Firstly, happy 2009. My resolution is to post more. This will almost certainly fail.
Secondly, apologies if this post is a bit ... odd, I am sort of off my skull on cold medication and tiredness (in Madrid at the moment, spent yesterday in art galleries and today in Toledo, so roughly twelve hours walking, if not more). It is also very heavy on words like "hot" and very light on Actual Literary Criticism (but I think you're all used to this now, surely?) So here we go.
Semaphore's Top Ten Fictional Characters, In No Particular Order (Male Section)
Following on from my Twilight rant the other day, I thought I'd give a little insight into the sort of characters one should be falling in love with, rather than the godawful Edward "Sparkly Like Diamonds" Cullen.
Odysseus was the first of the many fictional crushes I've had in my life, and the first of a particular type - the Quietly Competent Hero (or QCH). Let's leave aside the slightly dodge treatment of his wife (although somewhat more defensible if you consider that he lived under a very different set of cultural beliefs and assumptions, AND that he tried hard not to go), and concentrate instead on the fact that he's fucking hot. For starters, not only does he have a brain, he's the only one of the Greeks to actually use it. Secondly, he then uses his brain well. The Trojan Horse, f'rinstance? His idea. Thirdly, he's not a rampaging ego trip (Achilles), or a testosterone-driven maniac (Ajax), and still manages to be a very brave and able fighter. Fourthly, he's diplomatic and twisty, and I love a man who can talk well. He's not perfect - after all, he's still a Greek, and was written over three or four thousand years ago. But he's still damn sexy. And also the only unambiguously good thing about Troy.
2. John Walker (Swallows and Amazons)
Next, chronologically speaking, is another QCH, Captain John. While my love for him will never quite match up to the enormous (and still ongoing) crush I had on Cap'n Nancy [see "Girl's Section", below], he still pushes quite a few buttons (let's ignore the fact he's twelve, hokay? I first read the book when I was eight or nine, so it's all good). He's good at sailing. He's honourable and kind. He's polite. He has a sense of humour. He's not intimidated by Nancy. He keeps calm under stress. He's modest - he doesn't make a big song and dance about his skills. I'd marry him in an instant. Addendum: Interestingly, though, my re-read of the series last year made me appreciate Roger (2b) much more, just because he's spectacularly cheeky and amusing and a little bit mad.
3. George Cooper (Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series)
To be strictly accurate, my first love in the Tamora Pierce books was Prince Jonathan, because he was blatantly very very good looking, and also did the sexiest move ever (namely, lifting Alanna's chin so that he's looking at her - what?). And he's the perfect example of the Arrogant But Damn Sexy Hero. But George is just lovely. To continue the soon-to-be-infuriating Capitalised Categories, he's an Honourable Rogue, the slightly more lovable subset of Bad-Boy With A Heart. Like Roger Walker, he's cheeky and amusing, like Odysseus he's charming, good with words, and a bit sneaky. And he's also that most wonderful of Heroes - the There-All-Along Love Interest, the one who you know is just perfect for the heroine but who has to wait until she realises, and then their love is all the better for being tested. And he's a thief, and he's good at it (sensing a theme, chappies?)
4. Remus Lupin (Harry Potter)
Another QCH, but with a dash of Bad-Boy for spice (technically not a hero, but never mindey). We all know that while QCHs are incredibly sexy, sexiest of all is when a QCH becomes forceful. Not in a violent I RAPE YOU! way, but in an "I can no longer contain my passion/anger/disappointment/phenomenal awesomeness" way. And that's Remus Lupin, a brilliantly crafted character who is complex, flawed, intriguing, and compelling; his original QCH-persona being stripped back through the series to show his dangerous side, as well as fears and pride and trauma and an odd sort of noble bravery/self-aware martyrdom. Add in a little Poor Tortured Soul, and you have a winning recipe for a Hero that Semaphore will love.
5. Sam Vimes (Terry Pratchett's Discworld)
ANOTHER QCH (bloody hell, I had no idea I was this predictable) with a history of Poor Tortured Soul, Sam Vimes is the perfect example of someone who is just bloody good at his job, and makes me fall in love with him for it. Most admirable in Sam is his strict moral code - which, while not necessarily aligned with "traditional" morality, is just as strong - which along with his compassion drives him to pursue justice with all his might, while not losing his sense of when to bend the rules; most sexy is his drive and his competence, and his dry humour. He is also very intelligent and practical, with a thorough knowledge of human nature.
6. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)
See Here. No obvious category, probably your standard All-Round Nice Guy With Added Characterisation, but also the There-All-Along Love Interest, which sort of goes without saying since it's the whole point of the book.
7. Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre)
The definition of the Bad Boy With A Heart, my love for Mr Rochester was always strong, and only stronger now that he has Toby Stephens's face. Mr Rochester is passionate, flawed, domineering without being a bully, and loves and appreciates Jane; like Sam Vimes, he also has his own, very strong moral code - looking after Adele and his wife even though both make him miserable, f'rinstance. A good one to try and convert Cullen-lovers to, with similar Big Strong Man and passionate tendencies, with less of the manipulation and abuse.
8. Will (His Dark Materials)
A QCH if ever there was one, phwoar (SERIOUSLY, what is it with me and them?) Strong, brave, modest, and determined, he copes with a horrendously complicated situation with the minimum of fuss. Just Gets On With It, in a beautifully touching way.
9. Dave the Laugh (Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series)
Cheeky Chappy + There-All-Along Love Interest, Dave hits the Humour button dead-on. Hence the name. He is also wonderfully swoon-worthy when he gets all protective of Georgia, or when he's helping her with one of her many Boy-Dramas; he's also refreshingly straight-forward, rare in a teenage boy [possibly Ms Rennison is indulging her fantasies here too, not that I'm complaining - SMeyer, take note], which puts Georgia at her ease. And he's not perfect, neither. Which is nice for my literary tastes, because then I can love him guilt-free.
10. Viscount "Sherry" Sheringham (Georgette Heyer's Friday's Child)
Sherry is quite simply adorable. Attractive in a dashing way at the start, his increasing maturity and sense only make him more so, as well as his obvious devotion to Hero Wantage, his wife-of-a-whim, and their mutual blindness to his love for her is thrilling in a dramatic-irony sorta way. He has the added bonus of having three of the dimmest, but most honourable and simply lovely friends ever. I love him as a person, and I love him as a character - both bring me a huge amount of joy.
The Marquis of Vidal (Georgette Heyer's Devil's Cub), Edward Carey-Lewis (Rosamund Pilcher's Coming Home), Garion (David Eddings' Belgariad), Will Ladislaw (George Eliot's Middlemarch), Josh (Melissa Nathan's The Nanny), Will (Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising). ALSO (ETA, can't believe I forgot these ones) - Peter and Edmund from Narnia, and Prince Hector (esp as presented by Adele Geras).
Honourable mentions outside literature:
Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars, as an example of the kind of bad boy Cullen-Lovers should be falling in love with. Exhibit A: He has a character. Exhibit B: He and his love-interest actually have something in common. Exhibit C: He actually treats his love-interest well (most of the time, and once they stop hating each other). Exhibit D: He's incredibly witty. Exhibit E: He's HOT. He's not perfect - he is a bad boy, after all. But he's better than Edward Cullen, any day. Please to be ignoring the bad clothes, though.
Tomorrow: Female Edition!