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The Man They Call Sean

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Sean Stiennon

I’ve never had a nickname that stuck.  Well, that’s not completely true — I can think of at least one occasion when people have called me “Flinteye” and expected me to respond, but they were just reading off my baseball cap.  All in all, this is probably a good thing, since nicknames that stick tend to be less cool stuff like “Grinder” or “Shadowman” and more like “Chunk” or “Barfbag”.

A candid look at my gruesome features

A candid look at my gruesome features

So, as much as I’d like to introduce myself as Sean “Dark Smoke Puncher” Stiennon, just Sean will do nicely.  You might already have noticed my name attached to a review of Jasper Kent’s Twelve.

By day, I inhabit an apartment in sunny Madison, Wisconsin (as well as an office nearby) and produce the valuable carbon dioxide that keeps our planet green.  By night, I sleep.  I also read ridiculous books, play manly video games, practice ryuukyu kenpo karate, and otherwise live the high life.  I write fantasy and SF regularly, and if any cool people or gorgeous space princesses out there want to see some, send me a carrier pigeon!

My nerd profile is that of a dilettante.  I enjoy many things, from manga to games, but haven’t really ever plunged into one particular thing.  There are few authors I’ve read exhaustively, few franchises I’ve mined deep enough to go toe-to-toe with their true devotees.  That means my thoughts on any geeky subject tend to be a loose mix of ignorance, knowledge, and apathy.  I love Cowboy Bebop and Trigun, but have never seen Akira or Dragonball Z.  I got sick of Drizzt after three volumes, and only read four.

Anyway, I like to think my broad-but-shallow nerd experiences give me a habit of making interesting connections.  So, when I watch the first few episodes of classic head-bursting anime Fist of the North Star, it brings Superman to mind.

See, the most common complaint I’ve heard against Superman is that, since he’s nigh indestructible, it’s hard to build tension in his stories.  Likewise, the protagonist of Fist is a Kenshiro, a man so skilled in martial arts that he can make his enemies’ heads explode with a touch of his finger.  It goes without saying that he can catch arrows, dodge bullets, and bend steel bars.

Kenshiro: The Japanese answer to Chuck Norris

Kenshiro: The Japanese answer to Chuck Norris

What I think gives both these characters their appeal is that, while they might be nearly indestructible, the mortals that surround them certainly aren’t.  Superman has his Lois and Jimmy, and before the first episode is over, Kenshiro is responsible for the safety of not one but two adorable urchins.  The question becomes not “Can Kenshiro win this fight?”, but “Can he win this fight before the giant drill press turns the staff of the Daily Planet to reporter salsa?”

Kenshiro and Superman are also unfailingly good — that is, they will always support the weak against the strong, and their cause is always just.  Unless you’re considerably more cynical than I am, there’s something compelling in a character who could be a powerful force for evil, but chooses the path of pure heroism.

And then there’s the cool factor.  The day I become too jaded to appreciate death-touch kung fu and a man in red underpants with the power to knock down skyscrapers is the day someone declares me legally dead.

So, that’s a sample of the sort of thoughts that run through my head when I’m trying to do more productive things, like chew my food and remember to breathe.  I look forward to sharing more of them in this space in the months to come!

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