We Need Other Kinds of Heroes

A Harder Heroism

Somewhere in the last half-century, hero became a dirty word in popular culture. People enjoy hearing about the failings of those marked as heroes, whether dirty secrets or opinions that don’t abide by the current standard or memes Maybe even worse, heroes are looked at in some kind of contempt. And the word is further cheapened by being used for anyone famous or sucessful as if wealth is a measure of value or worth. We say that riches aren’t the most important thing, but act like getting rich is a virtue.

What you do with it is the virtue. And I’m not talking about the vanity charities started by actors, politicians, or athletes. Those are PR, something the make them look better or get a tax benefit. Does the famous sponsor stay involved in a real way? Do they put any time in the trenches for that cause? And does this vanity charity actually accomplish anything useful? I have seem many foundations and charities falter when the sponsor moves on to other things. Charity watchdog organizations, like Charity Navigator are both useful and disheartening, as the money and resources that people give in good faith get wasted.

Heroes do the right things, the hard things, without the cameras. Encouraging others to support a cause or charity, makes you a good example and someone to be admired. But a hero does something when it can and does cost them. Playing a helicopter pilot hero in a movie doesn’t make you a hero, flying an injured hiker out of the wilderness and unstable conditions does. Firewomen, policemen, and soldiers routinely risk injury and death to help others. And they will go back the next day to do it over again. It is the risk and cost of their actions than changes that helicopter flight from stuntwork to heroism.

Now heroism isn’t all about the burning building or knocking back an assassin, the more subtle kinds of heroism require a moral fortitude to face down people who don’t want to do the right thing, or who use their position or majority to force their beliefs on others. The hero may lose the battle to make a camp for kids or land a faltering plane safely but they don’t roll over. (The hard thing sometimes is in choosing the right thing. Bullying and abuse is easy to oppose, but free speech and anti-censorship is not as easy to support when a speaker is a mean jackass.)

People have been saying that freedom isn’t free, but costs cuts both ways. If you want freedom from offense by people who have different beliefs, you must grant the same to others for your beliefs. ‘Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’ Disagreement on political and social issues is rarely evil and it’s petty childishness to demonize your opponents over opinions.  Too many have no empathy or the ability to walk in another’s shoes. Are people that self-centered or getting off on leading the howling mobs? Great leaders and heroes do more than destroy by feeding the riot’s flames, they make the compromises where everyone feels it’s an improvement. Grinding those who disagree with you into paste by riots or social media pile-ons, isn’t peace, it’s abusive.

I think that may be why we are foundering lately, we don’t have enough heroes who compromise and defuse the situations, we get leaders who want it to burn.

An Agency that Needs to Expand

Writing has had to take a back seat of late due to another commitment, but ideas for problem areas have continued even in exile from my writing.  This exile has only been broken by a flashfic from an irritated muse.  I don’t know about other writers, but my muse is ONE WHO MUST BE OBEYED… or at least appeased.  My NaNo writing has been back-burnered because I know the draft has parts I like, but I can see it has intimidating problems.  Sadly professional editing is far beyond the budget and finding a good beta is risky and infrequent.  Come July I will take another stab at it along with the bootstrap classes of Holly Lisle.  

Heroes wanted

Enough with the writing side street, how can you deal with your heroes and characters and as archetypes in fiction?  Some have action, some have angst, some have lost loves that fly off in a plane, it’s not really the setting that makes their core values, what makes them a hero.  The hero who defends a remote space station from an alien attack is very different than a guardian of portals that separate the fey from the modern world.  They all have their lessons to learn from the events that get in their way in their stories.  I’ve played with different hero characters so far and choosing the right one can be tricky. I’m concerned that I don’t want to get too repetitive.  Sometimes I want a hero who isn’t already in my roster from earlier stories:  Noble knight, cynical bastard, hardened innocent, rebel, doomed lynchpin, commander, pragmatic survivor… they all have their places but there are other archetypes. A hero in my delayed tale isn’t any of those, he hasn’t quite gelled enough to have a voice and that is frustrating because he’s almost there. 

Maybe I’ll hang a ‘help wanted’ sign in the window of my agency of heroes… wonder who will apply?

Image courtesy photologue_np

Hello, World!

That is the traditional way to start, isn’t it?  An author blog is suggested for any wishing to publish, but I admit this took a lot longer than writing a NaNo draft because it requires more reflection on what is important for my writing, more important than any one world or character.  Sure I could ramble on about my apprenticeship in fanfic, which is writing with training wheels.  But much bigger, real, paid writers have started there, so it’s not a new idea.  After that reflection I decided I should start where I started in writing: where heroes are eliminated because it’s convenient.

Hero is not really a four letter word and villains should not be admired and praised.  In too much of pop culture of fiction, video, and games the hero is an endangered species, not just someone with his fanny in a bear trap.  Glory is not permanent, but grinding the hero into nothing and lauding bad behavior is a danger sign.  Heroes teach us that dragons can be beaten, and we have a lot of dragons.  We need more heroes.