Sympathy for the Devil? The best villains and antagonists in SFF writing
Hello again and thanks for all those who commented on the recent thread on colonialism of the cosmos. Now, this week is pretty straightforward - what makes a really good antagonist or villain in SFF fiction? Who have been the best of these ne'er-do-wells? How challenging do you find it to introduce both a well-motivated and well-drawn antagonist without inducing (too much) sympathy for him or her? And on the question of 'her', how challenging is it to write female villains and antagonists - especially in the fantasy arena - without inadvertently falling into possibly unsavoury tropes and stereotypes such as the femme fatale and so on? Be sure to let us know below.
Perhaps I can only see what is currently in front of me but I am reading Ender's Game and any one of the 3 main characters could become an evil villain. Of the 3 I believe Valentine is the most evil because she is helping Peter in his evil plans...allowing him to bring destruction to those around him.1
Peter is the most obvious villain but he is obviously mentally ill whereas even Valentine's name is camouflage with sweetness and love. I am about 3/4 through with it. Ender may need to kill his brother and become evil. The author also appears to be racist. Villains villains everywhere.
I'm going with an obvious choice - Hal 9000. For me, red-eyed Hal is a great example of a good villain - its motivations are pure, it's emotionally detached from the 'crimes' it commits. It has a master plan and follows it through. Unless it's intentional parody, such as Ming the Merciless, I hate obvious villains, preferring them to be more thoughtful than violent. To me, a good villain is one who, when the opportunity arises, keeps his hands clean and delegates his villainy to people who don't appreciate the entire plan.