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E11 | Books | The Villains 3, Voldy, Palps, and Galby

The counterpart to the hero story: Villainy. We are excited to discuss what brings a villain to life in a story, a character that is often more complicated and intriguing than the hero themselves! Hear us discuss our drinks of choice, our recent adventures in the fantasy / sci-fi worlds, and a topic discussion on what makes our favorite villainous characters so captivating.


What's on our Flight (00:37)

  • Dalton’s drinking: Field Rye from Journeyman Distillery. This rye whiskey has wheat in the mash and is fermented with fig to give a sweetness that runs throughout your sip. It tastes like a cocktail at full alcohol percent! I tasted this when visiting the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, MI and recommend trying their tour and tasting if you get the chance!

  • Nelson's drinking: The Pink Drink from Hi-Wire Brewing. A sweet, wheat ale with lemongrass and raspberries. It really is a shade pink on top of the murky tan of a wheat ale! Tart and refreshing, this drink has a shandy feel that is not exactly Nelson's style and probably will not get a repurchase but was well worth the try!


What's On Our Minds (6:53)


  • Recently finished Consider Phlebas, the first in Iain M. Banks' Culture Series. It feels like an exploration of what human society could become in 10,000 years as the author moves the hero through challenges and situations to highlight the various cultures that have evolved over the millennia. I very much enjoyed this book and recommend it if you enjoy other far-reaching sci-fi such as Dune, Hyperion, or Old Man's War.

  • Just stepping in to The Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, the first book in a series of the same name with 2 releases so far. This book is setting up with a very interesting concept and I am excited to see where it goes!


  • Lightbringer book 3, The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks. This is a series that was put down for a while due to time conflicts but is back on the menu as we start to return to work!

  • Finished The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to The Hunger Games Trilogy. This book was frustratingly bad, riddled with poor writing choices, a rapid rise in action near the end that was poorly executed, uncharacteristic decisions by the characters to move the plot forward, and a love triangle that adds little to the book's value. The story continues the excellent world-building from the original trilogy, but does not carry enough success to warrant a recommendation. We suggest reading a synopsis if the story arc and world building interests you.


The icebreaker questions for this episode was submitted by Stephanie (16:56)

Who do you think is the most relatable villain?

  • Nelson: Tony from The Sopranos. The story is told from his perspective and it is hard not to love this villain as the show goes on. The writers pull you in to sympathize with the character so much that it is easy to forgive and understand his atrocities if you aren't careful.

  • Dalton: Agent Smith from The Matrix. His long monologues and relentless logic makes you question who is really on the right side of things. Hugo Weaving's character begs an erie respect and makes him one of the all-time great villains!


Topic Discussion (36:33)

Villains are often the second-most important character in a story and therefore deserve a whole episode of discussion! We often identify most closely with a story through the hero but the story is memorable because of the trials and challenges set out by the villain. Villains are inspiring, invoking sympathy from other characters and, when done well, from the reader as well. Villains believe in their core in the righteousness of their course. They are the heroes of their own stories. Their motivation is defined, stemming from thorough backstories and a troubled past. Where we seek out our similarities with heroes and idealize their selfless acts, we shy from our common traits with villains and despise the dark parts of ourselves that they represent. A hero embodies how we hope to respond to conflict, a villain embodies what we fear we would do.

The similarities in building heroes and villains leads to stories where the hero/villain role becomes blurry and ambiguous between the characters. If this type of storytelling is interesting to you, check out the following series:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean

  • A Song of Ice and Fire ("Game of Thrones" Series) by George R. R. Martin

  • Ender's Game / Ender's Shadow (If you have read these books, check out our spoiler discussion at 1:02:13)

  • Reckoners Series by Brandon Sanderson

We have very few examples of bad heroes, since stories with bad heroes do not become popular enough for us to read. However, throughout fantasy we have many examples of bad villains. Readers want to see the villain lose, so a poorly designed villain is often forgiven where it should be recognized as a missed opportunity for added complexity and interest to the story. Galbatorix, from The Inheritance Cycle, is an example of a villain that lacks the depth to fully realize them in the reader's experience. Contrast this to Darth Vadar, who is also built as a character to be aloof and quietly threatening, but whose dark past is teased at and revealed over the series to generate connection and interest. Consider also House Slytherin from Harry Potter compared to the Fire Nation from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Slytherin lacks the variability in humanity (excepting a couple of characters, namely Draco and Snape) to make them truly believable, where the Fire Nation draws on a wealth of human traits to create the spectrum of heroism and villainy inherent in a realistic culture. We continue this discussion by drawing on examples from Mistborne: The Final Empire (1:05:33 in the episode) and A Dance with Dragons (Game of Thrones season 6) (1:08:52 in the episode). If you have read/viewed through those books, we suggest checking out the spoiler discussion at the end of the episode!

We end the episode by talking through our favorite villains, hopefully you hear some familiar names!

  • Gollum / Smeagol (The Lord of the Rings), for the intense connection felt to the villain

  • Loki and Hades (Marvel: Thor and Disney's Hercules) for the wickedness and entertainment generated by the villain

  • Zuko and Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender) for showing how two characters from similar backstories and motivations can have drastically different development.

Thanks for reading! Let us know which villain you relate most strongly to in the comments!


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