Friday, 27 February 2015

Those Horrid Villains

WARNING: Contains spoilers for a ton of movies and TV shows.

I've written two fantasy novels (THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN and its sequel THE SUNDER OF THE OCTAGON) aimed primarily at young adults or older children. In both I have created villains so obscenely awful, so unforgivably foul, so irredeemably despicable that there are beyond salvation.

In CATASTROPHE you have two villains who are about as bad as you can get. First there's Galfront Siavy, a mercenary who thinks nothing of sacrificing his own men to save himself. Putting him in the shade however is King James. A villain to beat them all. This guy has NO redeeming qualities and through the course of the book orders people killed for no reason, threatens to murder children and is prepared to commit genocide to get what he wants.

In every movie or book or even TV show that works on the principles of good thwarting evil, you have to have a really juicy, horrid villain. It is as necessary as ice in gin & tonic or peanuts in Snickers.

For example...

In one of my favourite TV shows The Walking Dead we had The Governor. This character started off as simply a ruthless pragmatist. He later developed into a full blown psycho. The show cleverly tried to show his "softer" side and imply that he'd changed for the better. Turned out he hadn't and the evil bastard was lurking under the surface. Kudos to David Morrissey for playing this part so well. The Governor was a villain to remember. Someone who would chain a woman up in a room, stab her friend in the guts and then lock them in together. Reason? So that when the guy reanimated as a zombie he would attack and eat the woman, who would be unable to stop this. Cold hearted or what?

In Game of Thrones, nearly all characters have some semblance of villainy and the villains themselves have shades of heroism (Jaime Lannister and the Hound being prime examples). The best villains though are characters like Cersei who is an uber bitch or better still the Mountain, who kills people for sword practice and has murdered children. And let's not forget what he did to Prince Oberyn. It was a good few months before I was able to face a repeat viewing of Viper vs. Mountain.

Then we move back to Star Wars. While Darth Vader was a badass (force choking those who failed him and testing carbon freezing on someone just to see if it would kill him) Grand Moff Tarkin played by Peter Cushing in A New Hope was the epitomy of what a baddy should be. The only man bar the emperor who could give Vader an order and someone who killed millions of innocent people with a super lazer...after promising he wouldn't....just to prove a point. Only movie I know where an entire planet was destroyed to set an example.

In my books I LOVE nasty villains. They need to be despicable. Bullies of the first order, evil, highly intelligent and witty. People who you hate so much that you love them for being so hateful. Partly because it's fun to watch the goodies finally kill them but also because it makes them so much fun to read about.

BUT...I don't want to know about WHY the baddy became a baddy. I personally don't care that he's had a broken home or that he was abused growing up. A villain is pure and simply a villain. Hannibal Lecter in the TV show, played by Mads Mikkelson (sp?) is awesome. Yes, his traumatic past is alluded to but he is so gloriously evil that you just want to see what he'll do next.

In the TV show Spartacus there was Ashur. Initially an utter bastard who got a fellow gladiator killed just so he wouldn't have to pay back a gambling debt he owed him, and someone who had his friend sodomised because he was pissed off, he was softened in the prequel series Gods of the Arena to make his actions in the parent series understandable. Mitigation is not a factor in a villain. Making Ashur sympathetic was a big mistake. He was glorious as an immoral scumbag. Less so as a bitter, lonely ingrate.

Grange Hill the ultimate children's TV show had a terrifying villain named Booger Benson. A character with no nice charming sides who beat up Tucker Jenkins for grassing on him to the Head and was sent to borstal. Later series (remembering this show ran for about 25 years) had bullies who had softer sides....and therefore were boring and crap.

The tremendous programme Banshee has a villain named Kai Proctor. Kai is evil. He had his niece Rebecca's lover garrotted and his body minced, solely because he was jealous. He punched a man's teeth out and then made the man pick them up and put them back in his mouth before leaving BUT he loves his estranged parents and genuinely cares for them. Chayton on the other hand has NO qualities that can be admired. He's a monster. Murdering a kindly widow who bandaged him up and fed him and snapping the neck of a helpless police woman.

I like Chayton. I like him because it's fun to hate him.

Hawk the Slayer, one of the worst fantasy movies ever made has about three things that people remember. The repeating crossbow, the pointy eared, super fast archer, and Jack Palance as Voltan. A scarred, ugly, sadistic villain. A man who personally killed two of his own men, just because he was pissed off that his son was dead. A man who personally stabbed a nun to death. An utter, evil bastard.

How glorious.

Villains should be dripping in villainy. Exempt from the morals and rules and ethics that us nice people adhere to and love in our heroes. Those heroic characters with a bit of villainy are much better remembered than their boring cousins. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean would jump into the water to save a drowning woman but would also run from a battle and has the awesome line "That isn't much of an incentive for me to fight fair then!" when informed by the straight laced Will Turner that he could have beaten him had Jack not cheated when they were clashing swords.

Villains add spice to shows and books and films. Villains are necessary to the plot.

I don't want to hear about the journey that led them to become the way they are. In my mind they never existed before they were villains. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

April's Diamond

From: Insurance Team 
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 8:40 AM
To: LR Manley 
Subject: Insurance claim - PL63/****/**


Further to our previous correspondence with regards to the incident that occurred whilst visiting our Stratford upon Avon store. 

We have investigated this matter and we regret that the company cannot be held responsible for the damage incurred. From the information available, it appears that you collided with a stationary concrete surround in the car park. 

We can only accept a claim for accident or loss where it is clear that the company has been negligent and as the driver of the vehicle the onus is on you to be aware of your surroundings. 

Whilst we are sorry to hear of this incident, we are unable to consider your claim further.

Yours sincerely,

April Taylor,
Morrisons Insurance Team

From: LR Manley
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2015 10:55 PM
To: Insurance Team 

Subject: Re: Insurance claim - PL63/****/**



While emails are accepted to be a less formal form of communication than the old pen & paper method, that is simply flippant. Especially when you consider what the subject under discussion is.

But hey, I’ll assume your lack of etiquette is simply a training issue that I hope your supervisor picks up on before it gets out of hand and you start calling people “baby”.

I did indeed collide with a stationary concrete surround (a “diamond” I believe it’s called) at your Stratford upon Avon branch. The reason I hit it was because it was partially hidden due to the tree it was meant to be holding, blowing down 6 weeks previously in a gale and not being replaced by the time I turned up to buy an Indian meal for one and a can of Pepsi.

It was also dark, what with it being night time AND the diamond protrudes into the four separate parking bays it has taken over like an unwanted parasite AND the bay that I used was between two other cars. As I explained a few times on the phone and in that email I sent you, the diamond couldn’t be seen below the level of the dashboard. I took photos to prove this (both with and without flash) and a film of me walking up to the diamond to simulate the car pulling in (I possibly should also have shook the camera and gone “bang” to simulate the tyre bursting as it hit the diamond).

You have blatantly copied and pasted that second paragraph. Call me cynical but the fact it’s in Times New Roman and not Georgia tipped me off. 

Does it have some resonance within the world of insurance claim assessment that the object was stationary? Were it hurtling toward me with the cruel intent of bursting my tyre out of some spiteful sense of concrete vengeance, would that have added more credence to my claim?

The main thing that irks me about your email (“Morning” being the 2nd) is this line:

“as the driver of the vehicle the onus is on you to be aware of your surroundings”.

You could have simply written to me to politely state that you have found that I have no claim and left it at that. Being given unsolicited advice by you on how to drive my car is beyond patronising and concrete proof you are completely clueless (did you see what I did there?).

I will no longer be using Morrisons and will take great delight in microwaving the Match & More card tomorrow morning. Spending half an hour getting my hands covered in grime, jacking up my car to put the spare on due to your company’s laziness over replacing the missing tree from the lurking diamond, and then waiting 6 weeks to read this load of drivel from you, has basically pushed my patience over the event horizon. For the sake of £55 you have lost the roughly £3000 per year I spend in your stores on groceries and petrol.

Have a nice day and I hope you get fired.

Mine sincerely

Lance Manley LLB (Hons)

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Flowering

As I hurtle onwards towards my inevitable demise that will one day greet me and take me into the great unknown mystery, a few things have begun to happen that didn't before.

For example:

I now have Classic FM as the default station on my car radio and also have a Beethoven CD in there too. I prefer the soothing tones of a symphony in C sharp minor, rather than the inane witterings of some insipid pillock on Radio 1.

Also I now find porn decidedly boring. It was never going to win any Oscars but watching two gorgeous people fuck each other would be highly entertaining if only they'd keep quiet and just get on with the shagging. Hence, I don't watch a lot of porn any more.

Finally, I've started buying flowers once a week and putting them on a shelf in a nice vase.

All this is stuff I wouldn't have done even a year ago.


I have realised in the last few days just how much of a car wreck I have made of my social and spiritual lives in the last few years.

I have a job I don't enjoy overly much and I only took it just over 3 years ago so I could save up to be with my girlfriend in Italy. That didn't work out so I defaulted to keeping the job and staying in the UK and simply "having an existence".

Now....I find that a simple trip to the gym has released a lot of my zest for life that I have kept locked away in the cupboard for quite a while.

I force myself to do quite a few things. Including having a good time. I realised this week that my life is in dire need of an overhaul. When you regard seeing 3 episodes of your 3 favourite TV shows in one evening as a "good night" it's time to self evaluate. Similarly going to bed and looking forward to having a wank is desperate to say the least.

Today I did the 300 work out at the gym, a training regime given to me by Greg, a big, hulking personal trainer. It's 25 to 50 reps on about 6 different pieces of equipment as fast as you can. After I had a 20 minute sauna and then a 15 minute jacuzzi. After I felt like I'd smoked marijuana but got home feeling that I actually wanted to do more than masturbate or play Nazi Zombies on Call of Duty: Word At War.

Wanting to continue on has been hard for me. I have risen in the Practitioner ranks of my favourite sport**, Krav Maga and now hold the grade of P4. Thing is, I only really did it for something to do. I am seriously considering not taking my 5th grade in a month and waiting until October instead when I'm actually ready. Reason being that forcing myself into things just so I can shout to the universe "Look at me, I'm still here and I'm doing stuff. I'm not gone yet" was something that has helped me for 3+ years but is now a defunct state of affairs within my set of useful tools.

Things that sustained me for so long, such as TV, downloaded movies and the internet now seem boring. I rarely watch TV anyway, but find it more and more vacuous as time wears on.

The flowering of my spirit was the switch being thrown that reactivated my love of life. Not just a self pitying shell of a man any more, but someone who actually wants to enjoy life again.

Flowers are at their most delicate when their petals are fully open....but that is when they are at their most vivid.

** Technically not a sport but a self defence system