Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fiction's Top Ten

Last Wednesday, Charles and Brett and Whitney and Jared and Allyson and I were discussing the list I had posted regarding my ten favorite television characters. Well, actually Charles and I were discussing that list, but Brett misheard and thought we were discussing ten favorite fictional characters, so the conversation sidetracked. That got me thinking, though: if I expanded the list to fictional characters, who'd make the cut?

And now, subject to change as I remember faves I forgot, I present my list:

(1) James Bond. The Ian Fleming version, of course--and on screen, Sean Connery remains the only Bond to capture the nuances of Fleming's character.

(2) Doc Savage. The hero epitomized.

(3) Ellery Queen. My favorite fictional detective, a master of deduction and a quick wit.

(4) Batman. Superman may be stronger, but in a pinch I know which one I'd rather have by my side.

(5) Hector from the Iliad. The doomed hero who did everything right for all the right reasons, but was defeated by forces beyond his control.

(6) Hamlet from... well, you know. "Maybe I think too much," Paul Simon wrote in a song--and he must have had the brooding, analytical Hamlet in mind.

(7) Philip Marlowe. The noir hero epitomized, with the moral code and the ethos that defined a genre.

(8) Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Gatsby has much in common with the noir hero; he's a self-made man with a rigid moral code who puts loyalty to those close to him above all else. And I never believed Meyer Wolfsheim's implications that there was something corrupt behind that facade...

(9) Sherlock Holmes. Sure, he's got his quirks, but he is the embodiment of applied intellect.

(10) Alonso Quijana, aka Don Quixote. The world sees him as mad, but he's a man who has a vision of what the world should be and refuses to let cynicism dissuade him. I also remind myself, however, that he ultimately failed in his mission--but that's less important than the fact that he made the quixotic attempt.

Subject to change, as I said...


Charles said...

My turn. Oddly enough the first five came to me very quickly. After that it required some thought. As you say, ask me a different day and you'll probably get some different answers though I suspect the top five wouldn't change much.

(1) Tarzan. My mother read and collected Tarzan so I grew up with the Jungle Lord. He remains one of my favorites.

(2) Conan. The first and still the greatest barbarian hero of them all. No one has ever matched Robert E. Howard's dynamic forceful prose.

(3) John Carter of Mars. For some reason I've always preferred a contemporary hero in fantasy. I'd much rather read about someone from earth who ends up on another world than about say hobbits or what have you. Plus, John Carter is the ultimate in self confidence. "I knew that could I but reach him he would have the greatest swordsman on two worlds fighting at his side."

(4) Sherlock Holmes. The ultimate reasoning machine. His very name is synonymous with Detective. One of my idols.

(5) Superman. Silly as it sounds, the hero I always aspired to be like. My moral code is based on Superman as much as on any real role model.

(6) Spenser. Robert B. Parker's private eye hero. Been reading these novels since I was 18 and even though the books have become somewhat uneven over the last few years, Spenser remains at the top of my list.

(7) Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Two guys but since they're a team I'm counting them as one. Fritz Lieber brought humanity and a dark humor to the sword & sorcery genre with this pair of rogues.

(8) James T. Kirk. Another hero from way back. Kirk always seemed ready to deal with anything the universe threw at him. And he never ever gave up without a fight.

(9) Philip Marlowe. Raymond Chandler defined the laconic delivery of the hard boiled private eye, and set the standard everyone still tries to meet.

(10) Travis McGee. John D. MacDonald's 'salvage expert'. Man I love those books. McGee was a hero who suffered but kept on coming. I learned a lot about writing and about life in general from MacDonald.

cliff said...

Conan, Superman, Tarzan, and John Carter all came very high on my list, and they very well might make the top ten tomorrow; this list is very flexible...

In the Superman or Batman case, it was particularly tough. I think I find myself more in line with Superman's ethos, but I find myself admiring Batman more because of that tendency I have to prefer the man who has, through determination and dedication, overcome obstacles in order to excel.