It’s been two years since I published my last book — and a rough two years, where my mental health and employment status have both been patchy. But hey, I’m feeling okay again and think it’s time for me to write another novel.
Choosing which novel to write hasn’t been easy. Another short story collection? Another Story of Aligare? More in the Tinder Stricken universe? I don’t have enough sales numbers to decisively point at one of those. It’s hard to say which readers my stories are reaching. But when I tell friends and acquaintances about the ideas I’m kicking around, I’ve gotten a warm response to one story concept in particular — Wyndren’s story.
The working title is To Know Arcanely. It’s set on modern-day Earth where Bigfoot, Nessie and all manner of legendary creatures are real: they’re lost souls who accidentally came to Earth from their own magical dimension. Main character Wyndren is a faerie/dragon hybrid who crossed the dimensions while still in her egg, and she was found and raised by human scientists who study cryptids (more properly called Arcanians).
This upbringing leaves Wyndren stuck between worlds. She’s fond of humans but definitely not one of them. She assists with cryptobiological research, and studies the many fascinating types of human language, and runs a popular aesthetic blog, and through it all she longs to know where she comes from and what her Arcanian parent races are like. Visceral “seeking” needs like this are often what brings Arcanians to Earth in the first place — but how can Wyndren know why she’s here, when she came before she even hatched?
Accompanied by her best friend Holly — a dryad bonded to a potted bonsai tree — Wyndren begins travelling through cities and towns. If she meets new people and learns enough about Arcanian kind, maybe she’ll track down her own purpose.
And this is a first for me: To Know Arcanely might be a trilogy of novels. Wyndren has multiple societies to explore and she could easily find more than she bargains for! I’m focusing on one satisfying book for the moment, but I have ideas for Books 2 and 3. We’ll see.
Thoughts? Share in the comments!
With my love of variety in fantasy literature, I try to experiment with lesser-used mythological creatures. I’ve talked before about the phoenix, that metaphor everyone knows — but few fantasy writers use to full potential. And I’ve dabbled with black dog interpretations ever since I first found out about that interesting little clump of British Isles lore.
Today, I’m here to discuss sirens. You know, those mythical aquatic women who aren’t mermaids?
Originating in Greek mythology and later adopted by the Romans, sirens are supernatural women who sing in enchanting voices. They tempt or hypnotize men, most notably sailors on long, lonely journeys. Sometimes the sirens distract the sailors into crashing their ships; sometimes the lovely singing just lulls the sailors to sleep so the sirens can easily kill them. Either way, it’s a bad outcome for any man enchanted. The first Greek examples of sirens were associated with meadows and earth, but later siren lore had a water connotation — including dangerous, rocky seashores for befuddled sailors to crash their ships onto.
That ocean context sometimes causes sirens to get mixed up with mermaid lore. Nowadays, particularly sexy mermaid artwork is sometimes tagged as a siren. But Greek texts originally described “winged maidens” with bird legs. The siren was sort of like a harpy‘s more attractive sister. Her bird traits represented her beautiful singing voice. An early Christian text also points out that love is a sharp-clawed bird: it “flies and wounds”.
There are also historical artworks of sirens as fish chimeras who look slightly like mermaids. And some artworks where sirens looked like ordinary human women, lounging on rocky seashores. Like most mythological beings, sirens are open to interpretation.
As for me, I grew up hearing a bit about Greek/Roman mythology and its singing sirens. My more memorable siren encounters came in video games. Final Fantasy games and their summoned spirits represent a wide variety of Earth folklore, after all.
But in the modern fantasy genre, siren encounters are fleeting compared to elves, dragons, vampires or werewolves. The siren doesn’t seem to be a mythical creature that gets much thought or reinterpretation. So when I saw the submission call for the Distorted anthology — asking for modern, realistic, or fantastic interpretations of mythology — I thought sirens would be a great subject. Their flexible lore would let me worldbuild. Their built-in themes of love, temptation and punishment would help me make a great story.
I wrote a piece called To Sing Which Tune. It’s about a version of modern Earth where sirens (feather-covered humanoids with gills) have always been friends to humans. They call boats away from danger, and they perform their lovely songs on TV for our entertainment. At least, that’s how it used to be.
Nowadays, the siren population is showing more and more cases of violent dementia, attacking humans unprovoked and with little warning. Marine ornithologist Helen thinks it’s because of toxic chemical buildup in their bodies, a side effect of human pollution. Helen is driven to help all sirens — most of all her lifelong friend, Odyssia. But she might be too late.
To Sing Which Tune is darker than my usual stories, but it was an interesting project and I’m delighted to be included in the anthology! And I’m glad I jumped at this chance to write about beautiful, deadly sirens on a modern seashore.