So you’ve probably heard my news that Zeus is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure will soon be published by Seattle publisher Booktrope. Today I’m reblogging something I wrote a few years ago after I’d completed the manuscript and was getting ready to shop it around to agents: the “origin story” of how I came to write my favorite work…
(Note that the working title of the novel was Murdering Zeus for Fun and Prophet.)
Way back when I started writing–at least in any serious fashion–I had an idea about writing an original Greek myth. Not to retell The Odyssey or some such thing, but rather writing an epic of my own plotting using the already existing (and public domain, obviously) characters of Greek and Roman mythology.
But let me step back a little further. Most kids go through a phase where they’re fascinated about dinosaurs. When I was little, a mythology phase accompanied my dino-phase (isn’t dino-phase one of the phases of cellular mitosis?), and I never really grew out of the former. I took three years of Latin in high school, which came with a dash of mythology along with regular Roman culture. College added still more fuel to the fire: Classics 210 remains one of my favorite courses (for years I even carried my final essay test in my laptop/writing bag), in which I read assorted bits of Classical literature like The Iliad. Another course a year or so later took me deeper, and while I no longer remember the course number of that one, both courses impressed upon me the idea that the Greek (and Roman) gods were really just super-sized mortals: powerful but fallible, with gargantuan egos.
How awesome would it be to take these characters and create new tales for them?!
I loved the idea. In fact, I loved it so much that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. I’d envisioned something epic, set back in the time of ancient Greece, with divine political intrigue, monsters, adventure, suspense (and now I’m sounding like the grandfather in The Princess Bride), and most of all, epic. Yes, I’m aware I said epic twice, but this is my blog and you’ll just have to deal with that. My plan was to wait, develop my writing abilities and only approach it when I felt ready.
Flash-forward to, oh, 2002 or so when, in a period of short story-writing, I came up with the idea of how amusing it might be to write something in the present day. How might someone in, say, a café react to a guy sitting down and claiming he was the god Apollo? How would mythology and modern times be viewed through our modern viewpoints? How would a sun chariot be explained when we can put spacecraft into orbit around the sun itself? I thought it’d be pretty damned funny, and wound up writing such a story just to play with the dialogue alone. That story, “Playing with Hubris,” wound up being critiqued a bit in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. At the suggestion of a friend, I at one point rewrote it as a one-act play for a contest. The story then got put down for a while until, in 2008, I dusted it off and got it officially published in a magazine.
In the intervening years, I wrote two other stories in the same myth-meets-modern vein: “Snipe Hunt,” involving a little girl who, ditched by her brothers, meets Hermes; and “The Atheist and the Ferryman,” a mix of humor and the macabre about an atheist who finds a passage in his basement to Hades and accuses Charon of running a confidence scam. The former was published in a small speculative fiction magazine called “The Sink,” while the other–despite being my favorite–is unpublished. (2014 note: All three stories are now published in Mythed Connections, which is free on Smashwords, Nook, and iTunes. Amazon still insists people pay for it, however.) In any case, it was a theme that was a blast to write.
So when I’d finished Legacy of Memory (2014 note: the pre-publication title of A Memory in the Black) and was looking for a completely new book to write, the idea I finally decided on was to go back to my old mythological ambitions, tweak it in the flavor of the short stories, and see how things turned out. The result was Murdering Zeus for Fun and Prophet, about which there is still more to say…
…In another blog entry.
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