Fantasy Built on the Religions of Our Ancestors: The Historical Context of Mythology

by USA Today Bestselling Author, S.M. Schmitz

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp by François Gérard

Ossian on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp (1801)
by François Gérard


With hugely successful series like Percy Jackson & the Olympians and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Rick Riordan has brought mythological fiction into the mainstream. While his middle grade books might typically find younger audiences, mythological fiction is an exciting fantasy subgenre for adults as well.

I began writing mythological fiction because of my background as a world history instructor. One of my areas of interest is social history, and religion and belief systems are a significant aspect of all cultures throughout history. Those beliefs have shaped gender relations, education, class divisions, politics, foreign policies, and systems of alliances.

What we now label as mythology isn’t just a collection of interesting stories; they are little windows into the pasts of our ancestors, snippets of their lives, their beliefs, their fears, and their hopes.

My first mythological series is The Immortals, which is loosely inspired by The Book of Enoch. This non-canonical text describes the fall of a group of angels after seeing some of the beautiful women on Earth. Pieces of the mythology from this Ethiopian script are found throughout The Immortals series as those humans who have been conscripted by Heaven to fight on its behalf combat demons on Earth.

One of the many things world mythologies can teach us is about gender norms and roles. The story of Lilith is a perfect example. According to some other non-canonical texts (which are also used for The Immortals), she was the original wife of Adam, but “refused to lie beneath him.” The implication is that Lilith refused to be subservient to a man and instead demanded to be regarded as his equal. She was cast out of Eden and in some texts, partnered with a fallen angel (perhaps Azazel or Samael). This union then produced all the demons that would plague mankind forever.

The moral of the story, of course, is that of expected gender roles. Lilith is punished for not fulfilling the role expected of her and is exiled, while her partnership with a fallen angel and the subsequent birth of thousands of demons firmly places her existence as a malevolent one for having failed to behave as a subordinate to man.

The Unbreakable Sword series is a multiverse world in which all pantheons from every civilization coexist. Although it has a contemporary setting, many of the most famous gods and goddesses from the most popular world mythologies are still alive and can be found in this series. The primary focus, however, is on the Tuatha Dé of Ireland.

The stories contained within the early Irish myths not only give us fascinating tales of heroes like Cú Chulainn who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to marry Emer, the romantic tragedy of Deirdre and Noísiu, and one of my personal favorites, “The Wooing of Étain,” but can teach us about pre-Christian Ireland’s social and legal structure as well.

Because no written language existed before the Christianization of Ireland, we sometimes have to read these myths with the understanding that they were transcribed by monks and are almost certainly altered and, sometimes, Christianized (for example, I’m almost positive that in the original legend of Caoranach, St. Patrick didn’t spend two days and two nights in Lough Derg battling the mythological serpent). But the original legends still provide insight into early Irish rituals (for example, the concept of the gessa or the celebratory feasts that accompanied traditional changings of the seasons) and laws (inheritance rights, and the responsibilities and duties of a king).

While we fiction writers often leave out the historical context of the myths we’re adapting since we are, after all, crafting entertaining fictional stories inspired by the religions of our ancestors, the historian in me invites readers to explore the legends of our ancestors more fully, to see their worlds through their tales that have survived the millennia and entertain us still.

Whether it’s Magnus Chase or Cameron and Selena from The Unbreakable Sword series, if you find inspiration in their adventures with the gods, then let the gods inspire you to journey with them into the past.

For more information on S.M. Schmitz’s books, please visit smschmitz.com.

Discover the Secret Supers Series

by Aurora Springer

This year, I published three novels in the Secret Supers Series. The third book, Gargoyle Hunt, releases on December 6th.

Blurb

Danger is the last thing on Estelle’s mind when she visits the University of Oxenford for a summer course. But, mysterious thefts and shadowy figures spur her into action. With Toby five thousand miles away, Estelle and her winged horse must hunt for the culprits alone. Soon they are embroiled in a mixed bag of aliens and ancient magic. Toby’s unexpected arrival throws her into turmoil and spurs events into a climax. Under pressure to succeed, Toby is trapped in a web of deceit. The two supers have a week to catch the crooks and salvage his reputation.

The Secret Supers Series follows the adventures of Estelle Wright after she is transformed into a superhero in her freshman year at college. In the first book, Super Starrella, a weird serial killer is terrorizing the streets of Atalanta. Estelle must solve the murder mystery and discover her fellow supers, while pursuing her biology major and a couple of romantic entanglements. She scours the city at night, while overtly obeying her mom’s strict curfew.

Several lines of thought led to this series. I have a fondness for superhero/ine stories and one or two readers have accused me of a comic book style. So, why not create unique superheroes and throw them into adventures? My superheroes are aliens or genetically transformed humans like Estelle. Then, I had a vision of people flying through space on different animals. If you have read the intriguing book, Star Rider by Doris Piserchia, the influence of her animal steeds will be obvious. In my series, each super bonds with a telepathic animal companion. Ordinary Estelle Wright transforms into Super Starrella and rides her snarky winged mare, Rockette. As an added twist, Rockette can morph into a pigeon. The villains begin as comic characters with bombastic Mr. Sunshine in the first book, Super Starrella, and deadly Croaker in book 2, Starrella Falls. The third book, Gargoyle Hunt, has a subtle British twist and the distinction blurs between good guys and villains.

People say you should write what you know. So the main characters are students at Goldman University in Atalanta, a sunnier southern Gotham City. Many of the scenes occur in or near Atlanta where I live. One of my favorite scenes takes place at night in an alligator-infested swamp in Starrella Falls, Book 2. I am a professor at one of the local colleges. Most students are unaware of my fictional creations, although some of the professors have read my novels.

Gargoyle Hunt, Book 3, is set in Oxenford, the famed center of academia for centuries. Estelle is visiting St. Swithin’s College for a summer program when the appearances of spooky live gargoyles coincide with mysterious thefts. Yes, I have studied at Oxford and punted on the Cherwell River. Avebury stone circle is one of my favorite destinations with lunch in the village pub followed by a hike on footpaths to other Neolithic sites.

The first books are set firmly in contemporary Earth with the authorities stymied by alien killers and hi-tech hackers. In future books, I hope to take the characters on a series of adventures, inflicting different villains on Atalanta and other locations. It is not as simple as I had first imagined, however, since I have to describe aliens living among us, various superpowers and animal companions as well as researching police procedures for homicides.

I wanted a romantic arc. In Super Starrella, I introduced a wobbly triangle of Estelle and two attractive men with their own secret agendas. Toby Ryan, a hot biker with a cat tattoo on his bulging biceps, and handsome Mark Copper in military intelligence. When she meets them at Goldman University, Estelle suspects they are spying on her. She gradually uncovers Toby’s secret life during her first semester at college in the first book. She will learn more about the alien factions in the second book. In Starrella Falls, Toby and Estelle have separate adventures initially, but they work best as partners and tackle a succession of villains through the final chapter. The backlash from alien allegiances heightens the mystery in Gargoyle Hunt.

Secret Supers Series

Super Starrella, Book 1, 99c
Starrella Falls, Book 2, $2.99
Gargoyle Hunt, Book 3, on 99c pre-order for release on December 6th

Bio:
Aurora Springer is a crazy scientist by day and invents adventures in weird worlds at night. She has a PhD in molecular biophysics and discovers science facts in her day job. Her fictional works are character-driven adventures and romances sprinkled with humor. Some of her published stories were composed thirty years ago. She was born in the UK and lives in Atlanta with her husband, a dog and two cats to sit on the keyboard. Her hobbies, besides reading and writing, include outdoor activities like gardening, watching wildlife, hiking and canoeing. Her books are listed here.

Social Links:
Blog: http://AuroraSpringer.blogspot.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Aurora-Springer/e/B00K2C4NL8
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aurora-Springer/885945434752937
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AuroraSpringer
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101087717415198221200/posts

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