Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires clarification or correction, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I will fix things post-hasty.
Panellists: Ada Palmer, Jeffrey Cook, Sheila Finch (moderator), David Farnell, Katie Daniels
SF: Joseph Campbell said that myth and metaphor are the language of dreams. How important is myth in speculative fiction?
JC: The basis of myth is exploration and explanation.
KD: Myth is what endures.
DF: Myth is the story. Science is the vehicle. Even hard science fiction follows mythic patterns.
SF: It’s easy to see the hero’s journey play out in fantasy.
AP: At one point in Jo Walton’s The Just City, a Platonist explains a spaceship to aliens. Myth helps us conceive of alien concepts and means of communication.
JC: Useful myths are universal. They allow us to understand other cultures.
KD: We may have to define most useful. Are we talking about Prometheus or Jason and the Argonauts?
AP: The most useful myths can invoke craftsmanship, finesse.
DF: Do tropes emerge from myths? If you’re writing about Japanese mythology, it’s helpful to dig into the literature and not restrict yourself to what you see in manga.
SF: Jung said that myth conveys a sense of the numinous. They say something different to each person.
DF: Here’s one Japanese myth: the weaver goddess and a cowbird fall in love and stop doing their respective jobs. The Emperor of Heaven separates them, but allows them to reunite in the rainy season. It’s very Romeo and Juliet.
Q: 2001 and Star Wars are myths in their own rights.
AP: Some myths are devoid of awe. Others are full of it. Myths are the metaphysical reality of a world.
Q: What are some of the main themes of myth?
DF: How to deal with death.
JC: A quest of favours. [Mel’s note: In order to achieve the story goal, the protagonist must provide each character who helps her with something they want or need. Things generally get more complicated, and more humorous, as the story progresses, and the series of favours can even be a chain, with the satisfying of one favour being dependent on all the others before. Sometimes the favours cannot be granted until the ultimate goal is accomplished, and then everything falls into place.]
AP: Look for the big questions. Why is there evil? What is death?
And that was time.
Next week: Oceans, the wettest frontier.