A (Un)Real American Hero
Who is the most American of fantasy heroes? I ignited enough fireworks yesterday in the course of Independence Day festivities to get me feeling good and patriotic. And as a patriotic writer of fabulism, it should come as little surprise that the opening question occurred to me.
The British Isles have produced abundant fantasy heroes, but this is a search for the red-blooded American hero. So no Aragorns. No haughty Elrics. Who have we got in the running?
Conan is not himself an American, of course. But he displays the individualistic rebelliousness that marks the character of the true American. He’s been a frontiersman, a soldier. He’s turned his hand to unsavory work from time to time, as have any number of America’s early heroes. But then, there’s that whole kingship business. That might put him out of the running.
John Carter is a candidate. A Virginian gentleman, a prospector, a soldier. The narrowness of his geographic and class background might not make him an excellent fit as a nationwide exemplar, however. And he seems more than content to leave his old country, not to mention planet, behind. Call him a maybe.
Turning the clock back about a half-century, we’ve got Hank Morgan, from Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. He’s got that Yankee ingenuity, work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, and holds fast to American values even while working for a monarchy. Unfortunately, Hank Morgan may not be that well known. After all, he only got one book.
I’d like to offer up Karl Thorson, from my Karl Thorson and the Jade Dagger. But, if Hank Morgan is unknown, at this point Karl Thorson is a nonentity. He needs to get more eyeballs on the page before he can throw his hat in the ring. Besides, at this point there remains only one book. So, let’s move along.
Karl Cullinane from the Guardians of the Flame series is a candidate. But that is more of an ensemble work, and I don’t like to remember what Joel Rosenberg did to Karl. Moving along, then.
Garrett, from Glen Cook’s Garrett Files is a possibility. He is, after all, somewhat of a portmanteau character, combining aspects of many of the greats of America’s hardboiled detectives. A strong contender.
But I think, after due consideration, that the most American of fantasy heroes has to be Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher’s wizard and detective. He’s an entrepreneur, running his own detective business. (There’s that detective angle again. Very American and distinct from the British variety.) He consumes Coca-cola and fast food. He’s got a rebellious streak as wide as the Mississippi. He’s quite comfortable deploying a shotgun or bigass hand cannon when the situation requires it. He exhibits that characteristic American egalitarianism when confronting those who feel themselves to be superior by right of birth. And he is, after all, an American.
I think we have a winner. But what do you think?