A Little Mythology Goes a Long Way, by Dan Rabarts

Please welcome author Dan Rabarts to the blog today! He is going to tell us a little about using mythology in our fiction, and why mythology continues to resonate with us even in this age of science. Be sure to check out the new book Teeth of the Wolf, which he co-authored with Lee Murray! It the second book in the Path of Ra series, which started with Hounds of the Underworld.

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Down here in New Zealand, we live on an unlikely strip of land between an ocean and a sea, on a planet which exists in a tiny fraction of a void between eternal heat and eternal cold, where life has taken hold and refuses to let go. It is little wonder that our ancestors looked up at the stars, the sun, the moon, and wove the mystery of those lights in the sky into folklore. They put names and stories to the celestial faces, just as they named the rage of the ocean, the howl of the wind, and the black embrace of the beyond. 

Ra, the sun. Marama, the moon. 

Tangaroa, god of the sea. Tāwhirimātea, god of the winds. 

Hine-nui-te-pō, goddess of night and death.  

Mythology predates science by thousands of years. It has been with us since we first heard the rumble of thunder and imagined gods roaring at each other among the clouds. Fear of the unknown has been part of our collective subconscious for longer than civilisation has stood, and will be with us long after it has fallen.

 So even when science, that inevitable and inexorable juggernaut, continues to reveal the workings of the universe one quark at a time, we cling to our myths like we cling to life in this fragile strip of the solar system. Our mythologies were our explanations for all the forces at work around us which we did not understand. Now, as we learn how vast the universe truly is and how alone we are in it, those mythologies remain our security blankets, the persisting hope that something greater watches over us. That the fact of our existence is not so unlikely, and that we are not so very, very alone in the dark. 

This idea, the persistence of mythology and how humanity has an innate power to give a sort of life to that in which we are willing to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, is a key element in The Path of Ra, a supernatural crime-noir thriller series co-authored by myself and Lee Murray. In Hounds of the Underworld, scientific consult Penny Yee refuses to buy into her brother Matiu’s insistence that there is a dark force at work behind the murders she is investigating. As long as she can explain the bodies piling up as the doings of a criminal mind, she can accept any atrocity with scientific clarity. But in Teeth of the Wolf, the second book in the series, when the evidence starts to mount that not everything can be rationalised away, and that the shadows Matiu is always jumping at may indeed be something that all Penny’s science and logic cannot explain, Penny tastes doubt for the first time.

In the writing of The Path of Ra series, I’m very lucky to work with Lee Murray, who brings a sense of rationale and reason to the story through Penny Yee. Lee works hard to drive the science in our science fiction/dark fantasy/crime-noir mash-up, while Matiu insists that the things scratching at the inside of the walls are not rats, nothing that can be so easily explained away. This conflict between the logical and the weight of the mythological lends the books a constant tension, between the need to make sense of the madness the world is falling into, and the need to hold back the faceless, inexplicable dark. It’s a powerful dynamic, and a testament to the success of the co-author relationship that this tension sustains both the story and the characters. Matiu brings the monsters; Penny explains why they simply can’t actually be there.

Science will keep on solving the riddles of our existence. It will continue to drive the changes we are making to this world, for better or worse. Science has given us, in equal measures,  space travel and space junk. Global travel and global pollution. A knowledge economy and the age of internet trolling. Nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry. Climate change and the means to combat it, if we have the will. 

Science will, in time, become our new mythology, the making and the breaking of civilisation. 

But as long as we hear voices in the dark when there is no-one there to speak, we will cling to our deeply-ingrained beliefs in the unknown, the unknowable. As long as we can cast a light into the shadows and the shadows swallow that light, we will continue to fear and revere our gods and monsters.

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Dan Rabarts is a New Zealand author, editor and podcast narrator, winner of four Sir Julius Vogel Awards and two Australian Shadows Awards, occasional sailor of sailing things, part-time metalhead and father of two wee miracles in a house on a hill under the southern sun. His science fiction, dark fantasy and horror short stories have been published in venues such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Together with Lee Murray, he co-edited the award-winning anthologies Baby Teeth - Bite-sized Tales of Terror and At The Edge, and co-writes the Path of Ra series. His first solo novel, Brothers of the Knife, kicks off the grimdark-yet-madcap Children of Bane fantasy series (Omnium Gatherum). Find out more at dan.rabarts.com.

A Fae Kind of Day

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham

A couple years ago, Faerie Magazine held a contest for people for people to share what faeries meant to them. I wrote up something and sent it in, just on a whim, since I had faeries on the brain anyway (I'd been working on a YA fantasy story that had faeries in it). Well, imagine my surprise when I found out my little piece was a finalist! 

It's been a crazy kind of week for a lot of people, so I thought I'd publish my little faerie fun here as a treat. And remember, tread carefully! You never know where they might be.

A Fae Kind of Day

by

Melanie R. Meadors

Fate has delivered another one of those days. You know the kind I mean. The dog eats your homework. Your boss berates you. A toilet paper tail streams from your waistband and no one tells you until lunch. Your wife forgets your anniversary; your kid brother yanks your hair. Or maybe nothing like that happens at all, and you are just feeling low.

You step outside for a little fresh air, to clear your head. You start walking a little, aimlessly, with no real destination in mind. Then you notice you’re at a boundary. Before you lies the forest, the garden, the neighbor’s yard, the alleyway behind your house. Perhaps you didn’t leave your house at all, and are at the doorway of the kitchen, craving a comforting cup of cocoa. You stand at the fringe, neither here nor there, hesitating. You feel a twinge of warning--"Enter at your own risk,"--even as you feel an unmistakable invitation. Your skin prickles, and you are filled with both apprehension and excitement. The entry is not for the faint of heart.  You’ve felt this before; it’s how you know

You take a step.

You can’t quite see them, yet something teases the corner of your eye. You can’t quite hear them, but you know the blanket of inexplicable silence is covering something just beyond your senses. And you know when you are being merrily mocked. They are everywhere: in the moss underfoot, in the creaks of the floor, the fog of your breath, the breeze through the air. The forest stream rings with their laughter, their breaths echo through the city, the snowy winter meadow is laden with their presence. The hesitation you felt moments before ebbs away, and you relax for the first time since you can’t remember when. You feel at home, where you are supposed to be. You are free, you are wild. The cares of moments before are lost with the realization of things truly important: dancing, singing, drawing, painting. Creating. Laughing. Eating chocolate.

The world seems so much bigger when you include all that is unseen, all that escapes the imperceptive human eye. You don’t mind so much that you can’t see them, that you can’t hear their words, because after a time, you can understand them, in a way the others of your kind can’t understand you. And for all their teasing, you know these ones unseen do it because they can see your true nature, and they can see how silly your worries are, when the world is so big, so open, so free. So fun.

You take a deep breath and wish. You wish with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might, that you could always be a part of this world they belong to, this world that is bigger than your senses. It is a world in which you are never alone; it’s a place where someone always has your back, no matter what kind of pickle you find yourself in; where there will always be someone to laugh with. A world where just the right amount of mischief is encouraged, where your day-to-day problems are suddenly trivial, and the greatest worry is how to taunt the neighbor’s nasty cat without getting caught.

Then you realize. All you’ve done is step outside, or step into your kitchen, like you have a million times before. You don’t have to wish yourself to this world.

You are already here.

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016. Follow Melanie on Facebook and on Twitter as @MelanieRMeadors.