Category Archives: Science Fiction

Embracing The Mass Murderer — A Trope

I enjoy fantasy and science fiction shows when they’re done well. Major “Buffy” fan back in the day, and number “iZombie” and “The Magicians” among my current shows. I’ve also kept up with my Marvel Universe movies, although I am cutting their network offerings down to “Jessica Jones” because the writing and plotting of the others, both on Netflix and ABC is subpar. [The only reason “Iron Fist” is called that is because “Dumb As A Sack Of Hammers” isn’t catchy enough.]

However, there is a long-term plotting trope common to these shows and movies that continues to bug me, because it is essentially unacknowledged. A character, usually taken over by a curse, will go on a killing binge as one does, but when said curse is lifted, will be taken back into the loving arms of his/her previous community, with relatively little censure. Even more, will team up with the heroes without any real consequence as to their previous actions.

There are several characters in the Buffy universe who follow this pattern, but the most egregious example is Faith, her fellow-slayer, who became a murderer for hire without any supernatural excuse. She did go to prison after a remorseful arc in “Angel,” but came back for the Buffy final season and went on essentially unchallenged. [I haven’t read the story-lines past the third comic book, so there may have been more. She seems to be in the wild.]

Blaine, the principal villain of iZombie, has a massive body count to his credit, yet has not met his come-uppance despite multiple opportunities, legal and otherwise. Clearly a Spike-derivative down to his bleached blonde punkish persona, he’s a walking plothole in an otherwise beautifully plotted series.

Julia of “The Magicians,” is a fascinating character. At one point, she goes sociopathic, having lost her “shade,” which seems to be a soul-equivalent. During this period, she at one point obliterates an entire population of sentient trees [long story]. But when she gets her shade back, she’s back on the team, no further consequences.

In the Marvel Universe, Gamora, the fighting blue sister in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” assists in a few mass murder events in the first movie, yet rallies to help her fighting green sister in the sequel and is allowed to run off scott-free. Loki kills a ton of people [oh, he’s so mischievous!], yet teams up with Thor many times — and he’s charming. We’ll see how they do in the upcoming Infinity Wars. My bet — she dies, he doesn’t.

And, speaking of Marvel, how about the Hulk in “Thor: Ragnarok.” He’s the champion fighter in the Grandmaster’s tournaments. Which means a history of opponents going splat permanently. But he’s lovable, so he gets a pass.

This is all fantasy, yet several of these shows aspire to bring in real emotion to drive the drama. You can’t have it both ways. It inures the characters to violent death, and by doing so, us. Only “Buffy” attempted to deal with the consequences, particularly with Willow, but redemption was generally only a few episodes away [and was rewarded with hot sex].

I realize that I am asking too much out of what is meant to be entertainment. But it’s one thing for a character to commit murder, or mass murder, as part of his/her story. It’s another for everyone else to ignore it — or worse, go “That’s cool. What can you do for me now?”

And don’t get me started on Darth Vader.


I’ve been working on a collection of non-genre short stories lately, so I’ve been submitting them to a different breed of magazine than I have in the past. Rejection is no longer a matter of “slips” nowadays. Has someone coined “e-slip” yet to cover these?

In any case, it’s all part of the Great Game, and I am philosophical rather than discouraged by rejection at this point in my life. I look back at my first science fiction sale for a perfect example of the random aspect of this enterprise. I had sent the story to Analog, one of the two biggies in the science fiction world. It was in due course rejected by them. Analog was considered the more hard-core science fictional of the two, and this story was more allegorical than high-tech. So I pulled out a new pair of 9×12 manila envelopes, because the second one was an SASE, of course, and sent it off to Asimov’s Science Fiction, which was known for having a broader range of stories. To my delight, it was accepted.

And then came the wonderful thing: The story won the magazine’s annual Readers’ Poll Award for Best Short Story. I was ecstatic, and not just because of the $250 cash prize, but because of the recognition this early in my career.

The ceremony was on a top floor of the Bertelsman Building, the company that owned the publisher of the magazine at the time. They also owned Analog, and the same reception honored the recipient of that magazine’s Readers’ Poll Award. While we were mingling, I was introduced to the writer of the Analog winning story. He pulled me aside.

“Just between you and me,” he said. “Did you by any chance submit your story to Analog?”

“As a matter of fact, I did,” I replied. “They rejected it.”

He gave me a huge grin.

Asimov rejected mine,” he said.