Thursday, September 23, 2010

Steampunk Character Type: The Adventurer

We've all seen them in fiction -- the Adventurer-Hero strikes a victorious pose with his fists on his hips and chest puffed out while the villain scrabbles away, defeated. But while this evokes images of the superheroes extant during the comic book Golden Age, and is the one that many of us can conjure up, I'm talking about Adventurers that occur in fiction significantly earlier.

Allan Quartermain. Tom Sawyer. Phileas Fogg. The Time Traveller. These are just a few of the Adventurer characters from classic fiction. As to the names from Steampunk novels? Well that's easy too -- Modo and Octavia (The Hunchback Assignments), Croggon Hainey (The Clockwork Century), Bergen (Whitechapel Gods) ... you get the picture.

We see the Adventurer a lot in Steampunk fiction, but what really typifies the character? How do we know when we've seen an Adventurer and not a regular person thrust into the story's primary plot line against their will?

The Adventurer is comfortable in dire situations. In fact, he almost prefers them to the the quiet supposedly idyllic life he once came from. The classic Adventurer were men (and the occasional woman) who went off into the world in search of far-off lands and peoples, sometimes with the intent to study them but more often to see the sights and see what would happen to them there. A sub-character type is the Adventurer Archaeologist (Indiana Jones), which is actually nothing like archaeology actually is anymore (but once was in the 19th Century).

The Voyages Extraordinaire of Jules Verne are rife with Adventurer characters which, seeing as those are Adventure stories, isn't really that big of a surprise. Phileas Fogg, Captain Nemo, Professor Arronax, etc and so on -- the characters that exist in Verne's stories are men of Action and Adventure. That's the kind of Adventurer-Hero many people have come to expect. He's the man of Action who acts without thinking, and yet somehow always manages to win the girl at the end of the story.

The spirit of Adventure that runs through the root works of Steampunk, and the genre's other basis in the pulp adventure novels of the late 1800s, make it clear that the Adventurer character type is here to stay.

What other traits can you think of that describe an Adventurer character?

1 comment:

dolorah said...

"He's the man of Action who acts without thinking, and yet somehow always manages to win the girl at the end of the story."

For me, this line perfectly describes what I like to see in the Adventurer type. He's a rogue; not a corrupt or cruel person, but certainly not bound to moral strictures of right and wrong. And he isn't stupid; he's impetuous, not afraid to admit he doesn't know how to resolve a situation, but confident in his ability to figure it out and make it all come out satisfactorily.

And he doesn't have to be incredibly handsome either - in fact I think astounding good looks detracts from his charisma. But above average intellegence and resourcefulness is an absolute must. Love those geek/nerds.

McGyver; Quantum Leap; Indiana Jones; and my newest favorite, Burn Notice.

Yes, those are all TV series, not novels, but you get the idea :)