Last summer, when Zeus Is Dead was first published, my publisher set up a blog tour to help get the word out. It was three weeks of interviews, reviews, and guest posts. I thought I’d share one of those guest posts, a brief essay about the value of mythology in storytelling. (And, of course, I worked in mention of ZID. It was a book tour, after all!) It was originally posted on Mythical Books on July 21st, 2014.
Before there was YouTube, before there was Facebook…
In the days long before movies, television, and magazines…
Before books themselves—heck, even before Amazon.com…
…there were still stories.
People needed to entertain themselves somehow, after all. Stories were created around ancient fires to explain, to train, and to entertain. (Often, they were even told for reasons that DON’T end in –ain! Wild, I know.) There was either no time or no means to write such tales down. They existed only in memory, to be told and retold as time went on. They developed, and they grew richer. In a sense, it was like a world of nightly focus groups around a fire as storytellers workshopped their tales and modified them based on reactions.
And, eventually, the stories solidified. Time and cultural awareness elevated them to the status of legends and myths. They travel to us now out of the past, having weathered the centuries. Fascinating in their own right, the myths we know today also provide modern storytellers with a ready-made palette of plots, attitudes, and characters.
Now it’s our turn to do the retelling.
Now we can take those mythological elements and put them in our modern context. Whether that’s literally—such as in my own Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, which takes a humorous look at how the Greek gods would behave if they returned to the public eye—or placing such elements into an original fantasy world written with modern sensibilities, we have myriad choices.
How might Apollo rule a new world where he was the only god? What if Anubis and Hades went to war? What if Loki and Hermes met at a poker game? How would King Arthur and Merlin deal with Cthulhu?
And those are just possibilities from combining specific characters. Want to give it a satirical twist? Deconstruct it? Use mythology as a representation of our past to show how much (or how little) we’ve developed? Go for it! You can even roll like dice the thematic concepts, archetypes, and tropes of mythology across the modern table to see what inspiration turns up. It’s akin to using a computer to create an image: it’s done in a modern way, but the colors used are still the same colors that we’ve always known. (Okay, so that’s an imperfect analogy, but hopefully you get my point.)
I’ll close with another mention of Zeus Is Dead, if you’ll indulge me. I’ve been fascinated with mythology since I was a kid, and a college professor later remarked that the Olympian gods were really just humans with supersized powers, skills, and egos. It struck me that here was a rich world of characters waiting to be thrown together again in new and interesting ways. (Plus, hey, public domain!) I vowed that one day I’d write a modern myth to explore those characters in a new light. It was a while before I’d developed my own craft enough to where I felt I could do them justice—and along the way I realized how hilarious it might be to show how they might deal with the modern world—but, eventually, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure was born.
And I do hope you’ll all give it a read, and let it inspire you, too.