Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #17: Mythology in Fantasy

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: mythology in fantasy.

It’s no secret that I love mythology. I just find it absolutely fascinating, no matter the culture. One of my focuses at university was ancient Greek religion, and I also wrote my dissertation on the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis. So today I want to share some fantasy books that are based on or inspired by mythology. Some are set in their respective countries, others are more modern takes, and some invent their own mythology! I also plan on doing a post on various mythological creatures that appear in fantasy in the future.

I found LOADS of books based on Greek mythology, as well as Arthurian legend, but it was quite tricky finding ones based on Egyptian mythology, as most books based on Egypt were ‘historical’ fiction. I say ‘historical’ because the ancient sources and evidence from Ancient Egypt are a lot less concrete than say, the Tudor period.

I also found barely any books based on Roman mythology that weren’t, once again, historical fiction (this time without the speech marks, Romans wrote a lot more down!) – lots of Roman mysteries out there! – but I think that’s because Greek and Roman mythology are very closely entwined. The Romans took a lot of their myths and legends from the Greeks, albeit with different names – and when people talk about the gods they tend to use the Greek names. For example, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon but he would be the son of Neptune if we were talking about it in terms of Roman mythology. So for this reason, I’ve grouped them together.

Greek & Roman Mythology:

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell Ilium by Dan Simmons King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Heroes of Olympus series and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan tell a modern day story of teenagers who discover they are demi-gods. The first focuses on the Roman gods, and the second Greek – implying that the pantheons are totally separate. I absolutely love Rick Riordan’s books, they’re just so much fun and are PERFECT for fans of mythology. David Gemmell’s Troy series is as it sounds – an account of the Trojan War, told from multiple viewpoints. I’ve had the trilogy for years and still haven’t gotten round to reading it… Ilium is the first book in a duology by Dan Simmons, a sci-fi/fantasy account of the Trojan War set on Mars. I loved Simmons’ Hyperion series, and The Iliad is one of my favourite classics, so I need to hurry up and read this one. King of Ithaca by Glyn Iliffe is the tale of Odysseus before the Trojan War – I read this one a few years ago and really enjoyed it. And oh, The Song of Achilles, you beautiful, beautiful book. Madeline Miller has written a haunting love story from the point of view of Patroclus, a Greek prince. Read it and cry.

Egyptian Mythology:

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove

Yep, Rick Riordan has not only written about Greek and Roman mythology, but Egyptian too. His Kane Chronicles tell the story of two siblings with an archaeologist father, who discover that the Egyptian gods are real – and are pretty angry. I haven’t read this series but going on Riordan’s other writing, I really need to. Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White is a book that I spotted on another blog a while ago and promptly forgot about until researching books for this post. It follows a girl who is the human daughter of Isis and Osiris – and the cover is just gorgeous. The Age of Ra by James Lovegrove is another interesting sounding book – it works on the premise that all gods are real – or rather were, until the Egyptian pantheon defeated them all. They now have control over the Earth.

Arthurian Legend:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

A true Arthurian epic, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon is told through the eyes of several women in Arthur’s court. There are actually seven books to the series, the last three finished by a different author, and the first book alone clocks in at just over one thousand pages. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell takes a slightly different take on the familiar story, told after Arthur has been banished from his own kingdom, and Merlin has disappeared. And finally, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper is, unlike the other two books, a children’s tale about siblings who discover clues to finding the Holy Grail. I remember reading this when I was younger, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot about it!

Norse Mythology:

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson Ice Land by Betsu Tobin

Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki is a wonderful retelling of Norse legend, from the point of view of the trickster god Loki. With his tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, he recounts many familiar tales of Scandinavian mythology. The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson follows not Loki, nor any of the other gods, but a human man named Scafloc who must make deals with the ice giants in order to save himself, others and the gods. Now I have to admit when looking for books to fit into with Norse mythology, I was immediately drawn to Ice Land by Betsy Tobin by its gorgeous cover. It’s an epic quest to save the land sort of story, infused with Icelandic history and mythology.

Other:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman The Alchemyst by Michael Scott Smiler's Fair by Rebecca Levene

By ‘other’, I mean completely made-up mythology for the sake of literature, not based on one particular pantheon. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one such example. I want to read this one so badly, Gaiman’s writing is just outstanding and it comes very highly recommended! Whilst the life of Nicholas Flamel is not one of mythology, there are many rumours of his being a legendary alchemist that many stories, including The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. I got this book as a freebie from BristolCon last year, and it has a pretty high Goodreads rating. Unfortunately the author’s name always reminds me of The Office and makes me giggle… And finally, Smiler’s Fair by Rebecca Levene is a new release from Hodder (who ever so kindly sent me a copy!), and features a story of gods reborn as humans. I’m so excited to read this one, so I’m hoping to do so before I go off to university.

Do you have any recommendations for fantasy based on mythology? Do you have a particular favourite branch of mythology or legend? There are so many more books I could have listed, but I just didn’t have enough time!

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Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Recap of BristolCon

Just under a month ago, I went to a fantasy and science fiction convention not far from where I live, called BristolCon – and for today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I want to share my experience with you! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

 

BristolCon is a one day convention, organised by the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, and held annually. It gives those living in the south-west a chance to attend the sort of events we normally miss out on. 2013 was the fifth con, and it has grown from an afternoon to a full day of panels, stalls and other exciting events over the years. You can view the programme here.

Guests this year included: Philip Reeve, Storm Constantine, Mark Buckingham, Sarah Ash, Paul Cornell, Janet Edwards, Jaine Fenn, David Gullen, Emma Newman, Ian Whates, Gareth L. Powell, David J. Rodger and many more. Several of the guests are actually taking part in Sci-Fi Month, which was particularly exciting!

I went to the con with two friends of mine from university, and we started off by browsing the dealers room. The stalls ranged from Forbidden Planet selling books (many of which were signed; I purchased Earth Girl by Janet Edwards and Queen of Nowhere by Jaine Fenn to be signed later on), Crafty Miss Kitty who sells some wonderful jewellery including many Doctor Who themed pieces, PQ Vintage Sci-Fi who had a massive collection of vintage and secondhand sci-fi classics and various other stalls selling sci-fi books, memorabilia, costumes and more. You can view the list of dealers here.

Then we thought we’d consult our programmes and work out which panels to attend. The first thing we knew we wanted to attend for sure were the book signings at 2pm (all authors at once!). I knew I wanted to get my books signed by Jaine Fenn and Janet Edwards, so I made a beeline straight for them. Sadly Janet was nowhere to be found, but I met Jaine and introduced myself, and she was lovely! It was nice to meet someone I’d been speaking to online, and put a face to the ‘voice’ – but I have this horrible shyness around people I admire and once I’d introduced myself I had a bit of a brain freeze… anyway, I just want to take this chance now to say thank you to Jaine for taking part in the event!

One of my friends had a couple of Philip Reeve‘s books, so she got them signed and they had a long chat! I’ve spotted several copies of his Mortal Engines in my local second-hand bookshop, and wish I’d picked at least one up to get signed, but never mind!

At 3pm we went to our first panel, one that immediately stood out to us by name,

because we are mature and responsible adults: ‘How To Poo In A Fantasy Universe and Other Grubby Goings On’. This was moderated by Dev Agarwal, and the panelists were Ben Galley, Myfanwy Rodman, Lor Graham and Max Edwards. It was a discussion on how, often in big fantasy epics, we never see or hear of our beloved protagonists going off to the toilet, or collecting food, or doing basic things like cleaning pots and pans after a meal. Frodo treks across Middle-earth and never once has to stop for a toilet break. Does Han have a bathroom aboard the Millennium Falcon? Does the Death Star even have plumbing? It was a really fun talk (and very true!) – although we did discuss series that do cover such events as well, like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For example, Arya has to make sure she steps well away from the rest of the group to go to the toilet when she’s on the run disguised as a boy, and another rather spoilery moment much later on that I won’t reveal here (but one of the panelists did!). All I will say is that it involves a death, but since it’s a GRRM book that isn’t really a surprise…

Thank you Jaine!

5pm brought with it a talk on ‘Magic in Fantasy’, moderated by Jonathan Wright and featuring Anne Lyle, Storm Constantine, Snorri Kristjansson and Paul Cornell. It was a fantastic talk on fantasy and magic systems, how different authors show magic and which systems we thought were the best. One person suggested the system used in The Name of the Wind, where magic is known as sympathy and requires a sacrifice, and I completely agree!

Another brilliant talk followed, ‘Beyond Arthur’, which was a discussion on folktales and legends that often get ignored in fiction, moderated by Gaie Sebold and featuring Roz Clarke, Catherine Butler, Philip Reeve and Scott Lewis. They discussed many local legends, including variations on how the River Avon got its name (one being that a lady named Avona drowned herself in it after spurned love). It was at this point that I also bumped into Colin, who runs Clarion Publishing, and has been a major help for Sci-Fi Month – he is the one who put me in touch with so many of the authors taking part, so thank you so much Colin!

Our next plan was to head to the quiz (we love quizzes!) which wasn’t until 8.30pm, so we hung out in the bar for the next few hours and just chatted about the day. Whilst we were sat in there I finally spotted Janet Edwards, and managed to grab her just before she left! I explained that I was the one organising Sci-Fi Month, and she told me all about Nara’s interview and one particularly evil question that Nara posed for her! She was lovely and didn’t mind at all that I sort of grabbed her on her way out. And I got my book signed, yay!

And then finally, the quiz! Hosted by Nick WaIters (who has written some Doctor Who novels), it was really fun and a brilliant laugh – me and my two friends had our own team and we did SO badly (we got a grand total of 19 but actually were the losers only by 1 point…). There was an entire round on William Shatner. We know nothing about William Shatner. The round we did really well on? Cats on film. It was a picture round and we had to identify which films the cats were from – Jonesy from Alien, one of the Bond cats etc. We’d been laughing along with the team next to ours, who marked our quiz sheet (sure to draw more laughter), and it turned out one of the members was Ian Whates, who is taking part in Sci-Fi Month! Anyway I introduced myself and he was absolutely lovely. He was very impressed with our feline knowledge.

And that was the end of the con! We arrived back at my friend’s house just after 11pm, a brilliant day only slightly hampered by a constant migraine… And the next day, we went to Bristol Museum (we’re all archaeology graduates so of course) and bumped into Philip Reeve in the museum cafe, as you do (tea and cake were sorely needed). He even recognised us!

Here are my spoils from the weekend:

 

  • Nova by Samuel R. Delany and Limits by Larry Niven – from PQ Vintage Sci-Fi, they had so many amazing vintage and secondhand books for only 50p each so I had to grab a couple at least! We spent a lot of time stood at that stall…
  • The Alchemyst by Michael Scott – this was our freebie book in our goodie bags, and the author kind of makes me giggle because I’ve been watching a lot of The Office US lately (if you’ve not seen it, Michael Scott is the boss, the character played by Steve Carrell). But it does sound good, it’s about Nicholas Flamel!
  • Earth Girl by Janet Edwards – this one has been very highly praised, and Janet is even taking part in Sci-Fi Month. You can win a copy of this one over on Nara’s blog, and read an interview with Janet herself!
  • Queen of Nowhere and Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn – I picked Queen of Nowhere up at the con, and got it signed (see above), but didn’t pick up Consorts of Heaven until the next day (at the £2 Book Shop, it is HEAVEN) so couldn’t get that one signed, sadly! I first encountered Jaine’s writing last year and was really impressed by it.
  • Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts and Douglas Adams – my other £2 Book Shop find, I’ve been wanting to read one of the Classic Who novels for a while and this seemed like a great one to start with.

I also picked up a copy of Dead Angels by Gunnar Roxen, a very friendly author who was at the con. It’s a short novella so I thought it would be a good way of checking out his work. I also got a little fabric owl (I have an owl collection that has mostly come from other people buying me owl stuff ever since I bought an owl bag and matching purse…), and you can see my con badge in the photo too!

And that’s pretty much it for my recap of BristolCon! I had a fantastic time and would love to go again – but I could do without the migraine next time…