Today I’m going to point you at some more fantastic Mythpunk, this time from Theodora Goss who was born in Hungary and whose work is heavily influenced by Eastern European Mythos and is an absolute joy to read! Here are her thoughts on the Mythpunk Genre …
And you can find her fantastic collection of short stories here:
Merry #MythpunkMonday! Today I’m going to talk a bit about the power of myth and the importance of Mythpunk in relation to that, then look in depth at some Mythpunk which I think really exemplifies just what the genre is capable of.
So, yay! The second month of #MythpunkMonday is happening! If you’d like to join in and share Mythpunk related marvellousness – your own or other people’s! – then just dive on in using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here, or on your local street corner, or whatever floats your pea green boat! 😉
Myths have been around as long as people have – from the moment we could communicate we started telling stories as a way of understanding our world, preserving and passing on knowledge and, dare I say it, entertaining eachother.
Joseph Campbell (for all his faults) tells us that mythology, particularly when rooted in religion, provides a cultural framework for any one group of people (and Maureen Murdock provides a balancing feminist alternative to his ‘Hero With A Thousand Faces’)
If that’s the case, then folk and fairy tales are perhaps already the rebellious / punk siblings of the stories found in religious texts and preached to the masses as a means of social control ; the secret vehicle by which everyday folk can pass on and preserve their own knowledge, morals, beliefs and understanding. (certainly I like to view them that way!)
It’s easy to see how much power these types of stories can wield. They speak deeply to our souls on a personal level and a lot has been written about the link between myth and psychology by Jung and his followers old and new, but they also resonate in the collective consciousness and the morals, ideas and archetypes they convey slide easily from the lips of the storyteller or the words on the page into the minds of the masses to become accepted as ‘truth’
I’m not a huge fan of Campbell to be honest, but I do recommend reading his works / listening to his interview series if you get the chance because there is a lot to gain despite how out dated and annoying it all is on the surface. He does highlight the need for new myths to be constantly created which reflect and embed the changing understanding of individual and world wide culture – and Mythpunk really does leap out and answer that call doesn’t it?
So as well as being clever, original and entertaining, Mythpunk can be a vital tool in questioning the messages inherent in traditional myths, legends, folk and fairy tales and, like the folktales of old, can be a subversive tool by which ordinary people can voice, preserve and pass on their own values, knowledge and understanding in the face of mainstream dominant cultures.
Most of us live in an exiting technological age, where our punk stories, alternate cultural frameworks and subversive ideologies can reach beyond the small circle of the family hearth, clan campfire or village boundary and touch like-minds across the globe. In a couple of weeks I’m going to start looking at what that means from a perspective of responsibility.
But today I just wanted to focus on the power of Myths and the very subtle, subversive power that Mythpunk can wield as well. Mythpunk has a wide variety of tools at its disposal from the voice it employs – which is often snarky, smart and sassy – to the deep-rooted symbolism which it irreverently, yet sometimes surprisingly tenderly, toys with ; like a kitten with a ball of best knitting yarn.
In that vein, let’s take a look at one of my very favourite graphic novel series Hopeless Maine. This series bridges a wide ocean of genres including Gothic, Steampunk and Mythpunk but I’m just going to focus on its Mythpunk elements because, well, that’s why we’re here right?
WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES HOPELESS MAINE
Hopeless is a Gothic island just off the coast of Maine, shrouded in sentient mists and born from the imaginations of Nimue and Tom Brown.
People wash up here after the world has chewed them up and spat them out. Few come here by choice. Those who come can never leave. Those who leave can never come back… despite evidence to the contrary, this is what we are lead to believe, this is what the young folk are told, this is what the adults say…
Inside this little pocket-universe are woven together elements of myth, legend, folklore and magic in a beautiful parodic dance macabre.
Just like in the world beyond the mists, life here is hard and troubled and full of questions with no apparent or easy answers. Inhabitants are seldom who or what they seem, and this goes for the disturbingly sentient fauna and flora of the island too who, after all, were surely there before the people came…
And people do keep on ‘washing up’ on the shores of this little hidden isle – just in the same way that world-weary travellers often wash up eventually in a place where our previously held concepts, beliefs, morals, values and so-called truth and virtue and sanity all seem to slide away or stop making sense in the face of incontrovertible evidence that ‘everything is not the way we were told it was.’
The island’s ‘spiritual leader’ seems to embody this place of juxtaposition; on the one hand he is set up as an earthly ‘all-father’ ( being head of the island’s orphanage) … on the other he lacks the ability or will to actually do anything useful to help solve the enormous problems facing his ‘flock’ (other than his default go-to plan of human sacrifice… which is a little disturbing) He calls himself a Reverend… but exactly which religion he is devoted to is a little hazy and the fact that he seems to perform a lot of his devotions in secret, on an island populated by demons, is… curious to say the least. Still, he definitely doesn’t like witches… or does he? You can read more about him here.
Another person who beautifully personifies this ‘crisis’ point is Mrs Beaten, and her regular blog posts are a treat to follow as she flies into one flap after another over the behaviour, depravity and dress sense of her fellow islanders… yet she is obviously far from innocent herself and her very-near-slips every now and then betray an interesting past and a complexity of urges and issues which are all actually possibly very nearly normal if only she hadn’t suppressed them for so long. (On the other hand she could be a multiple murderess with amnesia… only time will tell, but in the meantime, she is definitely judging us all. )
Leaving aside the onion skin layers which parody, lament and poke fun at the condition of the human soul as it flounders in a sea of religious and moral rhetoric and contradiction, Hopeless, Maine is an island full of its own folk lore, magic and elusive myth.
From spoon walkers to night potatoes, there are magical creatures aplenty ; some are native only to the island, some are more readily recognisable from the outer-world and, as such, some are perhaps the monsters and internal demons the islanders have brought with them?
Not much here is edible, not much here sustains the flesh and while that is reminiscent of tales of ‘Fair Elf Land’ where the very air is all that’s needed to sustain life, on Hopeless the air seems to vampirically drain away the will to live – a sort of anti-fairyland perhaps?
There are spiritual entities on the island too. Voices are heard. Eyes appear in the mists. Certainly there are demons and certainly there are those who… associate with them… does this constitute a religion of sorts? A spiritual path through the confusing fog? Are these the Hopeless Gods and do their ways spell salvation for the community of Hopeless? Or should we all be pushing away the voices in the dark that whisper insistently what ‘needs to be done’? Is our new best friend only after our soul after all?
As a series, I have already mentioned that Hopeless poses far more questions about culture and society than it answers, as that is one of the many things I love about it. But there is an ironic thread which runs like red wool through its narrative – I say ironic because that thread is Hope.
Salamandra and Owen are not starry-eyed, lovey-dovey heroes who skip about telling everyone to Hope their way out of their problems like some sickening Disney movie… but through their tenacity, their faith in themselves, their honest endeavours to ‘keep pushing’, they personify Hope whether they mean to or are aware of it or not.
Even by the end of the first volume, I had faith that Sal and Owen would prevail – even if the island itself had to sink into the sea for them to do so – they just carry inside them that punk verve, that subversive spark that glows in the heart of the Mythpunk genre and lights the way for change to slip in through the back door and storm the building.
If you like the sound of the Hopeless Maine series you can find it here:
Thanks so much for journeying along with me so far, or if your new then very much welcome aboard!
A lot of my own stories centre around the strife and tension suffered by cultures who come seeking refuge, fleeing war and persecution, when the host country fails to welcome and respect them as human beings with established beliefs, values and ways of life.
These deserve to be valued wherever possible, just as those of the established culture are already, but so often they instead become embedded in a strange juxtaposition of both shame and ferocious pride.
When our beliefs, culture, language, skin colour, clothes and ways of being are treated as strange or unnatural by others (especially if they are outlawed, as in the case of the original Rromani refugees in Europe) those precious things which are innately ours can become a source of shame and we can feel the need (perhaps in fear of our lives or liberties) to hide them.
At the same time, in hiding them there is a sense of ritual preservation – a keeping close, a treasuring – and that can become obsessive and unnatural in itself as the evolution of ideas which would take place naturally over time with each generation is now not allowed to happen.
Sacred things die. They are not passed on. Partly out of fear – putting the young ones in danger. Partly our of pride – this knowledge will die with us, the last pure ones, it cannot be trusted to anyone else now, it will become diluted and destroyed or turned against us all.
I’m going to share with you an extract from ‘Mulengi Sinija’ which means Table For The Dead. This is a small shrine of sweet treats laid out for the ancestors to encourage them to remember the next generation, the little ones, and watch over them and visa versa to encourage the young children to enjoy communing with their ancestors.
Here though, the celebration is taking place in a strange new land where the characters are forced to hide who they truly are (firebirds living secretly amongst a population of spiders) and the irony is that the precious link between young and old, past and present, ancestors and living is being lost as the generations pass and so the title is more a lamenting ; a saying goodbye, rather than the celebration it was meant to be….
Mulengi Sinija Extract:
There is a weight, more than the fabric, of that long black skirt and the high necked lace shirt she heaves up over her fire form. Here are the white-beaked masques now with their golden glitter and their gaudy plumes, here are the capes of scarlet velveteen, the sun is sinking with a sigh to the guillotine.
One more cup before we have to go? We drink it slow. Drink deep the thousand stories calligraphed in dark amber there against the white. And when it is all gone, step out into the night.
If you liked the extract you can read the rest of it on my sister site here:
Thankyou for joining me for MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Happy Mythpunk Monday!
I’ve always been haunted by the story of The Little Match Girl. Clarissa Pinkola Estes compares it to The Red Shoes and I (in my own small humble opinion) agree with her – how easy it is to spend our days staring at false lights, false hopes, striking match after match to gain a few seconds of cold brightness and the illusion of warmth ; a futile ritual of protection against what lurks in the dark both inside and out… when really all we are doing is burning the hope we do have. The girls in stories like this all have things of worth, things they can use to take care of themselves, but they exchange them / discard them / burn them up / let well-meaning others take them away or brand them ‘useless’ or ‘dirty’ … and they end with nothing.
I’ve worked this theme into several of my Mythpunk stories and I’m going to share one of them with you today. It’s called Matchless but I didn’t want the ending to be as hopeless as the original tales always are ; they always end with the girl dying and the reader is left to take the wisdom away with them but at the end of my tale, because I wanted the reader to be drawn right in and become a part of the story from the outset, I also wanted wisdom to call to them at the end from within the story itself. So we have the old woman, the wildish nature, the instinctual self, the soul-grandmother, the quick little bright snake that says ‘eat my fruit, open your eyes, see the truth of the matter.’
Here’s a little snippet for you, if you like it, you can read the rest for free on Vocal.
Strike one. Strike and you will see us. Strike and know you are not alone and glimpse in an eye blink that we are all the same. True our limbs do not twist and gnarl the same way, true there are washes of muted colour in our sunken orbs and those do vary. True the tails, the talons, the scales, the teeth and claws, the hair all are not identical and we are ancient and new born and have seen the world birthed and have lived but not even a day. But strike again and see us, strike, strike two, you know we are just like you. You know that once upon a time each of us fell down and this, this gap between the lives of all the others, this skipped heartbeat, this caught breath, this missing note, this blind spot in the corner of the universal eye is where we all go.
Matchless also features in the Mythpunk collection, Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters
Thankyou for joining me for our third MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will continue to make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Today I’d like to share with you a little extract from one of my own own Mythpunk stories ; this is from The Star Talers – a short poem spun from elements of the original Grimm fairytale.
It was inspired by the historic treatment of Rromani slave dancers during the 13th to 18th centuries and the parallels between this and the modern cycle of poverty and exploitation that I have witnessed in the red light districts of British cities today. As such, it touches on issues of slavery, abuse and recovery, sexuality, identity and self-discovery and ends with the hopeful thought that, ultimately, we can survive and journey on from our past…
THE STAR TALERS
The boy had been hollow rose
Carved out from the hip bones of his mother
Beautiful as a choked out sob against silk pillows
Beautiful as a neck bent back swanlike to display the pulse
Beautiful as an eggshell is to crush and feel the yellow juice spill down
Once. Once he had been that hole
A space to fill with so much Other Blood
Now he stands on the banks of a bright river, Old,
Full, frayed, and spilling out onto the bank
No one comes near
The fear of all the screaming demons, stench and blade sharp thorns that close around him
Holds the world away
But still he will stay
He heard a story once; a whisper, rumour, gossip or snatch of song that clung like a butterfly to his sleeve – there is a land across the river, where you can see the stars fall to earth and in their fierce, full, burning beauty there is peace…
Thankyou for joining me for my second MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
If you enjoyed The Star Talers excerpt, you can read the rest of it here on Vocal:
Merry Mythpunk Monday! Today I’m going to talk about what Mythpunk is and recommend some marvellous Mythpunk to fill your shelves with.
This is a bit of an experiment, I’m hoping to do this every Monday and I’m also hoping that other Mythpunk fans and writers will join me in celebrating this wonderful sub genre by sharing your own / others writing, art, music, inspirations etc. using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag. That’s a lot of hope! … but I really passionately feel the world needs more Mythpunk and there’s some awesome stuff out there already that needs bigging-up so, let’s see what happens!
Mythpunk is a term coined by Catherynne M. Valente to describe Punk fiction which is rooted in folklore, fairytale or mythology.
At its simplest, Mythpunk could be a modern Punk retelling of a fairytale with an original ending, tangent or twist ; at its more complex, it has potential to utterly transcend its origins by bridging the gap between archaic world views and modern experience, making it an important tool for social commentary and cultural evolution.
You can read a great interview with Valente on the subject here:
And you can find her Mythpunk series ‘The Orphan’s Tales’ here:
So Mythpunk can be a punked up retelling of a myth, folktale, fairytale or legend, or it could be an interweaving of many different threads from across history and mythology, or it could be something entirely new which resembles, parodies or has elements of folklore and myth.
Mythpunk doesn’t have to be restricted to writing either – it can be music, art, theatre…
For example here’s the soundtrack to Valente’s series by S J Tucker, which you can listen to and purchase here: https://music.sjtucker.com/album/solace-sorrow
So, if you’re new to Mythpunk and what you’ve seen so far has got you hooked, you’ll now want to rush out and stock your bookshelf / kindle full of fabulous Mythpunk titles, right? – fear not, here’s my quick-fix / take-away / happy-meal list of five fab books / series to get you started…
1 Monstress Series
“Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both. Entertainment Weekly praised MONSTRESS as “one of Image Comics’ most imaginative and daring new series” and dubbed it the “Best New Original Series” in their year-end “Best Comics of 2015″ list.”
2 The Automation:
“The capital-A Automatons of Greco-Roman myth aren’t clockwork. Their design is much more divine. They’re more intricate than robots or androids or anything else mortal humans could invent. Their windup keys are their human Masters. They aren’t mindless; they have infinite storage space. And, because they have more than one form, they’re more versatile and portable than, say, your cell phone—and much more useful too. The only thing these god-forged beings share in common with those lowercase-A automatons is their pre-programmed existence. They have a function—a function Hephaestus put into place—a function that was questionable from the start…
Odys (no, not short for Odysseus, thank you) finds his hermetic lifestyle falling apart after a stranger commits suicide to free his soul-attached Automaton slave. The humanoid Automaton uses Odys’s soul to “reactivate” herself. Odys must learn to accept that the female Automaton is an extension of his body—that they are the same person—and that her creator-god is forging a new purpose for all with Automatons…”
3 Firebird Fairytales Series:
“Born on the crossroads between worlds Anya’s Gate Keeper magic is buried under grief and rage until one fateful night a firebird hatches on her farm who is sharing its body with the fabled Prince Yvan. With Yvan’s dark magician brother Vasilli and other powerful enemies closing in around them, Anya has no choice but to sober up, follow Yvan intoSkazki and hope that she can learn how to control her awakening magic before it destroys her and any hope of keeping the gates to both world’s safe.”
4 The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones:
“Meet Tristan Hart, precociously talented student of medicine. His obsession is the nature of pain and preventing. He is on a quest to cut through superstition with the brilliant blade of science. Meet Tristan Hart, madman and deviant. His obsession is the nature of pain, and causing it. He is on a quest to arouse the perfect scream and slay the daemon Raw Head who torments his days and nights. Troubled visionary, twisted genius, loving sadist. What is real and what imagined in Tristan Hart’s brutal, beautiful, complex world?”
5 Vassa In The Night:
“Vassa in the Night is a powerful and haunting modern retelling of the Russian folktale “Vassilissa the Beautiful” for teen fans of urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and horror who enjoy books by Leigh Bardugo, Kendare Blake, Catherynne Valente, and V. E. Schwab. In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood. In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue.”
Thankyou for joining me for my very first MythpunkMonday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you have, feel free to join in and share some Marvellous Mythpunk that you have written, created or enjoyed. You can share using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag or in the comments here below if you like and I will try and make this a regular Monday thing 🙂
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, thankyou for joining us once again on the swelteringly sultry streets of Steampunk’d Lancaster as we attempt to sell bottles of illegal home brewed lemonade in a desperate bid to pay our rent.
At least that is our ruse for loitering on this street corner this morning, but shhh, step closer, we have something to show you…
If you’ve been with us for some time you’ll probably be aware that our mistress, Penny, as well as leading a secret double life as an incorrigible octopus and his unnerving gentleman friend (that’s us by the way and we’re not sure we care for the description!) also writes short stories, poems and prose with a far less frivolous flavour in the Mythpunk genre.
If you weren’t aware, you can read some of them here for free: PENNY BLAKE ON VOCAL POETS
Mahrime – Mythpunk For Monsters is a collection of mischievously mutilated and punk’d-up folk tales heavily influenced by Penny’s Rromani cultural heritage. Each poem, story or prose piece explores the themes of identity, power and love by putting the monsters, the outsiders, the outcasts, the ‘unblessed’ right at the heart of the narrative.
It’s available now to pre-order on Kindle, free with Kindle Unlimited or 0.99 without and also in paperback if that’s what you prefer (the paperback is full colour with black pages, white text and beautiful white mandala art work by ArtsyBee and comes with a free Kindle copy)
“And what is Mythpunk?” we hear some of you ask…
Mythpunk can be as simple as taking a traditional tale and re-working it to produce something fresh, inspiring and new , or it can be a far more complex synthesising of cultural and mythological evolution; a deep exploration into the cultural psyche or an unflinching dissection of archaic archetypes. A lot of Steampunk involves some Mythpunking along the way and a lot of Mythpunk has a decidedly Steampunk flavour.
So, now that we know exactly what we’re letting ourselves in for , lets take a little sneak peek at just some of the things inside the cover…
Mahrime means ritually unclean / unblessed in Rromani language, it is akin to the word Unseelie in Celtic lore but it is applied to people. The title story in this collection draws heavily on the experiences and mythology of Rromani People and explores the historical out-casting of certain groups and types of people who are branded as ‘monsters’ because their existence is at odds with a dominant cultural or religious ideal. It also goes deeper to hint at the aspects of self which we choose to lock away because we believe them to be unlovable or unacceptable.
The Road Back Lost
This Mythpunk’d version of The Company Of Wolves is a response to the ideal that we all have both an internal and external collective of wise guiding voices who can teach us our culture, our heritage, our purpose and our place in the world; these voices, intuitions, bodies of lore, family, elders, clan-folk etc are supposed to teach and guide us safely through the wild woods of life and all the dangers therein but what if we don’t have them? What if our family or culture or bodies of lore or even our parents and home have been lost to us? This is the situation for many people today as war and poverty tares children away from their families and cultural white-washing tares culture away from people and places it in the hands of the fashion industry. So what can we do? Try to go back? Try to move forward? Or stay and become the wolf?
Damao means ‘to overcome’ ; the final piece of prose in this collection echoes the hopeful thought that is embedded throughout the book – with solidarity and support for eachother we can overcome the problems inherent with being labelled ‘outcast’ or ‘monster’, we are not alone and we will endure.
So there you have it, Mythpunk for Monsters, we hope you enjoy it, and now I think we will just sit back on this soap box here and sample some of our own lemonade, this day is far too hot to be doing any work and my tentacles are wilting despite the negligee we borrowed from Nimue Brown and her Hopeless Sinners yesterday I think what I really need is a parasol…
Thankyou for joining us on the street corner today, hm? What’s that Max? You think YOU ought to write a book? Honestly, I really don’t think ANYONE is going to be interested in anything you have to say… well alright then I will ‘wait and see!’ … and who exactly do think will publish such an atrocity? Hm? …. oh you’ll ‘find a group of marvelous monsters as mad about tea and tentacles as you are’ will you? Well good luck with that my friend! I shan’t be holding my breath…
While we wait to see what, if anything, comes of Max’s new ambition, let me thank you once again for joining us today and for supporting our endeavors as always and whatever kind of monster you happen to be please, do remain always,
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, we ask that you be gentle with us this morning, no raised voices or glaring candle light please, we are very much sore-headed and delicate after a long weekend of carnival capers and masked-up mayhem and now want nothing more than to curl our aching tentacles around a marvellous piece of fiction and a steaming mug of tea…
The Tale Of Raw Head And Bloody Bones is one of our favourite books ever in the history of books. It is a love story of the most unique, raw and daring kind and at the same time it is an extremely dark fairy tale with all the exploration of psyche and self that hallmark a classic work of Gothic fiction. As a historical novel it explores the boundaries of class, affluence, education, mental health, culture, sexual and perceived moral behaviour to admirable depth making it a graphic, challenging and breathtaking read that will not suit everyone’s taste. This is not a book for the faint hearted but it is heart breaking and absorbing and utterly, utterly wonderful with characters who leave us weeping every time we step back into these dark and beautiful pages.
Tristan Hart is obsessed with understanding and preventing pain, at the same time he is addicted, enthralled and excited by it.
Nathaniel Ravenscroft is delightfully delinquent, exciting and enigmatic and everything that Tristan would like to be. Possibly. Or possess. But something isn’t quite right, there is a darkness lurking around that demonic smile, a secret or two that no one wants to talk about and when Nathaniel vanishes, does the key to his whereabouts lie in this world, or in the realm of fairies, daemons and an ancient half-remembered myth?
Katherine Montague is a troubled soul, beautiful and fragile, in need of Tristan perhaps as much as he is need of her… but is their love tonic or poison? Is their mutual obsession the key that will eventually help them both to find themselves, or is it a perversion that will eventually be their downfall?
An intensely compassionate, emotional and tormented soul, Tristan sees beauty where others see the grotesque and his days are a tense and brittle ice-path between the relationships of his physical world and the strange-woven mythology that inhabits the hearts and minds and landscapes that surround him. Who is this Raw Head? Who is Bloody Bones? Who, really, is Nathaniel Ravenscroft? Who is the monster and who the redeeming angel?
We wish you a perfectly restorative afternoon and swear we will be on better form to guide you around the frost fair tomorrow so, until then, please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s gloriously ghoulish and curiously cat infested parlour located somewhere within the alimentary canal of that splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True our psychotic landlord may have banished us to this dank and dingy dungeon, but anyone who would be crest fallen by such a turn of events has obviously never stood in their night dress fighting off flesh eating Liver Birds with nothing but a teapot and a book of mostly awful poetry.
Hm? Yes I have a night dress…. well how the hell do you imagine an octopus can fit into trousers? Really! A-hem….
You find us this morning in outrage because our puppet mistress, Penny, is keeping a very dark and dirty secret. At least she thinks she is. But we know what is going on. Having been very loudly and vociferously against the notion of National Novel Writing Month since its inception, she has decided to turn traitor on us and sign up for this year’s event. She has told no one. She is hiding her evil nano-notebook inside a waterproof zip lock bag inside the toilet cistern, ready to fake daily bouts of dysentery in order to complete her ridiculous writing goals in secret. But she is fooling no one. Least of all us.
We should state that our collective objections thus far have been that, while there is no harm in a person trying to have a bit of fun and create something fabulous along the way, to stipulate what a novel can and can’t be is to cut a huge number of people out of the novel creating and consuming world. So why is she doing this? She has obviously gone mad through lack of tea.
Max has optimistically suggested that she is only trying a splash of espionage and has cunningly infiltrated the machine to bring it crumbling to the ground from within. But personally I consider even such a move to be highly treacherous, traitorous, untrustworthy and utterly unacceptable and I for one cannot bring myself to look her in the eye. Which is making the whole morning routine very difficult indeed.
But never fear! We in the parlour remain stoic to the cause and so, to combat this fever of driving oneself into an early tomb trying to write 50,000 words or more in a month, we will instead be exploring and celebrating absinthlutely everything that a novel can and should be other than a book of 50,000 words or so.
A lot of our time this month will be spent working with urchins who process audio and visual information differently from most other people, and helping them to explore and celebrate their own writing and story crafting, so we will be posting activities that are inclusive and open the world of ‘novel writing’ to a much wider field of participant and audience.
So to kick us off on our Nano-free-November, we give you ….
TEA BAG NOVELS
(didn’t see that coming now did you?)
These are teeny weeny tight little tales that can be stapled into a book using tea bags as pages (or if you are very clever, a single tea bag!) Dry out your used tea bags on a plate (different teas will give you a variety of coloured pages, strawberry -red, blueberry – purple, Matcha – green, Redbush – orange, apple – grey, turmeric – yellow)
When dry, cut along one edge with a pair of scissors, then carefully scrape out the dried tea inside.
Write your novel in fine line ink pen or ball point, being careful to use the perforated edge as a margin.
When you have finished, pile your pages on top of each other in the correct order and stitch or staple your book together along the margin edge.
Voila! Will be ding this today with our little Lancastrian urchins and so here is our ‘one we did earlier’ example…
And in case you can’t read the awful tentacular scrawl, here is the text…
We met under a gut-punched sky, the raindrops racing down the tight screen of slipped out breath that caught in the space between our two neon egos – spitting sparks in the downpour.
Through a fudge of boiled rice conversation, I reached inside your brine and found the chalk of you ; graffiti-scarred myself, in fingernail wounds, into your smoothness and laughed .
“Give me back my soul,” I said, “I dropped it into the amber jewel pool of your eyes, while I was playing with your innards.”
“That’s not your soul,” you said, “that is only the sun, a bright gold ball reflected.”
I called you, “Toad,” and ran. The grass, like bottle glass, cut my feet and you, Hunter, licked up that garnet trail all the slow way to my door.
You dined on my defeat. Delivered up on plates of gold: pomegranate, passion, fig all patulous ; ‘Cuisses de Nymphe a l’Aurore’.
Ever after then, you bound me in a forest of words, so that I lie now: Ophelia and inked-over by your own tongue.
I blink out, through the black-string bars of a story that I refuse, still, to claim and reach for each new princess as if, through her, I could regain a purchase on the world and stand again – under that bruised sky; a spectrum of spilled blood, pooling under porcelain…
If, then I would make my order quick – ‘Cuisses de grenouille’ – end you with a finger lick.
We wish you a fiendishly festive Halloween / Samhain / All Saints / Souls / Day / Night / Thing whatever it is you humans are celebrating right now (so confusing) and hope you survive the night and will join Mrs B in her soup kitchen tomorrow, until then
Please be always
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome back to Max and Collin’s salubriously sweet and succulent parlour, located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.
True some have called it a pithy affair, frequented by fiends who are rotten to core, but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.
What is it about this time of year? Who, I would like to know, came up with the cunning plan of arming autumnal street urchins with small, unreasonably hard, green and red missiles to pelt at innocent Gentlemen out for their morning stroll?
Max and I put this question to our dear witchy friend Mrs Baker just last week as we sheltered in her soup kitchen, attempting to remove the smears of rancid fruit and sticky, slobbered over toffee remnants from our attire.
Mrs Baker informed us that, at this time of year Her Majesty’s apple orchards (all orchards in Ire belong, officially, to the queen) are often over flowing with such a glut of fruit that the rate of consumption by the rich Tea Time Lords cannot match the rate of production. Mounds of rotting fruit are not anybody’s cup of tea and so the Wizards have devised a Social Health Development Scheme in order to rid the rich of their rancid excesses. Free barrels of ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ apples are delivered each October to inner city slum areas like ours on a special day called ‘Apple Day’ and posters have appeared (beside the usual ones threatening death and destruction to anyone caught in possession of tea, sugar or homemade soup) sporting the maxim ‘an apple a day keeps the flesh eating Liver Birds away..’
In an attempt to make the fruit more palatable to the poor starving orphans, Mrs Baker had the ingenious idea of dipping them in candy syrup. This may have seemed like a cunning plan indeed except that the orphans were yet more cunning and simply seem to be nibbling off the sticky candy coating and then using pedestrians as target practise for their resulting revolting fruit bombs.
Max and I have decided not to venture forth until all this fruity business has calmed down. Instead, let us kick our tentacles upon the table and eclipse our sorrows with some exelent fiction and splendid tea (of course, as usual, we have both…)
The prose that flies from the spinning wheel of Catherynne M Valente is utterly delicious. Every sentence is ‘to die for’ as though she she sees the hidden face of things, as though she looks at the moon and says ‘what is the moon like, that no one has ever said it is like?’ and so a tale is woven that is both ancient and familiar and yet incredibly fresh and unexpected and enthralling.
Six Gun Snow White is the heart-shattering story of a young girl of mixed race fighting her way through the harsh and unforgiving world of the Western Frontier, where anyone who is not white and male is considered little better than property or animal – often worse. The story opens with her father’s horrendous treatment of her Native American mother, Gun That Sings, who eventually dies in childbirth, and then it moves through Snow White’s own heartbreaking experiences at the hands of her step mother.
As a re-telling of a well known fairy tale, this story succeeds in offering a fresh and enticing new version, intensely and intricately rooted in both the mythology and history of its setting. As a work of fiction in its own right, it is a beautiful, challenging and uncomfortable story with no easy endings , two dimensional archetypes or happy ever afters. Fans of mythpunk and folk tale connoisseurs will find plenty here to be delighted with.
And now that must be the kettle singing… or is it the screams from our Landlord’s latest rent-shy victim? …er…no, no that definitely is the kettle! Please, won’t you join us in a delicious cup of FAIRYTALE SNOW WHITE TEA from FRIDAY TEAS?
We wish you a most fruitful afternoon and hope you will join us tomorrow for, if all goes well, some more inktober tea-painting.
Until then, please, be always,
Good evening and welcome to my awe-inspiring aethenaeum of praiseworthy pamphlets…or as some ridiculous personages have dubbed it – my lovely library.
I am Perilous Wight and here in the bowels of the city of Lancaster, in the disused tunnels of an underground train system that never was, I have made it my mission to collect every book that our self-proclaimed ‘supreme ruler f the universe’ and his mincing minions have banned from the bookshelves of the new world.
But this is not a public thoroughfare! If you have wandered in here on the ill-advice of a drag-dressed octopus and its dribbling Tea Fiend, let me advise you not to be so easily lured into a parlour by the promise of strange fruit. Well, you will find nothing sweet and alluring down here; here there is only the dark and the damp, the flickering of candlelight and the ceaseless toil of a man who did not re-animate from the dead to be pestered by people wanting bedtime stories!
But wait…what’s that you have tucked away under your arm there? Amontillado? Oh…. well, yes perhaps it is about time I put my feet up for a while, pipe and slippers and a little drop of something, the day has, after all been a long one. And I suppose I could read a very little something,
like this perhaps…
The painters’ daughter
Once upon a time, when you and I were naught but pips in the core of the great cosmic apple, there lived a painter. You might chance to meet him still, wandering the shore line as the sun rises over the blushing surf, counting the grains of sand or shuffling the streets at dusk, studying the cracks in the paving stones, calling down and listening for a voice.
Back in his studio, his tumbledown beach hut, he paints each grain, each echo. He paints the light and the shadow, the rising and the setting, the dance and sparkle and the soaking up and the deep. His eyes are full of dreams and his dreams are full of shades and glamour.
One day, the painter’s daughter bare-foot tip-toed into that secret space.
And gazed at all the many muchness of towers of tins of tangy turpscented rainbows.
And wondered what it would be – to touch, to taste, to take in and become such wonders.
In goes a flinger, smooth and slick.
Gloopy and gorgeful.
Smick smuck smack.
Blue, yellow, indigo,
She tasted blue – A taste of salt sea and pillow cases, stained glass and new slippers, skinned knees and berryjams and Monday mornings and shaggy hillsides damp in November fog.
She tasted yellow – A taste of custard of course. And a taste of bathrooms and tiled floors and a caravan holiday in 1975, old stiff newspapers and curled up cats, the dust that gathers on lampshades and dims the whole room and a taste of skin and bone and the streets of Rome in July.
She tasted green – A taste of coal and iron, old sandals and ploughed up earth, toadstools and pine woods and rain low down in the valley of the Dove.
Every colour in the universe she drank it down. She gorged on glamour and shade, on dances and sparkles, on things soaked up and deep. She swallowed down the soul of every colour until her limbs felt clogged and cloyed with the weight of them.
One small pot of black she saved for last, – a taste of burning and drowning, of being squeezed out and sucked up and exploded into stars, a taste of being held for eternity and the aching emptiness of an eggshell cracked too soon.
This black, she smuggled it away in her pocket, off to her little box bed beside the woodstove. There, when she was feeling dizzy with the reel of the rainbows spinning through her veins, she would sip
At the comforting black.
From that day on, every time the painter’s daughter opened her mouth, out spilled thick , oily paint in puddles and spewks that stained the folks and the things all around her in violent assaults of crimson, viridian, amaranth and egg yolk.
She stopped opening her mouth.
Her limbs dragged heavy as a rag doll and every breath, every step, every heart beat was a drudge and a drain. So much colour inside. So much sparkle and depth. So much echo and shade.
Walking, talking, even breathing seemed mountains too steep to climb with all this weight inside.
She sat on her bed, day in day out, and sip
At the comforting black
Until it spilled out of her eyes in puddles that pooled upon the patchwork quilt and cast back mocking rainbows.
That is how the little bird found her one day. He hopped upon her window sill and cocked his shining eye – the way the bird folk do – and then he fluttered down onto the eiderdown and whistled.
“Go away,” the painter’s daughter hissed, “do you think I care to see your coloured plumes? Do you think I am impressed? What if I told you that I am so full with the light and dark of every colour in the universe that I ache with it and to look at you does not fill me with joy or wonder, only regret and fatigue until I am sick of it.”
The little bird cocked his eye again – infuriating it is when they do that, y’know? – and he reached his yellow bill in deep amongst his tail feathers and plucked out a needle sharp quill the colour of every blue-green under the sea.
The painter’s daughter shrugged in scorn of him and made to turn away when
The little demon jabbed the quill spike hard into the soft, pale flesh of her arm.
Out leapt a tiny spurt of paint.
Then slowly, and with the girl in thrawl,
He dragged the rainbow colours out
In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into traces of beauty and scope.
Here was a dream in flesh.
Here was pointillised pain.
Here was inside out for all to see and staining no one but herself; surely, no words would be needed now . The world would smile and nod its head at her, as they knocked shoulders in the street, and whisper
‘ah, so, that is how it is with her, mm, we understand now why she walks so slow and dares not speak. How could a child do otherwise, with so much colour inside?’
So she stepped out.
With the bird quill tucked behind one ear
And bold, without fear,
Into a forest of fingers who pointed and blamed and waggled and shamed and prodded and poked and jostled and joked and fat cold palms that pushed her far away.
The painter’s daughter ran.
She ran on and on.
She began to feel very proud of her running.
One dark night, she came to a cave, above a river, above a pool, beside a village and into that cave she crept and lay down to sleep.
When she woke up the smell of sweet meat cooking down in the green valley filled her with hunger and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.
So she spent the morning gathering leaves, the afternoon stitching them together and by evening she had made for herself a fine long cloak that hid the patterns on her arms, and a hat with a broad brim to cover her face.
Under the stars, she took out the bird quill from behind her ear and dug it deep into her skin until it was slathed in colour, then she found a broad, flat stone and she began to paint
In swirls and spirals, tree cassyn pathways to guide the flow of all that weary weight into illuminated forms both wild and wonderful.
Here was a dream on stone.
Here was pain projected, disembodied, disowned.
Here was inside out for all to see and staining nothing but this unfeeling earth. And the world would smile and nod and never know where all the colours came from.
As the sun rose over the valley, the painter’s daughter stepped down from her cave, down and down and into the village and by that afternoon the tongues were wagging like wild fire flames; who was the stranger in the cloak of leaves who traded her marvellous paintings for table scraps? Some had seen her return to the cave – a hermit then? An anchorite? A holy one, certainly, a wise healer, a cleric, a teacher, a goddess in the flesh… ?
Every day, more and more villagers made the trek up to the painter’s cave. They wondered at her work – colours and patterns that seemed to describe the deepest parts of themselves. The parts they never let show. How? They asked, with tears in their eyes, how can she know?
They bought canvases. They paid in gold.
Inside her cave, hidden from sight, the painter took her feather quill and emptied herself out for them.
Day after day.
Night after night.
Slowly, as time went by, she began to grow old and paper thin. She had to coax out the paint in crusted oozes from her gummed up veins. Sometimes finding the strength and the will would take hours. Often there was not enough. Not enough colour, not enough energy and too much pain of the flesh and the bone to finish the work. ‘One day,’ thought the painter, ‘one day I will dry up. There will be no way of getting these crusted up colours out of my dried up body any longer. And what will happen then? Will the world understand when I can no longer paint their pain for them?’
The painter smiled and shook her head. She stuck the feather quill behind her ear and pulled off her cloak and hat of leaves. Clotheless under the silver moon, she walked down to the lake pool and stepped right into the comforting black.
The next morning, when the people came up to the cave the painter was gone, but the waters of the lake below, as they looked down into the valley, were snaked with rainbows.
Hmph well, yes, at least we may thank our stars that this pathetic Poevember pranking is at end and speaking of stars they are all out and I must get back to my work and you must get back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to pester me… GOOD NIGHT!
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since The Chronic Agronauts utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Helping me this morning is Steampunk Fairytale writer Heather White, you may have heard Max and Collin singing her praises with their Morning cuppa last Monday. Good morning Heather, thank you so much for coming to help me in my soup kitchen today! Tell me, have you brought along some soup to share with us?
I don’t really cook, lol. My wonderful husband does. But my equally awesome mom has a recipe you might enjoy:
2 T. margarine or butter
¾ c. onion, chopped
6 cubes chicken bouillon
8 oz. fine noodles
6 c. water
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper (or to taste)
2 (10-oz.) pkgs. frozen broccoli, chopped
1/3 tsp garlic powder
1 lb. Velveeta cheese, cubed
6 c. milk
Heat margarine in a large pot. (Personal note: get the largest pot you have. This makes a lot of soup.) Add onions and sauté for three minutes. Add water and bouillon cubes, bringing the water to a boil. Stir until cubes are dissolved. Add noodles and salt. Cook uncovered for three minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli and garlic powder. Cook four minutes. Add milk, cheese, and pepper; cook over medium heat until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Do not boil after adding milk.
Note: can substitute fresh broccoli, fresh minced garlic, and wider noodles. May need to increase cooking time, insuring the broccoli and noodles are completely cooked.
Further note: Mom would often add shrimp to the soup as well, particularly for Lent. That would go in last, after the cheese was melted. Let them thaw a bit before adding though.
Mmm, it smells delicious, I’m sure the little urchins will enjoy it immensely. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us all a little more about the second volume of Steampunk Fairy Tales, it has certainly had us all enchanted here in Lancaster!
Steampunk Fairy Tales is a series of anthologies where each author chooses a fairy tale and adapts it to fit a steampunk or gaslamp motif. It’s the brain child of Angela Castillo, the author of “The Clockwork People” and “Open Sesame” in the two volumes, and I’m so glad she invited me to join.
We don’t have any limitations on fairy tales in terms of region or familiarity, so you’re going to see stories that may be easily recognized as well as tales that are all new to you.
Your own contribution to the book is a reworking of the Vasilisa myth, what made you decide to punk this story in particular?
Growing up, I was a big fan of fairy tales and myths. I think I checked out every version of Andrew Lang’s Fairy books. I don’t recall if her tale was in those books (checked: nope) or in another collection I read, but it always fascinated me. Partly because it was the story that made me recognize how different cultures have very, very similar tales. But it’s always been a favorite for me. It was actually one of my first thoughts for the first anthology.
The real deciding factor was Baba Yaga and the riders. I had very, very specific images for how I would want to see them in a steampunk setting. The biggest trouble was adapting the plot and themes to the steampunk ideology as most Russian tales have a firm base in faith and hospitality, two things that aren’t prevalent in the genre.
So do you think it is important to keep exploring new and different versions of traditional stories, myths and histories?
Definitely. Those tales are basically the core of our storytelling tradition: they embody much of what we value as communities and societies. By changing and adapting the stories, we can explore and show how our values have changed over time. A great example is how some folks have analyzed the live-action Cinderella movie to talk about strength while staying in an abusive situation. What we focus on and portray in our fairy tales speaks to what we care about.
And of all the stories in the collection, could you tell us a little about your personal favourite?
Besides my own? Well, that’s a bit difficult. On the one hand, I completely love “Water of Life”, which is a retelling of the tale by the same name, but taking place in a war-blasted landscape and an ancient, cursed city, but I’m my husband’s biggest fan, so that feels a bit unfair.
Beyond that, it’s a toss-up between two, “Felis aurantiacus” by Kathy Steinemann and “Open, Sesame” by Angela Castillo.
“Felis aurantiacus” is an original fairy tale that has strong call-backs to The Time Machine and “A Sound of Thunder” but in a way that is both bittersweet and adorable. I can’t really say too much, lest I ruin the surprise of it, but between the plot and the voice, it’s well worth the read.
“Open, Sesame” is a retelling of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. However, in this version, we follow Morga – Morgiana in the original – instead of Ali Baba. Morga is a fascinating and strong character, and the world building and adaptations in the story are superb. To go back to why retelling tales is important, the ending to this one is a great example of how new values can be expressed in retellings.
And will there be a third volume?
Most likely. It’s already being batted around. I’m debating if I want to do more with Vasilisa and/or Baba Yaga or go to a different fairy tale.
And where else can we find your writing?
Primarily at my website http://heatherwhiteauthor.wordpress.com. The anthologies are my first publications, although I hope to have more.
Do you have any new projects or releases planned that we can get excited about?
Beyond the potential third volume, I don’t have anything that would be coming up anytime soon. My main work-in-progress is a spec-fic/paranormal romance in a comic book setting that asks how could a Lois Lane type of girl end up with a Deathstroke/Slade type of villain (assuming Deathstroke isn’t insane). It’s a lot of fun, and I hope that I can finish it soon.
And now the all important question which do you prefer, coffee or tea? (and how do you take it?)
…Hot chocolate. Keep your coffee and your tea, and give me drinkable chocolate. And if it’s the Arctic White that Land O’ Lakes puts out? Even better. Yum.
Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Heather, it’s been wonderful to chat with you and I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready and the little urchins have their rosy noses pushed up against the glass in anticipation so shall we start dishing it up?
Thanks for hosting me. I am so glad you enjoyed the book!
I will be back in the kitchen next week with another very special guest, Max and Colin will be ‘All Punked Up With No Place to Poe’ (apparently?!?) tomorrow and of course Peril will be sharing something from his lovely library on Friday.
Blessings on your brew my dears.