Many years ago I had a friend who was into fictional bad guys. She was writing fan fiction with heroes such as Darth Vader and Dracula. She lost interest in Star Wars when she found out that Vader was Luke’s father - no doubt because this put him on a possible redemption arc(it did). But her fanfic Vader was not horrible. The Sith were a people rather than a part of the Dark side of the Force(in all fairness that hadn’t been established yet) and his armour was a cultural thing, not something keeping him alive. He became a matriarchal Queen’s lover, only possible because he could get out of his armour.
Dracula, who couldn’t really get a redemptive arc, nevertheless wasn’t too horrible and got a job as a crewman on the Enterprise. He didn’t murder anyone, which might have caused him problems, just took a sip of blood now and then from female crew, who didn’t know he was a vampire and thought he was just cuddling them. Better still, he got to sleep and work at the same time as everyone else because he was in space.
You might have noticed that her villains were not really villains any more by the time she finished with them? Nevertheless, her fan fiction was great fun. I still have those fanzines on my shelves and wouldn’t part with them.
I have lost track of this friend, who doesn’t even appear in a Google search any more, but I can’t help suspecting she would not be too keen on the fact that these days everyone seems to be into baddies. It’s more fun when you get to be a fan of Darth Vader while everyone else is into Luke, right?
Another friend was writing fan fiction about Space Commander Travis, the villain of Blake’s 7, who had done some dreadful things, but was, all the same, a tragic figure.
The thing is, there are baddies and baddies. Travis is all very well as he was, despite all, respected and cared for by his men, even in canon. But I can’t imagine anyone writing fanfic from the viewpoint of Sauron, can you? That would take some doing! And Sauron was, once, more than a red eye in the sky….
His predecessor, Morgoth, was not a team player from the start, let’s face it. He was singing his own tune while the rest of the Valar were doing a celestial chorus. (See the opening of The Silmarillion). I suppose this is easier to argue about. “He is an individual! He is different from all those Valar sheep!” But I suspect no one has written any Morgoth fan fiction either. He is just too prone to being disgusting and living in horrible places.
I’d just like to slip in here that I can’t understand why Dark Lords live in such dreadful places. Why would you bother gaining power if you have to live in Mordor? In fact, British SF writer Peter Hamilton wrote a children’s novel in which the Dark Lord’s brother gets fed up with it all and leaves the dark land to live in a posh London flat, where the children find him watching football on a big screen TV.
Villains now have a tragic back story or at least have a possibility of redemption. Even the Marvel villain Thanos thinks he is the good guy(and in the animated series What If…? he is a good guy, a likeable member of the reformed Ravagers crew, who still thinks the genocide thing is a good idea, but has been talked out of doing it)
I suppose the question is, can you see it from their viewpoint? In one of my published short stories, “Five Ways To Start A War”(in the anthology Light Touchpaper, Stand Clear, published by Peggy Bright Books)* part of the story is seen from the viewpoint of Eris, the Greek goddess of mischief, sister of the war god Ares. Eris is the only god not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis(as in the Greek myth) - with good reason, as she starts trouble wherever she goes. She argues that it’s her job to cause trouble. So, she causes trouble anyway, with that golden apple marked “For the most beautiful” which more or less causes the Trojan War. I like to think that, in this story at least, there can be a little bit of sympathy for her. After all, Athena and Hera don’t have to do what they do when Aphrodite wins the apple - and Hera, especially, makes sure the war happens even when Helen refuses to run off with Paris. All Eris does is show she knows the personalities of the three goddesses and use that.
Well, that’s my story, anyway. But I don’t think anyone would write Eris fan fiction, not even me!
In Star Trek fandom, the Klingons were favourites and got their fanfic, even when they were supposed to be the baddies, well before we got to meet Worf and realise they were just people, good and bad. I treasure a badge I bought years ago, at a convention, which read “Kill A Klingon For Christ”, which I wore to annoy my friends who were so terribly serious about it all. (Good grief, I just Googled that in case there was a photo, and found a web site “Klingons for Jesus”! Talk about serious!)
So why do people write villain fan fiction at all?
I suspect it’s female fans who just want to hug (male) villains with tragic pasts and help them be better, and if they suffer, great! It always has been. Hurt/comfort fiction has been a thing ever since I can remember, and I have been reading fan fiction since the 1970s, and wrote it for a long time(never hurt/comfort, which made me cringe). Hurt/comfort is where two characters are put into a horrible situation and one of them looks after the other, who is suffering from bad wounds from which he - usually a he - may or may not recover. I’ve heard one writer at the Melbourne Writers Festival talk about her hurt/comfort fantasy novel, so it’s not only fan fiction.
I have recently visited fanfiction.net out of curiosity and found 161 stories based on the Loki series, only a couple of months since its release, and guess what? At least half, judging by the blurbs, were hurt/comfort, the rest were romances.
Bless the fans!
*If you are interested in this anthology the web site is selling the print edition discounted as a lockdown special. http://peggybrightbooks.com/new/ or you can buy it in Kindle. https://www.amazon.com.au/Light-Touch-Paper-Stand-Clear-ebook/dp/B00AQBE036