From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Advertisement

Essays

Nonfiction

Oral Storytelling and Culture as Personal Canon

As writers, we’re commonly asked which authors have influenced our work. As a follow-up question, we may be prompted to discuss movies, TV series, media properties, etc. that have been impactful in shaping our writing. These are valid questions that shed light on our creative impetus, style, and tastes. That said, such questions often give me pause. In responding, I must make the decision to provide what I perceive as the expected answer, or challenge the assumption that the major influence on my writing has been my consumption of narratives in a physical or visually recorded form.

Nonfiction

Stereotypes, Godhood, and The Wicked + The Divine

(Note: this essay contains major spoilers for The Wicked + The Divine.) I am a first-generation Indian-American. I did well in school. I am a “model citizen,” not even a current speeding ticket on my record. In The Wicked + The Divine (WicDiv) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, every 90 years, twelve young adults are told they’re gods from various pantheons. They will be loved. They will be hated. They will be brilliant.

Nonfiction

All the King’s Women: the Fats

Stephen King hates fat people. Like all fat people, but especially fat women, I have to accept that most of the creators I admire and respect have intractable issues with my body. They feel perfectly entitled to use it as a joke, or as the site of horror and degradation, or a proof of failure, or a metaphor for avarice, sexlessness, and/or evil. I must also prepare myself for interactions where my body is in danger (hospitals, doctors offices, interactions with the law) for the derision and devaluation my body will be afforded, because that hatred seeps through fiction to fact, from joke into policy, and is obvious at every level of public interaction.

Nonfiction

Worldbuilding With Legs: Incorporating Insects into Your Stories

So I hear you’re writing a fantasy story! May I suggest the addition of some charismatic microfauna? What about uncharismatic? Um, what if we make them macrofauna? No?

Arthropods get the short end of the stick in the average fantasy tale. Oh sure, there are biting flies in the Marshes We Must Cross to Deliver the MacGuffin; a local witch keeps a few hives of Slightly Strange Bees; the heroes might defeat Scorpions Of Unusual Size now and then. But what if we developed more unusual candidates and gave them some power in the plot? Real insects provide us with everything we need for a variety of fictional functions!

Nonfiction

We Are the Mountain: A Look at the Inactive Protagonist

Let me take you through the anatomy of an active protagonist, one that everyone can relate to. We’ll make our protagonist—we’ll call him John—young and healthy, male, of humble origins (perhaps he’s from a farming village). But his status will not be humble for long, for John is dreaming of greatness someday, or adventuring across the world, or perhaps winning the heart of the most beautiful princess throughout the faux medieval European continent he hails from.

Nonfiction

How to Steal a Million Dollars Dragons

Most of us identify as lawful/neutral good, aspiring to the ideals of truth and justice and equity. Why is it, then, that heists and cons are so compelling in fiction? Why cheer for the robbers, the con artists, the swindlers . . . when they go against everything we believe in? Other than the fact […]

Nonfiction

The Fiction of Peace, the Fantasy of War

As an American millennial, my country has been legally at war for more than half of my life. As a Black person in the United States, and as someone aware of the displacement and genocide of indigenous Americans, I would say the country has been at war with itself since its beginning. War seems as ubiquitous in fantasy novels as it does in the real world.

Nonfiction

The Validity of Escapism

I was a lonely kid. As a nerdy, quiet child with big glasses and braces, I was at the bottom of the social pecking order. Books—fantasy books in particular—were my escape. I gravitated toward stories where the underdog gets what they want through sheer determination or discovers they have magical powers, or both.

Nonfiction

All the King’s Women: The Sewer Clown Tragedy of Beverly Marsh

Walking out of the theater after seeing IT part one in 2017, there was only one person I wanted to talk to. Best-selling and Hugo-winning author Seanan McGuire is one of the only humans I’ve ever met who loves Stephen King like I do. When I got to Twitter, she was already yelling. And she was joined by best-seller and Hugo winner Catherynne M. Valente, who is on the same level as Seanan and me when it comes to these books.

Nonfiction

Still We Write

For me, writing is not an easy thing. Of course, there are days when everything flows perfectly, when the words dance out of me like they were always meant to exist and all I have to do is let them flow. But those days are far outnumbered by the ones when the blank page mocks […]