Tag Archives: Tim Akers

MIND MELD: What is the Literary Appeal of Gods, Goddesses and Myths?

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

This week on The SF Signal Mind Meld, the Melders got mythical:

Q: Gods, Goddesses and Myths: From Rick Riordan to Dan Simmons, the popularity of Gods, Goddesses and Mythology, especially but not limited to Classical Greco-Roman and Norse mythology seems as fresh as ever. What is the appeal and power of mythological figures, in and out of their normal time? What do they bring to genre fiction?

Here’s what they said:

Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig is a novelist, screenwriter, and game designer. He is the author of such novels as Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Blue Blazes, and Under The Empyrean Sky. He is an alumni of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. He is the co-author of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus and developer of the game Hunter: The Vigil. He lives in Pennsyltucky with wife, son, and two dopey dogs. You can find him on Twitter @ChuckWendig and at his website, terribleminds.com, where he frequently dispenses dubious and very-NSFW advice on writing, publishing, and life in general.

Here’s why gods and goddesses and spirits and elves and all the creatures of all the mythologies matter:

Because they’re the original stories.

Right? We’re going to take as accepted the idea that stories have the power to change the world. That stories are how we communicate and share ideas – in that sense, storytelling is a powerful memetics delivery system by which we push enlightenment (and increasingly, entertainment) onto one another.

The original stories were the stories of us trying to explain our world. It’s mythology to us, now, but to the people telling those stories, the tales delivered a kind of enlightenment (and I’m sure given some of the hilariously sordid melodrama of mythology, they were also entertainment). Mythology explained everything from why the sun rose and fell to why mankind did all the curious and seemingly inexplicable things that it did.

All we’re really trying to do as storytellers is explain ourselves and say things about the world. (This is, of course, an expression of the literary theme – the theme being the argument we’re trying to make with our narrative.) That’s what connects us to the myths of the past and more importantly, the myth-tellers. It’s no surprise then that sometimes our fiction – say, Gaiman’s American Gods – re-explores those ideas and those characters in fresh, fascinating ways.

Though it’s also no surprise that we seek to make our own mythologies, either — mythologies either cobbled together from what has already come (repurposing the myths and divinities of the past is by no means unique to this age!) or pulled fresh out of the ether. Though there you’ll find a troubling idea – future humans digging up a copy of our fantasy fiction (the best or the worst of it) and thinking, This must be the mythology of the 21st century barbarians. A religion based on Tolkien or Rowling? Or a religion based on Twilight? Hmm…

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MIND MELD: What You Should Know About Speculative Fiction and Mainstream Acceptance (Part 2)

[Note: Continued from Part 1.]

Recent events and discussions once again bring the topic of genre fiction’s mainstream respectability to the forefront. So we thought it’d be timely to ask this week’s panelists:

Q: In your opinion, does literary science fiction and fantasy have mainstream respect? Why, if at all, does it need mainstream approval? What would such approval mean for genre fiction?

Read on to see their eye-opening responses…

Lucius Shepard
Lucius Shepard is a writer who lives in Vancouver. The Best of Lucius Shepard, a career retrospective, is now available from Subterranean Press, and next year will see the publication of a new as yet untitled novel.

I don’t believe mainstream approval would or will do much for genre fiction. It appears to do quite well in the marketplace as things stand, and lumping it together with the mainstream might, heaven forfend, see a decline in the sale of fantasy trilogies. There are authors-Tom Disch springs to mind-who have/had literary aspirations that such approval might have helped, at least as far as gaining them the respect of the literary establishment, but would it have sold more of their books? Perhaps, but who can say?

Does genre fiction have mainstream respect? Not so much, but it’s gaining respect, I think, in certain quarters thanks to folks like Junot Diaz and Michael Chabon. The previous generation of American writers didn’t like to admit they were nerds and geeks ; they were still trapped in antiquated self-images, considering themselves junior Hemmingways and Woolfs, and were threatened by anything that might erode those images; but the fact that both Diaz and Chabon seem to embrace their inner geek has prompted a number of their peers to come out of the closet and admit what an influence Steven King, say, had on their writerly lives and, in several cases, to write genre novels. Yet there are instances today where a writer has felt he had to escape the genre. Take Jonathan Lethem, for example. I feel you can’t generalize intelligently about this topic-it’s such an individual matter. For instance, not all writers are capable of being the self-promoters that Lethem was/is (and I mean this in the most positive sense.) Tom Disch, for sure, wasn’t capable of it. Though he could be charming, his personality was far too prickly for mass consumption.

My own attitude is this. I enjoy writing. I’m fortunate enough to have made a living at it for 25 years. I don’t write to be respected-I write to tell stories I find interesting, to communicate a mood, to resolve inner turmoil, and for a variety of personal reasons, not least among them being that I suck at holding down a steady job. Mainstream respect for what I write would be nice, but I simply haven’t cared about it enough to do doggie tricks. It’s no big deal one way or another.

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