Religion and Mythology in Science Fiction and Fantasy
- Debra Killeen
- Ada Milenkovic Brown
- Natania Barron
- Misty Massey
- Jacqueline Carey
- Betty Cross
Why do we see so many various religions in fantasy?
- There’s a lot of appeal to a writer…you can create your own gods
- A lot of wish fulfillment in fantasy - have your gods walk among your characters - more exciting
- Game of thrones - lots of different religions - 7 gods living in harmony w/nature - dualistic God/s
- Richard Adams, Shardick - numinous book - a living faith
- Jacqueline wanted an actual live faith in her story
- Natania sees a D&D aspect - gods as characters vs more of a concept
- Go back to classical mythology - In the Iliad we look at stories as metaphor, but Homer wrote as literal truth – he believed that gods walk among us
- H Hudson Blunt, the Eldrich age, short story - gods show up in Victorian England [if anyone has more detail about this, please share in comments! I was unable to find a reference based on these sketchy notes! :( ]
- Scary when they do! If a God shows up in front of you – you might not really want that!
- Christian Angels are described as scary looking! Not pretty with fluffy white wings
- Have to walk a fine line - it's easy to trip up when you think you know and are wrong
- Belief systems are very emotional and deeply held
- The presence of religion informs the whole culture/world
- Want to be respectful of others’ culture, beliefs
- Important for authors to stretch their own viewpoints, do research, get opinions
- Research, research, research! You don't have to use it all, but it will inform your writing
- Easier when you're doing historical - no one as readily available to call you out on mistakes
- Jacqueline says we had a good Sat night Diversity panel - need for representation, more "outside our own"
- Terry Pratchett, Small Gods - God comes back to the world thinking there are no believers, incarnated as a turtle...and finds a believer
- NK Jemison, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - new but recognizable - interaction between gods and people
- Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the crescent moon – wonderful story - Islam but alien world
- Madeleine l’Engle - lots of religion and science, but not preaching
- Neil Gaiman American Gods - dark scary truths - arc of covenant so terrifying no one should ever see it
- Greg Keys, Kingdom of Thorn and Bone - Magic - holy spots like ley lines
- James Morrow, Towing Jehovah -discover the body of God floating in the Arctic - what to do? Tell people God is dead? Or keep it a secret?
- Anything but Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian
- Indian, Celtic, Pacific American, Islam, Thailand, Vietnam (crossroads of Buddhism & Hinduism plus older religions ), Eastern Europe, aboriginal Australian, Egyptian pantheon, mystic edges of more mainstream religions (Sufi)
- Crossover between different faiths, pantheons of different faiths, can see patterns
- Aliette de Bodard, Aztec trilogy, starting with Servant of the Underworld
- Sandra McDonald, Outback Stars
- Real world religions in fantastic settings – great Babylon 5 episode where a visiting rabbi ponders whether an alien dish is kosher http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/guide/014.html
- Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
- What if we had two moons?
- Cold/hot weather, drought, desert
- Norse mythology would have been a whole lot less depressing if it had been warmer!
- Religion is often an attempt to explain the natural world
- Polynesian peoples don't have a flood myth!
- In the Norse end-of-the-world myth, the good guys die at the end - is there any other where the good guys die?
- Well, discussion about that claim to Norse myth: Earth is (or will be) reborn, Thor’s sons survive, the cycle will begin again…
- Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon - goddess and Virgin Mary
- Any good examples of alien species? George RR Martin, And Seven Times Never Kill Man - brought an alien faith to life
- Anime: Crest of the stars, Bannerof the stars
- Babylon 5 - lots of alien religions
- There's always going to be someone! Depends on how it's done and your tolerance for pushback
- Be respectful, but don't be so afraid of offending that you write milquetoast
- Blasphemy - if you're doing it in the service of art, not just poking at sacred cows
- Taboos and blasphemy - if your book becomes subject of controversy how would you handle it? These days there's a real concern to protect privacy online and even in the real world
- Jacqueline Carey
- Clay Griffith
- Gail Z. Martin
- Thomas Mays
- Chris Kennedy
- Stephen King often starts his stories in the middle of "boring" and mundane-middle of the country, small unknown town-then brings in the “different”
- You have to use terminology that your readers recognize. Even off-world, your aliens are already speaking English (or whatever you're publishing in) (this doesn't mean you can't use alien terminology, you just have to incorporate it in a way that will be clear to your readers)
- Nature of good and evil - Limits of what you're willing to do
- Logistics, economics, religion
- Jacqueline struggled with learning about Aztec culture including human sacrifice, struggled w/how not to demonize, found some Aztec poetry. Beautiful language, including some poetry that included their views on death – something clicked and gave her a POV
- Clay has background as a historian - if you're dealing with war, for instance, you need to be *aware* of all the spectrum of war, battle, logistics, food, health, etc...even if you don't actually talk about it
- First rule of war: pay your army!
- We don't think about how things work until they don't - part of the author's thinking about "then what happens" should include "what goes wrong?"
- Layers levels of difficulties on the characters... There should be problems!
- How do people react to the situations they're in?
- Sometimes serendipity in the bad – traveling during a train strike in Italy leads to a story (I once missed a flight from LA to Sydney and discovered the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera at the LA County Museum of Art)
- Small details - giant war armadillos must be scrubbed down, or they'll get a fungus
- Glaring plot inconsistencies, when writer attempts to nail a detail they clearly have no experience (horses) – or haven't made much effort to learn
- Write what you know...know more! Learn, ask someone who knows about your topic to read and check your “facts”
- Consistency of language - modernisms or anachronisms...often (annoyingly) too overly cute
- Too contrived - if I can think of three ways around instead of the most dangerous path, then give some good reasons why they can't do the easier thing
- Explain why the action is unavoidable, so it doesn't feel too contrived
- If magic exists, it would trump everything! Why wouldn't someone be king of the world
- Problem with Star Trek reboot -guy in school suddenly jumps 6 ranks and is put In charge of a starship, then keeps it after the crisis?!
- Jacqueline likes to give just enough detail to let imagination take hold...don't want to get too travelogue-y, keep the story moving, too!
- Gail calls this dribbling the details in as reader needs them
- Tom tries to make details organic to your character's POV - s/he won't be thinking about all the big picture (avoid the “as you know, Bob” in dialogue or internal monologue)
- Chris thinks of Ben Franklin’s saying, “All good things in moderation”!
- Jacqueline says she doesn't read Kushiel fanfic… Could be? Maybe more wish fulfillment from fan writers?
- Gail says, “As an author, ask yourself if I were reading, what would interest me? At the end of the bus tour, where would you like to see more? How about that little alley down there?”
- Jacqueline says for her it's very much as characters need to know ... Also have to bring the world they’re in to life
- Clay agrees it's largely based on characters’ need to know
- Gail adds that some cool things add spice for the reader, the "cinnamon" of the book
- Jim Butcher’s Dresden series
- Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series
- James Corey’s Expanse series
- CS Lewis’ Narnia series
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.