One of my New Year’s Resolutions relates to the articles I write for Mythic Scribes. In 2014 I started working on a series called Magical Creatures for Magical Worlds, in which I am looking at mythical creatures that are sometimes used in fantasy fiction. It’s a topic that interests me because it involves delving into the stories of past cultures and finding out how those stories changed over time and were reinterpretted by modern authors and creators. It gives me the opportunity to use things I learned at university – and books I purchased for my degree.
The problem is that in 2014, I didn’t really push myself on those articles. I wrote them in a hurry, a few hours in the days before the deadline by which they were meant to be published. What resulted was research which was too shallow – someone even accused me of sounding like a Wikipedia page for the Fairies article. With the Minotaur article I was definitely more in my home territory, because Greek myth is something I have looked at before in the course of my studies, but even that was rushed. And that’s not the approach I want to take.
For this year, I’ve set as a goal that I will research and write one article on a mythical creature per month. I will also use that mythical creature as a prompt to write a short story.
The goal here is to give myself enough time to research properly – one month – and end up with articles which are good quality for publication. Given that the schedule for articles on Mythic Scribes means that each article team member puts out approximately one article per quarter, this will also mean I have some buffer, and if there’s a dud in there, an article I’m not happy with or didn’t have the time, that month, to give proper attention to, then it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to submit it. I can assign another month to have a second shot at it and submit something else.
I have already made a start, yesterday, on my first article on the Phoenix. I did a little digging and found passages from Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Ovid, Claudian, Aelian, Pope Clement I and more to start things off. I found a book, a lot of which can be read on Google Books, which has some more information, proper academic research, which I will be looking at next. This is the way I want to approach these articles: by finding primary sources and modern commentaries, reading and comparing them, then building up an article based on what I find.
It’s interesting, actually. I mean, obviously it’s interesting, or I wouldn’t be doing it. But I was surprised by what I found out about the Phoenix, even in just a few hours’ research. I’ve been aware of the concept of the Phoenix for a long time, having read different version of it in books ever since I was a child. Fawkes from the Harry Potter books was perhaps the main influence on my image of the Phoenix, and because, hey, it’s a firebird, that’s cool, when I first ventured onto the internet I called myself Phoenix. But I had no idea that in classical mythology there was thought to only be one of it, just one solitary example of the species – which, given the way it rejuvenates, shouldn’t really be a surprise. Several of the accounts I’ve read also mention that it is not known to eat or drink anything in the mortal world. That wasn’t even something I’d thought about before.
So I’m feeling pretty good about this goal for my Magical Creatures series. I’ll learn something interesting, I’ll produce work I can be proud of, and I’ll get some fiction written along the way.
And it doesn’t hurt that it gives me an excuse to delve into my much-thumbed, heavily bookmarked copy of Herodotus some more either.