I once wrote an article about the origins of fantasy, namely mythology. It was many years ago, under a different name, still existing in cyber space somewhere, and it makes me cringe a little if I think about it. Not because my ideas were wrong, but because I, as a writer, have increased my skills so much in the last ten years or so that the old article just looks bad.
It’s a good reminder of where I was, and were I am, and hopefully a prelude of where I am going.
I loved mythology as a child. I couldn’t get enough of Greek and Roman gods causing wars, cheating, turning people to stone, and wrecking the world around them, or saving it at a whim.
There was the bittersweet love story of Psych and Eros. A woman who’s curiosity, and distrust, deprived her of the wonderful love given to her by a god.
There was the Trojan horse, and a war fought all in the name of love (or ownership) of the beautiful Helen of Troy.
There were the heroes, like Hercules, and Perseus, who braved mythical beasts and crossed entire continents to fulfill their quests.
In each of these stories we see the first structures of modern day tales. Romance, quests, revenge, war, suffering. Each an intrinsic part of the human narrative. Each a part of what has made our history.
When I wrote Forgotten Ones I attempted to pull on subtle hints of these gods, to capture their struggle with each other, and with the humanity which myth said they created.
That battle, in many ways, is real. Created from primordial pools of DNA, evolving into thinking, feeling, creative individuals, we still struggle against the world, the universe, that created us, and against one another. Massive natural disasters. Fires. Floods. Wars. Famines. The list goes on…
Struggle is what makes a book interesting. Overcoming adversity, and beating the odds. Whether it is a god, a goddess, or a human being.
And why shouldn’t the ancient myths reflect a very real struggle between man and the environment? Ancient men labored closer to, and had greater fear of, the wild places then we do in this day. They did not have guns to protect them, or metal sky scrapers to take them up above the wilds. They didn’t have planes, and satellites to tell them when the waters would rise, or crops fail.
But it’s a new age. The weather seems to be changing drastically with every turn of the clock. Tsunamis, fires, sinkholes, and even meteors pose real threats to people. So now we’re creating our own mythology in movies like “Dante’s Peak” and “Armageddon”. And it makes sense. Our myths are based on science, instead of gods, even if the science is faulty.
I think one of the reasons the old myths are so interesting is the human quality of a god or goddess. Maybe they are more powerful, invincible, and immortal, but they still love, and hate, and fight. They still have emotions. Something an equation, or a volcano can not do. You can reason with a god, or trick them. A volcano will blow no matter what you do, or what you promise.
So, yes, fantasy and story telling started with those great myths from the past. They started with fears, hopes, and dreams of men who came long before us. But we are continuing on in their fashion, fighting against the shadows in the night with words, and hope in the form of new stories, and new myths.