The Three Fates anthology is coming out next week, and there’s already a contest up for it at Stumbling Over Chaos so, WHOOSH! Yeah– first of all, July just flew by at warp speed, and second of all, yeah– so soon after Sidecar, it really does feel like I hauled ass this winter!
Anyway, the Three Fates anthology was sort of a fun project, and for those off you who haven’t read Andrew Grey and Mary Calmes, (as if!) this is a great introduction to two awesome writers. (Okay, I have to say that– they’re my FRIENDS, and Mary is my sister of the heart! But they’re both good writers- SWEAR!) Anyway Andrew had this idea that the three of us should each take a concept, and then write our own story based on it, and since there were three of us, the Three Fates were a perfect idea! (As I said in the dedication? Yeah. All Grey’s idea. This is in case things go wrong. Otherwise, we ALL came up with it, right?)
Anyway–and I know I’ve said this elsewhere–but one of the coolest things about this is that when we were writing our stories, we each picked a different mythology to concentrate on. Andrew went with Greek mythology, Mary picked Egyptian, and I picked Norse. It was especially fun for me, I think, because the Fates were spinners and weavers, and although I am a knitter, we all do love our yarn, so I got to throw in a little bit of that here and there for the story, and that was enjoyable too!
Now, I finished my story at the end of January–many months before The Avengers came out and the biggest fanfic craze since Wincest began. And, of course, Andrew proposed this idea back in October, LONG before the terrible kerfluffle over Bear, Otter, and the Kid, and so, as I was writing, I had no self-consciousness whatsoever about bringing in the three Norse fates (Verdandi, Urdh, and Skuld) and then adding Thor and Loki to the mix. Wasn’t that what this was about? Writing about mythology?
|Achilles mourns Patroclus– trust me, it’s important later.|
It wasn’t until after the kerfluffle that I started to think about fan-fiction, and I made a somewhat startling observation. Now, in my discussion of the kerfluffle, I said that Shakespeare wrote fan-fiction and we loved him for it–and it’s true. Many of Shakespeare’s plots and characters were taken from Hollinshed’s chronicles, but he gave dialog, conflict and humanity to what had been originally presented as simple dry narrative. What I hadn’t realized until this story was in editing was that mythology as a whole, was, in fact, a stunning example of fan fiction gone right.
Mythology, is the fanfic of the gods.
Yup, you heard me. Want some specific examples to back up that sweeping generalization? Here you go!
|The Three Norns|
Let’s start with the myths themselves. Myths had three pretty basic uses, back in the day– they explained how the world worked, taught a lesson, or entertained. Now we all know that the hypotheses for how the world worked were poetic, yet, alas, scientifically untrue, and that the lesson was usually “don’t fuck with the gods and even if you don’t fuck with the gods that doesn’t mean they won’t still fuck you!” That leaves the third function– and in a way, the most important function. Fiction is important to civilization as a whole. Whether we are children or adults, we see ourselves in the stories we’re told, and when we see ourselves, we either see who we want to be, or who we want to grow beyond. Modern studies tell us that fiction makes people more empathetic and more imaginative. Three thousand years ago, when people gathered around a campfire, or a storyteller’s chair, or a theatre, they were there to imagine themselves a part of the human race, and to figure out how to be better humans, whether or not the gods decided to fuck with them this week or the next. It’s sort of a noble calling, when you think of it like that.
So the storyteller was an important person to the development of mythology. The storyteller slanted the story–what moral shall we learn from this story today? Better proof of the importance of the storyteller couldn’t be found than in the three major storytellers who spoke of the Fall of Troy.
|Homer, looking properly important|
Homer is, of course, the first one, and I love the very idea of him. I think of him, blind (okay– that’s been disputed, but I always think of him as blind), listening to the world around him, learning enough about human nature to see the entire glory of what was ancient history, even to him, sprawled inside his head like a technicolor panorama shot in 3-D. Homer is the most passionate of the storytellers, and even when he’s talking about Paris, choosing between the three goddesses, his voice has the ring of compassion. Of course Paris is going to take the bribe of Helen and choose Aphrodite. Why wouldn’t he? He’s young and handsome and he wants to get laid, is that really so bad? It is Homer’s voice that makes the Iliad and the Odyssey ring with passion–he wanted us to see the gods as fallible and the humans as great. When those ships left Greece to sack Troy, he wanted us to know the breadth and depth of the sacrifice, the majesty of all those men fighting for king and country. When Homer took those stories he’d grown up on, and wove them into one cohesive whole, he wanted us to celebrate our humanity, and dammit, that’s what we do!
|Ovid, looking like a 70’s porn vid extra|
Ovid’s voice when he deals with the matter in Metamorphoses is not nearly so fiery. For him, Troy boils down to some political maneuvering, some dead heroes and a dead baby at the end: the sum total of ten years of sacrifice. Of course, Ovid had a different agenda when telling his story. Ovid wanted to A. Comment on the hypocrisy of emperors, and B. Bang their wives (or, you know, bang someone. The man was married three times, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t known for his fidelity. And let’s just say that there are rumors still floating around about his exile from Rome.) Ovid had to stay detached–he was not as into the glory of battle as he was into the subtle maneuverings of kings and the futility of imposing sexual morality on creatures not cowed by religion. (He had a point– the gods appeared to be both omnisexual and highly promiscuous. Why couldn’t humans play by the same rules?) Anyway, his account of Troy is only a part of his general account of one thing changing into another– Troy fell so that Rome may rise, and wasn’t that good for Ovid, because he got to participate in the glory of Rome?
|Virgil, looking very politically
Virgil, on the other hand, was trying to illustrate a moral Rome. (This made him far more popular with his emperor than Ovid. Virgil got canonized, Ovid got exiled. 2000 years later, guess who’s getting more play, I dare you!) In order to show Aeneas’s adventures in a moral light, we need to see the poor boy leaving the decadent Dido, Queen of Carthage to pine while he goes on to establish a new and shining city. His gods are a bit more sober, and they do not play as gleefully in the lives of mortals as Homer’s. Of course, if some scholars were right, and Homer really HAD been blind since birth, then Homer knew all about the whim of the gods, didn’t he?
|Yes. Those ARE manly bits, why?|
But my point is not which one of these guys was the bigger player– my point was that all of these guys played in the fan fiction sandbox with the celebrities of the ancient world: the gods. That the fall of Troy happened? That is indisputable. That it all started when three goddesses asked a vain and horny young man which one was the most beautiful? That is a work of fan fiction–and what a glorious one it was.
|Not Chris Chemsworth, but IS Thor!|
So, when I got a chance to write about the Three Fates? Color me honored. I got to bone up on my Poetic Edda, and read a little bit of extra mythology, and generally make my Fates and my Thor and Loki, my creations. I had fun. Did I have any qualms about slashifying Thor and Loki together? Oh hells no. (Yes. People still say that. In Northern California, people say it all the time, because we DO live in a time warp, and we DO say things like “sick” and “excellent” and “rad”, even though the rest of the world traps those expression in retro movies.) Achilles and Patroclus have been slashified ad infinitum. Apollo has been slashified with every young man he ever met– and several young women! (Love that Hyperion– he was not just a player, he was an equal opportunity seducer. I pity the guys he hooked up with– things didn’t work out so well for Anemone or Kyrissos if I recall, but still– brother swung both ways!) The idea of slashing Thor and Loki as mirrors for my two heroes, Hacon and Leif? Was as natural as having Skuld spit-splice the futures of the mortals caught up in the loom of the gods.
So yes– I used someone else’s characters in my own work as secondary, mirror characters for my own. And in doing so, I followed a long, proud tradition of mythology. Robin McKinley said (and I’m gonna mangle this) that heroes are who they are needed to be by the people of their time. That has stuck with me. Two-hundred years ago, maybe we didn’t need Thor and Loki to be rockin’ Valhalla with the sex of the gods… Today? Following through on that angry chemistry is important for some of us– that is the mythology I shall tell. Writing fan fiction for the gods is hardly new–and while I doubt I’ll be as influential as Homer, Virgil, Ovid, or Shakespeare, I know that when I make my lighthearted stab at mythology and romance, I am at least in the best of company.