The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 010): Morally Ambiguous Characters in SF/F + Interview with Sam Sykes

In the tenth episode of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester is joined by Jeff Patterson, Fred Kiesche, John Anealio and John DeNardo to answer this question:

Q: Are the days of the white hat hero and the goatee wearing villain in SF&F gone forever?


More and more in science fiction, fantasy – heck, all across the genre spectrum, we see what are considered to be the morally ambiguous characters, the anti-heroes who do the right thing but only because it falls in line with what they were gonna do anyway. Or maybe they did it because they saw a way to capitalize on it later. They drink to excess, smoke, do drugs, have rampant sex, fight a lot, kill people – the list goes on and on.

Characters with flaws as wide and deep as the grand canyon have become far more mainstream in literature, film & TV. Are the days of ‘real good’ against ‘real evil’ gone? Science fiction has always provided a platform wherein complex social topics and taboos can be explored ‘safely’ as seen through the eyes of aliens or as aliens contrasted against human cultures – are the stories featuring morally ambiguous characters or plots simply another extension of this platform? Is it part of the natural evolution of the genre? What are some examples of characters, novels or authors who have stood out in your mind despite (or maybe because of) their bucking of the system and the status quo?

Later, Patrick Hester, John Ottinger III & Aidan Moher sit down to chat with Sam Sykes, author of Tome of the Undergates.

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One thought on “The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 010): Morally Ambiguous Characters in SF/F + Interview with Sam Sykes”

  1. I’m all for anything that makes a character seem more real and real people have flaws. What I don’t like are what I call “kryptonite plots” where the character’s flaw is the one thing that just happens to put the perfect obstacle in his way. The perfect examples are from the comic book world with kryptonite apparently readily available to all villains and the color yellow as the only thing affecting Green Lantern’s power ring. These things are meant to avoid having a character be completely godlike by introducing a flaw but it comes across as contrived. Alcoholism and drug use or mental illness of some kind can be more believable flaws as can be a character’s need to philander or be greedy.

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