When I tagged Stella Telleria recently, she responded admirably with seven great gadgets and then passed on a new challenge to four other bloggers. The challenge she set was so interesting that I couldn't resist posting my own list even though I don't need to.
So, here are my seven most fascinating characters. These are mostly drawn from Ghosts, because, unlike Jean Davis, I don't have a long list of stories to refer to.
1. Shayla Carver, badass assassin and thoroughly mixed-up kid, hell-bent on tit-for-tat revenge for the destruction of her home planet. In Ghosts she is working under so many layers of deception that she has to keep reminding herself who she is supposed to be at any given moment. And she doesn't always get it right. Luckily for the two billion people on the Imperial home world she is not quite as hardened as she likes to think. But it takes a while for the long-repressed voice of compassion to be heard. I like Shayla because she's fun to write about.
2. Mabbwendig ap Terlion, a.k.a. Mad Mabb. Head of the Imperial domestic household. A diminutive bully, she tries to make Shayla's life hell when she infiltrates the Imperial hierarchy. Although we only see her bullying side in Ghosts, when I started "interviewing" her (see here for a post on character interviews) I discovered that her real driver is a fanatical devotion to millennia of tradition, and a withering disdain for anyone who doesn't measure up to the highest standards of duty.
3. Fleur Trixmin, the Bitch in the Basement. Imperial Chief of Intelligence. Petite, elfin, playful as a cat with a mouse. Her superficially irreverent manner masks a psychopathic sadism. Favourite quote: "I've made grown men, battle-hardened soldiers, weep with nothing more than the raising of an eyebrow."
4. Ivan Skamensis, the Emperor's uncle. Sly political manipulator and powerful opponent, he favours Imperial rule in the tradition of his mother - "It takes strength, and an iron grip, to keep all those worlds under control." He is the one truly responsible, behind the scenes, for the destruction of Shayla's home many years ago. And, no, he didn't bat an eyelid at the thought of killing 100 million people. That was just another day in the business of government.
5. Finn Probey, master assassin for the Family Firenzi. When we first meet him he is undercover in a terrorist group as an unkempt and slightly comical mute called "Weasel". His part there is characterised by a hobbit's obsession with food, and a supernatural ability to "get the job done", whatever "the job" might be. Subsequently he mentors Shayla on the next stage of her mission, unaware of her personal agenda.
6. Tiamat, from Electrons' Breath, is an emergent machine intelligence lurking at the heart of the Internet. With all transportation, industrial plant, and farm machinery under computer control in the late 21st century, practically everything, even your apartment's air conditioning, has lethal potential in Tiamat's virtual hands. Although Tiamat is the antagonist in this story, she is not truly evil. She is simply doing what all forms of life do to survive and propagate - i.e. whatever it takes.
7. Charles Hawthorne, university professor from Electrons' Breath. Not exactly antisocial, he has a daughter and grandchild, but has little time for other people and doesn't suffer fools gladly. All he wants is a quiet life in academia and a future for his family in a world ravaged by climate change. Rarely travels and has a visceral revulsion of immersive online worlds. Both limitations are tested when he stumbles on the reality behind Tiamat and flees for his life.