Our November topic is: What is the oddest or most unique character you have ever dreamed up, and how did they fit into a story?
The dictionary definition of an oddball is “a strange or eccentric person.” I certainly qualify, and when I read Rhobin’s topic, I tried to think of even one of my major characters who doesn’t.
Therefore, perhaps the oddest is the most ordinary? That’s probably Tony the postman in Lorraine in the Rain, one of the fun stories in Through Other Eyes. He is a young fellow who has never been kissed, but his mates tease him about the “horny housewives pestering a postie for a poke.” So, for the six months he’s had his job, he has been carrying around a condom, just in case, because he doesn’t want to catch something, or leave a little somebody behind. Then he meets Lorraine in the rain…
Some of the people in my stories are humans, but not all. In the way of arrogant humans, who consider themselves to be the crown of creation, I’ll inspect the oddity of the human people in my computer first.
If we expand “odd or unique” to include “remarkable,” the honour is shared between Anikó and Sylvia.
Anikó is not fictional, but a real person who survived the unsurvivable and achieved the impossible, more than once. In a colony of the Soviet Union, she managed to build up a highly successful business. Everything was going well, when the Secretary noticed that they had too much stock in their stores. And the Storeman was a recent appointment, forced upon the co-operative by a high-ranking communist official. An ingenious scheme used Anikó’s business as a key link in a lucrative criminal activity.
In a communist country, opposing such a person could be a death sentence. All the power was on the criminal’s side, and indeed Anikó was removed from her position, and subjected to an unfair travesty of a trial. Nevertheless, she won, and it was the criminal who faced the torturers of the secret police. How? I am not going to tell you.
Sylvia… she is one of my teachers, and if I could, I’d be like Sylvia. She is the 84-year-old narrator of Hit and Run. Simply by being herself, she led the kind of teenager everyone treats with revulsion and disdain to become the young man you wouldn’t mind your daughter to marry. Again, I am not going to tell you how, because I want Sylvia to become your teacher, too.
If by “odd” we mean bizarre, there are many to choose from. Sleeper, Awake has quite a collection of them. My favourite is an extremely fat lady who is desired by many males simply because she is different, almost everyone else being slim. It doesn’t hurt that she is also a member of humanity’s governing Council, and probably the best psychotherapist among the million people alive at that time. One of those males is a scrawny, ugly young man who is humanity’s foremost historian, with a long list of accomplishments to make up for his appearance. Also, he is never wrong (which is perhaps too common a failing to be bizarre). He makes everyone else in the story laugh, and I also enjoy laughing at his antics.
But it’s so BORING to stick with humans. Other people are far more interesting. One of the Champions of our Universe is Cokl-Red, who is of a species of beautiful flying people in a faraway galaxy. And later in the same book, we meet Shoeets, who is about to become the first Prophet on his planet. You can think of him as a purple, slug-like person with three tentacles in front. Beautiful, right?
And while we are in the Doom Healer series, the same book, The Prince of Light has several wonderful non-humans leading the people of Earth, including Boris the Pig, Foril the Reindeer, and Kelly the dog.
My favourite species, though, are the Greenies, whose bodies are the perfect mammalian design (especially when compared to humans). They are the heroes of Liberator, the lead story in Bizarre Bipeds. They are green because they can make food from sunlight in the same way plants do. Three legs give them great stability, and they can speed along by hopping on two like a kangaroo. Three arms allow them far more agility than two. Three eyes give them 360 degree vision. Everyone is born as a boy, marries, fathers children, then transforms into a girl, marries, and gives birth. This is a much more sensible arrangement than ours. And the person the story is about, Trom, is only a little boy when he manages to defeat the horrible invaders from space who have enslaved and terrorised his people. Even if you haven’t read the story yet, I am sure you can guess, those criminals are humans, originally from Earth.
There is one more thought. No matter how quirky my imagination may be, not in my worst nightmares could I have invented the world I get to inspect through the news every day. Here are a few examples of people I don’t consider humans:
How about a person who spends billions on developing technology for getting off planet? When asked why, he explains that, well, he needs something to spend his money on. And the source of this wealth is people working for starvation wages, in conditions so horrific that some of them die on the job.
Or a person who cheerfully and casually betrays long term allies, subjecting many thousands of civilians to horrific attack, because he wants to have a hotel with his name on it in a foreign country?
Or several groups of people making business decisions that their own research teams have shown are guaranteed to lead to untold suffering for everyone, themselves included? That’s what the Boards of companies like Exxon and BP have been proven to do.
Clearly, my imagination is staid in comparison to the reality out there. GO AWAY! I am returning to the sane worlds inside my computer.
Please comment below, then visit my colleagues in Rhobin’s Rounds: