Posts Tagged ‘science fiction’

 

It’s always satisfying to finish a manuscript. No matter the length, it’s satisfying to know that you’ve put in so much time, sweat, blood and creativity into writing a story and that it’s finished, that you were able to get over your fears before starting, keep going, and see it to the end. And after attempting a third draft a little year ago, failing miserably, and taking a year to work up the courage to try again, it’s especially satisfying. Hell, I even bought fancy honey-wine to celebrate this momentous evening.

Now if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I originally wrote as my college thesis. It follows an amnesiac woman named Rose whose body starts to go through incredible, terrible, magical changes. The only source of information on her condition is a man who claims to be her boyfriend, but he’s got some terrible secrets and isn’t all he claims to be. It’s a dark and bizarre story, with themes of dependence and abuse, perception and memory, in a story influenced by Stephen King’s Misery and Japanese mythology.

It’s also been the most challenging story I’ve worked with. I had to scrap my first attempt to write it because I made the story too bizarre, sprawling and complex, then go back and make it a bit simpler and contained. Then I had to write an entire first draft, then a second draft within a few months. Then I had an internship in Germany and a job search, followed by an attempt at the third draft. That draft, as I said before, was a complete and utter disaster due to the lack of routine I had at the time. I took it up again back in late June, after I needed a break from sci-fi and Full Circle and, with a routine, I managed to get through the draft in about four months, incorporating the suggestions from my thesis advisors to great effect while I was at it.

And I’m very proud of this draft. Every time I’ve worked on this story, it’s changed significantly. Plot points, emotional connections, characterizations, they’ve all gone through some incredible rewrites. With this particular draft, I feel like I’ve been editing the work of a different author, giving his work a much-needed makeover. I even added an original chapter to the manuscript, which also took the top spot as the longest chapter in the novel (I spent two week with Dragon Speech-to-Text software writing that chapter so it wouldn’t take a month or longer). And while this story is far from “done” (my high school English teacher said that stories are never “perfect,” because that’s impossible. But they can be “done,” where you can’t do anything more to improve it. It’s just “done”), it’s definitely in a much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft. It’s a draft I’d actually be proud to show other people.

Now before I show you what’s up next for Rose, indulge me in my bad habit of looking at page and word counts. Which with this novel is actually necessary: my advisor told me to double the word count of the novel when I did the third draft (I’m pretty sure it’s double the word count now, not add ten or twenty-thousand words). So how did I do with that? Well, at the end of the second draft in spring of 2015, the page count was (with 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font) 164 pages. With the third draft, the page count is 266 pages, an increase of 102 pages. With the word count, the second draft was a whopping total of 48,914, a respectable novella-length story. In the third draft, I got the word count up to 84,677, a good-size novel,  just a bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And I like to think that every new word was necessary. I really had the chance to delve deeper into the characters, as well as the events that made them who they are. All in all, I think it’s a more fleshed-out novel.

Of course, critics, readers, and editors are free to disagree with me. We’re a democracy, we’re allowed to do that, even if others don’t like that.

And that brings me to what’s next for Rose and for me. And I have a few ideas on that:

  1. No return to Full Circle just yet. I’m still not ready to return to the world of Reborn City and finish the trilogy. Yes, the first draft needs ending, but I need a bit more time and a bit more horror before I do any more sci-fi. And since I don’t exactly a legion of fans breaking down my door to know when the story will be out, I think I can afford to take some time (George RR Martin wishes he was me in that respect).
  2. Beta readers and submissions. I have a couple of beta readers who have agreed to take on Rose, read it and give me some feedback (I’m sending the manuscript to them right after I’m done with this post, as well as backing up my flash drive so I don’t lose the novel). The plan is to take their feedback and incorporate it into the novel if I feel it works for the story. And after that, I’ll start submitting Rose to publishing houses and agents that specialize in horror. Hopefully it’ll find a home soon, and I can get it published. After that…well, I’ll see when I get there.
  3. Some shorter works. I have a list of short stories and novelettes that I keep so I don’t forget any of the fabulous ideas I have. It’s currently 57 pages long and closing in on 800 ideas. I figure I should at least get through some of those, as only a few of them are crossed off with at least having a first draft written out. I already have another list of stories I’d like to work on in particular, and I’ve picked my first from that list. I might even get started on it in the next week, after I do a bit of research for it. And maybe after a few of these stories are written, they’ll get published. Fingers crossed, right?

And that’s where things stand right now. I hope you continue to stay with me as I move onto the next stage of this novel’s evolution, and maybe write the next stage of my writing career. Until my next post, goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

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Today, we have a new interview that I’m very excited to share with you, because it features someone very special. Matthew Williams is one of the oldest friends I have in the blogosphere (by length of relationship, not age), as well as something of an inspiration and mentor for me. A science-fiction writer out of British Columbia, Canada, he’s created quite a few stories over the years, as well as written a number of science articles for Universe Today.

And today, I’m bringing him onto this show to discuss a very special book, The Cronian Incident, being published by Castrum Press next month. Let’s get this party started!

Rami Ungar: Welcome to the show, Matt. Tell us a little about yourself, both as a person and a writer.

Matthew Williams: My name is Matt Williams. I was born in Ottawa, moved to the West Coast in 2006, and have lived on Vancouver Island with my wife and family ever since. I studied history and the social sciences in University and was a high school and elementary teacher for about ten years. I quit teaching in 2015 to pursue writing full-time and am now a regular contributor to Universe Today and the Curator of their Guide to Space section. In my spare time, I write science fiction that’s focused on hard science and the human condition.

RU: Why does science and science fiction appeal to you so much?

MW: A good question. On the one hand, I spent my formative years watching some of the best science fiction movies and series’ of all time – Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, etc. I was always drawn to SF because as a child, I was always a daydreamer, the kind of kid who would rather be thinking about fictitious universes than paying attention in class! As I grew older, I began to contemplate creating my own SF, the kinds of things I knew fans like me would enjoy.

I was also drawn to science from a very young age. In addition to having a starter chemistry set, I loved circuit boards and broken electronics, which I would take apart and play with for hours on end. As Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” To me, these things were magic! That fascination has not diminished by time. The more I’ve come to know about science, technology, and the complex relationship we humans have with them, the more fascinated I have become.

RU: Tell us about your new book, The Cronian Incident, and how you came up with it.

MW: The Cronian Incident takes place in the late 23rd century, where humanity has colonized the Solar System. On every planet, moon, asteroid, and in rotating cylinders at the Sun’s Lagrange Points, human settlements have been established. Whereas people in the Inner Solar System (known as Extros) live lives characterized by post-scarcity, clinical immortality, and endless augmentation, people in the Outer Solar System (Retros) live a simpler life. For generations, this situation has been the norm. But as the story begins, we find that some people have plans which could threaten to upset the delicate balance.

The inspiration came largely from my professional writing. For years, I have been doing articles about the planets of the Solar System for Universe Today. After finishing an article about the planet Mercury, I began talking to a friend about how humans could live there someday. Before long, I felt the seed of an idea being planted in my mind! I then went about planning a story that would realistically address how humans would go about living on all the planets of the Solar System.

For years, I had also been contemplating the idea of how changes here on Earth would drive human colonization of space. I eventually came up with an idea for a Solar System that was divided between people who embraced the development of AI, nanotechnology and biotechnology (and all the revolutionary changes that will follow) and those who chose to stick to a more traditional way of life.

Not long ago, I decided to marry these two sources of inspiration together. And from that, The Cronian Incident was born!

RU: What sort of research and work went into writing the book?

MW: The research was actually pretty incidental. For years, I’ve been studying climate change, technological change, and all the predictions that are constantly being made about the future. And my day job, as a writer for Universe Today, involved a tremendous amount of research into space exploration, planetary science, physics and astronomy. It wasn’t long before the things I was researching and writing about started to give me ideas! After a while, I came up with one I was particularly fond of and began committing it to paper.

RU: How do you approach writing sci-fi? Is there a particular sub-genre or style you prefer?

MW: My preference is towards speculative and hard science fiction. As long as I can remember, I was fascinated by those stories that made predictions about the future that were based on hard science. Granted, most of these predictions do not come true. But it’s the very act of predicting where we are going based on what we are currently experiencing that makes it all worthwhile.

RU: Do you see yourself writing further stories in the universe of The Cronian Incident?

MW: Indeed! In fact, I am currently working on the sequel and the publisher and I hope to have it ready for release in a few months. The book was never meant to be a standalone, and I plan to take this fictional universe (known as the Formist Series) as far as I possibly can.

RU: You used to be exclusively a self-published author, but now you’re working with a publishing house. What made you decide to become what is known as a hybrid author?

MW: In truth, I always wanted to follow the traditional publishing route. However, I had decided that rather than wait to be discovered, I would promote myself. And the interesting thing was that it was precisely the strategies that I was pursuing as an independent that landed me an offer from a publishing house.

In today’s world, a writer needs to promote their writing and their ideas using social media and all other digital means at their disposal. And publishers – the good ones at least! – make sure to peruse these sites in order to find aspiring writers they think have promise.

RU: What’s on the horizon for you at this point?

MW: Well, there’s the work I’m putting in on The Cronian Incident’s sequel. That will certainly eat up plenty of my time for now! And once the two books are out, I hope to attend book signings, science fiction cons, and other events. Basically, I would like to connect with the readers and see what they have to say about the Formist Series.

Beyond that, I hope to expand the Formist Series further. And of course, I have many other ideas I want to work on and eventually bring to light, ranging from near-future stories to a few space opera ideas. And of course, there’s my day job and writing about space news. That’s something I hope to do for many years to come!

RU: If you had to give advice to any writer, regardless of experience or background, what would you tell them?

If ever I find myself in the position to give advice, I like to share the five main lessons I have learned over the years. Many of these were passed on to me by other writers of note, or just people I have come to respect a great deal. And some is stuff I learned on my own

  1. Do what you love, the money will follow – It sounds cliché, but if you love what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work. And in the end, all the hard work and sacrifice you put in are sure to pay off!
  2. In the meantime, keep your day-job – Whatever you’ve been doing to pay the bills, keep doing it until you know for a fact that you can commit to your writing full-time.
  3. Don’t wait to be discovered – You don’t need to limit yourself to shopping out manuscripts to publishers and waiting six months just to hear back. Utilize new media – blog, tweet, post, share, link, reblog, and share – to let the world know you are a writer and what you have to offer.
  4. Find your voice – When committing to writing, make sure you do your homework first and find out who (if anyone) has written something similar. Also, it pays to know the difference between different subgenres and styles of writing, so you can find the one that works best for you.
  5. Be patient – as my father would tell me, “It takes 20 years to become an overnight success”. No matter what you are doing, it will take time for it to get off the ground. Don’t expect instant results or even to succeed on the first try.

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

MW: Ouch, tough one! But I guess I would have to choose 1984, Neuromancer, The Diamond Age, Accelerando and Finnegan’s Wake. The first four are masterpieces of science fiction that had a profound influence on me. While the last book is not a science fiction novel, it is a classic of western literature. And I think that if I were trapped on a desert island, I might just have the time and mental energy to figure it out!

RU: That actually sounds more like five, but I’ll let it pass this time. Thanks for being on the show, Matt! I hope the book does well.

If you would like to check out The Cronian Incident, due out September 15th, you can pre-order it from Amazon. And if you would like to know more about Matthew Williams, you can check him out on his blog, Stories by Williams, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. He’s a great guy, so give his stuff a look.

And if you are an author and would like to be interviewed, check out my Interviews page and we’ll make some magic happen.

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

At the beginning of the year, I said I was going to try publishing more of my shorter works in as many places as possible. This included Wattpad, which for those of you who don’t know is kind of like the YouTube for writers: anyone can upload and share stories. I fulfilled this promise somewhat earlier this year by publishing Gynoid, a science-fiction novelette I’d been trying to publish on and off for quite some time. I published that story’s first part on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, and if you are good at math, you can tell that it’s been six months since the story was first published. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to go over how Gynoid was doing and what plans I have for the site in the future.

Update on Gynoid

When Toby Crimson orders a gynoid, a robot designed to look and act like a human girl, he knows he shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Gynoids are for perverts and losers, after all. But Toby has told a lie, and he needs the gynoid, named Ariel, to keep that lie up. What he never expects is to actually like Ariel being around. Or that Ariel is going to change his life. Whether he likes it or not.

I published the first part of Gynoid on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, for a very good reason. The story is a romance in a science-fiction setting, but it’s also a kind of anti-romance story. There are dark sides to stories about forbidden love that I don’t always see portrayed in fiction, so I used Gynoid to explore those dark sides a little, in particular to the idea of male fantasies.

And so far, people have responded. In those six months since publication, the number of people reading Gynoid have gradually increased to 132 reads. It’s still not a huge number, but it’s a good-sized number for someone who’s still building an audience and who publishes sporadically on Wattpad to begin with. And there has also been a few votes, which is the equivalent of likes on YouTube for this platform.

What really interests me though is the comments. I’ve received some comments on this work, and not only is just one of them from my mother (a whole new record!), but the other comments have been very telling. One commenter was very happy that the ending was, in their view at least, a good one. Another recent reader finished the third part of the story on or around August 3rd, username LadieFace, published that she hoped there would be more to the story (I assume based on the name it’s a she). A week later on August 10th, she comes back and comments that she hopes there’ll be a sequel.

Now, I do have ideas for a sequel, and I did tell her as much when I saw the comment, but that’s not the point. This story stayed on this person’s mind so much that she felt the need to come back a week after her first comment and ask if I had more. When a story makes someone do that, you know it really resonated with that reader.

This gives me hope that, in time, Gynoid will continue to be read and people will come to enjoy it. Maybe they’ll even come to like it to the point that it’ll push me to write a sequel story. Anything’s possible.

If you’re curious to read Gynoid, I’ll include the links below. And if you do check it out, please tell me, here on the blog or on Wattpad, what you think. As I always say, I love reader feedback.

Gynoid: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

What Happened Saturday Night is getting published!

What Happened Saturday Night is another story I’ve been trying to get published for quite some time, and now I’m happy to say I’ll be publishing it on Wattpad next week. Like Gynoid, this story has a heavy romantic element, but this time it’s more of a paranormal romance rather than a science-romance. Here’s the blurb I’m using on Wattpad:

High school is hard enough. But Louise is different from other teens her age. For one thing, she has feelings for her best friend Nicola. Feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having.

Another thing: she’s going through changes, but these aren’t the sort of changes teen girls normally go through. Louise is a werewolf. And her biggest fear is what might happen if an episode like what happened on Saturday night happens in front of Nicola.

So as you can tell, the story has a big LGBT element along with the paranormal one. These two genres actually work pretty well together, actually: they both deal with things that are outside the norm, at least to some people, so putting them together is kind of a natural fit.

I’ll probably be publishing this story either on Monday or on Tuesday next week, so keep an eye out for the announcement post. In the meantime, I’d like to thank friend and fellow novelist Joleene Naylor, who also did the cover art for Gynoid, ffor this beautiful artwork for the tory. It is so powerful and expresses everything I want in a cover. I can’t wait for people to see it and want to read the story inside!

Will I publish anything else on Wattpad?

Good question. It depends on a number of factors. I’m still trying to get stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as trying to put some in a collection of short stories I’m keeping on the back burner for the moment. Depending on the story, as well as whether I feel it ought to be in a collection, a publication, or on Wattpad, anything could happen. If I do publish anything, it’ll probably have less of a romance element than Gynoid or What Happened Saturday Night has.

So if you’ve been reading my stories on Wattpad simply for the elements of love and romance, I’m sorry to disappoint you on that front.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might have another post out later this week, but it’ll depend on time and motivation, among other things. Until then, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares.

So yesterday I’m having a conversation with the receptionist at my doctor’s office while I wait for my appointment, and we get onto the subject of the stories I’m working on (because if you know me, after a while that WILL come up). I tell her about my WIP Rose, and what that’s about, as well as some of the themes in the story. When she hears that it deals with some pretty heavy themes like abuse, her response was, “Wow, I didn’t know horror could be so deep.”

And that’s a common response from non-fans, not just of horror but of speculative fiction in general. People who are on the outside of this genre tend to look in and see only a stereotypical surface: swords and wizards and weird humanoid species who make weird oaths with the names of oddly named gods for fantasy; funny costumes, silly effects, and incomprehensible in-universe technical jargon for sci-fi; and of course, people screaming and dying in gross ways for horror. And to be fair, a lot of these stereotypes do have examples in the genres that are just that, especially the slasher genre for horror. Whether they emerged as a result of the stereotypes or they were the influence that created the stereotypes, I’m not sure.

But, as any fan can attest to, any one of these genres can delve deep into very complex ideas and themes. And that includes horror, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this post (sorry sci-fi and fantasy. I love you, but you’re not my normal bailiwick). In fact, horror does this quite a bit, it’s just usually more subtext than overt. The reason behind this, obviously, is because horror’s main purpose is to scare, so having exploration of ideas take the forefront of the story over the actual scares and plot actually takes away from the latter, which causes the story as a whole to suffer. In novels, you can sometimes devote a few paragraphs or even a couple pages to that, but it still cannot be the main component of the story.

And because it’s often more subtext, the heavy bits are often overlooked by non-fans and even some fans, who are more likely to focus on how scary/creepy/unnerving the story was. This happens especially in movies and TV shows, which as visual mediums are very good at conveying the scare with their subtext.

A text full of great subtext.

However, even if it’s not obvious, the heavy themes and ideas are still present in the story if you look for them. A good example would be Dracula by Bram Stoker: on the surface, you have a Gothic vampire story. But go a little deeper, you see a commentary and criticism on Victorian ideas and fears. Dracula himself can be seen as a sort of twisted Jesus Christ, offering immortality through the drinking of his blood and the taking of the blood of others; the vampires themselves can be interpreted as corrupting sexuality turning good people, particularly women, into carnal monsters; and the vampires coming to England as a nod to English xenophobia, with Dracula and his kind, who speak and act strangely and must sleep in the soil of their native lands, representing the influx of foreigners to England during the later Victorian era and how they may not be suited to English society, according to some Victorians.

A story that’s more than just scares.

And this can be found throughout horror stories, particularly in novels where there is room to explore these heavy themes. A lot of times, you can see these themes embodied in some way in the supernatural forces that may threaten the character(s). Stephen King does this very well in many of his stories: while explicitly stated that the events of The Shining are supernatural in origin, on another level it’s a great story of a family breaking down due to stress, isolation, alcoholism, and old tensions arising, with the hotel simply being a stage for things to play out rather than a true supernatural entity. Likewise, It is a story about a supernatural force, but that same force is also a representation of childhood fears, what we fear in the dark as well as fear of growing up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this great novel.

You also see this in movies, with a great example being The Babadook. While the titular monster could be real, it could also be a form of shared delusion between a mother and her son, trying to work through their individual and collective issues. There are a number of articles that look at the film from a psychological perspective, and the arguments they make put the story in a whole new light from first viewing. The Babadook is a story laced with deeper meaning, if you just look beyond the surface.

So as we can see, horror is more than just people screaming and dying in gruesome ways. Like any story, it can have a deeper meaning, going into the psychology of characters, the beliefs of society, philosophies on life, death, love and so much more. You just have to pull back a veil and take a closer look, and you’ll see what’s always been there.

Well, we’re back to count down my top five villains of the past year. And what really surprised me about the top five was that while #10-6 came from ll sorts of different franchises and series, the top five came from only two franchises/series. That’s right, this year only two properties hold sway over the top five. And you can contribute that to a number of things, but I think with these franchises, they’ve been running a very long time and the writers and directors and other behind-the-scenes folks who run these franchises want to keep them running a very long time So what do they do? They come up with compelling storylines with great villains to set up against great heroes.

So what are they? Let’s find out. Remember, no villain of my creation is on this list, and no actual person is on this list either. It’s all fictional. And as always, SPOILERS!

#5: Kaecillius (Doctor Strange)

You know, this is the third time a Mads Mikkelsen character has appeared on this list (his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter were in the top five back in 2013 and 2014). Not surprising, considering that he’s not only a great actor, but he’s given great characters. Kaecillius is a former student of the Ancient One who finds out things about his master he doesn’t like and who falls under the sway of the demon-god Dormammu. His goal is to allow Dormammu’s Dark Dimension into this world, thus absorbing our universe into his. Why does he want to do this?

Well, the answer is much more sympathetic than you might expect: Kaecillius sees the world as an endless cycle of suffering and death, and wants to free the world of it, which he feels integrating our world into the Dark Dimension can do. And this is actually an admirable goal, to free the world of suffering and death. It’s the very notion that Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions, is founded upon! It’s just that Kaecillius believes wholeheartedly that by making us one with the Dark Dimension is the way to do that (believe me, it’s not), and that’s what makes him a villain. Add in his gravitas, stoic manner, and occasional one-liners, and you’ve got yourself an A-class villain with some aspects you can actually sympathize with.

#4: Lucifer (Supernatural)

Over the past two years, I’ve really become a huge fan of Supernatural, and over the past year, I’ve taken in the ten most recent seasons. And even when he’s not the main villain of a season, guess who’s a powerful influence over the series as a whole? Yep, Lucifer, the Devil himself. He’s powerful enough that even when he’s locked in a cage in Hell, he’s still capable of manipulating and directing events on Earth, which is how brothers Sam and Dean Winchester became wrapped up in monster hunting. And when he’s out of the cage, God help you. He could be following the script of the Apocalypse, or he could be making it up as he goes along, he doesn’t care. As long as he’s able to make a few quips, make someone’s life literal torture, and even kill a few people, he’s happy. The destruction he caused in Season 12 alone, and the events he set in motion with some of his actions, earn him a spot in the top five (though because most of his horrors are caused by his daddy issues, he’s a bit lower than he could be).

#3: Amara/The Darkness (Supernatural)

What’s scarier than one of God’s angelic sons? Why, God’s older sister, and the embodiment of destruction! Introduced in late Season 10 and the main villain of Season 11, The Darkness is a primordial force that God and the Archangels locked away so that the universe could exist. Freed at the end of Season 10, she possesses a baby named Amara and soon becomes a full-grown woman with a simple goal: to find her brother and settle some long overdue family business with him. That, and maybe entice Dean Winchester, with whom she shares a special connection, to join her at her side.

What puts her higher than Lucifer on this list? Well, she’s much more powerful, for one thing. And in a way, she actually caused Lucifer’s fall from grace. In her way, she’s the true cause of many of the horrors in Supernatural. Not to mention that she somehow makes fish out of water moments scary: having never lived in the human world, she’s uneducated about a lot of what goes on there, and it shows. And even when we’re laughing at how inept she is as a human, we know that she’s going to do something horrible soon. And then she does it.

If that’s not deserving of the Number 3 spot, then I’m Harry Potter (and I’m not).

#2: A.I.D.A. (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD)

This time from the MCU’s TV universe, we have A.I.D.A, a cyborg originally designed by her creator Holden Radcliffe as a literal shield for SHIELD agents, and later a major part of Radcliffe’s plan to create a world free of suffering and death for humans…which she later subverts in order to gain freedom from her rigid programming and become a full human with emotions. And superpowers.

Honestly, watching A.I.D.A.’s arc from naive robot woman to calculating assistant, to calculating supervillainness, to a powerful human woman with strong powers and emotions like storms, was one of the most fascinating things in this season. It kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering what she was going to do next as she pursued her goals of humanity, freedom, and even the love of one of the main cast! That, and her ruthlessness in accomplishing those goals, whether she was doing so under programming driven by twisted logic or spurred on by her newfound feelings, made the story all the more gripping. She’s definitely one of the show’s best villains, and deserving of the second-highest spot on this list.

#1: The Leviathans (Supernatural)

The Leviathans were a thing introduced in Season 7 five years ago, but I just met them this past fall. And my God, were they the best villains on the show! Primordial beings that are older than most of the angels, they were God’s first creations in His new universe. Ultimately, they proved too hungry to be controlled and God put them away in Purgatory lest they eat the universe to bits. Released back into our world at the beginning of Season 7, they quickly possess humans in order to inhabit physical form again, with one goal in mind: feed. At first they’re just looking for a quick fix in the short term to get their sustenance, but as time goes on and their king possesses the body and memories of billionaire businessman Dick Roman, they start organizing. What’s their grand plan? Simply to feed.

There’s something kind of scary of an old and powerful race of beings whose sole goal is to satisfy their hunger, and the best way to do that is to feed on humanity. And they do it with businesslike precision, coming up with this whole five-year plan for turning America into their personal McDonald’s (I’m assuming the rest of the world would follow in time). It’s this precision, along with their difficulty in being killed, that made them stand out to me as villains not only on Supernatural, but through the whole year. Lucifer and Amara may be looking for revenge on their mutual family member, but when it comes to beasts that just want to feed, they just can’t be beat.

 

So that’s this year’s list, my Followers of Fear. But tell me, who were your favorite villains this past year? Do you have any critiques of my choices? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And expect another blog post from me either later today or at some point tomorrow, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a new review, and I hope you’ll want to read it.

Oh come on, did you think I wasn’t going to do this? It’s a tradition, and whether you like it or not, I’m doing it! So strap in, and let the villainous torture begin!

So if you don’t know, every June or so I like to rank the top ten villains in fiction that have really impressed/scared me. Villains are always a central part of horror stories, so it’s important to see what makes a villain memorable, or strong, or terrifying. What makes a good villain, in essence. Some years are easier than others to rank, but with each entry, there’s always something to notice with a villain.

Before we begin, let me remind all who read this that no villain from my own work, or any real life person, will make it on this list (otherwise this would just be political views and shout outs to my own characters). Also, SPOILERS!

Ready? Okay, here we go! #10-6!

#10: Tom Martin/Alex Whitman (Scream TV series)

Scream is a twisty slice of TV-horror awesomeness, and while not everyone loved its Halloween special, I certainly found it a fun break from the show’s normal format. One thing I really liked about the Halloween special was Alex Whitman, a rich young man whose parents died tragically when he was young and who strikes up a sweet romance with protagonist Emma Duvall. Or at least, that’s what we think at first. After a huge twist in which the suspect we thought is the new Brandon James Killer ends up dead, it’s revealed Alex Whitman is actually Tom Martin, a disturbed young man who witnessed his parents’ gruesome death as a child and was warped by all the attention relating to his survival. He sees Emma as a kindred soul, and tries to get close to her by any means, including murder.

What makes Tom a great villain is that he’s so sympathetic! Even after he’s revealed to be dangerous and out of his mind, we feel sorry for him, because his backstory is truly heartbreaking, and there was real chemistry between him and Emma. It’s very hard to make a despicable killer into a sympathetic character (believe me, I’ve experienced that struggle firsthand), and Scream did it really well. It’s a good character for the series to go out on.*

#9: Garrett Douglas (Teen Wolf season 6)

Teen Wolf has had many villains show up on this list, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they got one on this year’s list too. Garrett Douglas is a former captain in the SS–yes, the SS, as in the Nazis–who tried to control the ghostly Wild Hunt, supernatural beings who kidnap people and erase them from existence to replenish their numbers. His attempts to do that led to him being held captive for nearly seventy years by the Dread Doctors from season 5, but he escaped after the latter fell, and set out once again to put the Wild Hunt under his thumb. This time he very nearly succeeded, nearly turning the town of Beacon Hills into a ghost town in the process.

While the Wild Hunt were the main villains of the story arc, they were just an elemental force trying to replenish its numbers for survival. They looked scary and had terrifying powers, but they weren’t menacing or evil. Douglas, on the other hand, was a sadistic power-hungry madman, and he was willing to sacrifice whoever he needed to in order to accomplish his goals. That’s a villain right there. However, compared to other villains on this list and on the show, he’s not as intimidating, and he doesn’t rely on his own power, so he ranks rather low. Better luck next time, Teen Wolf. I have confidence in you.

#8: Amunet (The Mummy 2017 film)

I gave this movie a harsh rating in my review (read that HERE), but honestly Amunet was one of its saving graces. Played with convincing power by Sofia Boutella, Amunet is a powerful undead sorceress who made a deal with the god Set for power. Resurrected in the 21st century, she’s willing to sacrifice anyone in order to bring about an apocalypse and become Queen of the Damned (see what I did there?).

What makes her a great villain is that she’s so convincing! You really feel her rage, her lust, her desire for power. And then you see her power at work: she’s influencing Tom Cruise, using animals as weapons, turning people into obedient slaves with kisses or even just with an animal bite. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and proves that even if you have a bad movie, you can have a great villain.

#7: Kevin Wendell Crumb (Split)

I’m not sure if this is one villain or 23 villains or what, but either way, they’re all here. A man with disassociative identity disorder, some of Kevin’s personalities go rogue and take over his psyche in order to bring out a new personality known as the Beast, who causes pain and suffering in the belief that such horrors purify. Kevin and each personality is played with amazing skill by James McAvoy, making each feels real and fully formed. But it’s his darker personalities, the ones that set out to cause destruction by kidnapping three teenage girls from a mall parking lot, that really scare you. You can feel their belief in their godlike Beast, and then when you inevitably see the Beast, he’s a powerful force that makes your heart beat from start to finish. Kevin and his personalities’ place on this list is well-deserved. Cannot wait to see him again in two years in Glass.

#6: The Shadow Kin (Class TV series)

Give it to the Whoniverse to come up with memorable villains. In Doctor Who‘s new spin-off Class, the Shadow Kin are beings made of fire and brimstone, who believe their existence in the universe is a cosmic mistake, as they cannot stand bright light and must travel as gas and shadows. In revenge, their goal is to eliminate all life from the universe by infecting the shadows of their enemies and then killing them. These villains appear throughout the show’s first season, at first only to kill off the refugees of one of their battles, but when their king becomes biologically linked to one of the show’s protagonist, it sets off a literal shadow war as the Shadow Kin battle for control of their king’s power and the planet Earth. Definitely a dangerous villain who kept us on the edge of our seats, wondering what would happen and where the Shadow Kin would appear next.

 

And that’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ll have #5-1 out soon. Until then, what did you think of the Top 10 so far? Do you have any favorite villains from this past year. Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*I’m not counting the upcoming third season, because they’re basically rebooting the story with new characters and setting. Um, WTF? You didn’t even wrap up the original story! You had loose threads leading up to the third season! And we know the third season is going to be the last season, so why change things up like that? Why not just wrap things up and let it be like that? TV execs! They’re sometimes the worst people to direct the courses of their own properties.

Life is rarely straightforward. That is a fact. People change, or their thoughts and feelings change, new paths open up in front of you, and your understanding of the world never fits in the box you want it to (that last one isn’t really relevant to what I’m going to talk about here, but I felt like stating it anyway). And my life and feelings have changed. I need a break from what I’m doing right now. I need to do something different if I’m to pursue my goals in life.

With that said, I need to shut down Rami Ungar the Writer. At least for a little while.

I’m kidding. But for a split second, you bought that. You did, and it worried you for a little bit.

No, what I really mean is that I need to take a break from Full Circle. A very long break.

You see, I’ve been working on that novel since November, eight months in total. And I’ve only taken some occasional breaks, each working on a couple of short stories, and then getting back into it. And you know what? I’m a little burnt out. Normally by this time, I’m already finished with the first draft, but I’m only a little over the halfway point. And when I think of getting into the next chapter, I’m filled with dread, because it’s likely going to be a long chapter, and I’ve been dealing with this story for eight months straight, and it has not been easy at times.

All writers get like this. Yeah, we do. There are times when we’ve devoted so much energy to a story, that we need a break if we’re to give it more and give it the energy it needs. And honestly, I’m at that point. It’s nothing I did wrong or anyone else did wrong. There’s nothing big in my life that’s making me super happy or super miserable, thus causing me to think, “I can’t work on finishing the Reborn City trilogy right now.” Nope, it’s just me needing some distance and the chance to work on something else. And I need a long something else. Because if I take on a project, and it only lasts a month at most, I won’t be ready to work on Full Circle again. I’d be ready to bang my head against a wall in frustration, but I wouldn’t be ready for FC again.

Which is why I have the perfect project:

Some of you may recall that during my last year of college, I wrote a novel called Rose as my thesis. The story was about a young woman with amnesia who starts transforming into a plant creature. And that may sound comical, but it’s actually pretty dark, exploring themes of dependence and abuse in romantic relationships, as well as how memory, truth, and falsehoods can shape not just our perceptions of others, but of ourselves. It was a challenging novel, to say the least, but I managed to get two drafts of it written between August 2014 and April 2015, and they turned out okay. I let it lie for a while when I was in Germany and during my job search, and tried working on it again after I moved into my new apartment and started my job. For a number of reasons, it didn’t go well. Mostly because I didn’t have a plan for editing it beyond, “Let’s sit down in front of the computer and see what happens.”

My new project: the third draft of Rose.

But since then, I figured out a plan to help me get along with editing in general (see my post on that on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. It has a similar opening to this blog post). I’ve also had plenty of time to think about changes I’d like to make to the story, and to the characters, and I’ve really been itching to take a crack at it again. And I’m pretty sure that, once I get another draft of Rose done, I’d be ready to send this story to an editor, and then maybe to an agent or publishing house.

So starting very soon, I’ll be taking another dive into Rose. It probably won’t happen until after I get back from Boston, but after that and I’ve done all the travelogues and checked my new digital recorder for ghost voices, you can bet that I’ll be working on my new project with gusto. Until then, Followers of Fear, wish me luck as I work on a couple new blog posts, and as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally for what will hopefully be a very successful third draft and a very refreshing break.

Pleasant nightmares!