The Power Of The Dark Side by Pamela Jaye Smith (book review)

July 10, 2015 | By | Reply More

Whenever term ‘Dark Side’ turns up, one has to think of ‘Star Wars’. It’s practically synchronous with the various trilogies pointing out the most nasty side of people. Pamela Jaye Smith doesn’t shy away from this in her book, ‘The Power Of The Dark Side’, but embraces it across the genres and medias citing many more examples. Although in some instances, I think some of her examples from the US and UK might simply be lip service, her examples from ‘Babylon 5’ and even the novel versions of ‘Dune’ shows she’s watched and read simply by certain chosen words that a non-genre reader wouldn’t have used. She admits later in the book that she’s a ‘Star Trek’ fan and I suspect she reduced examples from there as a reverse bias. About the only example I would disagree with was with the film of ‘Village Of The Damned’ (1960), mostly because those cute children weren’t the aggressors until they were provoked and had the ability not to turn the other cheek. Bullied people don’t usually have the ability to turn things like they did.


Don’t expect deep examples of what motivates the more ‘evil’ characters as I suspect Smith wants to show just how many fall into particular patterns and for you to make your own connections as to why they work. As my mind tends to work rather fast with such things, I was surprised how quickly I was reading this book and how many of her examples I’ve actually seen across the genres. Most of them are from the last thirty years, so I suspect the same will apply to many of you. In many respects, the villain is selfish to their own needs which is in contrast to the hero who does the opposite.

The villain of the piece is always strongly delineated and often better defined than the hero. I suspect in part this is to show the viewer or reader why their particular traits shouldn’t be admired and as Smith points out later in the book, we are always curious as to what made them turn out that way. Clearly, being bad isn’t always a vocation, just an odd path choice. Reflecting now, I can’t recall that many espionage villains or detective nemesises amongst the examples. It would be interesting to see Smith do a version of this showing stronger good guys and gals as a comparison and why they can work well in a similar way. I mean, does being good come from making the right decisions or a lack of desire to making a selfish choice. The anti-hero is a balance between the two sides but is really about showing themselves as redeemable.

The latter half of the book does focus more on the situations of bad choice and if you ever get stuck for a motivation for your villains, browsing this section should provide you with a springboard to develop your own ideas. There is also some options as to how to face such people.

Although there isn’t much in the way of examining what is true evil, much of this book can help writers of all sorts. By not being too analytical, Smith is actually not forcing any particular idea down your throat, just the motivations that leads people in these directions. In fiction, its a nasty world out there and these are the bad guys. Understanding what makes them tick can only help your story and you don’t even neet to pet a white fluffy cat to show you’re not all bad. Motivational.

GF Willmetts

July 2015

(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 242 page enlarged paperback. Price: $22.95 (US), £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-932907-43-6)

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Category: Books, Culture

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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