Sunday, 4 December 2016
The Psychology Of a Villain II
Sauron remains off-stage;
Tachwyr the Dark is Flandry's Merseian opposite number but does not himself do anything that we might really call "evil";
CS Lewis' Wither and Frost are thoroughly corrupt individuals, systematically destroying their own humanity in order knowingly to serve demons, but they are not generally known about;
Lewis' White Witch is a more familiar villainous figure.
SM Stirling surpasses Poul Anderson, I think, both in his elaboration of the alternative histories idea and in his creation of unequivocally evil villains. When Benoni Strang is dying, we feel some sympathy for him whereas we cannot possibly sympathize either with Ignatieff, a ritualistic cannibal who confidently expects that, after death, he will go to Hell as one of the torturers, or with Walker, a moral imbecile for whom there is no difference between external reality and virtual reality.
Can someone like Walker be made to understand the suffering that he has caused to others? If he did come to understand it, would he be incapacitated by guilt? If he claimed to have been morally reformed, then it would remain impossible to trust him in any position of power or responsibility. But usually such characters are simply killed - or are defeated but live to return in a sequel.