Ad Astra Day 1: Myth-information in modern fantasy

Friday night session: Myth-information in modern fantasy.

Panel: Marie Bilodeau; Chadwick Ginther; Jen Frankel; Stephen B. Pearl; Katrina Guy

How do authors incorporate traditional lore and myths into their modern-day fantasy settings? Is it possible to make a witch burning pertinent in the twenty-first century? Discuss these, and other inflammatory questions, in this panel.

Sadly, I entered this session a bit late because of my travel turnarounds and check-in delays (and the fact that my room was possibly the furthest removed from the convention centre it could have been :P).

But here’s what I caught:

CG: Manitoba is the province in which there have been the most reported sasquatch sightings.

JF: Native legends are such a rich source of material. The Six Nations Reserve. Hoodoos.

SBP: In Europe and specifically the British Isles, the legends are equally rich. Take the stories of the Bogart.

MB: Why do we, as writers, depend so heavily on mythology? Are we lazy?

SBP: We’re tapping into something universal. Joseph Campbell was a smart man. Think what you will, but look at Robert Jordan’s work, particularly Dragon Reborn. The protagonist is comprised of bits and pieces of multiple mythologies, including Christianity and modern (Superman).

KG: In Simcoe County, there is this swamp which is reported to be haunted. The story goes that a monstrous baby was abandoned there. His spirit now haunts the swamp.

SBP: From the European tradition again, the trope of the unbaptised child recurs. In one instance, the person he haunts names him “Billy Bones,” and it turns out that was all he wanted: a name. Once he was named, his spirit became content and he disappeared.

JF: Where does urban legend cross the line into folktale? When does folktale become myth?

CG: In Winnipeg, there is the urban legend of “the hanging tree” out back of one of the courthouses. This was supposedly where the criminals were hung, but it’s really just a tree where an old tire swing was hung. The rope burn in the trunk was all it took for another, darker story to take hold in the imagination.

Q: There are real figures, such as the Black Donnelleys, that have become legend, tantamount to myth. What is it about these figures that attracts us? Is it the drama of their stories?

SBP: You have to be careful when you draw from myth or legend to stick to the principle, but make the situation suit the world of your novel. For example, I used a Japanese legend, rokurokubi, a demon which is a disembodied flying head. My work is paranormal, and I changed the flying head into the astral projection of a flying head, sent out to terrorize victims.

Q: What about the prevalence of mash-ups in Canadian horror and fantasy? For example, Jesuit priests and vampires?

MB: Myth informs our stories. My educational background is in religious and cultural studies.

SBP: To look at a modern interpretation of classical myth, look at The Almighty Johnsons.

CG: Also the current storyline in Thor comics.

JF: Drawing on myth is about the impact is has on us. For example, “everything comes in threes.” The supernatural tells us something deep about human nature. Mine those lessons for impact.

Q: Is it a challenge to be “boxed in” by mythology?

JF: The traditional, Voudoun zombie has been totally lost in the more modern “plague” zombie, or Romero’s zombies. Authors writing zombie stories now are somewhat constrained by what other authors have done with the trope.

MB: With fantasy, some people say it’s tame. It’s not a political genre. Science fiction is supposedly the avant garde genre, but if you dig down, it still draws on the same material.

CG: Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey is cannon, if sexist.

SBP: The foundational myths go back as far as Aristotle.

KG: Fairy tales aren’t just Disney. I’ve visited a church where they have plaques from their sister church, half-way around the world, and stones from an ancient basilica. These are talismans as much as they are artefacts. We’re in touch with the fantastic every day. We walk past it and fail to recognize it.

JF: We can look back to connect the dots. The historical record. Why is “such and such” considered true? The writer translates this. What makes your character who they are? What makes us (humans) what we are?

SBF: The gift of perspective. Does the rabbit think the fox is “evil”? Extend that into your story’s mythology: is Dracula “evil”?

Q: What do you think of the trend of rewriting the classics with modern horror tropes? For example, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

CG: It’s a fun premise, but at the moment, it’s overdone.

MB: Let’s each give examples of our favourite authors who use mythology to finish off.

KG: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and the Kane chronicles. Tanya Huff.

SBP: Jim Butcher. The Time Life Enchanted Worlds series of books.

JF: 30 Indian Legends; Grimm’s Fairytales; Arthurian Legend.

CG: Gaiman’s American Gods; The Eddas; Song of the Vikings.

MB: The storytelling tradition, in all its variations.

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Sweet mercy, it’s another pupdate

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this topic, so I think a brief revue may be in order.

This has not been a good year and a bit for my poor Nuala.

In January 2013, she ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and had surgery to repair it. Recovering from that, Nu got a urinary tract infection (UTI). She received antibiotics, but a follow up revealed that the problem was not limited to a UTI.

To address what now appeared to be kidney issues, we changed her food to a kidney diet, and started another medication.

She had been on a hypoallergenic diet due to food allergies. Of course, the kidney issues took precedence, but that meant an increase in overall itchiness.

She gave herself an aural haematoma.

Things seemed to get better for a while and Nu behaved as she had when she was several years younger.

Then, in the fall, she got some strange infection in her eye and nose. We went through a couple of rounds of treatment for that, and then Nu injured her other ear with another aural haematoma. Now she has cauliflower ears.

Again, after she recovered from her eye/nose infection, Nu seemed to be happy and well.

In January this year, her kidney function and enzymes were checked and it was determined that she should remain on the kidney food and medication.

I asked for some Mometamax, because I noticed her ears smelled funky. Usually, that’s the first sign of infection. Likely linked to her allergy issues, Nu has problematic ears.

I completed her course of treatment, but as soon as the drops stopped, her symptoms returned. I tried to keep up with the infection by keeping her ears cleaned.

Then came heck month (A.K.A. March), and I was away so much, I couldn’t keep up with the cleaning.

By the end of March, she was clearly in distress. She was shaking her head and her ears were swollen and they smelled purulent.

The first appointment resulted in more Mometamax and an EDTA ear wash to be administered daily.

A week passed and while pus was draining out of her ear (and apparently down her throat), she was definitely not feeling better. It looked like she’d developed pustules in her right ear. She refused some of her favourite foods (another support for the theory that the infection was draining down her throat – how could she enjoy anything when it all tasted like pus?). She was also hacking a lot in the attempt to clear her throat. She started losing her balance.

A second appointment adjusted the topical antibiotic and added an oral antibiotic as well. On the chance that the ear drum had been pierced or ruptured altogether, the Mometamax had to be discontinued.

A third appointment was scheduled and while there are days when she seems to feel better, Nu was not showing signs of marked improvement.

At the vet’s I had Phil weigh her, and Nu had lost 2 KG (approximately 4.5 pounds). We had started feeding her a full can of food (she usually only had a half-can) because that was the only food she’d eat. Her kibble was what she wasn’t eating, and she got a cup morning and evening.

We got an extension on the oral antibiotics to see us through until next Tuesday, when Nu’s been booked in for a full-day stay, light sedation, aural irrigation, her vaccinations (they’re due), and then we’ll see how she is when we pick her up. They might see if they can express and test the fluid from some of the pustules in her ear as well … ick.

Phil and I suspect the eye/nose infection in the fall, that some of the infection may have taken root in her sinuses and stayed dormant for a while. A sub clinical (no physical symptoms) thing.

Nu Sleeping

Nu sleeping in my office (foot of my desk) and healing, I hope.

Since Thursday’s appointment, Nu has been sleeping most of the time. She’s still shaking her head, and now she’s also started whining a bit when she eats biscuits and other harder foods. Unfortunately these are also some of her favourites (carrots).

Phil and I are distressed to see our little dear so sick.

I’ll let you all know how she’s doing in a future post.