Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Genre Character of the Week: Walter Dangerfield

When I was a young man, my career goal was split 50/50 – either I was going to be an actor of stage and screen, or I would be a drifter, traveling from town to town, like The Littlest Hobo or The Incredible Hulk. What I never expected at the time was to be doing what I am now – Library work. In a lot of ways, this week’s genre character is in the same sort of boat, or spaceship as the case may be. Let’s look at Walter Dangerfield.

In Phillip K Dick's novel Dr. Bloodmoney, we are introduced to Walter and his wife Lydia at the beginning as Earths two shining stars, the couple selected to begin colonization on Mars, they have been supplied with a lifetimes supply of food and are shot into orbit waiting for the order to proceed to Mars. Unfortunately, just like everyone else in the novel, they are blindsided by a Nuclear war.

Unlike the rest of the characters in the book, who must find their own ways in this strange new world, Walter and Lydia are literally trapped on their shuttle in the Earth’s orbit, doomed to circle it until they die or some group on Earth gets back the means to bring them back home. The book makes many jumps forward in time and about a third of the way through the book we see how Walter has fared – years ago his wife committed suicide so he is alone, yet he broadcasts hope to the world.

In a world where communication travels only as fast as horse travel, Walter has become the way the world communicates on a global level. He has basically become a DJ, circling the globe and broadcasting over radio waves his advice, music from before the war and messages back and forth between people who contact him from around the world. What I admire most about Walter is his ability to roll with the punches, to make the best of his new situation (which, to put it bluntly, includes probably never seeing another living human in his life), and bringing the world hope.

What I admire most about Walter is that even though he didn’t end up doing what he thought he would in life, he made the most of whatever situation he was in and found happiness there. Like Walter I ended up in a different place than I expected I would be, professionally speaking, but also like Walter I've found a lot of happiness where I am.

Also I would have been a terrible drifter.

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