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Kameron Hurley, Author of God's War, on "Bring Me Your Heroes"

Gods-War-CoverKameron Hurley's first novel God's War is out and garnering great praise. It's set on a planet settled by Muslims and rife with war and pollution. A bounty hunter and a magician who can control insects that drive the planet's technology become embroiled in a bloody and uncertain quest. Yes, that's right: It's bugpunk! This is gritty, edgy, and thoroughly entertaining science fiction that comes with all the bells and whistles. For example, check out the amazing book trailers for the novel on Hurley's YouTube channel as well as her awesome website for the book, which includes a sample chapter. You can also sample her short fiction, which has been collected in year's best anthologies, in a collection created for the Kindle.

Hurley's been kind enough to write a series of short pieces for Omnivoracious on issues related to her novel, the first on re-imagining revolution, the second on female characters in urban fantasy, and the third on fortune & glory. Here's the fourth and final piece, which is particularly appropriate given the kerfuffle about heroic fantasy I blogged about earlier this week. Many thanks to Hurley.

 

Bring Me Your Heroes

by Kameron Hurley

So, I’m a sucker for anti-heroes.

The woman who would rather burn the world than save it. The guy whose friends think he’s a prophet of peace, but who once murdered hundreds. The kid who’s not pretty, and mostly crazy. The renegade who solves problems by chopping off heads.

There is a deep yearning in us for stories of the heroic – ordinary people who achieve extraordinary things while righting wrongs. They teach us that anything is possible. That all of us can be heroes. The trouble with some of those stories, though, for me, is that many of these heroes start out as newly-formed foals just making their way in the world. They step into the story whole cloth, with short and generally unremarkable pasts that make it easy for them to be shaped and molded into the heroic ideal the story requires.

I used to love these stories. I still read them from time to time. But as I get older, I’m far more drawn to the people with the most to lose. When you’re 16 and a wizard shows up and tells you you’re special and whisks you off into adventure, you’re just not as interesting to me as somebody who’s 30 or 40 or 60 and decides that the world is falling apart, and even though they’re a terrible person and their life is crap, they’ve decided to try to save it in whatever crazy bloody way they can manage.

One of the consequences of reading a glut of “you’re so special” stories was that when I was a pre-teen and early teen, I kept waiting for somebody to tell me I was special. I wanted somebody to save me from my boring life. I expected somebody with real talent to just tap me on the head and say, “You’re going to be great! You are the one! Let’s go have adventures!” I think we all secretly hope for this. That someone more learned and respected will choose us, will tell us what we’ve always suspected: we are The One.

But in real life, nobody really thinks your special. Except maybe your parents, if you’re lucky. There’s no hooded figure beckoning from the doorway - at least not one who means to do you a favor. In real life, if you want to be special, you have to work for it. Nobody gives it to you.

That’s what I love about real, complex anti-heroes. Nobody expects them to save the world. Most of the time, they don’t even want to. They are bitter and angry and fighting their own ghosts and fears and neuroses. They are real people caught up in extraordinary events, and they have to make hard choices in the face of them. There are no prophecies. No seers. No path. They carve the path out all by themselves.

For me, this is the truer journey. The one I wished I’d read more about growing up. This is the hard road that you make yourself, and learning how to make that hard road yourself no matter what your past is, for me, is a far more useful lesson for a kid than the one that tells us that if we keep our head down and work hard, somebody on high will grant us a bright, shiny, future.

The only future we have is the one we hack out ourselves. That’s what real heroes teach me.

 

Comments

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Hummm, perhaps the part of my brain which tends to dump the "you're special" stories into the "popcorn, fun but not filling" category in my head is related to this.

Growing up some of my first real exposure to the idea of heroes were the Thomas Covenant series (by Stephen R. Donaldson) and the Elric saga (by Michael Moorcock). Neither of which are, by any stretch of the imagination, "hero" type material.

I like other more traditional hero models but, in the end, the ones that really excite me and make me DIG into a new book is someone who really isn't cut from that cloth.

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