I love this book. Exceptionally well written, with accounts of a remarkable and interesting man, and a little known period of history. If you like ancient history this is a must-read.
This post previously appeared as part of https://jenniferloiske.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/author-interview-meet-a-l-butcher/ which featured last year to promote Heroika: Dragon Eaters
Dragons – why do they captivate us?
Dragons have been part of mythology for centuries. The Welsh, for example, have Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon as the national emblem – a dragon passant (standing with one foot raised) on a green and white background. Although the currently flag is relatively new the mythology of the Welsh Dragon is at least fifteen hundred years old, possible even Roman. The kings of Aberffraw used it to symbolise their power and authority after the Romans left. The first recorded use of it to Symbolise Wales is from the 9th Century (Nennius – Historica Brittonum). Geoffrey of Monmouth linked the dragon to the Arthurian legends – after all King Arthur’s father was Uther PENDRAGON, and so again the dragon is intrinsically interwoven with British myth.
Henry VII (Henry Tudor) had a dragon on his coat of arms – the Welsh heritage again coming to the fore and during the reign of his son, the might Henry VIII the red dragon standard was often flown on Royal Navy ships.
In the Mabinogion the Red Dragon fights the invading White Dragon and his pained shrieks cause women to miscarry, animals to perish and crops to fail. The king of Britain (King Lludd) visits his French brother Llefelys and, on his advice, digs a huge pit, filled with mead and covered with a cloth. The Dragons cease their battle, drink the mead and fall asleep, still covered in the cloth. They are then trapped beneath Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia. Centuries later King Vortigern attempts to build a fort there, and every night the castle foundations are demolished. Wise men tell him to find a boy with no father and sacrifice him – to appease whatever is causing the problem. That boy is Merlin, who will become the Great Wizard, and he dismisses this advice and tells the king about the dragons. The two dragons are freed and continue their fight – the Red Dragon symbolising the people of Vortigern and the White Dragon the Saxons. The latter is defeated – thus these are the Saxons who failed to subdue the people of Vertigorn who would become the Welsh.
Dragons symbolise great power and strength. They are, perhaps the most legendary of beasts and to defeat one (or field one) was only the territory of the greatest of heroes. Chinese, Indian, Malayan, Japanese, Khymer, Phillipino, Korea, Catalan, French, Greek, British, Germanic, Scandanavian, Slavic, Romanian, Albanian, Pre-Islamic, Tartar, Judeo-Christian and Turkish mythology all speak of dragons, wyverns, wyrms or basilisks. The ancient Egyptians worshipped a crocodile named the Messah – which later became a dragon, and the sign of Kingship. Think about it – the Nile Crocodile is a supreme predator, a feared monster and little can best it. What better ideal for kingship – powerful, terrifying and unbeatable.
Then of course we have the symbolism of dragons as the ultimate evil – the devil or other wicked beast destroying the good Christians and being vanquished by a Christian Hero. On the other hand Chinese Dragons are seen as lucky.
Dragon literature is diverse – Christian mythology (as mentioned), Norse, Celtic, Beowulf, St George, to name but a few. And more modern writers such as Tolkien, Cindy Lyle, George RR Martin, Cressida Cowell, JD Hallowell, David Gaider and many, many more feature a dragon of one sort or another. Here’s a challenge – type Dragon in the search engine of Good Reads – I tried and there were over 100 pages of books with ‘Dragon’ in the title and that’s just the beginning. Movies, video games, table-top games and toys feature the most legendary of monsters. Dragons are all around us – some kind and benevolent and some much less so. We are culturally bound with Draco and his kind.
St George and the Dragon
This part originally posted here:
I am British, and Britain has a very rich heritage of myth and folklore; we have dragons, we have knights who slay them, we have mythical kings and magic swords, we have monsters inhabiting Scottish Lochs, we have fairies, pixies and ghosts aplenty, we have heroes and antiheroes. Yet many people scoff at fantasy, thinking it is simply elves, dwarves or similar; a genre read by geeks and nerds. Well yes, in part it is, but fantasy and folklore have been with us from the dawn of time in one form or another.
Let’s look at one of the best known English myths – that of St George and the Dragon.
Most accounts claim St George was born in Cappadocia, in what is now Turkey, of Darian origin. He enlisted in the Roman army, and quickly achieved a reputation for his physical strength bravery, loyalty and courage and he achieved a rank of Tribunus Militum, in charge of over 1000 men. He was martyred during the reign Emperor Diocletian in 303 AD in Lydda, Palestine, for refusing to persecute Christians, when Diocletion brought in edicts against what was then a reasonably small but vociferous sect. Including the burning of churches, the destruction of holy scriptures and the execution of Christians. George defended the Christians and their faith and was imprisoned, tortured and executed. There are various accounts of is martyrdom, some claiming it took seven years as God restored him to life three times. His fame was carried as far as Russia, with his head was carried to Rome. His emblem of the red cross on a white background was carried on the tabards and shields of crusader knights. It is also the flag of England and forms the red cross part of the Union Flag of Great Britain. St George is the patron saint of England, taking the role from St Edward the Confessor who is now often forgotten. His tomb attracted pilgrims, and his fame spread when Richard the Lionheart introduced his military cult to England during the crusades and the Battle of Acre, before this his cult appeared in Byzantium. John Cabot carried his emblem to Newfoundland and both Sir Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake flew his standard. It was also carried by the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower.
Jacobus de Voragine in his Golden Legends (13th Century) speaks of him in Silene in Libya. Another 10th Century account places St George in the fictional area of Lasia, ruled by a tyrannical emperor called Silinus. The area had a lake, inhabited by a venomous dragon, local inhabitants would feed it sheep to keep it passive, and then when these failed to satisfy it, children were chosen at random. One day the lottery fell on the king’s daughter, the king offers half his kingdom if his daughter was spared. This is an idea which appears in other mythology – the king – unable to defeat a monster offers his daughter and riches to a hero. St George, the knight, happened to be passing and wounding the dragon with his lance (and with God’s blessing) then capturing the dragon with the princess’s girdle allowed it to be led by the noble lady to the city gates, where St George converted them to Christianity and duly slew the dragon.
In some accounts he was the son of an English Lord, Lord Albert of Coventry and his mother died in childbirth. The babe was stolen by a ‘wild-woman’ of the woods (possibly a witch or gypsy) but he eventually outwits her and becomes a knight. Of course after the slaying of the dragon and rescue of the princess he married the maiden, returned to England and lived happily ever after… Although as with many legends another version states he faces a second dragon, in Warwickshire, kills it but subsequently dies of its poison.
Of course this is a religious myth, and many would say not fantasy as such – the dragon represents evil, and those who slay them champions of Christianity. He is also believed to have protected horses from witchcraft – one should hang a flint with a hole over the stable door with verse depicting him vanquishing a hag. But there is more than religious allegory, he epitomised courtly and chivalrous values; he was a warrior, saviour of damsels in distress and vanquisher of monsters. And some would say religion uses elements we class as fantasy, and ideas which appear in religion appear in myth and folklore. The two are intertwined. The more magical elements of the myth probably appeared after the Reformation, with the overtly Christian inferences stripped out by the Protestants and the more romantic elements of the story take the fore.
His heart (allegedly) lies in Windsor and was a favoured relic of King Henry V, who invoked him at the siege of Agincourt (1415), where the English were victorious against the French, but later kings have claimed his protection and as the patron saint of England his influence is firmly entrenched. There are other local English myths – including one in an Essex village where a dragon (probably a crocodile escaped from the king’s menagerie) was killed by a local nobleman – one Sir George Marney. The Uffington White Horse, in Berkshire, England (an ancient white chalk horse cut into the landscape) has a dragon myth. There is a hill named Dragon Hill, is claimed by Thomas Hughes in his book The Scouring of the White Horse (1859) to have been the site of the slaying of the dragon by ‘King George’. The bare patch is supposed to be where the blood of the dragon spilled, nothing will grow. Hughes cites another region, Aller in Somerset, where a shepherd tells of a hill which saw the death of the dragon and the burial of its slayer. The horse at Uffington is itself curious being linked with Alfred the Great, (878 AD) Hengist the Anglo Saxon leader, Celtic (100BC) but in fact has been in existence since the Bronze Age – around 1000BCE. Brinsop in Herefordshire also claims ownership of St George – its parish church has a medieval carving of the deed being done. The dragon apparently residing in the local ‘Dragon’s Well’ and the next village being known as Wormsley – ‘worm’ or ‘wyrm’ being an alternate word for dragon.
Heroika: Dragon Eaters
This brings me to Heroika: Dragon Eaters. This anthology turns the tables. Our dragons are not the nice sort. They are the alpha predator, the scourge of land, water and sky, they are true monsters. Only the bravest, most desperate or foolhardy take them on and fewer life to tell the tale. Dragon Eaters came from an idea from fantasy author Janet Morris – who wanted a ‘snake eaters’ type of anthology. The best of the best fighting the worst of the worst you might say. What was born was seventeen diverse tales from ancient mythic to futuristic and steampunk. They share a theme, albeit a loose one, and all types of dragons are slayed, vanquished and devoured. I suppose you could say the winners eat the losers. As you’d expect it is filled with blood, scales, fire and magic, swords, airships, flying beasts and so very much more.
Do you have a favourite dragon story? If so feel free to comment on it.
Fantastical creatures have featured in mythology and storytelling since people first sat around the fire and told of great beasts and wicked monsters. They are at the core of our cultures, from great dragons, to hydra, to sea monsters, mermaids, fairies and pretty much everything you can think of and some you wish you hadn’t. Many were humanoid, some carrying more arms, legs or eyes and some less. Some weren’t – lizards, half birds, half lions, creatures which look they they are made up of left over bits of other animals. The unnatural zoology was vast.
Of course many still feature in modern fantasy – dragons, fairies/feyfolk, unicorns, shapechangers and more. Paranormal fiction is extremely popular – with the vampires/werecreatures etc as the heroes. But what of the lesser known creatures? The nightmare of our ancestors?
The ancient Greek heroes fought and slayed everything from Medusa, the snake-haired woman whose gaze was petrifying, to one eyed Cyclopes – the offspring of mighty Poseidon and the sea nymph Thoosa, (Homeric tradition) or second generation gods – the spawn of Gaea and Uranus (Hesiod). They were giants, builders and liked to snack on mortals (and demi-gods) who strayed into their path. Some were famed for working for the lame god Hephaestus, and some such as Polyphemus were shepherds. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyphemus). Today I am going to focus on these creatures.
The Greek deities were a paranoid lot (with good reason for the most part) and the Cyclopes were imprisoned by Uranus who was afraid of their power. To be released again by the Titans and Chronos in order to defeat Uranus they were later imprisoned again as their power increased, only to be released by Zeus so they could help him overthrow the Titans. (Yes intrigue and double crossing was the staple diet of the Greek immortals.)
One eye had been traded in order that they may see into the future – but as such bargains often turn out – the small print was overlooked and all they could foresee was the day of their death.
Odysseus blinded and tricked Polyphemus, who had it must be admitted eaten several of the trickster’s friends – who in turn were trying to steal some of the giant’s provisions and had found their way into the cyclop’s den.
Getting the cyclops tipsy Odysseus thrust a burning, sharpened stake into the monster’s eye – then cried out his name was ‘No one’ or ‘Nobody’ (depending on the translation) so when the cyclops staggered outside crying ‘Nobody’ blinded him the other giants thought him mad.
Of course Odysseus being Odysseus couldn’t resist letting Polyphemus know who it really was once he was safely back at sea. Telling him it was ‘Odysseus, son of Laertes of Ithica who has blinded you’. This was not among Odysseus smarter plans as this particular cyclops was the son of Poseidon who was rather annoyed and send the great hero’s boat in a rather roundabout way home…
The story reappears in later myths – Virgil tells the story from the perspective of a seaman of Odysseus’ crew left behind (Aeneid) and Aeneas and his crew see the blinded giant and his companions and beat a hasty retreat.
Later mythological writers, including Ovid, speak of the love affair between Polyphemus and the sea-nymph Galataea – with a greater or lesser tragic ending (she loved another). And Wilhem Grimm collected tales and retelling of one-eyed giants from Serbia, German, Finnish, Romanian and Russian mythology.
In the Renaissance composers brought the tales to opera. Giovanni Bononcini, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Joseph Haydn and George Frideric Handel composed works around the story of Polyphemus, Galataea and Acis, her lover (whom Polyphemus kills). Artists and sculptors too have used the cyclops and his tale as a basis for their work. Interestingly too the Scottish Rite Freemasons have Polyphemus as a symbol for civilisation that harms itself using ill-directed blind force.
Origins – Othenio Abel in 1914 argues the origins maybe from prehistorical dwarf elephant skulls – with a big central hole for the trunk, which of course would be gone by the time the fossil was found.
Cyclopia – is an uncommon but real condition is a ‘rare form of holoprosencephaly and is a congenital disorder (birth defect) characterized by the failure of the embryonic prosencephalon to properly divide the orbits of the eye into two cavities’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclopia
Often the nose is missing or is non-functioning and appears ABOVE the single eye-socket. The foetuses usually abort or are still-born, however some living cyclopic animals have been recorded, although they rarely survive for long. Causes can include toxins such as cornlily or false hellebore Veratrum californicum – which resembles Hellebore, which is given as a natural remedy for vomiting, cramps and poor circulation. White Hellebore, which was cited by Hippocrates, also contains teratogens which can cause the deformity. Genetics too can cause the condition – the Sonic the Hedgehog gene regulator (yes really) can suppress a particular protein needed in eye development in early embryos and cause the mutation.
So misunderstood fossils or deformities could have created a myth, which in turn became the story of one-eyed giants.
Mutants: On the form, varieties and errors of the human body. (c) Armand Marie Leroi 2003
The Odyssey of Homer (various translations)
Welcome back to the Library of Erana and the last day of 2015. So another year has dashed past and I’m sitting at the end of 2015 and wondering where it went. I have a theory – someone is siphoning time out of the weekend and holidays and sneaking it into the working day. That’s why days at work seem to go on longer than the same day on leave.
What has 2015 brought me? A house! We bought our first house in April and it’s great. Whilst the place isn’t perfect it’s a good deal better than renting a damp flat and my overall health is better. Also we now have a delightful doggy – she’s grown from a tiny puppy to almost adult and we adore her. Every day she makes us smile and she’s such a happy and joyful creature.
Work… still there. Still stressful and busy but at least I am working and thankful for that.
Writing wise I’ve not been as productive as I planned – mostly due to the factors above but I’ve not been idle.
Stolen Tower – The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book III was published in March 2015. https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/new-release-the-stolen-tower-the-light-beyond-the-storm-chronicles-iii/
The third edition of Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles Book I was published with quite a few revisions and a new cover for the paperback. http://www.amazon.com/Light-Beyond-Storm-Chronicles–ebook/dp/B0088DQO9C
Outside the Walls was revised and expanded and the audio book produced with narrator Melanie Fraser. It sounds great. There is something magical in hearing one’s book read aloud.
Warrior’s Curse was produced in audio by narrator Rob Goll – who has also done Heroika: Dragon Eaters for Perseid Press and will be narrating Light Beyond the Storm and Shining Citadel in 2016.
Heroika: Dragon Eaters was published – along with the accompanying audio book. Please check out the A Week with the Dragon Eaters posts for author and character interviews.
I’ve done 17 guest interviews elsewhere including the latest with Melanie Fox here. https://mercedesfoxbooks.com/meet-author-a-l-butcher/ and four character interviews including Mirandra, Ephany, Dii’Athella and the Thiefmaster.
Oh and a course on Roman and Greek Mythology – which was really interesting. https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/greek-and-roman-mythology-course-review/
There have been over 160 blog posts – including another Week in Hell, a Week with the Dragon Eaters, character, editor and author interviews, and several fantasy based posts and reblogs.
10 tips and lessons
1) I’m rubbish at using Twitter! Does it help marketing? Not a bloody clue. Many people say it is a vital tool; personally I’m not convinced as I have never bought a book or product from a twitter link and it looks like many people shouting to me. That said I do follow a few authors and it is useful for sharing blog posts. I follow the history, nature an astronomy posts too.
2) There is never enough time or energy to write. This is, of course, mostly my fault. I work full time and often I don’t have enough energy or brain power to do much but poke about on Facebook.
3) Networking is vital. I knew this already but it’s good to have one’s knowledge reinforced. Indie authors are, generally, a supportive lot and I’ve traded interviews, found great books to read and got to know a wide variety of people through social media and networking. It’s a good way of getting support for new releases, blogging, Thunderclap and more.
4) There are some total asshats about and many more idiots. This too has been obvious for a while. Recent events have NOT made the world a safer place. Whilst I agree that terrorism is bad, and religion pernicious bombing the crap out of an area that is already a wasteland is not going to make things better. Humans have an amazing capacity to be total asshats to one another – I can’t think of any other animal which is so unpleasant to its own kind – of course not everyone is like that and certain groups have been labelled as terrorists when it is the actions of a minority. History tends to repeat itself – and in many ways humans have a short memory – or at least a selective one. Often people are quick to judge, especially when they don’t know all the facts. Ignorance leads to fear and fear to hatred, then the killing begins anew, or the ghetto, or the pogrom, or the genocide….
Facebook especially fuels both idiocy and vitriol. There are lots of calls from freedom of speech but – of course that depends on who is doing the speaking and what they are saying. There is either freedom to say what the hell you like – and that goes for everyone or there’s not – some limitations are put in place. But then where and when does that stop. Perhaps if people thought before they spoke (or typed) such limitations wouldn’t be needed. Just because you CAN say something doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
Anyway enough of the political talk…don’t get me started I spent 7 years studying politics, sociology, ethics and philosophy and it taught me not to get involved in debates with people who won’t listen and assume they are always right…
5) Marketing is a lottery. I’ve tried some new tactics this year – including Twitter and Thunderclap – results have been mixed. Both are free – at least at the basic level so although not particularly successful no outlay was lost. I’ve found a mix of things helps. Don’t rely on one strategy – vary your approach and keep things interesting.
6) Write every day, even if it’s not working on a book or story. A blog post, a facebook post, a letter or email to someone – it all keeps the brain cells ticking. Write stories when you can and don’t force it. The world is NOT going to end if that story isn’t finished this week. That’s one of the many reasons I love indie publishing. With a few exceptions the person setting the deadlines is me and so if the book isn’t finished or life intervenes (which it does frequently) then it doesn’t matter as much.
7) Be nice to people. If you can’t be nice be quiet.
8) Vary what you write – if you’re struggling with a project then step away from it and work on something else. I’ve found that focusing on other things means my brain can be ticking away in the background sorting out the problems with the other project.
9) Some things can’t be fixed. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on a project or idea only to find it doesn’t work, or its crap. Yes I know this contradicts point 8 a bit but sometimes an idea simply won’t work – or at least not in the way you want. That’s fine. Sometimes shit happens (or doesn’t) don’t force it to be something it isn’t. Readers can spot a forced plot. If it doesn’t work then change it – look at your options. Can it be used for something else? What is causing the issue? Can it actually be fixed? Sometimes it can’t. Sometimes it becomes something else. That’s fine too.
10) Read more. Reading is great relaxation, great research and great enjoyment. The more you read the better writer you’ll become.
So what’s planned for 2016?
I have lots of plans for 2016 – most of which may never materialise but it’s still good to plan.
These are not in any order….
Hopefully a second Heroika volume will happen (for Perseid Press). Not going to mention too much of my WIP but the volume should be great, having seen a few snippets of draft stories. Hopefully my story will be up to scratch and I’m sure the book will feature on the blog when it’s published.
There will be at least one short Tales of Erana, possibly two. I’m planning to release Just One Mistake with a few revisions as a standalone. It’s already featured in Nine Heroes plus my own Tales of Erana Volume One but I have idea how it can be expanded. I think it would make a great audio short story.
Book II is currently being revised so there will be a new edition of that sometime early to mid 2016.
Book I in audio. Rob Goll is narrating that and we are hoping for spring 2016 release on that. I can’t wait to hear what he’s done.
Tales from the Golden Mask – this has been a WIP for a while. Hopefully the first part of the series will be released by the summer. It’s a co-authored erotic adventure set in an Erana of the past. We think it’s a lot of fun, with feisty women, sexy heroes and of course a goodly helping of nookie. This one doesn’t take itself or the world too seriously and is aimed at a slightly different audience.
The Kitchen Imps – a short book of fantasy tales for kids and the young at heart. I really need to work on these, as this is another project which has been around for a while.
I’m contemplating changing the blog – currently this is the free wordpress type but the upgraded version has a lot more features. I’m hoping to attach a website dedicated to just the books as well. I’ll let you know how that goes…
Also looking to participate in a blog tour – I’ve hosted people before but I’ve never done it myself. Will be an interesting experience and I’ll review it after.
Want to try and read more, and review more. I often stick to re-reads but I’m going to try and branch out for new authors. I’ll try and be better at posting reviews as well.
Looking for plenty more interviews – both giving and receiving – guest posts and articles.
Signed up for a course on medieval magic, one on Ancient Greece and also looking at ancient Egypt. Plus whatever else takes my fancy and I can manage with the other commitments.
I’ll look back in twelve months and see how many of these I’ve done.
Feel free to comment on ideas, suggestions for the blog and contacts about interviews.
Hoping 2016 is good for you, my followers, and you’ll keep viewing the blog.
The Jack O’Lanterns are carved, and the marshmallows are toasting over the hellfires. Pull up a pitchfork and join me once more in the devilish domain of His Satanic Majestic.
Characters and authors aplenty for your infernal entertainment.
Character Spotlight: John Milton
About yourself: I am the author of Paradise Lost, the English epic in blank verse, and other reflections on life and immortality, including Areopagitica, a blow stuck against pre-publication censorship. Free speech and freedom of the press were my passions while alive.
*Who are/were you? A poet, a revolutionary, a sentry guarding the gates that kept ignorance at bay. Samuel Johnson called me an acrimonious and surly Republican. Perhaps. I did fight with my tutors, who felt need to tame my mind’s adventurism, put caution in my heart. Caution has no part in an honest heart. I was born in 1608. I was eight years old when Shakespeare died. In 1660 I hid from the restoration lackies, avoiding a warrant calling for my life and the burning of all my works. In 1674 I died, blind and destitute, of kidney failure – to escape such pain, I welcomed death.
*Why do YOU think you’re in Hell? Paradise Lost brought me to Hell, for taking Satan’s part. I tried to make Christianity classical, make freedom the birthright of any soul on Earth, and failed because politics have no part in the true struggle, against death itself.
Who are your friends/allies here? You jest. The Great Deceiver finds me useful, and that puts me on the opposite side of Cocytus from most penitent souls. Nor am I penitent -, nor will I ever be. But no fool, these days, with an infernity around me. The fallen angels enjoy my company.
Describe your home/environment in Hell. I make my home in Pandemonium – a term I thought I coined, for a place I thought a product of my own mind. Pandemonium is a vast breath of foul air and brimstone, a citadel whose spires scrape the heavens, with adamantine walls and filled with Satan’s legions, both doomed souls once men – full of mischiefs and hardier souls who’ve never been men. Some days I have comfort, more than most, when I’m sent with messages or punishments to this damned soul or the other. From Pandemonium ‘tis a long walk to anywhere, but a short flight when the angelic wings of the Devil’s stalwarts wrap me round.
Do you have any enemies here? Do I have anything but enemies? I brought the underverse to life, made infernity real and inescapable. The damned duly hate me. I have peers – quite a different story; an innumerable lot, including Kit Marlowe and his wittol, Will Shakespeare. These two love words for their own sake – and each other. I find them too full of greatness self-proclaimed, chasing after this clever turn of phrase or that rhythm: they forgive all for tragedy and comedy, and naught for the true fight: the fight for freedom of the mind. But the devil doth love his Bard of Avon – more than me, so until obliteration comes to pass, I suffer them, and fool upon fool, so every realm of hell is littered with their wrongs.
Come on be honest, what do you think of HSM leadership? Honest? About the Prince of Darkness? About the Father of Lies? About my hero – whose glorification brought me here to waste away and away? The Adversary allows me my sight, so I can see all the evil done and blamed on me; he allows me my youth, so I can go among the damned from one hell to another – except for Tartaros, so far: even a glimpse of the afterlife of Hellenes is denied me, who wanted so to put a Christian face on Homeric odes.
So, this plague – who’s responsible? The damned themselves: the selfish, the foolish, the overly bold and the bloody. The plague seeks the damned, who in their turn seek escape, every dumb brute among them. Satan’s so-called rulership of all the New Damned fell to laxity: the problem with the devil is he’s not devilish enough, by half, to suit the Maker. So those who rule Above sent down Erra and his Seven personified weapons, to put the punishment back in hell that Satan’s sly courtship of the doomed eschews. Satan’s plan is too clever for those punishers from Above: his ever antic calculated to prove the damned are damned by their flawed nature, by all they do and all they say, and Satan’s soft-seeming leadership forces the Almighty into the role of Overlord of Evil. This, Satan watches, and bides his time, and proves again and again that humanity’s flaws are intrinsic, and not the fault of the stars or of hellfires where their souls finally abide. Thus, call humanity the bringer of plague, not the Babylonian god who brings pestilence only on orders from higher powers. And call the devil the greatest of poets, who brings this tragedy to life and light.
What is the WORST thing about being here? The worst thing about being in hell is that mankind creates it every day, anew and worse. As I said in my poor play, obliteration is the cure. Sad cure. And yet the animal within each soul wants only to live to struggle on, and on…
Erra and his Seven – what’s going on there then? I said all I should need to say about the lackeys from Above, those ministers of due punishment and undue suffering alike. Erra’s forte is plague and mayhem, and hell is, truly, where he doth find his place.
What are your best tips for surviving in Hell? Keep eyes averted. Write and say the truth. Hell is no worse than Reformation England, really – with faults aplenty to fight and fools to spare.
Before you arrived here did you actually believe in HSM and his fiery domain? Bet that was a shock! I thought…I’d dreamed Paradise Lost. Yet when I wrote it, each day was a summoning of His Infernal Majesty. So here I came, and am, and will be until obliteration can be mine – and sleep.
Eternity – that’s a damned long time. How to you spend the endless years here? I foment what discontent I may, and take commissions from the lords of hell when warranted.
What do you miss most about your old….life? Nothing. My life turned out to be practice for my sentence here. If what I publish here is bowdlerized, at least to some those words strike true and ring the knell all the damned so crave: their final rest.
What is the technology level of the culture you chose to write about? Technology provides amusement for the shallow and ungifted, who’ll proliferate inanities until we slog waist deep in the dimmest wits ever born. What humanity does is no better or worse now than before technology – yesterday’s, today’s or tomorrow’s. All gadgets reproduce, but ne’er make anything unknown become known – or knowable. I wrote about infernity, about humanity’s reality – about what we are: our wizened souls, our selfish lusts, our need to break others to our will. Now I can be anywhere among the manifold mistakes of the Almighty’s cruelest jokes: they are no better in the future than in the past. I wrote about this hell in which I stand, and now here I am.
*Name and bio.
Janet Morris. Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 40 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Her debut novel, written as Janet E. Morris, was High Couch of Silistra, the first in a quartet of character-driven novels with a female protagonist. According to original publisher Bantam Books, the Silistra quartet had over four million copies in print when the fourth volume, The Carnelian Throne was published. Charles N. Brown, Locus Magazine, is quoted on the Baen Books reissues of the series as saying, “Engrossing characters in a marvelous adventure.”
Morris has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series Thieves World, in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes.
Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Her 1983 book “I, the Sun”, a detailedbiographical novel about the Hittite King Suppiluliuma I was praised for its historical accuracy; O.M. Gurney, Hittite scholar and author of “The Hittites,” commented that “the author is familiar with every aspect of Hittite culture.”
Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on non-lethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.
*Tell us about your story for this edition. In Doctors in Hell, with Chris Morris, I wrote about the underworld’s single volunteer angel, and a wager he made with the Price of Lies. Chris then wrote about Milton, who is sent on a mission for Satan. Then together Chris and I wrote about Shakespeare and Marlowe, to whom Milton is sent with the true ‘cure’ for the plagues in hell. Hearing this ‘cure’ gives Marlowe the malady an author most dreads when facing an infernity never-ending: writer’s block. And Shakespeare tries to help Marlowe by taking him to the most fearsome and famed witch doctors in New Hell… so they think until they cross a certain threshold…
What inspired you to use the character(s) you’ve chosen? I wrote these characters almost accidentally: I was doing an introductory story for Rogues in Hell, and down came a clutch of new characters, into my story which was called Babe in Hell. One I’d had a taste of Shakespeare and Marlowe, they found enticements against which I was helpless, including the introduction of John Milton. Milton is daunting to portray, and his voice complex, so Chris and I waited as long as we could to introduce him – first in walk-on roles, and now finally, in an entire story that’s worthy of such a character, therefore a story that begins to turn hell on its collective and pointy ear.
How did you become involved with this project? Serendipity, truly. I had a multibook contract with Baen Books, and proposed the Heroes in Hell series, since at that time my parents were dying and death and what may lie after were much on my mind.
Writing for a shared world is challenging, how do you meet that challenge? Writing for a shared world is challenging, yes; but editing one, and writing the introductory and final stories for the volumes, tests me every time I do so. But in HIH I can try things, do stories I wouldn’t try to do elsewhere. Hell is, in its way, liberating.
Tell us why you chose this story to tell out of so many possible options? This ‘story’ is actually a group of three: one an introduction, followed by Chris Morris’ characterization of Milton, then in turn followed by Chris and my final story for the volume, in which the final story “Writer’s Block” sets some groundwork for later volumes while bringing our several strings of plot together. Writing this way is difficult but great fun.
What drew you to these characters? These characters came because I wanted to rewrite and use the first story, which was the only HIH story that Jim Baen wouldn’t publish because the content offended him, and so we sold it to be published in different form for the current version in an a literary sf quarterly, Argos. Since that story would have been the first in a different volume, it was already structured properly to be an introductory story, so we updated it and rewrote it into the current HIH moment, where it worked very well. SO we had had Altos the volunteer angel for a very long time, and it was a good time to re-enter him. As for Milton, he’s a bit daunting but in Hell, we choose a story we want to tell, then we find characters who would be the best a telling that story. For the story we wanted to tell that would wrap the Doctors in Hell volume, we needed to end with Shakespeare and Marlowe – and a few others….
What are you currently working on? A novel.
Name the last two books you’ve read – tell us about them. Euripides, The Rhesos, Lattimore translating; Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women, A. J. Bowen.
One is directly for the book I’m doing, Rhesos of Thrace, in which the Euripedes version figures; the Aeschylus is part of my rereading of Greek tragedies, as much to recover the sensitivities of this period as to clarify what concerned the writers and protagonists.
I really always write the book I want to read, and to write Rhesos the way I want to read it I need to be deeply seated in his culture, both while alive and what Euripdes made of him.
What are your views on authors offering free books? In general, I think that people don’t value what they do not pay for. In the book business, however, there is a long tradition of giving books to people to read who may talk positively about what they’ve read. The numbers of copies involved now are simply greater.
What marketing tips/writing advice can you offer other authors? Write what impassions you: you’re trading away your real daily life for time spent in an imagined construct: make sure it’s worthwhile for you to do so.
If you could pick any quote about Hell which would be your favourite?
“Hell is just a frame of mind.” – Marlowe in Faustus.
What other books/short stories have you written?
|Science fiction novels||· High Couch of Silistra
· ARC Riders
· The Fourth Rome
· The 40-Minute War
· Active Measures
|Heroes in Hell||· Heroes in Hell (book)|
|Fiction||· I, the Sun
· Kill Ratio
|Historical fantasy||· Beyond Sanctuary
|Short fiction||· Raising the Green Lion
· Vashanka’s Minion
· A Man and His God
· An End to Dreaming
· Wizard Weather
· High Moon
· Hero’s Welcome
· Graveyard Shift
· To Reign in Hell
· Power Play
· Pillar of Fire
· Gilgamesh Redux
· Sea of Stiffs
· The Nature of Hell
· The Best of the Achaeans
· The Collaborator
· […] is Hell
· Moving Day
· Sea Change
|Nonfiction work||· Nonlethality: A Global Strategy
· Weapons of Mass Protection
· The American Warrior
If you could have a dinner party with any man and woman from anywhere and anywhen who would invite and what would you eat? Heraclitus of Ephesus, Homer, Sappho, Harold Bloom, Suppiluliumas 1 of Hatti, Kit Marlowe.
Which 10 books would you save to keep you sane after the apocalypse? (Only 10 allowed). Oxford Classical Dictionary, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, Complete Shakespeare (RSC), Lattimore’s Iliad and Odyssey;
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? Don’t, unless some specific review was important to your development and you’re commenting in the course of an interview that includes something salient to say about a review/reviewer.
Which books/movies/plays have influence your life? Too many to list.
In these days of movies and video games are books really influential? I hope so.
Everyone knows Hell is a pretty awful place to spend eternity. It just got worse. Not only are the auditors in, which is bad enough, but now a terrifying new plague stalks Old and New Dead alike. Rumours abound on its source, be that Erra and his mighty weapons personified, Old Nick himself or something else. Whatever the answer might be cures are sought, bought, sold and bold. Hell being Hell, of course it does not go entirely smoothly….
Dr Frankenstein, Polydory, Dr Neill Cream, Shakespeare, Kit Marlow, Calamity Jane, Napoleon, Wellington, nurses and physicians from civilisation’s birth, gangsters, poets and even artificial life in the form of Galatea, and Adam Frankenstein, battle against a foe they don’t understand, have no clue how to beat and yet, as Heroes in Hell, fight they must and endure the twisted half-life in Satan’s domain. Truly mythic, where myths get turned on their heads and characters you thought you knew live (or unlive) again.
Filled with diabolical machinations, intrigue, courage, dark humour, and even searching questions about the nature of the soul – particularly from Joe Bonadonna in Hell on a Technicality this collection of Hell themed tales from a mix of talented writers from science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction. Janet Morris, has yet again, produced an anthology which flows from one scenario to another, despite the varying styles and stories. There were stories I didn’t want to end, and some which made me chuckle (Napoleon and Wellington always crack me up), some which were tragic, some vengeful (Grim) and some which were extremely clever.
This is a world of darkness, but it is a shared world across time, across history, across the good and great and the weak and pitiful and the characters reflect that. There is something for die-hard fans of the series and new authors to discover, and an exquisitely crafted greater whole for those new to the series.
The eighteenth Heroes in Hell is, perhaps, darker and bloodier than its predecessors. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but then again – this is Hell, what do you expect?
#Fantasy #mythic #historical #Heroes in Hell.
Greek and Roman Mythology – Coursera
Greek and Roman mythology is fascinating, in many ways it is at the core of many Western traditional stories. Even today we are enchanted by such tales of heroes, monsters, errant gods, and the goings on of those far removed and yet ever close. Hercules, Odysseus, the Trojan horse, Oedipus, and much more. The terms have fallen into modern usages – An odyssey denoting an epic journey, a Herculean task, a Trojan horse for a gift which is not all it seems. Such tales spawned others – and in many ways influence modern heroic fiction.
I’ve studied Classics in the past – although it was more for the historical perspective and so this course really appealed. I’ve also studied with Coursera – an online organisation which offers courses from a variety of sources, including the University of Pennsylvania who provide this particular course.
Myths intrigue me, I read a lot of mythic fiction, and write it too in my Tales of Erana series.
This is what the Coursera site says about the course ‘Myths are traditional stories that have endured over a long time. Some of them have to do with events of great importance, such as the founding of a nation. Others tell the stories of great heroes and heroines and their exploits and courage in the face of adversity. Still others are simple tales about otherwise unremarkable people who get into trouble or do some great deed. What are we to make of all these tales, and why do people seem to like to hear them? This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Are they a set of blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? Or are they just entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? This course will investigate these questions through a variety of topics, including the creation of the universe, the relationship between gods and mortals, human nature, religion, the family, sex, love, madness, and death.’ (Coursera Website)
Does the course deliver? Yes it does. The tutor Peter Stuck is engaging, obviously knows his subject and is enthusiastic. The course is presented through a combination of videos, reading materials, quizzes, two essays and some discussion forums. The course recommends 10 hours a week of study – in truth it’s probably slightly more as some of the reading is quite long.
The subjects covered range from how the myths were perceived, the notion of pietas (duty, honour, loyalty) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pietas to religion, to food, to concept of the hero, what it meant to be a man in that society, the notion of how to treat one’s guests (or not) and familial ties. The reading includes The Odyssey – possibly THE epic adventure of antiquity and one of my first introductions to ancient Greek literature during my Diploma in Classics – so this was a very welcome re-read; The Aeneid – the tale of Aeneas and the struggle of the survivors of Troy and their quest for a new homeland – which lead (apparently) to the founding of Rome. Julius Caesar and Augustus traced their ancestry back to Aeneas and through him back to his immortal mother Venus; to the Oresteia (the tragic tale of Agamemnon after he returns from Troy); Oedipus the King (the tragic play so famous in which fate and prophecy play such a terrible role). Plus several more.
The video lectures made me think about some of the books in a new way, by focusing on aspects I may not have initially seen, and seeing the greater whole of the stories. Homer was incredibly influential and the later works often copy (or attempt to) his style and incredible narrative versatility. The books cover a period far removed from ideals and ideas of today, yet still something resonates – the challenge, the struggle and the emotions of the characters, the fight to be something more, and in some cases to survive. Of course much is different – Hesiod’s Theogony is not favourable to women, there are of course slaves in these societies, the gods are many and walk with humans, often begetting offspring in one form or another, and playing with the lives of mortals, ritual is important and there is violence – a lot of it. Actually that’s not so different from today and for much the same reasons – greed, honour, territory, religion etc.
These are not books for the faint hearted, or for those who are shocked by violence, sex, double crossing, murder, betrayal and such like. Themes in fact which tend to pervade our media – watch any soap opera and these themes are there in abundance. The influence of these authors and their work is monumental and this course helps to show why. Why this works need to be preserved and celebrated and why these cultures are so important to our own. These books are real heroic fiction, they are at the core of heroes and monsters, and of fantasy as we know it.
So, you ask, is it expensive? No it’s free. You can pay a small fee and get a certificate of completion (assuming you’ve done all the quizzes to an acceptable standard and one of the assignments) but it can be completed simply for the pleasure of it.
Is there anything I didn’t like? I did find the workload quite heavy – with work, writing, and family life commitments can be difficult to find the time and energy to put it but others may find that easier. I also didn’t use the forums much, although that was personal choice.
The course does not require any prior experience in the subject (but it helps) and assumes a level of literacy and intelligence in order to discuss and appreciate the themes and topics.
Would I recommend this? Yes, without a doubt to anyone interested in mythology, Greek and Roman literature or religion, fans of heroic fiction, and historians of the period.
#Mythology #Coursera #HeroicFiction #Fantasy #GreekandRoman
Theogony – Hesiod.
(4 for value – ancient text and useful insight)
(3 for readability)
(3.5 for interest)
(3 for technicalities – formatting)
I’m not totally sure how to rate this – as an ancient work (8th Century BCE) it’s importance is supreme. It’s a great insight into the pantheon of the Ancient Greeks and their religion but it must be said it is NOT an easy read. This is partly as it is so old – these deities are alien to most of us, with unfamiliar names, roles and lives, if that is the right word, which are also rather fantastic. Mostly it reads as a list – so and so begat so and so. There’s a lot of that – sex is everywhere, as is violence, intrigue, deception, family squabbles and much more. From the modern view all the incest, patricide, misogyny and so forth is hard to deal with – although pretty standard for ancient religious text. The stories of Prometheus, of Earth and Sky and Earth’s revenge, plus the birth of Athena are the most outstanding accounts. In many ways it reads like a modern soap opera.
I’d say it is a great book for background information to the gods and supernatural beings of the period, but as a straight through read, or an adventure such as the Odyssey it is not nearly as exciting. The misogyny of the text is obvious – although to some extent reflects the ideas of the time.
The formatting on this version was a bit suspect – with large gaps, words running into one another and repeated phrases, which MAY have been intentional but maybe not. After a while it became fairly hard to read because of this. Some more notes to this particular version would be very useful.
Overall – I’d say a useful reference for study if one wants background into the deities of the Odyssey or Iliad, but not an especially interesting one – at least in this particular translation.
Something a little different today, we get to meet not only a brave animal but one who has lived and died and lived again.
Welcome to Ghost Horse, from the Sacred Band Books.
Tell Us About Yourself
Name (s): Ghost-horse; the bay. If you can hear me, you’ll know it. I have no name in the way you mean.
Age: thirteen years, interrupted by death and resurrection.
Please tell us a little about yourself: A war-horse am I. Strong and brave. Straton’s horse am I, once found, then lost, then found again. Of all the Sacred Band of Stepsons, Ace called Straton alone now rides me. When he’s astride my broad back, nothing is impossible.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less: Sixteen hands, blood bay war horse, broad backed and strong.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? A moral code? Bear my rider whence he must go, forever. Run far and fast. Bring my rider’s battle to his enemies. Charge boldly; never falter; never hesitate; refuse no challenge. Feel the love, hear the words of my human partner…
Would you kill for those you love? I do.
Would you die for those you love? I have done so. And been brought back to life for my human partner’s sake thereafter. Now nothing harms me, no metal cuts me; in any battle, my blood never spills. Nowadays I do not die for love; I live for love – the love of my human partner, Straton.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses. Carrots and sugar-beets, those my weaknesses, which I dearly love. Running over green grass, into battle, finding the safest path to victory for my rider, protecting him and all his Sacred Band: these are my strengths: As the only ghost-horse of the Stepsons, my place is always in the forefront: with Straton I forge new ground; I bear him everywhere, unflinching. Such service we have seen, such places far and wide, as few horses ever see.
Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Ace called Straton, the right rider for this broad back; the right partner for my battles.
Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions? Do I like other horses? As with men, some horses are brave, some cowardly; some generous, some churls. I was bitten in the throat by a man who attacked me as if he were a dog, once. So dogs are not my friends. Sometimes a cat will bide with me, in this stall or that. I like cats: they give loyalty when deserved; they are rightly cautious.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them. I have been a cavalry horse since I was two, and chosen from a band of captured bachelors. Straton has brought me up; he is all I trust, all I love; he is my family. Sometimes he finds me a mare or two, but battle is my greatest passion: in war, Straton and I find our greatest joy. Sometimes we run for the sheer bliss, over vast plains and through forest, with no enemy in sight. Straton’s lover, Ischade, resurrected me after the dog attacked me, after the battle in which I was mortally wounded. She loves Straton; I love Straton, so Ischade is, in some ways, under my protection. Up behind Straton she sometimes rides me, and then no place is too far, no goal to loft, for us three
Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember the day Straton chose me, the look in his eye, the apple in his hand. He sent me to other men, to teach me the ways of war, and got me back again. We have thundered into so many battles, even the Battle of Chaeronea together. With Straton astride me, I never doubt, I never fear. Wherever he wills to go, I can carry him, be it to hell itself and back again. This I believe because Straton knows it: whatever my rider thinks, I know to be true. Wherever he wants to go, I will take him. Whatever he needs, I try to be. So Straton gives me the wants, the needs, the courage of a man, and I show him the wants, the needs, the courage of a horse, and together we are indomitable. A horse wants to fight or flee, as does a man; deciding which is my rider’s task. Making his wishes real, that is mine.
Do you have any phobias? Dogs and the men who become them.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I have a spot on my withers where men can see into hell itself, and a spot on my hip where they can see into nothing at all.
Tell Us About Your World
Please give us a little information about the world in which you live: The world in which I live is wherever my rider, Ace called Straton, wishes to go. I have fought on Wizardwall, against the black mages of Nisibis. I have fought on the battlefield of Chaeronea; I have fought in mystical Meridian. Since I was foaled in Syr, I have been adventuring: first among the other horses, until the mares cast us bachelors out; then in the high steppe country, and at last as a war-horse of first Straton and then the greater Sacred Band. We fight in the forefront; we travel by cloud conveyance from war to war. We have numinous allies to take us any place in space and time. Except for my rider and the witch who loves him, all I care for is contained in Tempus’ Sacred Band. And someday, Straton has promised me, we three will ride forever, away from witchery and angry men, in the green fields of the gods.
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? A horse believes what he can see and feel, and is bred to tell what he can trust. We have our gods, you know: Epona, Poseidon, Hekate, and the war gods before them: a war-horse gives his life into his rider’s hands, and that rider gives all to the gods. My world is full of enemies, who’d eat a horse as soon as kill a man, and those enemies have rival gods. So we war-horses fight on the side of right, as our riders see it. And that will never change, has been the same since the first gods were foaled.
If so do you follow one of them? I follow the gods of Ace, called Straton. As long as he lives, that will never change.
Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour: I am a war-horse, so I go to war. With Ace called Straton astride, I do the needful, all his gods command, since his gods are also mine. I am a peace-keeper, so I ply angry streets. I am an explorer, so I lope where no horse has ever gone before.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I go where Ace called Straton needs to go. I fight for him, with him, beside him. I keep him safe whether we are in this world or another. Anyplace a horse can go, I take him – even a world away. I have spun in whirlwinds unto foreign lands, even Thrace and Scythia and on from there. Not future or past or anywhere is barred from the Sacred Band of Stepsons, so in ranks we sortie. Even Tempus, the Riddler, has commended me in public for my bravery, when I have fought in dimensions some horses never tread, and more farther realms lie just ahead….
Name and describe a food from your world. Salt hay, tender and tan, bluest grass bitten right from the earth, roots and dirt and all; fat oats, steamed until their hulls break open; corn and molasses and flaxseed mashed. My favorites though, are carrots with their green and lacy tops, and chunks of tender sugar-beet.
Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? Magic is the necromant who resurrected me, gave me a chance to come back to this world for the rider whom I love. Some think magic is aught than natural; I say magic is the wind in your mane, yielding turf underfoot, and a rider on a mission.
What form of politics is dominant in your world? Politics are for mares and men, not for stallions. I will walk upon my hind legs to strike any enemy of my rider or my mares and foals. I will trample jackals and lions and feral dogs. I believe in giving one warning squeal, and a bellow of promise; then I strike, unashamed, to defend what is mine: that is the extent of politics for me. The rest is clacking of jaws and whistles on the air.
Does your world have different races of people? We have humans of every color and belief and shape and size, just as we have horses as diverse. In a herd of horses, as in a crowd of people, those who are alike band together against those of different nature.
Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. In ancient times, Zeus gave two horses to Tros, king of Troy, to console the king after the god had taken Ganymede for his young lover. From those great horses, the best, the strongest, the fastest horses are sprung.
What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? We have chariot with metal-bound wheels and axles fitted with scythes. Some of us wear armor, felt or scales of metal. Some of us have iron shoes upon our hooves. What item would you not be able to live without? My rider.
Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some. This world is full of gods, mages, shape-shifters; and demi-gods, and elementals – even a demiurge or two and creatures who spawn weather gods and fashion fates.
Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? Horsemanship, so that we and our riders can be better partners.
Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.) Hekate, goddess of race horses. The Hippoi Athanatoi, the immortal horses of the gods themselves, offspring of the weather gods themselves; and all the Hittite god of horses, Tarhun, in and of himself a storm god.
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links
Author name: Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.