On evil: most villains in sci-fi/fantasy -- or hell, any genre of fiction, period -- inspire no fear or hate in me.
Take Sauron in Lord of the Rings. Oh, everyone'll cower at the mention of his name. We know he commands a vast army of unwashed, wicked orcs and the spoooky Ringwraiths. We know that, if he wins, he'll cover Arda in eternal darkness. So what? Boo-freaking-hoo. I don't bloody care. Sauron's not threatening. He's just there. He doesn't hurt a character that I can empathize with; he doesn't harm a character that I have come to care about. He just hovers there at the edge of the plot. (Partly, his lack of oomph has to do with the fact that I can't bring myself to give a fig about Tolkien's characters, as I think they are all flat, annoying, and tedious to read about. But again, another separate rant altogether.)
I haven't found many villians who inspire cold hatred or fear within the pages of many books. In fact, I've been sitting here trying to recall *any* character who scared me enough to make a lasting impression. The only one that comes to mind is evil's representation in Stephen King's "The Stand". But it's been quite some time since I read it. However, the Silmarillion, and the LOTRs was written back during World War I. The audience was different, times are not the same, nor are people's expectations and attitudes about what defines evil.
Tolkien set out to show how man (in a mythological setting) can corrupt natural beauty. How mankind manipulates his setting and the various impact that manipulation has on our environment and our future. I don't think it was his intent to inspire hatred or fear as much as to show the destructive side of human nature.
However, in today's fantasy genre you will find cookie-cutter models of evil overlords. In the suspense and psychological thriller genres, I think evil's face is more malevolent than in fantasy stories and has subtler implications which, for me, inspire a bit more fear.
When Tolkien's LOTRs was published, it turned out to be an anomaly of sorts. Critics called it a fairytale that got out of hand. And in a way they might have been correct since Tolkien's publishers asked him to write a book for children. Tolkien, being a linguist, already had the Silmarillion in outline form (which is the background history of his LOTRs). The Hobbit was a story he had written solely for his children and never intended it to be published. After his trilogy ended up being a success, he wrote the final chapters for The Hobbitt and it was thereafter published.
I think Tolkien's genius lies in his ability to create a fantasty realm where we can see our own destructive nature and its impact on not only the environment but ourselves as a race.
Faralas <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/mage.gif" alt="" />