Mythologically Speaking…

One major inspiration to me as a writer whas always been mythology. As a kid I pored over the Illustrated Book of Myths constantly trying to learn and absorb all the great legends from around the world. This particular edition – retold by Neil Philip – featured tales not just from the conventional Greek, Egyptian and Norse cycles, but from Native American legends, Pacific Islands and Australia, Celtic, Japanese and some African cultures. It summed up Zeus and the Titans, Odin and the Frost Giants, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Sedna, Maui, and all sorts of other tales in light, accessible prose, with engaging, vibrant imagery.

Cover of Neil Philip's Illustrated Book of Myths, art by Nilesh Mistry

I think people who create and read TG fiction gravitate toward the myths. The famous cycle of transformations known as Ovid’s Metamorphoses was the source, sort of, for the famous Ovid cycle of stories by The Professor. But there aren’t a ton of myths concerning the crossing of the gender divide. Of course there is Tiresias, the seer who lived seven years as a woman (and was later called on to rule in a dispute between Zeus and Hera over which sex has more fun) and Hermaphroditus, whose body was merged with that of a female Naiad. But I think most of these mythmakers had more pertinent interests – how the world was made, what is the source of evil, why we fear the dark, etc etc. But when I write my TF/TG stories, I always cast my mind back to the myths.

I love the dreamlike logic of myths. Cadmus sows a serpent’s teeth into the ground and up springs a mighty army. A snake steals the plant of renewed youth from Gilgamesh and gains the ability to shed its skin. Baldur can only be killed a spring of mistletoe – the only object in the world that has not sworn never to kill him.

These things influence my writing in many ways, and I think it shows in the stories I have posted. Some worlds I have played in have rules that make them more like science fiction – Altered Fates, the Trading Post – but others, like the stories “What A Quarter Can Buy” and “Partners” owe their origins to the myths, where innocent actions can have unexpected reactions.

To me there’s something so inspiring about imagining magic nudging its way into our lives at any corner with no rhyme or reason the human mind could understand. Whether it’s a coin that buys you a new life or a sex toy that doesn’t work as advertised – even “The Fish in the Desert” was magical in its own way. I will write some stories that are a bit more mechanically sound, of course – science experiments gone horribly wrong (or horribly right) invaders from outer space, magical artifacts with stricter rules. But I hope that you’ll also join me in breaking down the limits of what’s possible and leaving your mind open to other possibilities.

Do you feel attached to myths, legends and fairy tales? Do you feel like they have stuck with you, inspired your own writing? Feel free to leave a comment, tweet or email me, and don’t forget to read the stories above.

Be kind,


Leave a Reply