Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Gamma Protagonist, Part II

The Gift is what makes the Gamma Protagonist special, and the GP will almost always have one special gift which eventually allows him to be the most powerful person in the room, perhaps any room.
  1. The gift is either in the form of an object that the GP alone is able to use correctly, or it is an innate ability. 
  2. There will be a build-up in the power of The Gift in which the GP masters it. 
  3. Eventually The Gift will become so powerful to make future storytelling nonsensical, so plot devices will need to be introduced in order to temporarily remove its power or make its power inaccessible. Sometimes the author will simply pretend it doesn’t exist for a while. 
  4. The GP will agonize over his possession and use of The Gift, but display it immediately whenever his authority or specialness is challenged, particularly by an Alpha male. He is observably more comfortable using it as a status symbol than he is for any socially useful purpose.
  5. Once the full power of The Gift is revealed, the GP is then portrayed as being magnanimous in not using it at will. 
  6. The full effect of The Gift will often be nonsensical, even comical, if viewed from the outside, but be portrayed as deadly serious in the story.


Steve Foster said...

Gamma Sci Fi sounds like 10 lbs. of crap in a 5 lb. bag.

Harambe said...

So basically shounen manga?

Anonymous said...


Al From Bay Shore said...

Reading this in my classroom located in a public school in an undisclosed location. It's almost the start of the school day. The kids are about to go to their "environment in context" classes. Your post on the GP struck a chord with me, and it reminded me of something that I had to read during a professional development activity that took place in a different public school system. This public school system was located in an SJW urban enclave. At any rate, check out this short story that was forced down the throats of elementary and middle school aged children, "Priscilla and the Wimps". It's fascinating and depressing.

Dexter said...

The Gift = an innate ability = the power of snark?

(Heh heh)

Derrick Bonsell said...

Is Jonathan Moeller's character in Demonsouled a Gamma protagonist? He has a "gift."

Derrick Bonsell said...

Is Jonathan Moeller's character in Demonsouled a Gamma protagonist? He has a "gift."

Oliver Märk said...
“Be aware of the gifts of your friends – they could be your worst enemies”.

Student in Blue said...

The Gift can be anything, but it's whatever makes the guy more special than anyone else.

Can he read minds and no one else can? Can he use magic and no one else can?

But that's the very simplest form of it.

If the protagonist is unnaturally skilled in magic, more so than every other magic caster in whatever fictional world, that's then his Gift.

Rules #1-3 are more determiners of Gary Stu than necessarily Gamma, but Rule #4-6 of Gamma thinking. Those are the rules you want to focus on if you're trying to gauge just how much of a Gamma the author and protagonist is.

Student in Blue said...

*but Rules #4-6 are a clear indicator of Gamma thinking and worldview.

Daniel said...

The Name of the Wind is this precisely.

Anonymous said...

This could be subtitled "Or Why Superhero Comics Suck."

Especially #3 above.

Student in Blue said...

Honestly Rules #1-3 are fine by themselves, especially if it's a comedy. Where it becomes a problem is when Rules #4-6 are added, then it's pretentious bullshit.

Ron said...

The Gift is actually a substitute for something else, which is the one thing that all men actually need to achieve all the seemingly miraculous things which the protaganist-substitute wishes he could achieve.

And that is the Faith in God/Universe/Hope/Whatever that if you work hard and put in the time that you will go forward. I think the Gamma lacks that fundamental faith. Either he has some delusional faith, for example in Marxism, or a faith in magic incantations, or he has no faith at all. It's the difference between praying when it's real and has heart, or when it's just a bunch of bullshit someone is saying to feed their ego.

I think the test of Faith is this, whatever form that Faith takes, does the man use it to work hard and make shit happen, or is he using it to dodge doing what needs done.

And I think this is what it's at. Because if I lack common sense, I can develop it provided I work at it. If I'm too fat, ditto, too weak ditto. I may not be the best, but I can get better if I work at it over time. That Faith is what gives me the power to put in that work over time. If I don't have that faith, then I have a despair, and that despair is why the Gamma avoids it.

I think we all have this to some degree or another. Look at Cain for the original example. He gave up on himself and so instead of doing the hard work to improve he came up with some bullshit rationalization to kill Abel and remove the source of what was showing up his own deficiency. Basically he was a little prince and couldnt' accept failure. It's not like Cain didn't believe in God. God directly spoke to him. See, it's the difference between believing in the existence of God, and really believing that God has your back. That He's on your side, and doesn't have it in for you. And given what Cain did, that is clearly a lot tougher to manage than any of us realize. Because if there's one thing I know about human nature it's this: Cain really convinced himself he was righteous in killing Abel. That guy was a lot smarter and had more faith than any of us can possibly understand, he was raised by literally, the best parents in the best environment. He was in as perfect a situation as it can get, and he still lost heart.

The Gift is Faith. That's what the Gamma lacks.

PhantomZodak said...

sounds like the japanese guy from heroes

Trimegistus said...

It's extremely interesting to re-read Norman Spinrad's novel _The Iron Dream_ in the light of this. (For those unfamiliar with it, the book is a "scholarly edition" of an imaginary pulp novel called "Lords of the Swastika" by the well-known pulp magazine illustrator and author A. Hitler, a post-Great War immigrant to the US.)

Happy Housewife said...


Yes. Kvothe is the worst. Especially in Wise Man's Fear, where he - despite being a virgin - manages to wow a succubus/fairy with his sexual prowess. Good grief.

GB said...

Richard Rahl, Sword of Truth

Hammerli 280 said...

It's interesting to look at good SF heroes and see just how many of these traits fit...and don't fit.

Trimegistus, that was my thought as well...although Feric Jaggar is completely uninhibited about using the Great Truncheon to bloody effect. He's a parody of Alpha.

Dark Herald said...


Almost all fantasy fiction revolves around it these days.

You can begin with Arthur's sword and work your past Kimball Kinnison's Lens all the way to...I hate to keep picking on Larry Corriea but Ashok Vadal's sword.

The Gift lends itself so easily to the fantasy of the uncrowned secret king.

Of course Gamma Males love it.

Their gift of course was their special brain power. Particularly if they grew up in a in a small school and two standard deviations above the mean guaranteed they were smartest kids in school.

That power did not see them through college where they dropped out during their freshmen year before Christmas. But first impressions are lasting ones. They thought they were geniuses at one time. They were convinced they were special, even if they weren't.

The dream of being special not through hard work and certainly not through impulse control and self discipline. But just being confirmed as being special through no earned merit or strength of their own but just because they are who they are, will have eternal appeal to them.

Aeoli Pera said...

So basically shounen manga?


Hammerli 280 said...

Cataline, I'd have to disagree with you somewhat. Some Gamma Protagonist elements are present in almost all heroic characters. It's the nature of the beast. But a true Gamma Protagonist has the entire menu.

Amaryllis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amaryllis said...

I think that some people are trying to apply 'The Gift' as a Gamma Protagonist tell a little bit too broadly. I understand why it's on the list: it IS a staple of the 'Gamma Protagonist,' the magic button that the protagonist has access to that makes them immediate winners without the author having to go through the trouble of writing the story in such a way as to make the protagonist being a capable and believable hero without it convincing (GPs often seem to be written by Gamma Authors -- although not always -- who may lack the wit even try to write the latter). However, the fact that it's vaguely defined by necessity is a little bit of a trap as well. Fantasy USUALLY features exceptional protagonists, and is probably the most natural home of characters with bizarre game-changing gifts. And it has been that way for a very long time.

Larry Correia's Ashok Vadal definitely has 'the Gift' in the form of that magic sword, but he also gets shut down in arguments repeatedly, and shown to be kind of dumb in a lot of ways. The Gamma's idealized form can't tolerate this for any length of time. Compare to Kvothe, who as pointed out earlier, managed to be the best a thousand year old sex demon had ever had, despite being a virgin. He also casually and repeatedly outsmarted a credentialed, highly ranked imperial wizard at the age of fifteen, repeatedly defeated and humiliated a rich rival whose parents were friends of royalty and got off relatively scot-free, and seduced multiple women without ever even trying or being aware of it.

The Gift is so ubiquitous to fantasy that I'd find it easier to make a list of works that DON'T feature it (assuming the list had anything on it at all), whereas the GP-as-favorite-protagonist is a relatively new thing (<40ish years) unless you want to be very liberal with your application of the term. You need most, if not all the fixins, in order to really qualify. Which, sadly, is becoming easier and easier, and seems to be exclusively what SJWs will give awards to.

Anonymous said...

Actually Amaryllis, much of the older fantasy and sci-fi have protagonists who are "the chosen" by god/s or destiny or situation to deal with a problem rather than "the universe's special snowflake/gift to itself". Into all of hem had any special gift and if they did, it was neutered. Take Gandalf, who's magic is complete weak sauce to most wizards authored later. Course, those genres were still affected by the literary genre they belonged to and honored, basic fiction storytelling with it's three major stories: man vs. himself, man vs. man, man vs. nature. The authors of old didn't come from a culture that only sees the world through it's belly button, so their tendency to write a Narcissian pond wasn't there.

It's books from a paticular generation that seem to be overly littered with special gamma protagonists.

Ron said...

@Happy Housewife

That wasnt even the worst part. The fairy/succubus was an alien, not human, so perhaps its motivations were dofferent.

But the part where he learns how to fight was unreadable. Complete idiocy. Maybe someone can correct me, because long before that point I was already skimming through the chapters so maybe I got it wrong. But seriously man, do more than a little bit of goddamn research. Dont just rely on your worthless kara-te class, talk to actual people that have trained how to fight. Because that mess is definitely NOT how fighting works.

To add insult to injury, the lazy bastard was just using the same writing technique from the first book where Kvothe became a master musician.

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Richard Rahl came to mind for me, too. He's a "rare person" all around, endlessly righteous and helpful, attractive, able to turn broken women into angels, and the only one to be able to love a woman impossible to love without triggering her dominance over his unending devotion to her.


And I loved SoT when I found it while browsing Borders sometime back in '93 or '94(?).

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GB said...

What always bugged me with Richard Rahl was he was specifically described as a country bumpkin with no formal schooling, yet inexplicably displays advanced skills in disciplines such as warfare, marble sculpting, and objectivist philosophy (???) A worse author-insert character I have never seen.

GB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Terry Goodkind is a self-described poor student, dyslexic, artisan, hands-on and can-do type. No doubt the author had redeeming qualities, if his descriptions of building a cabin and making a life in the wild (such as it is) are to be believed. Benefit of the doubt says he made Richard Rahl the wish fulfillment of everything he thought he could, but would never, be.

Not that he didn't make a name for himself or do anything good. Recently I was talking to a cousin who felt that many years were wasted on college, when really, marriage and kids and a job that allowed everyone to have enough money to be a few steps beyond destitute seemed more important than the grand careers and world/life-changing roles we were supposed to take after high school and college were done.

Cousin is an engineer, and college was necessary for the profession, and frankly, intelligence demanded a post-secondary education. But this does not seem to be so for many people, male or female, who waste time and potential on what could be, rather than what is...hence a lot of the frustrated gamma protog dilemma. No one is given meaningful work or opportunities to reproduce. We take it out on ourselves or each other in very bad ways.

YIH said...

@Ahazuerus said...
Not really, by general canon:
His abilities manifest very early (toddler), the Kents (his adoptive parents) understand he's very unusual and encourage him to keep his abilities concealed (avoid sports, fights, showing off) his learning curve is roughly the same as humans so he grows up much the same.
Even after adulthood he learns more about his abilities (originally he couldn't actually fly, he did 'super leaps') and it wasn't until later that he even discovers that he has a vulnerability (kryptonite).
Also being a long running comic book (ect) new abilities are added (and sometimes forgotten) for story purposes depending on who's currently writing it. Though in general his character was 'set' by about the mid-1950's.

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