fiction.

I get why attractive people dominate film and television.  That’s no mystery.  People like looking at pretty people.  It’s built into us.  I’m not being judgmental here because, heck, I love looking at pretty people as much as anybody.  I’ve enjoyed sub-standard entertainment far more than I should because of a pretty face.  Anything with Kate Beckinsdale will usually win me over, even if ninjas or dinosaurs aren’t involved.  Strangely, this doesn’t apply to the Underworld films, even though they do have some awesome werewolves in them.  Still, every rule has its exception.

Books, however, are not a visual medium.  But this doesn’t change the fact that most protagonists in any kind of adventure fiction are usually good-lookin’.  There are exceptions, especially in literary fiction which takes a special point of pride in being contrarian to everything genre fiction does, but they are few and far between in genre.

This is why I like to write about average or odd characters.  The freedom of working in novels allows me to do that.  Why write about a ruggedly handsome P.I. when I can write about a seven foot robot with no face?  Why write about downtrodden, yet secretly beautiful, peasant girls when I can instead use a three feet high dog creature?  Sure, I could tell a story about beautiful gods who descend from Mount Olympus with bronzed skin, perfect abs, and shiny teeth, but I’d much rather play around with raccoon gods in Hawaiian shirts and Aztec feathered serpents with a fondness for tomato juice.

I suppose it’s just another reason I’m drawn to fantasy.  It allows me to be truly distinctive with my characters.  And this is why I consider myself a novelist first because it gives me the flexibility than an innately visual medium does not.

A big reason I don’t read much fantasy / sci fi is because I want the weirdness, the monsters, the inhuman, and for the most part, that stuff is shuffled to the side.  Almost all fantasy / sci fi is from the human perspective because almost all of it is aimed at a human audience.  (Very few dinosaurs buy books these days.)  But I don’t want to read about people.  I know people.  People are everywhere, and while they’re generally pleasant and I have nothing against them (for the most part), I’d much rather read about the ogre than the knight, the robot than the astronaut.  That probably goes a long way toward explaining why I write what I write.

I’d like to give you some complicated reason why it appeals to me, but for the most part, I find complicated motivations to be nonsensical just-so-stories that we create to try and make sense of ourselves.  Some things aren’t worth analyzing.  Some things you just accept.

I guess I’ll keep writing about monsters, robots, goblins, paper gnomes, and raccoon gods.  It’s not always glamorous, but somebody’s gotta do it.