When the Good is Bad by Erin Saluta

When the Good is Bad by Erin Saluta

A reader’s perspective of the characters we SHOULD hate

One of my friends is especially vulnerable to my weird thought process inquiries that pop up. When most people are having normal conversations I am peppering her with questions like who she would rather have a first date with Dolly Parton or Cher? How the lantern of Green Lantern works (she’s my go-to person for all things comic, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter)? Which she would rather be- a vampire or a werewolf? It was her answer to the last question that made me laugh and of course push even more. Would I rather be a heartless scourge of evil or a possessed minion of the undead? Neither! But how could she not choose between Team Edward and Team Jacob? That’s just insane!!

So I’ll admit it. I have read the Twilight series AND I watched the movies. But she is right. A vampire is an inherently evil being in the history of literature. Werewolves same thing. Both creatures created to invoke fear and inflict many nights of sleepless terror (at least for me!). Yet here was a story where the vampires were the good guys and someone wanted to willingly become one! What? That’s crazy talk!! Vampires and werewolves are supposed to be the bad guys who die so that the good guys save the day, the world, and humanity in general. And it made me think. Are the good guys always good and the bad guys always bad?

Like so many other people I recently succumbed to peer pressure and started watching Orange is the New Black series. I was skeptical because I mean really, a prison show with a lesbian theme- how stereotypical can we be? But I wanted to support the concept of lesbians in entertainment media even though, did they really have to choose a prison where all the characters were going to be horrible abscesses of society? Right? Because they were tried and convicted by our judicial system for breaking societal rules- they had to be bad people to have been sent to prison. That’s why they are locked up! Right? Well, the equivalent of a full day gone and all three seasons watched and I’m actually invested in these characters. I would even venture to say I like some of them! How can that be though? They are supposed to be the bad elements of society.

So back to my question, are the good always good and the bad always bad? I think our genre of lesfic answers this question extremely well- NO! It seems that this genre has taken every type of bad profession and made it one where we are practically in love with the leading bad girl so much that we are pulling a Bella and practically begging to be turned. Sharon Bowers’ Lucifer Rising was a start for me. A DEA agent turned drug lord. How can that not be an immediate- ooooo Jude (main character) is going to be someone I don’t like because she is plying the world with drugs for monetary gain. Yet like the characters of Orange is the New Black, she has a story. She has a history so that I am rooting for her to win in the end!

Same thing with the character of Lacey in Tonya Muir’s Breaking Away. I wanted the mafia hit woman to have the happy ever after that she deserved dang-it! The bad-girl theme has even taken to outer space because technically Andi Marquette’s Torri is an outlaw in the Far Seek Chronicles. It says so right on the back cover. But I wanted Torri and Kai to overcome all the situations that are worse than anything Torri ever did and find true happiness with each other. Ali Vali has created a character that probably would have her own fan page if she was real in Cain Casey. Vali’s Devil series is awesome and it is all based on the success of one woman’s family in the criminal business. And if anyone’s desires landed them in prison, how many wouldn’t be hoping to be rescued by the Amazon’s lead by Ice from Susanne M. Beck’s three book series: Redemption; Retribution; and Restitution.

Just saying, but for all those OITNB fans out there who have a thing for Alex Vause she is nothing compared to Ice in Beck’s series- check it out if you have a chance. This is all good though, because deep down everyone is a person moving through life with what they can to survive. At the core of most people is a good soul waiting to shine through and our lesfic authors capture them with great skill that I absolutely love and thrive on (as any book-a-holic would!). These characters are people after all.

So what about all the non-people characters that we love? Edward and Jacob aren’t the only heartthrobs in the preternatural world are they? Heck no! Our lesfic writers totally put Ed and Jake to shame! I mean who doesn’t feel for Valentine and Alexa in the Nell Stark and Trinity Tam Everafter series? They didn’t ask to have their lives turned upside down when the preternatural world kicked their butt but love survived. We found a hero in both characters as they went to extremes to keep their love together and rise above the evil and chaos trying to suck their souls.

Who didn’t want A.J. and Clarissa to reconnect after centuries of separation in Jett Abbott/Isabella’s Scarlett Masquerade? Given they were having to fight other vampires to do it, but they were the good vampires. The one’s that deserved a happy ever after (that would actually last forever). And how many people weren’t chuckling when Robin showed up at an AA meeting in order to help conquer her addiction (to sucking human blood from their necks!) in Alison Grey and Jae’s Good Enough to Eat? No. Our authors know vampires and how to make them lovable characters we are cheering for and making us willing to let them bite us (as long as we don’t get in trouble with our girlfriends/wives right?). Even werewolves are done right! I mean who doesn’t want a big, cuddly, 600lb liger to snuggle with in the cold of winter? Griffin Westmore rocks that role in Jae’s Second Nature!

For other readers, what bad gone good have I missed? Which characters out there present with the worst profession of all time but as a reader you become invested in them? Were our parents right? Are the bad one’s the one’s to watch out for because they are going to take all of our money in book sales? I do know that our lesfic authors are amazing storytellers and make these bad girls likeable to the point of wanting their happy ever after!

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10 thoughts on “When the Good is Bad by Erin Saluta

  1. Hi. I’d like to add my dapper art-smuggler, 1950s New York City outlaw, Cantor Gold, to this list of irresistible bad girls. Book one in the Cantor Gold Crime series, Goldie Award nominee CRIMINAL GOLD, is out now, and Book Two, TARNISHED GOLD, releases in September.
    Bad Girls rule!

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  2. Heh. Thanks for the shout-out, Erin!

    One of the things that I find difficult to write well is to make someone who should be “bad” by all accounts — whether in terms of immoral or law-breaking or whatever it is — into someone the reader roots for.

    One of the most interesting characters I’ve come across in recent years is Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series. She’s absolutely someone you do not want to fuck with in any sense of the word, but you also find yourself drawn to her methodologies and her skewed sense of justice, which is part hacker, part vigilante, and a whole lot of repressed anger. She’s damn dangerous, but strangely likable and someone I would definitely want on my team, as long as I kept her at arm’s length, at the very least. As an aside, there’s been a new writer assigned the task of continuing the series (which was published after Larsson’s death). It’ll be interesting to see what he does with Salander, though I’m actually thinking I’d like to see what a woman writer could do with her, too.

    Lilith Saintcrow’s Jill Kismet series also presents a similar character, although Kismet is more likable then Salander. Kismet is a smart-assed, brutal, angry, grieving woman on a mission and does whatever she has to do to succeed at her task, which is basically patrolling the paranormal elements of the city in which she lives. She operates outside the law, sometimes within it, kills and maims when she must (or even if she doesn’t have to), and basically kicks all kinds of ass in ways that might make you question the morality of it, and how she approaches things. But you also root for her to succeed, and you relate to her sense of justice as well as how really twisted it is that part of her job basically requires her to kill.

    As for vampires and werewolves? Hell, I think it’s really cool when writers present them as something you don’t expect them to be, or in a variety of ways so that they’re just as diverse as people in terms of character traits.

    And think about the character of Loki in the Marvel Avenger and Thor movies. That character is up to no good all the time, but he has a great sense of humor and he often provides a lot of comic relief, even as he’s trying to destroy the world and rule over all humans. But hey, the guy’s a riot at a party. Deadpool is another anti-hero. Crass, screwed up, completely off his rocker, violent, but holy hell, he’s hilarious and you root for him. As another aside, the forthcoming Marvel movie “Deadpool” I think really captures the essence of the character. If you haven’t seen the trailer, here. (It is NOT SAFE FOR WORK and if you have a problem with violence and cursing, don’t watch it.)

    L-J Baker wrote a neato anti-hero-ish character in her priestess Aveline, who appears in her fantasy novel Lady Knight. She’s clearly not “good” in the sense that you’d like her to be, but a reader is drawn to her, and though you might not agree with her aims, you might find yourself wanting to serve in her temple.

    That’s the attraction of the not-quite-good character. Life is never black and white, and people are complicated, with a variety of motivations and issues from their pasts that inspire those motivations. Through an anti-hero type of character, we can relate, for a bit, to our deeper, baser instincts, as when Lisbeth Salander immobilizes one of her former therapists on his bed and does really horrible things to him. But we root for her, because of what he did to her in the past. He earned her wrath, we reason. He deserves what he’s getting, we think.

    So we like karmic retribution, and sometimes, an anti-hero is the best type of character to carry it out, because we don’t want to see our true heroes — the good guys, if you will — sullied through immoral or unlawful acts.

    Anyway, great topic. Thanks for this, Erin!

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  3. What a great idea, sharing a reader’s perspective on characters. It makes sense because, after all, we write for the readers. And Erin is a great choice to bring that perspective here, since she’s a staunch supporter of lesbian fiction. Thanks for sharing with us, Erin. 🙂

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