MIND MELD: What Are Your Literary Crushes?
[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week, we asked our esteemed panelists…
This is what they said…
It’s a three-way tie! (1) Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk in “The Avengers” was very, very cute. I’ve always had a thing for the broody professor type, from “Gilligan’s Island” to Dr. Frankenstein, but Ruffalo sealed the deal, with those big, brown eyes and that clumsy sweetness. (2) Zachary Quinto as Spock in “Star Trek.” Because there’s a theme here: I love the geeks. (3) Paul Bentley from Walter Tevis’ novel Mockingbird. Bentley tries so hard to better himself, and like the others I’ve mentioned he’s an outcast. It’s not just his thirst for knowledge that saves him, and in the end, offers hope in a collapsed and bleak future world, but his love for a woman, Mary Lou, that makes him fully formed. Basically, what I think all these characters have in common, whether via the writing (as with Tevis, JJ Abrams), or the acting (Rufalo), is that they’re rounded and real.They have ambitions for themselves, and also for the world they inhabit. They tend to stand from a remove, observing the follies of mankind, and oping that through bettering society, they can also redeem themselves. It’s a trope I fall for every time. Also, both Spock and Bentley love strong women, which is pretty cool.
I don’t really get crushes on written characters these days, to be honest. Without the eye candy there’s nothing to spark physical attraction, so a character can be charming as hell but all that stokes is interest, not infatuation. I’m just not as immersed as when I was a teenager more than a little in love with Mouse from Delany’s Nova.
With a visual medium–TV or cinema–it’s another story, but here I have an automatic “no point trying” switch for straight hotties, so the choice isn’t great, and it doesn’t help that I’m picky. I wouldn’t kick Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) from A Game of Thrones out of bed, but he hasn’t really had enough screen-time for me to develop a bonafide infatuation–although having him set on vengeance, wearing the armour of his dead lover, that does kinda push my buttons, I admit; it’s all terribly Achilles. And there’s Godric (Allan Hyde) from True Blood too–when he was first introduced, at least. Ooh, a shirtless killer pixie twink with tribal tattoos and emo mini-dreads? Yes, please! Only, then they just had to go and cut his hair, and stick him in oatmeal linen like some fricking boyband member. Meh. Which leaves, I guess, Scott McCall (Tyler Posey,) from the new Teen Wolf as the latest young stud-puppy I’ll freely admit to mooning over. The character isn’t queer, right enough, and much of the attraction is simply the shallowest of lust on my part for the actor; but the whole series is such a simmering stew of subtext I find it compulsive.
The werewolf trope is all about raging hormones barely contained, after all, the mapping of lycanthropy to closeted gayness is a no-brainer, and while there is a female love interest, she’s frankly a bit of a sideshow to the testosterone-fueled tensions between the protagonist and other male characters. Which are… well… tense. When one guy gets slammed into a locker by another, I mean, it’s all a bit rough trade, a tad Deckard and Rachel in that scene in Bladerunner. You have a best friend risking being set upon (ahem!) by the hero, said friend also being obsessed at one point with whether he’s fanciable to the show’s actual gay character. And with lines about this werewolf being that one’s bitch, you can’t help but think the writers are actively playing to the undercurrents.
Part of the appeal is that while the network clearly wanted to tap into the Twilight audience, where Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries are all (in Duncan’s Patent Theory of Modern Vampire Fiction) offering a romantic fantasy of the brooding top for your bottom boi or girly girl (a latter-day Heathcliff, sensitive but dominant… often downright creepily possessive,) the dynamics in Teen Wolf just ain’t for the would-be damsels of whatever gender. Seems to me like it’s much more about two lusty lupines circling each other, stalking, both all set to jump each others bones, ready to fight and/or fuck. And what can I say? Feisty is my type.
Clearly, there’s a somewhat superficial quality to such a crush, but hey, we’re talking fictional characters; there’s not much point in getting serious over someone who doesn’t exist.
Hawkeye from James Fennimore Cooper’s novel The Last of the Mohicans, first published in 1826. It was the 1992 movie of this story, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye and Madeleine Stowe as Cora, that captivated me – the novel is not very approachable, but the film is extremely romantic, both small-r romantic (great love story) and big-R Romantic (sweeping epic set in magnificent wild landscapes that echo both the dramatic story and the characters’ turbulent emotions.) Hawkeye with his disregard for convention, his quiet strength and (let’s face it) Daniel Day-Lewis’s striking features, not to mention that big rifle, was irresistible to far more women than Cora. The wonderful soundtrack to this movie really enhanced its emotional messages – it was skilfully done. The other technique was understatement. Who would have thought the following snippet of dialogue could be so powerful?
Cora (tending to a wounded soldier – glances over at Hawkeye who is standing nearby): What are you looking at?
Hawkeye: I’m looking at you, Miss.
learned how to be cold for large portions of the year. Her short fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, been nominated for awards including the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award, and in 2011, she won the Nebula for best novella. She likes television more than she should.
I guess my first question about this is to wonder whether you mean characters that I’ve had a crush on, like “that character is hot,” or characters that I have a “crush” on, like became obsessed with. I’m going to answer the former because it’s the answer I thought of first.
It might be embarrassing to admit, but I have kind of a “that character is hot” crush on Aidan from Being Human–the UK version, not the American. Oh, vampire angst. Cliche? Yes. Works for me anyway? Sometimes. I also like Angel when he’s being comic and Spike when he’s being Spike. It doesn’t hurt that Aidan has pretty hair.
I think there’s something about struggling against one’s history in order to find redemption that I find compelling. I identify with it for some reason, despite the fact that I got straight As and never even got grounded. I’m at a loss for saying why this should have an alluring component instead of just an intriguing one. Partially, it might be that vampire characters are written in a way that emphasizes their sexiness. In the same way that it’s easy for many people to crush on a character like Inara on Firefly (let us, again, note the pretty hair) because she’s written in a way that forefronts romance, it’s probably easier to crush on characters like Aidan or Angel or Captain Jack because of the way they’re presented. For instance, George the werewolf isn’t presented through the sexy lens even though he could be–for instance, he’s pretty angsty.
The sexy lens isn’t the only thing that appeals, though–I also find Wash on Firefly sexy and I don’t think he’s meant to outshine, say, Mal or Simon. I find him sexy because he’s the kind of dude who plays with toy dinosaurs on the bridge of a spaceship. This is something my husband would absolutely do. We may or may not have a collection of model dinosaurs. (Hint: we do.)
Captain Jack (or, at any rate, the version of him that appears on Dr. Who) is alluring because he’s like “Sex is fun and I like to have it! Yay!” which is always an appealing trait. When he loses his sense of fun on Torchwood, he also loses his sex appeal (for me).
So, that’s quite a range of things I could crush on, in a sexy way. Everything from angst to joy, from emphasized sex appeal to comic idiosyncrasy.
In female characters, I’m more likely to crush on ladies with hard edges, like Aeryn Sun from Farscape, Zoe from Firefly and Nina on Being Human (UK). I’m actually more likely to crush on female characters outside of genre, I think. I’m not sure why that is, although it’s possibly because there are fewer cat suits. Also, I tend not to crush on characters–male or female–whose personalities are too fragile. Annie on Being Human is gorgeous, but too liable to break. In real life, the women I know aren’t proportionally more likely to be psychologically breakable than the men I know, but that’s not true in fiction of any genre.
Several months ago, I asked a friend of mine–Jenn Reese–how to write romance because it’s not something I’ve done much. She replied that cookie cutter romance isn’t nearly as compelling as romance that’s personal. She suggested writing about what I, personally, find attractive.
I think that’s probably key. Idiosyncrasies and uneven edges distinguish romances that feel fresh from ones that blend into the background, in the same way that idiosyncrasies and uneven edges distinguish unique characters. Also, if the writer really believes in the romance–or can get into their character’s head enough that they believe in it while they’re in the fictional point of view–I think that’s more likely to bleed through onto the page. Writers can absolutely create emotions that they don’t feel, but it’s probably easier for most of us to convey the emotions we are feeling.
Also, pretty hair and toy dinosaurs.
Excellent question! I spent my teenage years reading science fiction and fantasy, which meant that I developed a LOT of crushes on characters; probably more crushes than is strictly healthy. Before I get to my most current crush, I’m going to share my first genre crush – Justin from The Secret of Nimh (the movie version). He was gallant, he was funny, he was the most handsome rat I have ever seen! Yes, I had a crush on a rat when I was 6 – I didn’t move on to a human until I saw The Neverending Story and developed a crush on Atreyu. Le Sigh.
Oddly enough, even though I’m currently working my way through GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire, I haven’t crushed on a single character that I probably would have back in the day. Jon Snow, for instance, satisfies many of my requirements; dark and brooding, but also funny and kind, but GRRM isn’t writing anything resembling a romance! The ‘getting to know you phase’ of the relationships in the Song of Ice and Fire is cursory, at best, which doesn’t lend itself to helping ME fall in love with anyone. So I’m going to take a step back in my reading log, to my recent re-read of Jennifer Roberson’s first book in the Chronicles of the Cheysuli series, Shape-Changers. Roberson does an excellent job, for me as a female reader, in sweeping you up in the emotions of young Alix, a farm-girl that discovers her fate is beyond anything she had ever dreamed. You start out in love with the young prince, Carillon, and then utterly fall for the brooding Cheysuli leader, Duncan (not to mention a brief fascination with Duncan’s jealous half-brother, Finn). I’ve definitely found that if I can’t supplant the main woman of the story for myself, I am less likely to fall in love with any of the characters. It is THROUGH their eyes that I fall in love and if I am caught up in their story, then I am caught up in their romance as well. This isn’t a strict component for me to develop a crush, but it is the most common one.
It figures that I get handed this question and can only choose one literary figure from my list of crushes. That doesn’t make this difficult at all. And so, with that incredible restriction hanging over me, I must confess that my most recent literary crush is none other than Pepper from Tobias S. Buckell’s Xenowealth saga. Why? He’s got pride. He’s got power. He’s a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off nobody…Kudos to anyone who knows which movie that’s from.
But in all seriousness, Pepper is one of those maybe-an-anti-hero types you can’t help but love. He’s got a quick tongue, he’s aggressive, sometimes amoral, and sort of like what Rambo would be if he were from the Caribbean instead of America. Take, for example, his exploits:
In Crystal Rain, he lays the smackdown on pretty much everyone who gets in his way, sometimes taking on more people than you can count on your fingers. In Ragamuffin, he steps things up a notch, snatching a poisonous tentacled alien from its nest to torture it for answers and fighting in a compartment-to-compartment battle for control of an enormous spaceship. And finally, in Sly Mongoose, he does what only a crazy person could pull off: escape from an infested spaceship through the atmosphere of a gas planet…without a parachute. And survives. Oh, and there are space zombies in Sly Mongoose. Space zombies.
Buckell knows how to write action, and he certainly knows how to create memorable characters. Pepper is just one of them. What’s not to love, right?
Literary crushes! Such a fun question. I’ve had many a Book Boyfriend (and almost as many TV Boyfriends) over the years, most of them in the SFF genre. (Mainstream characters often seem so boring in comparison to spaceship pilots and demon fighters.) I’m a sucker for male characters that are clever, talented, and yet emotionally damaged in some way. I know, I know…stereotypical, much? But bring on the dark secrets and the angsty past, the struggle for self-acceptance…and yeah, I’m there. See, the joy of literary crushes is that you can safely sigh over characters that in real life would be the Boyfriend From Hell. The classic example is Francis Crawford of Lymond from Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles: the guy is inhumanly smart, savagely witty, and yet burdened with enough emotional baggage to bring down a 747, complete with a nasty habit of using that savage wit against his friends to prevent them getting too close. In real life, I’d probably deck him. (As indeed several of Dunnett’s other characters do throughout the novels.) Reading about him, I can delight in all the high-maintenance angst.
As for my most recent crush…well, recently I re-read Emma Bull’s excellent fantasy western Territory, and fell hard for her primary male POV character Jesse Fox all over again. A horse trainer and a drifter, well-educated but fleeing a family tragedy and struggling to deny his true nature…yep, Jesse is right up my alley. I’ve been waiting patiently (okay, not so patiently) for Territory‘s sequel, Claim, for five long years now. Of course, I don’t know if Claim will continue Jesse’s story or not – even if it doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the book because everything Emma Bull writes is incredible! – but I am certainly hoping for more time with Jesse.
I’m sure this answer will illicit sidelong glances at future conventions. My most recent literary crush (contains spoilers) was the character known as Itempas or “Shiny” in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms. Book two in The Inheritance Trilogy, the protagonist, Oree Shoth finds this fallen God in a bucket of muck. Quick story(another spoiler): Shiny is doomed to a life of solitude and suffering for thousands of years at the hands of his brother and sister, Nahadoth and Yeine for unbalancing the rule of Gods in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.
I guess I am a sucker for powerful, mental basket cases. Just ask my thirteen year old self about Hannibal Lecter. I found myself falling into the same sentimental trap as I did in my teenage years. “Oree can fix him.” “He just needs love.” Nora doesn’t disappoint, but just like Clarice* with Hannibal, you find strong women behind the scary magnificence of these broken characters. Put simply, she doesn’t take his crap and through that tough love, she earns respect and teaches temperance. Without giving away too much, Itempas grows from his petulance and arrogance and finds the brilliance within himself which many of his followers both feared and loved. Nora writes this character so well that you want to find out more about him the minute he enters the scene and he ultimately steals the show from all of the characters mentioned above.
This is such a wonderful question, yet a difficult one. I’ve never had a crush on anyone, real or imagined. Just call me your friendly neighbourhood Spock/ Data/ Dr Spencer Reid/ Dr Sheldon Cooper hybrid, and developing a crush on someone is highly illogical. But, like those characters, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of emoting under the right circumstances. There have only been three characters from books that have caused me to emote. Two of them, it took several books within a series before I became attached to them, eventually causing me to sob when they died. Those attachments cannot be considered, in any way, shape, or form, romantic.
Then there is Ivan Smetski from Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment. He was the first character in a book to bring tears to my eyes and, eventually, caused me to openly weep. I did not have a crush on him, but he is the closest to what can be considered a crush. He was written in a way to which I could relate and, as a result, I developed a deep admiration for him. The things I could relate to were his stubbornness, his sense of duty, his frustration, his sensibility, his loyalty in situations that would cause most to run away screaming, and his quiet vulnerability. I’m not exactly sure how Card managed to elicit such a strong emotional reaction from me. All I can say, is that there is something magical about Enchantment. It is one of only a handful of books that I’ll forever cherish, and have bothered to read more than once.
I must admit that it’s been a while since I’ve been absolutely obsessed with a literary character to the point where I have felt like a giddy teenager when reading about him or her. Those types of crushes are far and few between. However, since you said “any medium” I suppose my most recent genre crushes have been through the films “Dorian Gray” as portrayed by Benjamin Barnes and the character Lucian as portrayed by Michael Sheen in “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.” With the 2009 rendition of Dorian Gray, the screenwriter did a masterful job of capturing an innocence in the character which Oscar Wilde’s original novel did not emphasize which allowed you to truly fall in love with Dorian and be drawn into his world as he falls into the darkness and depravity of a life of pure sin. With Lucian in “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” the screenwriter has created a character that is noble, passionate and strong, a man and a creature who has lived a life of brutal oppression and yet still loves with a reckless and raw abandon that inspires a revolution. Truly inspiring and romantic!
I’ve been a victim of literary crushes since I was a kid. Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Ivanhoe, and Aragorn all come to mind. Sometimes I just fall in love with the whole idea of something, and that’s what happened first with the TV shows Star Trek and now with Lost Girl.
I fell in love with Captain Kirk, but also with Spock. I didn’t crush on William Shatner per se, but really on the character James T. Kirk. And how could you not?! With Spock it’s more of a mental story about how I am the reason he can leave his cold logic behind and be emotional. Sigh. I was a weird kid, wasn’t I? Right, I still am.
Today, my genre crush is on various characters in the Canadian paranormal TV show Lost Girl now playing in the US on SyFy. The show features a succubus named Bo and I think she is using her wiles on me. But really, it’s the chemistry between her and the werewolf Dyson that really gets me all revved up. And please don’t let me forget her totally cute, funny, and larcenous friend Kenzi who totally steals the show. I even have a little (pardon the pun) thing going for the bartender and Blood King, Trick who is really too cute for words.
David 8 (Michael Fassbender) from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Let me say from the outset that I enjoyed this movie pretty much wholeheartedly, thus branding myself some sort of nerd pariah, so feel free to take whatever I said with a grain of salt, but I love the way that David is essentially framed as the protagonist of a mainly hero-free narrative, a creature hovering on the ragged edge of freedom from his own programming who’s already realized that the worst thing in the world is to know that even your maker thinks of you as little more than a very attractively packaged toy/tool without a soul. Much in that film could be prevented if people didn’t assume David had no interior life, and simply asked him direct questions rather than trying to figure stuff out themselves; he walks through the background of their lives, imitating Lawrence of Arabia and trolling everybody he meets viciously yet politely until at least one of them (Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw) starts to surprise him, but still manages to exit stage infinity having not only figured out the most logical answer to the Big Questions Shaw’s spent her life wrestling with through science/faith, but also having had all the grand moments of First Contact ecstasy the humans around him yearn most for. Though the script has holes, his characterization isn’t one of them: Why does David do the things he does, when he’s not working directly from program? Because he can.
Now that Ian Tregillis’s The Coldest War (second in his Milkweed Trilogy, which starts with the brilliant Bitter Seeds) is finally about to be released, meanwhile, I find myself thinking once more about one of the scariest characters I’ve ever encountered—the girl named Gretel. Gretel and her brother Klaus are Roma orphans literally sold to Doktor von Westarp, founder of the Götterelektrongruppe, which in Tregillis’s alternate version of World War II manages to stimulate “Germanic Potential” by running wires directly into various sections of the brain, thus producing a twisted gaspunk bunch of Nazi X-Men. And while Klaus becomes the squad’s version of Kitty Pryde, able to move through solid surfaces for maximum interior harm—other gruppe members wield pyrokinesis, telekinesis, long-range telepathy, invisibility and levitational flight—Gretel ends up with the most enigmatic, surface-useless yet actually incredibly useful power of all: The ability to see multiple futures, and manipulate events so that one or another of them comes to pass. It helps that she’s an almost complete sociopath, too, which may be due to the nature of her power, her lab-rat upbringing, or a winning combination of both. Read this short story, which functions as a Milkweed Trilogy prologue, and you’ll see what I mean.
On an only slight lighter note, I’m fascinated in a fanwork-provoking sort of way by the characters of Viktor Vasko and Mordecai Heller from Tracy J. Butler’s wonderful webcomic Lackadaisy, which plays a bit like a (slightly) less mean-spirited version of Boardwalk Empire set in Missouri and inhabited by snazzily-dressed Prohibition-era anthropomorphic talking cats. Viktor’s a gigantic cyclopian Slovak bruiser with World War I PSTD and two bad knees; Mordecai’s a natty transplanted New York bookkeeper-turned-triggerman with pince-nez, OCD and no affect to speak of. They (used to) commit crime (together)! Because Butler updates at a glacial pace, I’ll warn you that the story of Viktor and Mordecai’s dysfunctional partnership has thus far played out mainly in supplemental materials, but it’s well worth the browsing time it’ll take you to catch up on. (My love for Mordecai’s deadpan Jewish snark also led to me reading books on Michael Wex’s amazing books on Yiddish, Born to Kvetch and Just Say Nu, so there’s that.)
Finally, the biggest fannish gift I accidentally got over the last couple of years is how much Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki in Thor and The Avengers has sparked off a general surge in popularity for his character overall. Having imprinted on the D’Aulaires’s Norse Gods and Giants at a sadly early age, I will take all the Trickster love I can get, and I’ve been at least intrigued with almost every subsequent iteration, especially the current Marvel version from Journey Into Mystery, ie the Loki who allowed himself to die so that he could be reborn as a child free from the stagnating patterns he’d fallen into (Chaos doesn’t do predictability), but took the precaution of downloading his old evil adult personality into a magical bird named “Ikol” who follows kid-Loki around and gives him bad advice. Throw a version of Girl-Loki into Thor 2, and my life will be complete.
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