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Topic: 2012 Fantasy Challenge -- Mythopoeia and Mythic Fiction Discussion

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Subject: 2012 Fantasy Challenge -- Mythopoeia and Mythic Fiction Discussion
Date Posted: 12/1/2011 4:29 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Please post all your discussion of books filling this category in this thread.

 

Some Useful Definitions

Mythopoeia and Mythic Fiction: Mythopoeia is a narrative genre in modern literature where a fictional mythology is created by the writer of prose or other fiction. The authors in this genre integrate traditional mythological themes and archetypes into fiction. Mythic Fiction is literature that is rooted in, inspired by, or that in some way draws from the tropes, themes and symbolism of myth, folklore, and fairy tales.

Epic poem: An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation.
Revisionist fairy tale: Revisionism is the retelling of a story or type of story with substantial alterations in character or environment, to "revise" the view shown in the original work. Many revisionist fairy tales reexamine the tale from a feminist or anti-racist perspective.
Shared universe: A shared universe is a fictional universe to which more than one writer contributes. Work set in a shared universe share characters and other elements with varying degrees of consistency. Shared universes are NOT the same as collaborative writing, in which multiple authors work on a single story.
The Inklings: The Inklings was an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford, England, for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949. A list of Inklings can be found here.

 

LISTS ONLY thread can be found here.



Last Edited on: 12/1/11 4:45 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/14/2011 7:00 PM ET
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Can anyone think of any retellings for American, African, Caribbean, or Oceanic myths?

I can think of plenty of books influenced by or using elements of those myths, but not many actual retellings other than picture books. 

An African retelling would be Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord, but I read that last year.  I put down Wicked for the American retelling, but even if that was a myth rather than a movie, it fits better into the "Revisionist fairy tale" category.



Last Edited on: 12/14/11 11:02 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/14/2011 7:56 PM ET
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P'raps Southern Gods, by John Horner Jacobs, for American? Haven't read it, but from what I heard it sounds like it draws from "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (yes, the Charlie Daniels song), which Charlie Daniels says he might have been inspired to write from a poem called "The Mountain Whippoorwill," by a poet I've never heard of but who is also American. . . I know at its core it's just a Faustian bargain story, but it seems like there're enough explicitly American versions of that story (and usually Southern) for it to count. . .

I would imagine any of Nalo Hopkinson's novels should count for Caribbean. . .

And I know they *look* like SF, but apparently Sandra McDonald's series starting with The Outback Stars uses Australian aboriginal myth "extensively" (at least, according to the Great God Wikipedia).

For Africa I'm afraid I'm stumped since you've already read Redemption in Indigo. I will admit to creating that category partly in the hopes that other people would give *me* ideas for these categories! ;)

Oh, but you can always use a book of folktales/fables from that region to fill those categories. . . they're retellings too, after all, because for the most part folk tales don't *have* a definitive version. :D

Date Posted: 12/15/2011 5:04 PM ET
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Egypt is in Africa.  Surely someone has to have written something about Isis, Osiris or the pharaohs.  But the only one I can think of is Anubis Gates and I don't think that's even close to a retelling.

Hmm.  Southern Gods sounds interesting.  And I'd probably count that as American too. (And it is a book by a small press.)

 I've heard of Nalo Hopkinson but never really paid much attention.  The Salt Roads in particular sounds like it'll fit.  Not sure about McDonald's though.

I just thought of an American one for those who like funny books.  Christopher Moore's Coyote Blue.  I'm not a fan of Moore's style of humor, but, the Coyote legend is varied enough that if you have wackiness, a lesson and a coyote, nearly anything is a retelling.

Depending on how strict you wanted to be with the myth/folklore connection, McCrumb's She Walks these Hills that I read earlier this year could also work for American.  It switches back and forth between the modern world and the story of a early pioneer woman kidnapped by Indians, who'd escaped and was trying to get home.  The historical half of the story is the composite of several true stories.  It's very light on the fantasy element.  Some of the later books in the series might work as well, but She Walks these Hills was one of my favorites. 

Date Posted: 12/16/2011 3:01 AM ET
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Oh, hey, N.K. Jemisin's next series is set in an Egypt-analogue. . . though actually I think I may have heard that she explicitly avoided drawing on Egyptian myths/religion for fear of cultural appropriation, so maybe not. . .

Date Posted: 1/6/2012 8:33 PM ET
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Oooo! Here's a based-in-African-mythology title for you, Melanti:

The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi.

And Oyeyemi has another title based in a Cuban myth: The Opposite House

I haven't read anything by Oyeyemi (yet), but she's somebody I've heard praised round abouts the internet. . . ;)

Date Posted: 1/6/2012 10:37 PM ET
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Yay! More choices!  I really do want to do this category.  I'll resort to one or two collections if I have to but I don't want to read nothing but collections.

I haven't read anything by Oyeyemi yet either but I've had one of her other books, White is for Witching, on my wish list for the last year.  These both look interesting.

Here's the results of my searching so far:

The House of Discarded Dreams Sc by Ekaterina Sedia (author of Secret History of Moscow) Some info on this seems to indicate it's just mythological creatures that are incorporated, and other places say it's entire folktales from Zimbabwe.  This is getting compared to Catherynne Valente (presumably similar to The Orphan Tales) and Crowley's Little, Big.  These are really big claims for the book to live up to.

Orphans of Eldorado by Milton Hatoum - Legend about a emerald city at the bottom of the Amazon that is probably where the legend of El Dorado got started.  Reviews are lackluster and seem to indicate that there's issues with the translation, but it lead me to the Canongate Myths series which has some interesting books in it, though, alas, the others don't help much on this challenge.

Date Posted: 1/6/2012 11:34 PM ET
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Oooo, I actually have The House of Discarded Dreams on Mt. TBR. . . I've heard the same thing about Sedia, and since I love Valente with a passion. . . ;)

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 4:09 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
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From my actual own TBR (yeah me!) I wonder if this might be an option for European myths:

 
But probably no one needs help with Europe.


Last Edited on: 1/10/12 4:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/10/2012 5:39 PM ET
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Europe and Asia are pretty easy.  Europe has the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Brothers Grimm after all.  

But feel free to suggest!  It looks like it would fit and maybe someone will want something more historical too.   Even if someone has a dozen things that would fit already, you might inspire them to add one more.

Personally, I like it when this challenge adds more to my TBR pile.  It may be counterproductive, but it's fun.

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 7:12 PM ET
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Sister Kate- is a novel about Ned Kellys sisters and what she went through, Ned Kelly was real but alot of these stories also deal with the folklore surrounding him.  Can't get anymore Australian folklore then Ned Kelly.

Date Posted: 1/29/2012 5:41 PM ET
Member Since: 8/21/2010
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This is my first time attempting this challenge (or knowing of it, truth be told). For point of clarification, does the retold myth have to occur in the nation of origin? For example, in Percy Jones, the myth is Greek, but takes place in the US. Would that be American or Greek?

 

Thanks,

Chris

Amy
Date Posted: 1/30/2012 1:16 AM ET
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Chris, I don't think location matters. Quite often, I would imagine, myth re-tellings would involve another place and another time.

Welcome to the challenge! :)

Date Posted: 1/30/2012 5:23 PM ET
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Amy's right; part of the fun of mythic retellings (for me at least) is to see some sort of transposition of the story into a new setting. ;) Welcome!

Date Posted: 1/30/2012 11:23 PM ET
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Fabulous! That should make it a bit more attainable. It will be a challenge for me just to break out of high fantasy (where I probably read 40 books a year without batting an eye). We'll see how this goes. Thanks :)

Date Posted: 1/31/2012 1:46 PM ET
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I just finished Kij Johnson's The Fox WomanIt's similar to the original Little Mermaid fairytale but with Japanese culture and kitsune instead of mermaids.  It's beautiful in both story and storytelling.

It is a retelling of a traditional Japanese tale, apparently, but it's not one I'm familiar with. 

Date Posted: 2/2/2012 1:23 AM ET
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I would have loved The Fox Woman if it weren't so emotionally devastating. Which, you know, is hardly something to hold against it. ;) Have you read Fudoki?

I just started Redemption in Indigo, for "retelling of an African myth," and which I'm finding utterly delightful so far.

Date Posted: 2/2/2012 1:20 PM ET
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It is certainly emotionally devastating, which is why I compared it to the original "The Little Mermaid” as opposed to the sugary Disney version.  Horrible and wonderful at the same time.  But I like sad books as long as there’s a reason for it.  I won’t be pleased if the characters are just sitting around and feeling sorry for themselves but I dislike sappiness or forced happiness just as much.

I haven't read Fudoki yet.  I've been keeping my eye out for a copy ever since I got The Fox Woman about a year ago, but haven't run across it yet.  With how much I loved The Fox Woman, I'm probably going to be impatient and buy it online now.  

I was a bit disappointed in Redemption in Indigo.  Not that it wasn’t good, it just didn’t quite live up to my hopes for it.  It was a book that grew on me as I read it rather than something that I was enthralled with from the beginning.  I’m glad you’re liking it though!

Date Posted: 2/2/2012 2:41 PM ET
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It's actually reminding me a bit of Sean Stewart. . . totally different settings, of course, but both it and Stewart's contemporary fantasy have a really strong, distinctive voice, which I am absolutely loving.

I've actually never read the original version of The Little Mermaid. . . but I was a little buit familiar with the role of kitsune in Japanese mythology, so I never looked for parallels in Western folklore. I should see how the kitsune are categorized in that folklore classification system. . .

Date Posted: 2/2/2012 3:45 PM ET
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The original "Little Mermaid" reminds me of The Fox Woman due to mood, not plot points though there's a bit of similarity there too with the shapeshifter aspect. 

The mermaid trades her voice for legs and the ability to dance but every step she takes, it feels like she's walking on sharp swords.  Yet, the prince loves to see her dance, so she does and ignores the pain. 

The prince swears he won't marry the princess -- he'll only marry the woman that rescued him from the storm.  The mermaid didn't stick around to see him awaken after she rescued him, so the prince thinks a woman from the temple had done so.  The mermaid thinks he's going to marry her but when the princess turns up, they discover that she's the woman the prince thinks rescued him.  The prince and princess live happily ever after, and the mermaid dies of heartbreak. 

It's a very sad story.

I can see the Karen Lord/Sean Stewart similarity a bit but I read Redemption in Indigo a few months before any of Stewart's modern fantasies so they wouldn't have been on my mind.  I love Stewart, but since all of his modern fantasies I've read so far are set in/around my town, I have this urge to nitpick ("The bus doesn't even GO down that street!" or "The town is called 'The Woodlands' not 'Woodland'!" or "No one I know talks like that!" ).  He gets a lot right, but he also gets a lot wrong.  I’m looking forward to reading non-local books by him though.  I won't have anything to nitpick. 

Date Posted: 2/20/2012 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 8/21/2010
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Mythopoeia and Mythic Fiction
1. Read an epic poem. The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (Penguin Classics)
2. Read a retelling of a European myth. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
3. Read a retelling of an Asian myth.
4. Read a retelling of an African myth. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman Completed 2/8
5. Read a retelling of an American myth.
6. Read a retelling of an Oceanic myth.
7. Read a retelling of a Caribbean myth.
8. Read a revisionist fairy tale. Wicked
9. Read something set in a shared universe.
10. Read something by one of the Inklings.

Date Posted: 2/20/2012 8:55 PM ET
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Anansi Boys - This is the story of a boy who found out that his father was Anansi - the spider of African myth. Then he finds out that he has a brother that he never had, who turns out to be a lot like Anansi. This is a book that I probably would not have picked up if it were not for this challenge. It isn't really the type of book that grabs my attention. But, how challenging is it if you stick with what you know? This book would also fit into the "protagonist of color" category from the main character section. It is a modern fantasy that is set in both London and Florida. I found myself disliking the brother character immensly. His "tricks" were cruel and yet no one but the main character seemed to see that. I kept waiting for either the main character to have a complete breakdown, or for the brother to die. This was not a good start for me in a newish category. But, should you want to try it out, it is hanging out in my bookshelf waiting for a new home.

Date Posted: 2/22/2012 3:41 PM ET
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Any ideas for a direction to look in for shared universe books?  Looks like I'm going to be trying this category and I'm at a loss - I understand the idea, but don't really know of any examples.  Thanks!

Date Posted: 2/22/2012 5:06 PM ET
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Liavek, Borderland, and Thieves' World are ones I'm considering. . . and then there're always the more famous comic universes, Star Trek & Star Wars, and the Cthulhu Mythos. . .

Date Posted: 2/22/2012 6:07 PM ET
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PhoenixFalls  stole good ones off my list.  The only things I might add are the massive series based off RPGs, like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.

I think you could make a case that anthologies of work by various authors set in an established universe (aka pro fan anthologies) would be a “shared universe” anthology, even though the main series itself isn’t shared.  Examples:
Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar universe anthologies ( Sun In Glory (A Valdemar Anthology) , Crossroads and Other Tales of Valdemar , etc.)
Eric Flint’s 1632 series (Grantville Gazette anthologies )
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover ???  (I could have sworn there was a multi-author Darkover anthology, but I can’t find any info on it.)
There’s plenty of works like these, I just can’t think of more off the top of my head.  Though usually you wouldn’t want to read them unless you’ve read the actual series.

I’m not sure on the following.  These are probably more collaborations/continuations than a true shared universe:
Philip Jose Farmer’s The Dungeon series
Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz series.

 Here’s another question… If The Wizard of Oz counts as a shared universe, would an alternate version of this, like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked count?  Though I’ve heard horrible things about Wicked, so who knows if I’ll ever read it.

 

Bordertown is at the top of my list for this category.

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