From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Terribly Fond of Syncretism: Jessica Lee

Jessica J. Lee has recently graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in English and a minor in anthropology.  When not writing, she spends her time watching westerns, coordinating Z-Day drills, and mollycoddling her dwarf hamsters. She’ll have left the country by the end of the summer; she does not know when she’ll be back.  “Superhero Girl” is her first published story.

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Many superhero stories take a comic book angle which is where you seem to anchor your readers:

Ofelia was a superhero. She told me so without reserve. “It’s safe for me to tell you,” she said. “I can sense you’re not a villain. Besides, it would be unfair to keep it from you. It won’t be easy, you know, being involved with a superhero girl.”

This characterization quickly delves into psychological resonance. Can you tell us a little about the writing of this comic book/psychological characterization?

I’m terribly fond of syncretism. Ofelia may well be a psionic superhero leading a dual life, or a frightened young woman coping with her circumstances in a somewhat unorthodox manner, or both. I held the two scenarios in equal regard as I wrote this piece. I may also have been subconsciously influenced by my Doc Holliday historigeekery—namely Doc’s desperation to go out in a blaze of gunfire rather than be laid low by a wasting sickness.

It’s pretty clear that Ofelia takes her cues from Golden Age comic book and anime characters, while the narrator has a grimmer, sort of Jack Bauer-influenced perspective on the trappings of heroism. I have my own, occasionally unconventional ideas on what can constitute as a hero, not having grown up on Western comics (though I’ve been trying to make up for that reading gap in the past few years).

Do you find psychological studies to be a particular focus in your works?

Not generally. “Superhero Girl” is actually something of a departure from my usual work, though I’m having trouble right now trying to think of something I’ve written that doesn’t involve madness and/or death to some degree. A lot of my characters are neuroatypical in some way or another, but that neuroatypicality is rarely the engine of a piece.

While reading of your “Ofelia,” it is easy to conjure images of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. Was this intentional?

I’ve never been a huge fan of Shakespeare’s Ophelia (or of Hamlet, or of Shakespeare), but I could see how that character might have a sort of romantic appeal to Ofelia.

“Ofelia” appears to be her own heroine with a twist. Do you have a favorite heroine throughout all of literature?

I’m pretty fond of Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights, and of Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Telling stories, saving lives!

What is in the works for Jessica Lee this year?

I’m working on a few things of varying lengths, revising a few others. Recently I sent an original limited series proposal to Dark Horse Comics, and I’ve got my fingers crossed on that. Otherwise I’ll be concentrating most of my nervous energy on teaching English to kiddies in Korea starting this fall, a prospect that has me only slightly terrified.

 

Rae Bryant is a short story author, poet, columnist, assistant editor for Fantasy Magazine, on staff with Weird Tales, and a reviewer for The Fix. She is a 2008 recipient of the Whidbey Writers’ Prize and editor nominated for StorySouth‘s Million Writers Award. Her works have appeared or will soon be appearing in Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, Whidbey Writers MFA Zine, Literary Traveler, and Southern Fried Weirdness, among others. With a Bachelors in Humanities and English, Rae is currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins finishing an M.A. in Writing. Read more about Rae at Raebryant.com.

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