Aeschylus’ Oresteia is one of those works I read and immediately knew I was reading against authorial intent. I didn’t have enough English literature education in me yet to understand why I shouldn’t care what some old dead man thought about Clytemnestra, but there was something about her rage that resonated with me, a rage so big and violent its aftershocks woke the dark gods beneath the earth.
It’s been a while. As much as I wanted to keep doing these, it turns out writing most of a book in a little more than a month takes up a fair bit of my time. I’m a slow writer to begin with, and getting the first draft of The Compendium of Magical Beasts written was a pretty substantial task. I learned a lot from the process–enough that I have exactly zero guilt about taking a month off from writing drabbles–and can’t wait to start working on some of the projects I left by the wayside while working on it this year.
The experience of writing a book like this, which is fundamentally different from anything else I’ve ever written, has been incredibly informative and rewarding. I know a lot more about what I’m capable of, and I’m blessed to work with such great people on this project; every time I get a new sketch from Lily in my inbox, there’s another moment of elation because that sketch! is based! on something! I wrote!
I can’t wait for this book to be out in the world, and I hope it brings people as much joy as it brought me to write it.
A few creepy things have happened to me throughout my life, but when somebody asks me for my creepiest story, exactly one comes to mind–the time I saw a something on the side of the road late at night.
I say a something because I’m not sure what it was and I have no touchstone for what such a thing could even be. It was around three in the morning; I was tired and I’ve been known to see strange things when I’m tired, but it happened on a road that was notoriously haunted in my community.
It went like this: I was staring out the window, watching the trees go by. As I looked, I saw something rise up to about six feet high and outstretch wings that appeared to be about six feet in span. We kept driving, and I kept staring out the window, certain I’d imagined it.
Until a friend in the car said, “Did you just see that?”
It wasn’t scary until that moment. I could convince myself that nothing had happened, that there was nothing to be frightened of in the woods, but the moment somebody else acknowledged that it happened, I had to confront that it had really been there. Whatever it was, it’d been real enough that all three of us in the car had seen it.
There’s this quote I first heard in Pretty Deadly, a comic by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire, ad Clayton Cowles–“Good luck, bad luck, who knows?” I bought volume two from Deconnick at Rose City Comic Con last year, and she signed the book with those words. I hadn’t read it yet, but that quote kept hammering through my head. Good luck, bad luck, who knows?
A lot of bad things have happened in my life. A lot of good things have also happened in my life. There’s no miraculous turnaround, just a series of events happening and happening and happening, some good, some bad. It’s easy to focus on one group or another and think that my life is either trauma after trauma or success after success, but, considered in a straight line, each one feeds into another. Remove a single event from my life and I’m not sure where I’d be, but it probably wouldn’t be here. I’m as much every bad thing as I am every good thing. I’m crying into a pillow and laughing on my wedding day. I’m thinking of my flaws and celebrating my successes. I’m on top of the world and buried under a rock.
I don’t think about luck anymore, at least not in the sense that it’s something you can have. I don’t have good luck. I don’t have bad luck. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. I work and I try and I do my best and sometimes I’m rewarded for it, sometimes the stars align just right and I feel lucky, but I’m not sure it goes any deeper than that. Things happen. Things continue to happen. I keep moving forward.
I suppose what I’m getting at is that I’m not sure there is good or bad luck. There’s simply luck, and it hits us all now and again. Good, bad, who knows.
It’s kind of flattering to be asked where your ideas come from, even if it’s not the most interesting question to answer. As a writer, I worry constantly that everything I write is derivative and unoriginal, regurgitated from a lifetime of consuming other, better work.
And that might be true, but it still doesn’t explain where ideas come from. It’s not hard to see why they used to be ascribed to divinity–one moment you’re sitting there, pencil between your teeth, unsure of what to write, and the next you’re building an entire life for someone who doesn’t exist. It feels like magic.
When you get right down to it, most of my ideas are what-if questions allowed to blossom. What if the world ended and you didn’t care? What if the universe was strangely literal? What if a succubus didn’t know how to flirt?
Answering these questions is part of the reason I write fantasy–that, and a lifelong love for slipping out of this world and into another where things make a different kind of sense. And while I’m wandering through a well-trod field with plenty of others, trying to find places where boots bigger and better than mine haven’t already left their marks, I remind myself that everybody tells a story differently and, most likely, every other person is having the exact same fear I am.
Something I just learned in the process of finding an image for this post: the flower I’ve known all my life as daffodils are also known as Narcissus. Yes, as in that Narcissus. Daffodils grow wild where I’m from, which I’m sure would have fascinated me as a child–I can imagine myself wondering if every daffodil I saw marked a mythological site.
When I was a kid, the world seemed very, very small. I imagined that every important event I’d ever heard about had taken place within in the confines of my small town. Someone had erected a large cross on the road that led out to the freeway, and for a long time I assumed that had been the site of the biblical crucifixion–I couldn’t conceive of things that existed more than an hour north or south, and it fit right in with my town’s numerous churches.
When the world was that small, the potential for magic and stories was always nearby, hiding behind a tree or in a hole in the ground. The stories I read didn’t take place in far away places–it was possible that Lucy Pevensie lived in the next town over, or that Artemis stalked through the woods behind my house and every dog I heard bark at night was one of hers. Everything was right around the corner, a bike’s ride away.
Memories are weird. The fact that I can forget things that have happened to me and not remember them when they’re pointed out is disconcerting, to say the least. Where do my thoughts go when I’m no longer having them? How is it that swaths of my past can just disappear?
Dreams drift off shortly after you’ve had them; I get that, I’m used to it. But memories ought to stay put, pinned like butterflies to cards, ready for viewing and indexing and scrutiny.
Not to be a downer, but how is it that someday, everything inside my head will just vanish altogether? I better start writing it down now, before I forget.
If I’m being honest, November was a difficult month.
I’m a dweller. I think long and hard about things that happened in the past, or that may happen in the future, and forget that things are happening all the time right around me. Between thinking of far-off events and alternating between drowning in work and not having enough of it, I spent most of November elsewhere, and that elsewhere was nowhere pleasant.
Artemis is my favorite Greek goddess, but Persephone, or Proserpine, or Proserpina, depending on who you are and where you’re from, is up there too. When I was a child I found her story frightening: one day, someone whisks her beneath the earth and tricks her into remaining there for six months out of the year. Sometimes she reigns above the earth, sometimes below.
There’s a duality to Persephone that, as an adult, is fascinating to me. I’m the kind of person who loves the transitory seasons best, when things are growing and things are dying. That she rules over death with the same hand that she makes plants grow–that’s powerful. I care very little about her relationship with Hades and very much about her, about her mysteries, her cult.
Her story is dark and sad and dreary, and yet I can’t help but find hope in a goddess who brings life forth from the dead earth. And yes, it’s another mythology story.
I read The Oresteia for a class, and while there were a lot of things that lingered about the play, what really left an impression was the Erinyes, or the Furies.
What’s not to like about three snake-haired women who pursue those who spill family blood into madness? And like, I get that Agamemnon is a big war hero and by Greek standards he’s pretty great, but by modern standards he’s a jerk and uh, hello, also killed his daughter. Not to mention the cheating double-standard and the fact that he brings his war prize, Cassandra, home like some kind of fancy goblet to show off to his wife.
Only his wife kills him. And then her children get revenge. And then the Erinyes come for the son, Orestes, for spilling his mother’s blood, only Athena intervenes and turns the Furies into the Kindly Ones with a bunch of goddess of wisdom trickery and a thinly-veiled threat of god-killing lightning bolts.
Blood for blood may not be the best solution to a problem, and three vengeful goddesses with snakes in their hair maybe aren’t the best representation of women. But damned if they, like so many other goddesses and other mythological figures that come in threes, aren’t more interesting for all their evilness.
But isn’t it interesting the way word meanings change over time? A food that makes you immortal becomes a dessert known for its cloying sweetness. There’s probably something poetic there, but I’ve always been a fan of the interpretation that immortality is more liable to make you bitter. How long can you appreciate all the beauty that life has to offer before it starts to grow stale with age?
It doesn’t have as bad a rap as, say, fruitcake, but canned fruit, coconut flakes, and heavy cream do not a food for the gods make. Don’t get me wrong–I like ambrosia, or at least the variation we have up here in the upper left corner of the United States. My grandma’s is particularly good. But the idea of gods sitting around eating canned fruit cocktail in cream is kind of funny to me.