Ancient Evil as the Ultimate Underdog

Exact recreation of a scene from my newest book…

There's an evolution to my love of fantasy and science fiction. It starts off fairly strait-laced, with Tanis, Frodo, Arthur, or Luke struggling valiantly against a sprawling army of pervading evil. The protagonists are strong-willed, and they persevere in the name of justice and light.

They're also pretty damn boring, when it comes down to it.

See, the problem with heroes like these is that they're stuck having to be heroic. They need to follow the rules. They can't cheat at cards or stab someone in the back. They lose their mojo if they lie or get drunk or sleep around or fail to separate the whites from the colors before they do the laundry.


Also, their good deeds aren't exactly clear. Sure, they do the 'right' thing, but everything beyond the actual fights and victories is handwaved. Rarely did they actually right any of the wrongs. I don't remember, at least not in the black and white worlds playing out in my mind at the time, of any of those characters wrestling with how the lands they'd freed would be governed (other than 'better'), or what would happen to the enemy once they were defeated (other than 'destroyed').

And speaking of the bad guys, how did we know they were 'bad'? Usually they do terrible things, defiling everything 'good', kicking puppies and making orphans and generally stamping the populace into the ground. They're so naughty that they need to be defeated, because allowing them to remain in power is a detriment to the world.

Victory represents a return to the status quo, when the forces of good and benevolence and silver lining are once more guiding everything with a steady hand.

For a long time those sort of stories were perfect, because I wasn't ready for (or interested in) the intricacies that surrounded the MOST interesting questions.

What happens when the heroes win? When they're in charge, when the golden army wins the day, what then?

I'm too cynical (although I'd call myself a realist) to pretend that the love and mana flowing freely from the sky after the exalted battle doesn't dry up pretty fast. The Heroes aren't going to be treating the evil remnants as equals, and it won't be long before that power dynamic starts to make the former 'bad guys' the underdogs.

And I love a good underdog.

My novel 'Rule of Cool – Know Your Roll' is me playing with that idea. The protagonists are Gearblin, rather mischief members of a populace that have been blacklisted based on their ancestors actions. It's a LitRPG world, so the overlord Heroes strutting around know their stats (Strength, Intellect, Dexterity, etc.) while the Lesser Races don't. Even worse, Gearblin and the other oppressed can't 'win a roll' against a Hero.

So, when a Hero attacks, the 'bad guys' can't dodge. They can't lie to a Hero, sneak past a Hero, or, sadly, get a Hero to think of them as anything less than a 'Dreg', a worthless member of a society that's on the way to being wiped out.

It was interesting to write about bad guys who are simply acting in their own nature against forces who assume that, based on past victories, all of their malicious current actions are justified.

The main characters get angry. They yell, and blame each other. They despair about their inability to due the naughty things that kick around in their heads, and that to me makes them more 'human' than the creatures the stories I used to devour would have taught me to hate.

Being bad is too damn fun to ignore.

~Matthew Siege

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