Villains or Antiheroes

The Hydra bucked as a hail of cannonballs rained down upon her. The crew were thrown off their feet, landing in untidy heaps about the deck. Cries of both surprise and pain filled the air in the scant moments before the next volley of projectiles fired from the adversary.

“Quick! They’re coming back around with more ammunition!” The shout came from the vicinity of the bow. While he couldn’t be sure which of his men shouted, Captain Drayton knew that there was truth in the words. He saw the large airship double back. It fired upon the helpless pirate ship again. The envelope of the reserve balloon punctured. The Hydra would not fall from the sky; but now escape was of the utmost importance. 

Drayton turned to his first mate, a thick-jowled Scotsman named James. “Looks like a bad situation, doesn’t it, man?”

James sniffed the air, acrid with the smell of burnt gunpowder. “Aye. Looks like that ship is Royal Navy. If I was a betting man – which I am – I would bet that ship is captained by Commandant Vernon.”

Drayton’s eyes narrowed. “Aye, James. That would be a winning bet, methinks.” He drew his twin pistols and growled. “That man has given me more trouble in the last year than the entire Royal Navy has in the last ten years.” He fired a shot into the air, an animalistic scream clawing its way out of his lungs. 

James drew his sword and let loose a less fearsome, more wounded roar of his own. He looked about, hoping no one had heard him. Only the Captain was close enough to hear, and he was paying him the courtesy of pretending not to hear the pathetic sound.

Captain Drayton reloaded his pistol. “We are going to blow his ship apart. And then-” He paused, panting.

James looked on, expectantly. “And then, Capatin?”

“I’m going to tear Vernon apart, limb by limb.”

Drayton stormed to his cabin and threw the door open. he fumbled and cursed as he rummaged in his cupboard, pulling out his most sharpest sword and extra ammunition.

“Oooo! Are we getting ready to storm the castle?”

Drayton jumped, the whisper startling him out of his enraged preparations. His head jerked about the room, searching for the owner of the raspy voice. If one of his crew had managed to sneak into his cabin without his knowledge, it would be the last thing that fool would ever do-

Except, there was no one. His eyes darted about, searching each corner, each shadow. Still no one. As it occurred to him that there was only one place from which the whisper could possibly have come, a foot shot out of his cupboard, connecting with his chest. 

Drayton flew back, hitting his head as he landed on the floor. As he cursed his attacker to the blackest pits of hell, his attacker came into view. The pirate captain Groaned. “Oh, it’s you.”

The man in black chuckled his raspy chuckle and knelt beside the pirate. “Would you like some help up Theo?” The man held out his hand, which Drayton reluctantly grabbed.

As The Man in Black pulled him to his feet, Drayton sighed. “Thank you. But please, don’t call me Theo. I loathe the name.” The man in black snorted, but bowed his head. “Why are you on board my ship? In the middle of an attack, no less?”

The Man in Black shrugged, disinterested in explaining himself. “I needed to see you, and Commandant Vernon was in pursuit. I figured it was the most expedient way to find you.” 

Drayton frowned at the mysterious figure before him. “Why? Why are you looking for me?” 

The Man in Black chuckled. “You still have a debt to repay, as I recall.” He produced a tattered playing card. It was the Queen of Diamonds. He still had that damnable thing, after all this time? Drayton trembled, in spite of himself.

“I owe you nothing,” he hissed. “I payed my debt to you over a year ago, in full. You said that yourself!” He raised a fist, thought better of it, and lowered it to his side.

“I said no such thing.” The Man in Black raised a gloved hand to his face and tapped his chin. “I believe my exact words were, ‘I have no further need for your services, AT THIS TIME. There is a difference, you see?”

Drayton’s lips drew into a taut line. “That last repayment cost me. It cost me DEARLY.” He brought his hand to his face, lightly touching the eye patch over his left eye socket.

“Oh, come now,” whispered The Man in Black. “I made sure you received the best care, and you came away with a technical marvel in the old eye-hole to boot!” He burst into cruel laughter.

The wound, two months healed, was still quite raw. He sniffed. “What would you have me do, oh master?” He attempted an exaggerated bow, but the ship was tossed again, and he fell to the ground for the third time that day.

“Simple,” said The Man in Black. “There are certain items that a certain man of means requires to perform a set of ‘rites’, if you will.” Drayton scowled. These types of requests were not unheard of , but usually those rites were dangerous, and the items required were often not legal or safe to have in one’s possession. “I will give you the locations of these items. You will then…retrieve them, and store them until such time as you are summoned by me.”

Drayton nodded. “It appears that I have no choice in the matter. Shall I store them at my Villa? Perhaps the farmhouse would be better?”

The Man in Black shook his head. “Neither. They must be stored in a secure location; somewhere protected.”

Drayton stepped around The Man in Black and walked to the fireplace. Strictly for show, it held his most important secrets. He crawled inside and reached around. Producing a rather elegant handbag. He returned to The Man in Black and held the bag out to him. “Will the island do?”


When I have trouble with any of my works in progress, I sometimes find it helpful to take a scene from the story, or even just create a scenario and tell it from the perspective of a character that doesn’t have their own POV within the story. I find that this often helps me overcome whatever block I may have preventing me from writing. 

I find it also helps me to get inside of the heads of some of the other, less well developed characters. Sometimes, it even inspires a whole new story in itself.

One thing I’ve been trying lately is to look at a story or scenario from the point of view of the antagonist. Can I make an antagonist the hero of their own story? Can I make a villain an antihero?

I have come to discover that it is fun to play with the antihero archetype. To have a character that ultimately does the right thing, saves the day, but does it against his or her best interest allows for a lot of interesting possibilities in a story. This character can go through the typical hero’s journey, yet at the end of the story goes back to their previous lives and mannerisms, seemingly not having undergone any permanent change over the course of their adventure. 

I have done this several times in the last year. The results have been interesting (to me, at least). A couple of them could serve as short stories themselves, should I decide to take the time to polish them up and get them published. But, as I am already juggling several projects, I am limiting myself to first completing at least one of my WIP before I elaborate on any of the writing exercises I’ve been putting out for the last several months.

For the writers out there: Do you like your main characters to be heroes? Or do you ever experiment with dark heroes, or antiheroes?

Fantastic Devices to Improve Your Steampunk Reality Part 2: The Airship

     So, as an extension of my previous post, I am taking a look at another essential piece of technology to the Steampunk genre: Airships. They have been a staple of both the steampunk genre as well as alternative history in general- and with good reason. The images conjured up when a description of a sky filled with airships of all sizes and shapes fills your page are often indescribable.

     Often the images that fill her head resemble flying versions of the traditional water bound vessels, such as this:

image

Who wouldn't want to fly in one of these?

     Some with propellers, others with sails, with crews of men and women that appear to have been pulled from high seas adventure stories. These images and others much like them have existed in our minds since Jules Verne first put pen to paper. Amazing machines capable of things that were once only possible in the wildest of imaginations.

     These devices seem tailor-made for the steampunk genre. Steam powered engines fuelled by coal and the sweat of the crew belching black smoke into the heavens. The vision is both romantic and a bit Stark, with the realization that many of these stories involve at least on a subconscious level, the darker side to the progress. With pollution, thick smog, and poor health as side effects of the push for progress.

     The reality of airships is slightly less beautiful but no less majestic:

image

     Real dirigibles were less elegant, but inspiring. In these real pieces of flying technology, people were able to break free of the earth below. Machines like these helped to inspire the imaginations of the first modern Writers of science fiction

     Within the reality of the world I am writing, I have a combination of real-world dirigibles and the more fancifully designed airships. The blimp-style tends to be chosen for function, while the ships based on their nautical counterparts are purchased more for vanity.

     A look at some of the available photographs of some of the airship interiors has helped me to better understand not only how these vehicles were built, but it gives me a clearer picture of where the different sections of the ship are in relation to each other, as well as what controls and communications Devices were used.

image

Control room

     There is so much to learn about the airships of the past. My focus is on flight control and procedures. I have a confession: I am a learning nerd. One of the things I love about writing is that it gives me a reason to research different topics. Whether it is about the History of flying machines or the life of a 19th century pirate, I get to learn things I might never have thought to research, if not for the project in progress at any given time. But, as usual. I find myself over-researching. I start out looking for specific information, such as the altitude of flight or amount of time it would take to travel via airship from England to the U.S; then before I realize it, I have pages of notes. then I have to hunt through those notes for the information I actually need.

     For the writers: when you research, do you look for specific information, or do you find yourself going more in-depth with the research?

Links

http://www.airships.net/

http://io9.com/the-most-astounding-airships-dirigibles-and-zeppelins-1515616128