• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Kim Falconer: Archetypes, Agents and Oracles—Where Myth and SF Meet

Flycon, the online speculative fiction convention, offered a chance for authors, editors and fans from all over the globe to meet and discuss SF/F topics. One subject of particular interest was Mythology and Science Fiction, moderated and hosted by Nyssa Pascoe from A Writer goes on a Journey. The panellists were Dave Freer, Amanda Pillar and the transcripts are still up for viewing.

At first glance myth and SF seem opposed. Myths happen in the past and usually involve the numinous where science fiction happens in the future and involves speculative technologies, environmental shifts, space travel, or life on other planets. Amanda Pillar summed it up by saying mythology is the metaphorical framework which a culture uses to understand the world around them and science fiction is basically stories set in the future. But how do they work together?

Dave Freer gave an example. ‘I borrow heavily from the symbolism common in many mythological stories. I think this helps to quietly get under the reader’s skin. Issues like stories beginning at dawn and finishing at dusk. Issues of the trickster – a common myth figure – who is so often the bane and saviour of humankind.’

Joseph Campbell, a hero of mine, used the term monomyth to describe this archetypal portrayal of characters. Monomyths are enduring stories that reach a broad audience, archetypal in that they occur in all places, in all peoples, in all times. These stories touch something inside us—giving us as sense of meaning—something science doesn’t always do.

Star Wars—Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher 1977

Star Wars—Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher 1977

George Lucas’ Star Wars is an example of a monomyth/science fiction blend. In Obi Wan and Yoda we see the archetype of the Wise Old Man and spiritual Guide. Luke Skywalker is the young Hero and Darth Vader is the archetype of Death. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed these characters emerge from the Collective Unconscious, a deeper level of our personal unconscious that links the minds of every being—even back into our animal past.

He said, ‘This deeper level manifests itself in universal archaic images expressed in dreams, religious beliefs, myths, and fairy tales. The archetypes, as unfiltered psychic experience, appear sometimes in their most primitive and naive forms (in dreams), sometimes in a considerably more complex form due to the operation of conscious elaboration in myths.’

Keanu Reeves in the Matrix plays 'The One', a contemporary interpretation of the savior archetype.

Keanu Reeves in the Matrix plays 'The One', a contemporary interpretation of the savior archetype.

Another film that blends myth and SF is the Matrix Trilogy. Neo is the Hero called to adventure. Morpheus is the Wise Old Man, and the Oracle, like Yoda, is the numinous guide. The animas figure—the sacred feminine that tutors through love (or lack of it) like Medea, Ariadne and Princes Leia—is characterized by Trinity. It’s interesting how the hero’s journey hangs not on strength or knowledge but ultimately on a relationship to love. (Remember what happens to Jason when he rejects Medea?) In the Matrix, Neo is unable to overpower agent Smith until he is awakened by Love—a wonderful mythic theme woven into a post-apocalyptic SF tale.

Do you have a favourite SF/monomyth? Please share it here.

Kim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment Book 1), which was published in January by HarperVoyager. Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series.

Follow Kim on Twitter

8 Responses

  1. One of my faves you’ve already mentioned 🙂 – The Matrix is a perfect example. I also loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when it was on. The myth of the ultimate hero, come to save the world, with her advisor (Giles) and her lover, Angel, it was wonderful. The show often referenced both ancient and urban myth to build the story.
    There’s also the series Otherland by Tad Williams, which builds on numerous myths, including the always-popular Arthurian saga. I thought it was done particularly well there – the action in the book mostly takes place within a virtual world, but in the end, the man who has styled himself king of that world, is brought down by a protoge of sorts, known as Dread … (mordred).

  2. The matrix is a complex and alluring example–Neo not only is on the archetypal Hero’s Journey but also is ‘the savior’–the One! I’m sure there are more than a few of us who have thought so over the years…he being ‘the one’ 🙂 he he he

    And Buffy! This is a huge reference considering the exposure and response she’s received. I think the motifs explored through this tv series also represent a shifting view of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and, as discussed in A Vampire Goes on a Journey, a shifting view of vampires in general.

    I haven’t read Tad Williams’ Otherland but am curious to now! Sometimes I think it would be good to have the same upload facility as in the Matrix–fly a helicopter? One sec and I’ll find the file. Read Tad Williams? –hang on. Zap! There, you’ve got it!


  3. George Lucas has actually acknowledged that Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s work.

  4. Yes, he has. Good point!

    He discovered the book ‘A Hero with a Thousand Faces’ after writing his first draft of SW and then he when back and re-worked it to reflect the mythic hero’s journey. He met Joe later and organized those wonderful interviews with Bill Moyers The Power of Myth. Have you seen them? Fantastic!

    I find Joe Campbell an extraordinary speaker–his ‘word of mouth’ storytelling is much more accessible than his narrative. Has anyone else felt that?

    Thanks for dropping by skaldi!

  5. Two things, Joseph Campbell is a hero of mine not so much for spelling out the monomyth but because of his notions concerning the role of storytelling in the expression of the human spirit and of his non-denomonational, ‘humanist’ approach to spirituality in general. He posits that symbolic storytelling brings you close to that ineffable spirit dimension, and that you yourself are on your own hero’s journey. That just seems really relevant to me as someone who writes, for to get that relatable human journey element into your stories you need to see it in your own life, rather than simply copying the monomyth. His book Pathways to Bliss is especially wonderful.

    Secondly and back on topic, a great quote on Indigenous Australian spirituality of the Dreamtime by Robyn Davidson reminds me of the mythic role of SF in society:

    “One could say that the Dreaming is a spiritual realm which saturates the visible world with meaning; that it is the matrix of being; that it was the time of creation; that it is a parallel universe which may be contacted via the ritual performance of song, dance and painting; that it is a network of stories of mythological heroes – the forerunners and creators of contemporary man.”

    The Dreamtime spirituality is unique I think even among world mythologies, because time isn’t quite linear, the days of creation aren’t in the past, they’re in another dimension of which the effects have markers on the Australian landscape. Their holy people travel into the Dreamtime to glean knowledge and then come back to share it with the people. I think this is similar to opening a SF novel and looking into its world, into its stories, stories which aren’t of this world but still reflecting this world, a realm we access to enrich our lives.

    I guess you could say that all books function like this, of all genres, but I think it is especially relevant to the world-building nature of SF. And to touch again on Campbell’s notion of the spiritual and self development role of myths, aren’t we ourselves ‘crossing the threshold’ when we go into the worlds our books describe, like heroes venturing into a world unknown to us?

    So myth for me seems endemic to SF, because SF for me not only plays the role of myth but in opening an SF book you go on your own heroes journey as well as read one. Joseph Campbell rules!

  6. Hi Cassie,

    Thank you for your coherent and insightful comments! I too love Joseph Campbell’s non-denominational, ‘humanist’ approach to spirituality. I found his video series, the interviews with Bill Moyers, wonderful too. He was such a charismatic speaker. I could follow him anywhere. I think they are available on DVD now: The Power of Myth

    And Robyn Davidson’s quote is enlightening–. . . the Dreaming is a spiritual realm which saturates the visible world with meaning. I love that!

    As you say, stories that aren’t of this world but reflect this world can be the most soul growing–we do cross the threshold every time we open a book. Beautifully put, Cassie.

    Thank you!

    🙂 Kim

  7. Great post, Kim. I knew about Campbell’s input into the first SW trilogy, and REALLY noticed how it went astray for the second trilogy! In the first, the “magical” element is spiritual – the Force – and in the second it was suddenly explained away as being purely biological – midichlorians. Such a disappointment for me, as if God were suddenly explained away as an alien cellular hiccup!

    But in answer to the question – my personal fave at the moment (it changes!!) is Dr Who, especially the Russell T Davies/David Tennant version. The lonely saviour whose tragedy is that he is the only one of his kind left in the Universe. He tries to avoid connection because it will break his heart; yet he is compelled to save others simply because he is the only one who can do it. His Hero’s Journey will never be complete – others benefit because of his journey, but he will continue to suffer. That resonates for the audience because we observe how unfair that is for him; and of course we’re hoping every time that THIS time he’ll have a personal happy ending!! What’s nice about Tennant’s performance (Christopher Eccleston had this too) is the ability to show the suffering but also show his capacity to find joy in small things, which is what keeps him going.

    And of course, some of the writing is amazing. For those who haven’t seen the modern retelling, check out some of Stephen Moffatt’s episode such as “The Empty Child”, “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Blink”. I reckon Blink is one of the best explorations of time travel and causality, plus it’s genuinely hide-behind-the-couch scary… in a fun way of course!!


  8. Janette,

    That’s an interesting point–how the Force is explained by a biological function- midichlorians. It limits the ability to identify with the Jedi–How can the Force be with you if you don’t have the right cellular structure? I want to feel like the Force could be with me…you know what I mean?

    Your review and insights into Dr. Who has my attention. I am going to check out those episodes you recommend and get back!

    Thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

    🙂 Kim

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