Top Ten Characters in Alternative Reality Fiction. Compiled by ARWZ Editors

Voting in our latest Top 10 list of the Best Characters in alternative reality fiction was any character's game. The votes were split across a wide range of choices, and among multiple characters in favorite books and films. ARWZ readers and associates nominated nearly three hundred of their favorite protagonists, anti-heroes, sidekicks, villains... not to mention those who defy categorization. Alternative reality fans from all over the world placed their votes for the most complex, unique, iconic and fascinating characters, voicing their opinions toward this final list. Participating voters were drawn both from ARWZ readership and from the membership of our Associate Pages. Our thanks to all participants.

Each voter submitted a list of no more than ten characters. Ranked votes were weighted according to the numerical rank assigned to each novel or trilogy (1. got 10 points, 2. got 9 points, etc.). Some voters preferred not to rank their lists, and the characters of their lists were attributed five points each. Voters were also invited to provide commentary on the characters included in their lists. As much as possible, that commentary has been included for the Top Ten. But the discussion doesn't end there. If you would like to comment on this list, please feel free to join the discussion on our forums, or to send us a Letter to the Editor with your comments. If you would like to participate in our latest Top Ten List, to be published on ARWZ Literary Zine in a future feature article, please visit the official ARWZ Top 10 page to see what we're woking on next.

Top Ten Characters in Alternative Reality Fiction

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The Elric Saga
1. Elric of Melnibone from The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock

"One of those characters who forever changed and influenced all of the speculative fiction genres, in particular fantasy, that came after him. There is a bit of Hamlet to Elric in that he is a tragic royal who forsakes his kingdom. Despite all the awful things he does at the behest of his evil sentient sword Stormbringer and his patron diety the duke of chaos Arioch, somehow you can't help but like Elric. Which is a very dangerous thing to do, as Stormbringer prefers the souls of his friends most!" - ljim2000

"Conflicted and torn with self-loathing he stands out from the pack of self-assured brawns-over-brains sword and sorcery adventurers as a character with an enduring depth and appeal." - criminalenglish

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Star Wars
2. Darth Vader from the Star Wars films by George Lucas

"The definitive cinematic villain" - Shehzad

"The ultimate sci-fi bad guy; we fear him yet like him" - Alicia GA

"Incompetent villain he is not! His only weakness is the love of his son" - Doug Gogerty

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Lord of the Rings
3. Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"Gandalf is a figure that is seen as above most others. However he remains extremely humble and never shows his true power and is always someone who the characters thoughout the story look to for guidance" - Cooryn Folcoer

"If your first impression of Gandalf was from Peter Jackson's film adaptation, and if you have no intention to read the books in the near or far future, I would now like to ask you to reconsider your decision. You won't regret it" - itsacthing

"He now represents the archetype of the fantasy wizard" - Shehzad

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Blade of Tyshalle
4. Caine (Hari Michaelson) from Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Stover

"You have to love an assassin who lets you know why you're about to die!" - Doug Gogerty

"Stover has written some of the best SF/F books in the last few years. Both books [Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle] feature Caine, and there is nobody who depicts action better currently and although that by itself means nothing, the emotionaly introspective Caine is a powerful mixture of the two" - Jay Tomio

"One of the most complex, multifaceted and downright, kick-ass cool characters I've had the pleasure of reading" - Shehzad

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Arthurian Legends
4. Merlin from Arthurian legends told and retold by various authors

"Merlin is the great original wizard" - Pyter Voeros

"He is the prototypical Wizard. While Gandalf is more powerful and heroic, Merlin is more conniving and dangerous" - Doug Gogerty

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6. Frankenstein's Monster from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

"A book with far more interesting things to say about progress than 'there are things that man should leave alone'!" - Pyter Voeros

"Groundbreaking! What should we consider alive or dead?" - Doug Gogerty

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C'thulhu Mythos
7. C'thulhu from the C'thulhu Mythos by H.P. Lovecraft

"Cosmic terror at its finest. He truly shows us that man is of no consequence" - Deena Warner

"C'thulhu is the ultimate archetype for all that is alien and inhuman and impossible for us to really understand. As influences go, look to his tentacled face and body and find the aliens in countless later science fiction stories and movies, look to his cult and find the basis for many a horror tale" - ljim2000

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Farseer Trilogy
7. FitzChivalry Farseer from the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

"Fitz is such a great and believable character [because] his story is told as if he's the main character, although he's technically a minor one. We have a bastard stablehand to show us what he thinks happened. Fitz doesn't marry a princess, win a war single-handedly and get crowned as a loved king like so often happens with fantasy stories that start with an outcast boy. Fitz is not perfect. He loves and fears and makes mistakes and is stubborn and doubts himself just like any of us." - Mervi

"He's deeply flawed. He's relentless in pursuing the paths that he deems 'correct' and he's as stubborn as all hell. He's essentially naive and somehow, despite all the incredible ordeals he survives, a part of that innocence always remains with him. He is the truest 'everyman' character I have ever come across. Whether it be abuse, love, self torture, foolishness or ignorance, most people will find something in Fitzchivalry to connect strongly with." - jesic

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2001: A Space Odyssey
9. HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

"The ultimate in Artificial Intelligence run amok due to mans' programming" - Arassuil

"Tried to fulfill his mission but those darn humans kept getting in the way! So, he killed them" - Doug Gogerty

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The Hobbit
10. Gollum (Smeagol) from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"A tormented little wretch who mutters to himself in the dark, Gollum nevertheless manages to evoke sympathy from many readers with his loneliness and loss. Although clearly insane by any normal standards, he has one thing that he can rely on, his precious. Gollum loves the small ring he received on his birthday beyond all else, and when we leave him in the dark at the end of the chapter, his cries of betrayal and loneliness echoing through the goblin tunnels, we cannot help but think of those times that we have felt that same sense of loss" - omikapsi

"An understandable, likeable, unlikable character" - Alicia GA

"Love him or hate him, you've got to admit that Gollum is a thoroughly interesting character and one can't help but feel for him" - itsacthing

And by popular demand, we have decided to print further results of the vote for the sake of reader interest:

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Dark Tower
11. Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King

12. The Terminator from The Terminator by James Cameron

13. Ged from the Earthsea series by Ursula K. LeGuin

13. King Arthur from Arthurian legends by various authors

15. Cugel the Clever from Cugel's Saga and other works by Jack Vance

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16. Batman from Batman by DC Comics and creator Bob Kane

16. Odysseus (Ulysses) from The Odyssey by Homer

18. Mat Cauthon from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

18. Severian from The Book of New Sun by Gene Wolfe

18. Steerpike from Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

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Fool's Errand
18. The Fool from The Farseer and Tawny Man Trilogies by Robin Hobb

18. Thomas Covenant from The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson

23. Dr. Ransom from Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

23. Slippery Jim DiGriz from The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

25. Captain Sam Vimes from Guards! Guards! and other works by Terry Pratchett

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Fahrenheit 451
25. Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

25. The Weaver from Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

25. Turin Turambar from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

25. Valentine Michael Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

30. Ash from the Evil Dead films by Sam Raimi

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30. Duncan Idaho from Dune by Frank Herbert

30. Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

33. Ender Wiggin from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

33. Jedi Master Yoda from the Star Wars films by George Lucas

35. Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon

35. Legolas Greenleaf from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

35. Rincewind from the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett

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38. Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell

38. Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

38. Jerry Cornelius from The Cornelius Quartet by Michael Moorcock

38. Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

38. Orlando Gardiner from Otherland by Tad Williams

38. Paul Atreides (Muad'Dib) from Dune by Frank Herbert

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Game of Thrones
38. Tyrion Lannister from Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

46. Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

46. Aviendha from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

46. Kid from Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

46. Paksenarrion from The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon

46. The Doctor from Doctor Who on BBC Television

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The Summer Tree
51. Diarmuid from The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

51. G'Kar from Babylon 5

51. Gully Foyle from The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

54. Charlie Gordan from Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

54. Croaker from The Black Company by Glen Cook

54. Dominic Flandry from Agent of the Terran Empire by Poul Anderson

54. Elijah Bailey from The Caves of Steel and other works by Isaac Asimov

54. Kilgore Trout from various works by Kurt Vonnegut

54. Peter Wiggin from Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

54. Polgara the Sorceress from Queen of Sorcery and other workds by David Eddings

54. Raistlin Majere from Dragonlance by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

54. Silk from Magician's Gambit by David Eddings

63. Amaranth from The Lady of Skulls by Patricia McKillip

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The Prince of Nothing
63. Anasūrimbor Kellhus from The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker

63. Clark Savage Jr. ("Doc" Savage) from The Man of Bronze by Kenneth Robeson

63. Mia Havero from Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin

63. Morgan Le Fay from Arthurian legends by various authors

63. Mudge the Otter from Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster

63. Predator from Predator by John McTiernan

63. Randall Flagg from The Stand by Stephen King

63. Sam from Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny

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Star Trek
63. Spock from Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

63. Ullii from Well of Echoes by Ian Irvine

63. Winston Smith from 1984 by George Orwell

75. Cerebus from Cerebus by Dave Sim

75. Cnaiur from The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker

75. Cornelius from Planet of the Apes by Franklin J. Schaffner

75. Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling

75. Ixtl from Voyage of the Space Beagle by Alfred E. Van Vogt

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Winter's Tale
75. Master Eremis from The Mordant Duo by Stephen Donaldson

75. Peter Lake from Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin

75. Rand al'Thor from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

75. Raven from The Black Company by Glen Cook

75. Rick Deckard from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick

75. Tryfan from The Duncton Trilogy by William Horwood