Heroes and Villains Blog Hop


Welcome to Stop #19 on the Heroes and Villains Blog Hop.  I’m delighted to join other speculative-fiction authors in writing on the topic of heroes & villains.  Read below to find out how you can win a signed copy of my science-fiction novel, Upload.

Discovering Your Hero Is An Anti-Hero

Upload is a near-future science-fiction novel, about the first person to attempt to upload his consciousness into a computer.  The story is set in the 2060s, at a time when researchers have successfully uploaded animals and are on the verge of being able to upload humans.  Raymond Quan, the main character, is a software developer on the Human Mind Upload Project, a team on the cutting edge of upload research.  A young man with a troubled past, Raymond has a brilliant scheme to escape the hacker crimes of his youth and start a new life.  He thinks he can upload himself, make it look like it failed, and whisk himself away to digital utopia, to live out the remainder of his now-immortal life in a virtual world he’s been working on since he was a boy.

I believe the best heroes of fiction, speculative or not, come complete with weaknesses and flaws — room for growth, a chance to become something more.  Ideally, we relate to the hero, and in the hero’s development we see a chance to become better people ourselves.  When I set out to write Upload, I wanted to write a thrilling science-fiction story, but I also wanted to delve deep into the psychology of the protagonist — to create a work of speculative fiction that feels richly human and easy to relate to.  I gave Raymond a difficult and mostly loveless childhood, and a me-versus-the-world attitude to match.  He’s a fiercely, almost pathologically independent introvert, driven to prove himself and rise above.  To some degree, I drew on elements of my own personality, but I then cranked the dials, making Raymond a socially awkward twenty-something with important aspects of self that lie untouched, unexplored… waiting for the right woman to lay them bare and give Raymond a chance to grow through self-discovery.

I knew I wasn’t creating a hero everyone would love, but I expected readers to feel compassion for his anti-social, essentially selfish philosophy, given his difficult childhood and starvation for friendship and love.  Who hasn’t wanted to get away from the harsh world at some point — to blame “people” for their problems, turn their backs on it all, and disappear into a world of fantasy?

Most readers do feel for Raymond, but it came as a surprise to me when one early reviewer labeled him an anti-hero.  Since then, a few more readers have mentioned they had a hard time getting into the story because they simply didn’t like Raymond.  One reviewer, who actually give the book a very good rating, went so far as to describe him as a “horrible person”.

Did I go too far?  Did I create a protagonist too “difficult” to connect with?  Most reviews have made me feel like I nailed the personality I was originally going for, a believable character who borders on archetype.  But a few made it clear: for their taste, I’d created a protagonist they just couldn’t root for.

After finishing Native Son, I started reading Goodreads reviews, and I found that a lot of people couldn’t enjoy the book because they disliked Bigger so much. I loved Native Son. It’s a brilliant and touching portrayal of a troubled youth and the societal forces at the root of his damaged psyche. I don’t claim to have created so strong a character in Raymond, but it feels like a useful comparison. In the case of Bigger Thomas, I can see why people might be so turned off that they just can’t enjoy the book; he’s a full-on sociopath.

Raymond is a pretty mild case by comparison.  He has a stilted sense of his place in the world, and a basic lack of feeling for others — but so do a lot of people.  His shortcomings give him the potential to grow in ways I hope readers will relate to.  As virtual reality becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives, I suspect we’ll see more and more people cutting themselves off from what I call “reality prime”, indulging their desires to escape to fantasy worlds and surround themselves with personalities crafted to suit their own inclinations.  The escapist introverts of the world are likely to have more and more freedom to cut themselves off in pursuit of blissful isolation.  I’m certainly a fan of fantasy and flights of imagination; Upload itself is just such an escape.  But it’s my hope that readers of Upload will be inspired to ponder what happens when that’s taken too far — and see in Raymond the mark of a hero: seeing one’s own weaknesses for what they are and working out a way to get past them, engage the real world, and make it a better place.

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Upload

Upload is a Finalist in Science Fiction for the 2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award.  For a chance to win a signed copy, subscribe to my blog and comment below to let me know you were inspired to subscribe by the Heroes and Villains Blog Hop.  The winner will be chosen at random on or shortly after May 7 (I’m traveling in Bali, and I can’t promise I’ll have Internet access on the 7th), and I will post the name of the winner.  If you’d like to include your email address, Twitter account, etc., in your comment, I will also be happy to contact you directly so you don’t miss the announcement.

Blog Hop Participants

Check out other speculative fiction authors participating in the Heroes & Villains Blog Hop:

1 Blatchley Nyki http://nyki-blatchley.blogspot.co.uk/
2 Bolton Martin http://boltonthewriter.wordpress.com
3 Brown Debra http://authordebrabrown.blogspot.co.uk
4 Chamberlin Adrian http://www.archivesofpain.com/
5 Cooley Mike http://mikecooleyfiction.com
6 Cox Karin http://karincox.wordpress.com/
7 Fay Joanna http://joannafay.me/
8 Forster Peter B http://www.peterbforster.com/
9 Fritsch Ron http://promisedvalley.com
10 Griffin Mai http://www.maiwriting.com/mai/
11 Hall Joanne http://hierath.wordpress.com
12 Harrison Jolea M http://jm-harrison.com/
13 Heath Tinney Sue http://historicalfictionresearch.blogspot.co.uk
14 Konstanine Eleni http://eleni-konstantine.blogspot.co.uk
15 Lewis K. Scott http://www.innerworldsfiction.com/
16 Lofting Paula http://paulalofting-sonsofthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/
17 Long Liz http://lizclong.com/
18 Lukes Peter http://www.peterlukes.blogspot.co.uk/
19 McClelland Mark http://www.uploadthenovel.com/
20 McNally M. Edward http://sablecity.wordpress.com
21 Millard Sue http://suemillard.blogspot.co.uk
22 Douglas Rhiannon http://www.rhiannondouglas.com
23 Myrick Ginger http://gingermyrick.com
24 Pilling David http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.co.uk
25 Powell E M http://www.empowell.blogspot.co.uk/
26 Rendfeld Kim http://kimrendfeld.wordpress.com
27 Smith Terry L http://tlsmith-sfauthor.blogspot.co.uk
28 West Tara http://tarawestauthor.wordpress.com
29 Yatsuhashi Keith https://kmyatsuhashi.wordpress.com/

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