Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Philippians 4:5, Earth First!, Fiction, and Reality

I might have mentioned it once or twice before, but for those who don't know, I spent quite a bit of my time writing fiction - either privately or collaboratively through role-playing games - and I've gotten quite good at characters. One of these characters always draws fire for me personally whenever he appears, and that's because he's an environmental saboteur. There's a bit of an involved tale as to how I arrived at the concept but the long and short of it is that I did, he is, and I have a great amount of fun the once or twice a year I let him loose to smash things. Where this becomes problematic is that his beliefs are a little too firmly-set, his actions just a little too specific, and my enjoyment just a little too stated - people unfamiliar with how wide a spectrum my characters occupy assume that I must secretly harbour the same beliefs and it never fails but I get needled with the blowback from it.

See, when I write a character, especially one who does something I'm not familiar with, I do this thing I call Character R&D. I pull up actual, historical people of similar backgrounds and viewpoints. In Renes' case (the ecoteur), this also included hunting down a third-edition copy of Ecodefense, studying environmental issues, familiarizing myself with the environment of southern California and the industrial concerns there, researching the cost of failure for various common pieces of industrial equipment, and generally preparing in every way but deed to start bringing mining, logging, and dumping concerns to a crashing halt in a fictional version of Los Angeles.

The thing is that I agree with his viewpoint no more than I agree with any of my other characters who do nasty things. Their motives might be pure and might even sound justifiable when spoken with conviction, but the fact of the matter remains that these characters are antiheros in almost every case. Where one set of players might see Renes as a protagonist and potential ally, others would naturally see him as a threat, a bitter enemy, and an obstacle to be removed as quickly as possible.

That's how it's supposed to work. Not everyone is supposed to find any one character lovable - with one noted exception where that actually happened making it difficult to find a way to involve that character in any meaningful conflict except as a negotiator between sides. Neither are they supposed to be universally vilified, though I do create deliberate and often ad hoc antagonists from time to time.

In much the same way that I disagree with all of my characters, there's also a limited extent to which I agree with all of them, and Renes is no exception to that rule. AS it happens, I do consider myself to be environmentally cautious. That's why I'm starting a sort of impromptu Green Week here on the A&G (which, knowing me, could last as long as a fortnight). We're going to look at green living techniques for every room of the house, a bit about waste handling, and probably have a little chat on improving the nature of your daily commute.

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