From Myth to Material

From Myth to Material

Pentecost 67

In 1987, an author wrote to a publication regarding the possibility of publishing his work. Recognizing that his writing, like that of a few other authors did not comfortably fit into any established genres, he wittingly came up with a new name for it.

Dear Locus,

Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I’d appreciate your being so good as to route it Faren Miller, as it’s a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in “the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate” was writing in the “gonzo-historical manner” first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.

Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps.

—K.W. Jeter

The writers had taken the imaginings of writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and combined them with the fashion of the Victorian era with the current mythologies of the science fiction world. It may have seemed like an impossible pairing but it was really nothing new.

The genre of science fiction had for a century taken fiction and provided a breeding ground for technological advancements as the stories told became the fact of the modern world. Jules Verne imagined a ship that would sail not on the water but under it, twenty thousand leagues under it, as a matter of fact. The advent of movies made these stories take on visual realities and inspired inventions that today are commonplace.

Verne did not invent the submarine. He named his sub the Nautilus after the real-life submarine of the same name invented by Robert Fulton in 1800. He had also seen the French submarine, the Plongeur, at an 1887 exposition. His imagination, however, whetted the appetite of underwater pioneers and gave inspiration that such devices could be appreciated and valued.

Space travel has also gotten a boost from various authors in the telling of their out-of-this world stories. George Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” and Fritz Lang’s “Woman in the Moon” are two such examples that, while some aspects of their stories like the lunar surface were off base, others such as the launching of the spaceship from a cannon were closer to reality.

Today, some of you might be reading this on a tablet computer. Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001 – A Space Odyssey” not only accurately portrayed the hand-held computer we call a tablet but also the time period of its birth. The movie props even became part of the landmark court case when Samsung used the film against Apple’s assertion for their iPad design claim was original. The Star Trek franchise accurately predicted such things as mobile phones, 3-D printers, and the latest smart device, the smart watch.

Even the movie Short Circuit combined technology with mythology in telling an accurate depiction of militaries worldwide interest in robots. Today the robots are used in both defensive and destructive manners but also in life-saving maneuvers such as detonating bombs and even performing surgeries in hyperbaric chambers. Laser surgeries save lives every day and are the same of science fiction from a century ago.

The stories of our cultures have tremendous impact, not only on the current listeners but those who might read these tales in the future and those who become inspired by them. It is very easy to dismiss them as the ramblings of prehistoric men with no knowledge of their world or science. These mythologies speak of mankind’s dreams and aspirations.

No one person is a commodity and no one has the right to make them feel that way. Life is about much more that simply going through the motions each and every day. The mythologies of antiquity encouraged our ancestors to not only believe in the immortal beings of their imaginations but also to believe in themselves. It is a belief we should have discover, explore, and feed. There is much more to life than simply going through each hour in drudgery.

It is a beautiful world out there and it exists not just for the privileged or the wealthy but for us all. The basic premise of each mythology was to explain the material aspect of life while never forgetting the mystical quality of life itself. Find the magic in your life today – the magic of a sincere smile, the joy of a hug, the promise of a better tomorrow.

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