I have always prided myself in the fact that I have hosted many panels at many conventions, sometimes with very little notice beforehand. The least notice occurred when I was finishing on panel at some Castlecon or Evecon, and Eric Silverhands (what ever happened to him?) showed up for his panel on Robert Henlein that was right after mine. "Please stay," he asked. I didn't know anything about the sci-fi master, except I read "The Cat Who Could Walk Through Walls" and didn't understand it (yes, yes, I know, "part of an ongoing world," I get that comment a lot with suggestions on what to read next, but I haven't the time). I told Eric I didn't know Henlein well enough to be on a panel with him, but he said, "No, I just need an advocate on someone who hasn't read him." Or something. Honestly, at that moment, I thought he was full of crap. Anyway, I spent half the panel discussing themes Eric had spun, and thus, we did the panel together, and he said, "See, I told you I needed you." Touche, Punkie!
"Grig," said Kory, as I was helping him burn Gaming Manual CDs in his basement almost two weeks ago, "I need you on my villains panel."
I felt at least I had a few days prior warning, with some writing and gaming background in villains. I thought a lot in my spare time about villains, and while I think I did a good job, as with many panels where I am one of many, I learned something. This time, I learned something very profound, which I have been thinking about for quite some time.
I believe it was Liz (on the panel) who said that "Heroes are merely reactionary, while villains are the driving force behind most good fiction." How true. In fact, I never really thought about it until now. While I mulled over the various books, games, movies, and even cartoons where this is true, I began to apply it to real life. And then some of my old, semi-Buddhist training came back to me where one principle is very true:
Life is struggle. Pain shows we are alive.
Sounds kind of mopey Goth-like, doesn't it? But a strange sense of knowledge flooded over me when I made the connection, especially all that has happened to me recently. For a long time, I muttered these words under my breath, almost like a defiant cry out against my pains and struggles. It was said in an almost sarcastic gritted smile, like I wanted to show God that his "Don't worry, be happy" attitude was wearing a little thin. But for the first time, I saw some kind of truth in this statement that was not a "shut up and put up" kind of deal.
Life IS struggle, but struggle makes us stronger. Life is a resistance against the natural forces that shape and dictate the movement of inert objects like rocks and water. Life is a kind of balance to the natural forces, which, while still shaping it, life has a mind of its own. Life resists the natural flow of gravity and environment. And yet, nature compels us and changes us. As we react to it, we change.
I don't have villains in my life. Yes, my dad is an ass, but he's not even important enough to be a villain. All I am doing is fighting the echoes of my childhood like boxing shadows. He doesn't call me and yell at me, he doesn't come to my house and steal anything, nor does he get drunk and try and beat the crap out of me. I have friends who have parents that do that, and I have it pretty good. Growing up, my father was a villain, however, but as I get older, and realize that I don't have to be like him, I realize that my hatred and revulsion for everything he did gave me a warped frame of reference of how NOT to act, and for that, I became a pretty good person despite his horrific treatment. I grew in spite of him.
Christine and I have been married for over 15 years. When we were married, I think the only person who didn't look at us with rolled eyes and shaking heads was her mom. People at our reception said it wouldn't last 2 years. I can't fool you by saying our first few years didn't have their problems. Poverty, sickness, and meddling no-gooders were frequent problems. But the real test came about 4 years later, when a very manipulative person tried to break us up. She was an expert at meddling in other people's relationships, and while she has been accused of over half a dozen breakups (both married and unmarried), I have to say at least half of them were in trouble to begin with and would have ended on their own anyway. The other half... I am not so sure. She was happy when others were miserable, and would play the game so one would come to her for help, and she'd drive the wedge in as hard as she could. Why did she do this? I suspect for attention. Boredom with her own marriage, probably, because she married someone she wanted to be a knight in shining armor, only to have him only be a knight at the gaming table, and in the real world, he was as flawed as the rest of us. So when Christine and I, who had a solid communication link, found out what she was up to... my friendship with her was severed. I was mad at her for YEARS, and couldn't get over it, how betrayed I felt, and how embarrassed and foolish she made me look. But, she was the villain, and I reacted to her, and became a stronger person. Our marriage passed the test, and we became stronger. To this day, we NEVER complain about each other to other people, which I think is good advice for any married couple.
A villain at work has forced me to react, and while villains where I work are really, really rare, it is my fear that he will drag our whole department down in a fiery mess. I could lose my job, not because I'd get fired, but because he would make our whole department useless if he got his way. He has methods I won't explain in detail, but he's really good at backstabbing, secret deals, and taking advantage of people who aren't aware of just how dangerous he is. That has prompted me to seek employment elsewhere. I am a programmer, not a diplomat. This junior-high nonsense is not my cup of tea, and I recently got a really, really good lead that I am crossing my fingers for. I have been doing node testing now for over four years, which in the IT world, is like decades. Time to move on.
So, villains do have their uses. They make heroes, martyrs, and reaffirm who the Good Guys really are.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000580.html