Tag Archives: gods

Looking at Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz

Peter Pan, Wendy, fairytales, myth, Neverland, children's fiction, fantasy

Pete Pan as J.M. Barrie envisaged him, and had this statue mounted in Kensington Gardens. Wikicommons: Sebjarod

Somehow, in a childhood rife with reading, and a family of readers, I missed Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz. I saw the movies, but never read the originals. A few years ago, when I was on my way to Kansas for a writing workshop, I decided to read the Wizard of Oz, partly because a story idea had popped into my head and I needed to know what the original tale was really about.

The first two things I learned was that the original title was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and that Dorothy’s shoes had not been ruby red. They turned that color when MGM made the film because they needed something that drew the eye better and of course, it was those magical shoes that transported Dorothy home. It was a cyclone that took her away but she returned on her own two feet (more or less). From that discovery, my story “Shoes” was born and explored what happened to Dorothy after she had returned from Oz to the mundane farmlands of Kansas.

So, reading Oz as an adult perhaps gave me more depth than it would have otherwise. There were definitely political statements within Baum’s story, as well as aspects of self and what happens when you go from doubt to believing in yourself. In fact, it is Dorothy’s belief that she can return home which helps transport her there. Dorothy’s adventures take place in a world that is strangely different from a Kansas farm community. Indeed, this is a common tool in children’s stories, and some adult ones as well. While J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use this, she has it that the world exists in the same place alongside the regular world but it is hidden from muggle eyes. Oz was elsewhere.

Now I’m reading Peter Pan because I’m trying to come up with a green man story. And Peter Pan‘s original title is Peter and Wendy, or Peter Pan: the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. J.M. Barrie wrote it first as a play in 1904 and the Wizard of Oz came out in 1900. Peter Pan has a lot to do with the green man. He lives in a wild land, dresses in green or in skeleton leaves and plays pan pipes. And yes, Peter Pan’s land is Neverland. It is the stuff of dreams and the sugar thread fantasies of children. But whereas Oz seems a fantasy from which Dorothy awakes, Wendy, Michael and John, and the other Lost Boys who return, did in fact leave to another land and their parents missed them.

These two stories are part of our modern fairytales. Along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and

Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, ruby slippers, silver slipers,

Dorothy’s ruby slippers were originally silver and she took them off the dead witch’s feet. MGM

The Secret Garden, they do not have the generational mythos of fairytales handed down over centuries. Yet they are enduring and endearing and each deals with a child going to a place that is other. What is even more interesting with Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz is that while these stories were written a little over a century ago, they both have major female protagonists. Since I’m not doing a full essay here I’m curious if there were many tales of quests or journeys that took place before Alice in Wonderland. Of course, such journeys go back to the early myths of Gilgamesh and Herakles and Odysseus, so travels to mythical lands is not a new concept. But when did the children take over?

Dorothy is swept along on her travails, and while she observes and experiences growth through her trials, she makes very few decisions on her own until later in the book. Yet her main adversary is the Wicked Witch, a strong if megalomaniacal female figure, and of course there is Glinda as well. Wendy is the first one wooed by Peter’s pan pipes and while she goes with her brothers, she wishes for nothing but romance and to be a mother, and in fact plays mother to all the lost boys of Neverland. The boys kill and get in skirmishes because “children are gay and innocent and heartless,”  and Wendy keeps them in order. She is also the damsel taken captive. Tinker Bell and the redskin Tiger Lily vie for Peter’s attention but he is oblivious to all. Like many age-old myths of gods Peter is the eternal youth and Wendy is the mother/love figure that is part of the tale of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.  For stories that are a century old I think it’s interesting that the male writers gave the females fairly major roles, even if they were still carried along on the action of the males.

Persephone, underworld, neverland, faery, fantasy, myth

When Persephone eats the food of the underworld, like those who eat the food of Faery, she is bound and can never fully return to the lands of humans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Peter Pan actually hearkens back to a far older myth. It is the tale of the grain goddess Demeter, loved by all of humanity, and her daughter the Kore. The Kore is seduced by a narcissus planted in the field. When she plucks it Hades, lord of the underworld, abducts her to his realm. Demeter blights the earth until Kore, now Persephone, is returned, but Persephone’s eaten the fruit of the underworld (the pomegranate). She is only allowed to return for part of the year because she only ate a partial meal in the underworld, and hence we have the seasons. When Peter guides Wendy and the lost boys home, he asks if she’ll come every year for spring cleaning, and her mother (who is loved by all) grants this, though Peter in his eternal youth, forgets some years to come by. It’s a simplified Greek myth but the seeds are still there, as they are in the fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

Both the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan involve many adventures with different characters, just as Hercules/Herakles had twelve labors or Odysseus encountered sirens and cyclops. The language of Peter Pan is beautiful and evocative, yet compared with the sterilized Disnefication of tales today or even the movie versions of these stories, the children are savage and thoughtless. There is an inherent violence, which like nature, is part of a pattern and lacking morals. It just is.

I could go on but if you have not read these more modern fairy tales, consider that they are of a natural evolution that began with gods long ago, metamorphosed into magical beings and objects, took a trip to the land of Faery and never quite left.

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Why We Need Gods, Queens and Rock Stars

rock stars, gods, fame, idols, movie stars, queens, kings, royalty, adoration

creative commons: by crymz http://crymz.deviantart.com/

Not everyone wants to be famous but of those who would like to be few become famous. Some people, like the tyrants and murderers of the world, become infamous, famed not for the adoration of the masses but reviled. Not everyone wants to lead and not all those who lead want fame and glory but it often comes with the territory.

Many people want their independence, to work well within their expertise and live comfortably but they may not have the knowledge, vision, verve, ability, charisma, want or other traits that it takes to be a leader. We are often content to walk in our grooves, do what we do and hope that a few people (friends, family) might consider us great, or at least special. It is the way of human nature.

Likewise it is the way of humans to follow leaders, as history can attest to again and again. Once, it was not just enough to lead and know your fellow humans cemented you firmly on a pedestal as one worthy. It was even better to marry oneself to a god through belief or in actual ritualized marriages. After all, if you were god blessed or ruled by divine authority, what man or woman could nay-say you? Thus it’s been since human beings started congregating into groups and villages until they created cities, fiefdoms, kingdoms and empires.

As the religious fervor has waned over time (in some countries because we see a resurgence time and again) we have needed other beings to admire, adore, raise up on pedestals and idolize. Why? Because they epitomize the best and give us hopes and dreams that we too can be great. Greek mythology is a prime example of this. You had your gods but they tended to have sex with humans from time to time and make demigods. Sometimes a hero, like Herakles, started out as human but then achieved some divine status. Look, you too can become godlike!

So, what is godlike in terms of our modern world: beauty, riches, talent. Oddly we don’t tend to raise up the rocket scientists and neurosurgeons the same way that we do the rock stars and movie stars. They get to play act instead of saving the world and yet they shine brighter in our esteem. Because we all want to be beautiful, talented, rich. Oh and what’s next to god, above even those rock and movie stars? Royalty.

Perhaps this renewed idolizing of Prince William and Kate has captured the mundane population’s heart and sense of romance. But consider this. Any of you can become a surgeon, a politician, a leader, a musician, an actor (whether you’re beautiful or not) with the right training and perseverance. You can gain riches and some fame. But very few if any of you will ever be royalty. You can’t train for it, you can’t be elected to it, you can work your way into the position. Royalty is inherited. You’re born to the right parents or you’re not. You great granddaddy was the grand poobah so you get to be (but only if you’re the eldest and only if you’re a boy first; girls still come second). You don’t have to be beautiful, smart, talented or a good leader. You just have to have the right blood, which is just like anyone else’s. It’s one thing to be born to a millionaire and inherit the business; it’s another thing altogether to inherit a country and riches paid to the coffers from the pockets of the common person without having to prove your worth.

So consider this the next time you idolize the shallow trappings of beauty and money. There is often far more worth in your neighbor than someone born to a privilege fabricated from beliefs of their blood being better than yours. The other thing about placing people on pedestals; sooner or later someone wants to pull them down, especially if their flaws show. And guess what; we’re all flawed.

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What is Fantasy?

In the world of writing and reading there are genres and sub-genres. Some (though possibly not all) of those genres are: romance, literary, horror, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, mystery, mainstream, slipstream  (or cross-genre),western (though mostly defunct these days) and a host of others. There are many sub-genres and some people will debate that they are genres in their own right. It gets confusing and there is a grey line between some.

For the world of fantasy, some of the sub-genres are: dark fantasy, magic realism, mythological, sword & sorcery, high or medieval fantasy, heroic fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. Your mileage may vary. First fantasy is a story written in a world or time that is not now or historical. However, it also has a fantastical element, something that is more than the world we know. It could be magical creatures (vampires, fairies, hobbits, unicorns) or it could be a form of magic or a system/organism that works differently. Angels, people who can disappear at will, who move faster than normal, who must eat rocks, who can transform themselves or others, sentient planets, mystical vessel, curses and blessing, gods, carnivorous trees, firebreathers, aquatic being, winged creatures, etc. All these are fantasy. But fantasy can also be a bit less than this. It can be the world of today but there are ghosts and that’s it. I’ll briefly define the sub-genres.

  • Dark Fantasy–this could really be any of the above elements but with a darker mien than the regular tropes. In other words it has a horrific or tragic element. Now many of the fantasy novels being published could also be labeled dark fantasy, and really dark fantasy is the new label for horror. Horror fell out of favor with mainstream publishers years ago and it was better to label something fantasy or thriller. So dark fantasy will deal with the shadow side of the world and its characters far more. Beings might be abused and die and inevitably there will be dark forces that can prevail. Lord of the Rings could be dark fantasy but is usually just labeled fantasy. It falls in a number of categories. The Princess Bride would be fantasy or humorous fantasy if you need to define it more.
  • Magic Realism–often this is Latin American writing, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works, but many other people write it as well. It is surreal and very much in the modern world that you and I live in. There may be no sense of wonder because the one aberrant thing is either hidden to most people or possibly known by everyone but taken as commonplace and their part of the world. It could be a woman having a conversation with an angel or one that I read, about a boy born a centaur who goes through his life trying to have a surgery to correct this condition. Magic realism will have a heavy focus on the human condition.
  • Mythological–this may take place in the historic past, the present or the future. It could involve gods or other mythological beings. It could be based on a creation or destruction myth. Basically all those ancient tales of gods are the first fantasy, except that the people of the time believe them and they were the religion. But the story of Gilgamesh and other adventure tales were pretty much your first fantasy stories.
  • Sword & Sorcery–pretty self-explanatory. Usually set in pre-industrial times or on other worlds, often medieval but could be Renaissance, Hun, Pictish or a hundred other times and place. S&S involved magic and fighters, and yes Lord of the Rings is sword and sorcery as well.
  • High or Medieval Fantasy–these will involve grand adventures and epic scale battles or fighting the forces of good and evil. High fantasy isn’t always medieval but it is often enough, Katherine Kurtz’s books are an example of medieval fantasy. It’s your basic feudal systems, rulers, battles and perhaps a few wizards and dragons thrown in though what these creatures or their abilities will truly be will differ. Yes, Lord of the Rings fits in here too.
  • Heroic & Epic Fantasy–I’m lumping these two together though they could be defined as slightly different, where the first could be about a solitary hero and the second would possibly cover years and countries and a group. But that’s not necessarily true. These two will have heroes, those who sacrifice themselves or their way of life for a greater good, who will battle against great odds and their actions will change much of the world as they know while changing themselves as well. Again Lord of the Rings is also heroic and epic. Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks write this style of fantasy.
  • Urban Fantasy–takes place in our modern world or one similar but could have bike riding elves, troll waitresses, fairies selling drugs or whatever. The example I gave is kind of cliché now but it all depends on the story and how it’s written. It can also involve someone who sees creatures feeding on the souls of others, or a particular breed of magical being living in Hawaii. But mostly urban fantasy is…urban.

These definitions are by no means complete or absolute. Others will interpret the sub-genres of fantasy differently. Some will count alternate histories and steampunk under fantasy and it may well have fantastical elements as well as historical and scientific. Hence why we have grey boundaries to the genres. I worked in a bookstore for years specializing in the speculative genre and I still couldn’t keep them straight.

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Book Review: In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed IV

For anyone just tuning in, this is the fourth and last segment of reviewing Mitzi Szereto’s In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed. Mitzi chose fairy and folktales from diverse sources. These aren’t just Grimm brothers or Arabian Nights. There are Japanese,  Persian or Sanskrit, a cultural mosaic of stories from sources around the world.

Written in Sanskrit, “A Tale of the Parrot” is an Indian tale where a talking animal relates various lessons or stories, much as Shahrazad did to her husband. An emir’s daughter is wasting away and the Spanish Infanta comes to try a cure, and discovers the Turkish Khan’s (who wants to marry the girl) emissary stirring a cauldron with a stick. The stick is actually his penis, with which he “agitates” the contents of the cauldron. The Infanta helps stir only believing his penis to be a growing stick. Then she takes a cup of the “creamy” broth to the emir’s daughter to break the spell. Now, whether Szereto is completely ignorant of cleanliness taboos of Arabic lands or not, the cleanliness taboos of Europeans would balk at this. Albeit, many of these tales have fetishistic aspects but the Infanta next takes a scrubbed chamberpot to fill. This would be repulsive to many people, even if they’re fine with a young woman drinking goblets of ejaculate.

I was actually surprised to see “Little Red Riding Hood” because, even with erotic rewriting, it’s almost been done to death. It has similarities to myths of gods changing shape, or magical beings consuming a string of victims. Here, “Red” sets off to Grandmother’s house on the lookout for “handsome young huntsmen.” She has a reputation for twirling about, revealing much beneath her skirts, to the workmen who grab their “bulges.” At least this phrasing makes it clear what they’re doing. When she wanders through the woods she actually hikes up her skirt, given as she is to the thrills of exhibitionism. The story follows the more traditional path when viewed in its sexual context, but with some  amusing twists with Red Riding Hood’s exhibitionistic tendencies, and refreshingly few odd twists of phrase.

“The Traveling Companion” is a popular riddle tale, especially in the Scandinavian countries and reworked by Hans Christian Andersen. Poor Johannes is like his counterpart Michel Michelkleiner and his innocence causes his poverty to increase before he has barely set out on the road. He meets an older, more experienced man who has a magic ointment for curing ills, and that he rubs high up under the skirts of an old lady, and a wooden marionette, which leads to the whole puppet troupe being rubbed and coming alive for a flesh and wood orgy. The two travelers learn of a princess whose suitors must answer three riddles and if they lose, they lose their heads.

Johannes uses the ointment to fluster the princess, and his traveling companion does not rely on the ointment alone but folllows the princess to discover her secret. He enters her bedroom where she is sound asleep with her nightdress having ridden up, “exposing a pair of graceful thighs and the corresponding hills above.” I wasn’t sure at first when he starts spanking her if these were her breasts or buttocks, but presuming buttocks, it would have helped to know she reclined on her stomach instead of trying to be tossed out of the story to figure it out. Other than this one aberration, the story is amusing if somewhat black in humor, and though bawdy, not overly erotic.

“The Turnip” brings us to where we began in Cinderella with the turnip (or parsnip) loving stepsisters who used the vegetative length and firmness for sexual diversion. This poor farmer has magical turnip seeds but his own member grows to gigantic turnip proportions and though he wishes to remove it, the king moves him into residence where the man is used for the king’s riding pleasure. This is another story that disturbingly borders on rape and does not meet erotic content so much as sexual abuse.

Also known as Brier Rose “The Sleeping Beauty” has long had an undercurrent of sexuality or even rape, where the prince kisses or impregnates the sleeping princess. Instead of the witch’s curse, Szereto tosses in a lecherous frog and then the story proceeds apace to the prince many years later breaching the brier thorns. By this point I confess to becoming quite annoyed with the bizarre euphemisms and found I was ejected from the tale when the prince lifts the sleeping princess’s dress where, “A pair of gossamer wings began to slowly unfold….the fragile creature was being held back by two fuzz-covered pods,…” What the–? I could not imagine what this was at first and then believing Szereto to mean the clitoris and labia I was dumbfounded. How is this description, even given to hyperbole, slightly erotic? Fuzzy pods? Gossamer wings? Has anyone ever seen genitalia that looked like this?

“The Twelve Months” is the last tale, with a stepmother and sister who envy the pretty daughter and send her off on tasks designed to kill her. She meets 12 men who are the months and tends to their “branches” in three ways. It is somewhat erotic and one of the better stories.

When I started out reading this collection I really thought I’d love it. I like what I know of Mitzi Szereto and I like the retellings of fairy tales (and many originals as well). Granted, eroticism is different for each person, I still find it hard to believe that many people would find these tales sensual at all; they fall more into the category of bawdy, if anything. The euphemistic phrases don’t work because the description is too bizarre, especially for our modern sensibilities. Why Szereto felt the need to follow this style I’m not sure, except maybe to mimic the style of earlier centuries, but why then the anachronistic aspects dropped in without making the whole tale of another era? It’s as if she was still writing these for children, which is not the projected audience at all. I did like the introductions  about the evolution and history of each story, but I would have liked to have seen a reading list or some lists including The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, etc. as well as scholarly works by Zipes or Bettelheim. I believe that Szereto can write but if I was in Sleeping Beauty’s bed, I was left wanting.

http://www.cleispress.com/gosearch.php?textfield=in+sleeping+beauty&search_type=TITLE

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Cats and Gods

Cats, we all know them. We love them or we hates them. There are those of us who love them, and that’s pretty much everyone on my block. My neighbor had a cat that died a year ago. He’s just got two new cats. I have one but used to have two. My other neighbor has four, two of which were the children of my cat when she was an unwed, teenage mom (also abandoned on the street). There used to be three of her children but one died. And my neighbor’s other two cats were street cats as well.

My landlady, the Mother Teresa of cats, has adopted so many homeless cats over time. Her two current cats were adopted from the street. One actually abandoned his first owner and the other was taken from his rough tom days on the street. We used to have a fish factory at the end of the street and there was always a bunch of feral cats living there. My landlady captured them, had them fixed and released them. She also still goes and feeds them every day.

Neighbors across the street and down the block have cats or have had them. There are two or three dogs but the cats outnumber them and the neighboring blocks have many cats as well. I also at one point, when I had my previous cat, had an interloper, a very pregnant, little tabby female. It turns out that she knew how to use my cat door and at that time I didn’t have one that looked. It seemed obvious to us that she was going to have the kittens in my place since I’d found her sleeping on my bed several times.

So we cleaned out the bottom of the closet and arranged some towels for the inevitable event. My landlady had laid out a little bed in the sink in the work shed but the cat studiously avoided it. And sure enough, I went away one weekend and when I came back, the cat had had kittens, seven of them on the seventh day of the seventh month. That’s a large litter for a cat. She also had chosen to have them, not on the lovely towel bed we had made for her in my bedroom closet, but in the den on a bunch of fabric I had stored.

With such an auspicious number of cats with the 777, I decided they all had to be named after gods. I named her Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, because giving birth to all those babies made her a deity. The only black kitten, a female was name Kali after the Hindu goddess. There was one tuxedo cat that was named after a Celtic god but I can’t remember which one, Cuchulain rings a bell but he was a hero not a god. There were four tabbies, two with brown noses that I named Freya and Loki and two males with pink noses that were named Zeus and Hermes. And there was one longhair tabby male. I can’t remember all the names but I covered the Norse, Greek, Celtic, Egyptian and Hindu pantheons with the names. I believe there was an Isis and Osiris in there.

The cats went off to different homes and I don’t think any of them kept their original names. The longhaired cat became Smokey because of the color of his fur. Hermes and Zeus became Starsky and Hutch. I guess they weren’t meant for godhood.

 But then my other cat came along, she whose children were adopted next door. At the time I just wanted to name her after a god but I had no special reason. She was petite, with bunny fur and big eyes. Aphrodite seemed to big a name for such a small cat so I named her Venus. She did, after motherhood, fill out into a matronly form. However, she became less aloof after my other cat died and did in fact prove that I’ve named her aptly. Any time anyone enters my house my cat flops over at their feet and splays her belly to be rubbed. She loves attention all the time and being pet, even in the wrong direction. She doesn’t care as long as it’s attention. But she hates and is jealous of other cats.

Cats have been around a very long time and domesticated by humans for millennia. However, they have not been domesticated as long as dogs, the first animal that humans domesticated. And one can argue the domestication of cats, who maintain their independence. Cats are definitely more agile with their paws than a dog is, and they can go in litter boxes, eliminating the need for a daily walking. They are also pretty resistant to training, which dogs are not.

Between that life of ease, the aloofness, the independent behaviors, it’s no wonder that they have been associated with godhood. Ancient Egyptians worshipped them and mummified them, just like humans. And I believe that it’s the Thai people who believe that nothing perfect can remain on Earth, because it would ascend to heaven. Therefore the cat’s tails are cut so that they aren’t perfect.

So is it any wonder we name cats after gods? I always say I’m coming back as a cat in my next life. It wouldn’t be so bad to be pampered. My neighbor now has two new cats and my landlady and I think he should give them godly names. They’re Persians so they definitely look regal. It’s fitting to give a cat a godly name, because it goes with their nature. If one named a dog after a god, that god would have to be goofy or obedient, not exactly the way we see deities. Hail, the noble pussycat. 🙂

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The Death of Rock Stars

Untimely deaths in the world of entertainment may not be every day, but they are a little too common, and of course because these people are famous we hear of all the sensational aspects that went along with the death. Looking at three stars of the music world, we have Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Michael Jackson, to name a few but perhaps the most famous deaths.

Elvis made it to 42 and died from complications of obesity and drugs. His life of fame ate at him and like many stars, brought out the hollowness of always being in the spotlight and having money to satisfy every desire but a happy heart. His funeral was big and his grave still gets many fans at Graceland.

John Lennon, didn’t die by his own hand, but was shot down by a nut, at the age of 40 (and Lennon actually said in a interview that day that he would probably be popped off by a loony). I remember when he died and I was incensed that the local paper didn’t even mention it on the front page of the newspaper. But some deaths hit the front pages because they sell newspapers.Because Lennon had moved on from the Beatles to a new phase of his life, his death was big but probably not as big as Elvis’s though they had been contemporaries.

Michael Jackson made it to 50, so did relatively well of the three big stars. He too died from drugs, addiction and who knows what else. His funeral this week was a spectacle with rock and movie stars and the thousands who attended being chosen through a lottery. It was in one sense a big dead concert, with booklets being given out as souvenirs or mementos of his memorial.

Comparing funerals and the splash that any of these men made in death could be difficult. Even Sarah Bernhardt’s death in the 20s held a spectable. Jackson has died in the age of computers and internet, blogging and tweeting. That his death will have hit more media forms than any other big stars death is obvious. This will of course increase his impact on his fans, or the number of people influenced by him. On TV, there must be at least five stations with long, dedicated shows to dissecting Jackson’s life. Not to mention every news hour covered Jackson’s death in detail.

Although stars often do charity and public works, funneling some of the gross amounts of money they make into good deeds, they are not overall big on world impact. That often takes world leaders and the power of their countries behind them to make those changes. But the King of Rock n’ Roll, the King of Pop and the Fab Four were known for their music, for touching the hearts and souls of millions of people. On TV, in movies, on stage, they were more visible, more beautiful and more charismatic than our world leaders.

Is it any wonder then, that we idolize them, place them on pedestals and call them our modern gods? People must place their faith, hopes and dreams on someone. We may not all be famous but we can fantasize of these princes of music and try and dig into evey aspect of their lives. And we can hate them enough to pull them down or shoot them, should they show a flaw or just somehow be what we can’t be.

Michael Jackson, like Elvis and John Lennon, left a huge legacy. It will stay in the hearts and minds of people for a long time. It will be a hundred years or longer before they fade from memory. But other stars will rise and shine and burn brightly for a time, then fade. And amongst those supernovas, there will be millions of other stars, not so bright, but the lives of you and me and those around us who deserve attention and love while alive. The price of fame and fortune was that Elvis and Michael at least, sought drugs and were unhappy. So we, the little stars, should remember this and be happy that we have the ability to be obscure and not always in a spotlight that can singe us to the soul.

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Incest, Betrayal and Genetic Sexual Attraction

CBC Radio today had a program talking about Genetic Sexual Attraction and how there was a certain need with some people who shared genetic material to be more than just brother-sister, father-daughter, mother-son, and take it into sexual fulfillment. This raised my hackles, because I was victim of incest.

I have never hidden the fact that my father abused me and when my parents divorced when I was 12, that I never saw my father again. He died two years ago and it was nothing but a relief. Stating this will probably cause some grave repercussions with my family members. But my father was never made to pay for what he did. Why, is a complicated matter, which I can’t get into. To say I hated my father would be an accurate description of my emotions.

Two years ago two people betrayed me, in separate situations. I was absolutely devastated and depressed by this erosion of trust. I came to realize that part of the reason the betrayals knocked out my foundations was because the first betrayal of trust happened when I was four, with my father. I did not necessarily understand cultural moires and taboos at that time but I knew it was wrong and that I felt uncomfortable with what he did or tried to do. I’m sure that set up certain patterns in my conditioning.

One aspect of that conditioning is that I am absolutely, adamantly against incest and am disgusted by the thought of it. I read a fiction novel a year or so ago (The Blood of Angels by Stephen Gregory, winner of the Somerset Maughm award) about a man who in the course of the book becomes attracted to and consummates his relation with his sister. His life becomes more of a shipwreck to disastrous, horrific endings. It was a riveting book, well written, compelling and making no judgment but letting the tale tell itself. I was intrigued and felt both repulsion and compassion for the characters. That’s the sign of a good writer who can delicately pull in the reader’s emotions.

So I try to look at some things through other’s eyes. But there are strong taboos against such ideas as incest or sexual relations with family members. Yet, some cultures supported incest, such as the ancient Egyptians who kept their royal bloodline within the family, brother marrying sister and even the gods practiced incest. But then many gods did, such as the Greek and Roman ones, keeping divine within the group and then spreading it amongst select mortals.

The physiological problems of incest is of course inbreeding. But more, this program talked about a genetic attraction, which was stated as a normal thing. I did not hear all of the program but I question “normal.” What is normal is that most humans have a range of thoughts that can encompass taboo subjects, such as murder, suicide, indulgences, crimes, incest. What is not as normal is that most people do not act upon taboo thoughts.

There is a GSA site, http://www.geneticsexualattraction.com/ which is supposed to be a support group for people in this situation. It stringently says this is for biologically related people who are mutually attracted where there was no “power over” (my quotes, not theirs) the other. Barbara Gonyo, who started the site, states that it is support on a subject that to most is:

1. misunderstood
2. shocking
3. to some unbelievable
4. taboo to society.

And…However, GSA is:

  • NOT an incest site as we have always understood the subject of incest
  • NOT a place to fantasize
  • NOT for incest victims of childhood abuse or their abusers
  • Not a porn site

That is a good thing to know and I believe there are some very conflicted people who must hide the relationships they have embarked upon. One member of the site stated that she wished people would leave them alone because they’re not hurting anyone. And in essence, this is a fundamental belief of mine, that a person can do what they wish as long as it doesn’t hurt others.

But part of me thinks, having read a few messages on the site, that people are looking for justification for their acts, that they “are not alone” and therefore it’s okay. Maybe it is. But then I read about a mother and son who were caught kissing by her husband, or by two siblings who get together and requite their relationship from time to time even though one or the other is married to someone else and I can’t help but wonder about the aspects of right and wrong and how those boundaries have been breached. Not one of these people mentions the aspect of just plain ole cheating in what they’re doing. It seems that because they already have a special taboo relationship of  “genetic sexual attraction” that this negates all other things, relationships and constrictions of trust.

What does it matter if a sister cheats with her brother on her husband when her brother is just family? It is a love so strong, an attraction so deep that it matters most of all. Yet, people have felt these attractions throughout the ages and most not for their family members. And, throughout history, marriages have ended when a new attraction began. That, is in fact, human nature.

I’m not a psychologist so all that I’m stating here is just my opinion and obviously I’m biased. But I just feel that there is a matter of self-control and restraint that is overridden by these people. Yes, that happens to people who are not genetically related as well. But letting it come between an existing relationship is indulgent. I don’t condone cheating either. I would hazard that in some cases, where two family members have been reunited after a long separation (as in adoption), that there just might be a strong psychological need for that belonging and love of the biological parent or sibling that had been missing throughout life. It doesn’t have to be acted upon sexually but seems it sometimes is.

Is it right? Not by most cultures’ standards. Is it hurting anyone? Only if someone is in an existing relationship and cheating. Or if they have a child because it increases the risk of genetic abnormalities for that child. Do I like it? Absolutely not. I fear that if this was too openly accepted as one of the norms, that we would see people saying, why oh yes, we have always loved each other. But in fact there would be the brainwashing of say, a sibling by a parent over years, and in fact a power over that would keep the one member in line, believing this was normal and of mutual acceptance. Case in point, there are the religious groups who believe a man can have numerous wives and marry them as young as 14, when those young girls can be influenced and brainwashed that this is what they want and that they always have wanted, knowing no other life.

I caution against believing that this genetic sexual attraction is normal and should be acted on. Often there are still repercussions for relations and of course the pressure of society can be great. But maybe I’m missing some crucial aspect. I’m waiting to be convinced.

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Theme Parties

Here’s something light to balance out the dark thoughts about our police. It’s spring, finally, in Vancouver with rumor of our temperatures getting up to 22 (centigrade) today. The cherry trees finally burst their blooms full force. Daffodils, weeks late, are now out and tulips are on their way. Everything is late this year because of all the cold weather so we are relishing the warmth.

And thinking of parties and barbecues of course. Over the years I’ve been known for having theme parties, much to the annoyance of a few friends. These themes have nothing to do with a particular time of year but more to do with having fun. Adults should get to dress up too. Here are a few themes I had.

  1. Nothing But the Blues: everyone was required to wear something blue. Easy enough for the blue jean people, and an excuse for me to wear a vintage 50s dress in blue satin.
  2. Come as Your Favorite God: open to people’s interpretation of god. There was a football player, someone’s personal god. My landlords came as household gods; she was dressed in apron, 50’s hat and full dress, rubber gloves with lace on them. He was dressed in underwear and tool belt. Then there was a smattering of other gods, Greek, Roman, Celtic.
  3. New Year’s come formal from any century or place: Although most people opted for your traditional fancy dress I had one goth, kilted, black booted friend, one very drunken guy in a toga that ended up in the shrubbery, and three Atlanteans dressed in shimmery blue-grey with glitter everywhere.
  4. Bad Boys Bad Girls: you guessed it. There was a manga, tousled schoolgirl (with panties in hand) and a bad biker dude. And there was a priest. Anyone not dressed up got handcuffed together, including my landlords.
  5. Mad Hatter: this was by far the most elaborate and the most fun. My partner at the time and I both had a fair number of hats. We made it Alice theme. Anyone who didn’t show up was  given a hat to wear. But people went all out and the costumes were fantastic. Here is a list of a few that we had: Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the walrus and the carpenter, Charles Dodson, two caterpillars, a griffon, a card, a flingo, a male, female and child Alice, a male, female and child cheshire cat, a mad hatter of each gender, and I think a mad queen.

I haven’t always had themes nor remembered all of them. There have been some people who do themes based on paintings. They send out an invite with a picture of the painting to be recreated, find and decorate a space and then everyone comes in costumes suitable to the recreation. I would presume that if one goes to the much effort they’re going to party afterward as well, because partying before might be too chaotic for the picture. This would be fun to do and some day I’d love to do that.

Then there are murder mysteries. They’re harder to find these days but the few we had friends would come and play the part, dressed to resemble the particular character. Those tend to be limited dinner parties of about eight people but the roleplaying makes it way more fun.

My few disgruntled friends can come to my parties dressed normally but everyone, even the big kids should get a chance to have fun and dress up as a space alien or a squid. It’s great to see what imaginations can create. I’ll be interested to see what people do for the next theme party and here are just a few ideas for the summer, where gods really should be wandering.

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Writing: Revisionist Poems & Stories

A discussion of revisionist writing came about on another list when I mentioned that I had sold my poem “The First Taste” to Dreams & Nightmares. It is a revisionist poem about Persephone. I was asked what I meant by revisioning. A good question because the term is probably most often used in terms of history and politics. But on the other side are the revisionist myths or fairy tales. Some will come tagged with feminist revisionism but it goes beyond that.

I ran into revisioning somewhere way back, maybe first to do with the retold fairy tales, especially the ones that were in the Datlow/Windling anthologies. But I was also doing a course on children’s literature where we examined fairy tales right back to Perrault and the Grimm brothers. Angela Carter’s tales came up as some early revisionist fairy tales. I’ve also run into it in poetry but don’t remember when anymore. It could have been in the creative writing courses at UBC or in the world of speculative poetry.

I guess the basis for any revisioning poem is that instead of a third person or narrative tale of a hero’s or god’s deeds, the tale is now told in first person, though third person is also used. It might also be in the voice of the lesser being/mortal/bad guy who traditionally was fairly two-dimensional. This is not always the case with stories, which may also be in third person, but all tend to delve into the psyche of the person and how they feel.

This is sort of what happened to SF when it evolved past the embryonic stage of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters) and started to become more realistic; or magic realism, set in today’s world with just a small twist of otherness. (Is this the bastard child of canlit and spec fic?)

Like all genre labels, revisioning is just another fancy word for categorizing what we write. 🙂 In my revisioning poems (which really is just a classic tale, whether fairy tale or heroic myth, from another point of view) I’ve written on Dionysus, Kore/Persephone, Athena, Leda, Psyche, Demeter, Aphrodite (though the last really doesn’t fit the same way as the others). I’ve also written one story on the oracle on Pythos before it/she became the Delphic oracle.

In stories, I’ve taken various fairy tales and rewrote them as well, from the Princess and the Pea, to Snow White, to Dorothy after Oz.I’m sure there are other takes on revisioning but this is pretty much how I see and understand it. One well-known child’s story done in a revisionist mode is the about the three little pigs but from the wolf’s point of view, pointing out how he was framed.

Classical fairy tales are fairly thin and two-dimensional, offering very little depth into the whys and wherefores. Many fairy tales were cautionary tales, and others were, what academics now presume, tales to show/train young women for their eventual separation from their parents, and subsequent marriages. It is the purview of fantasy and speculative fiction to take the regular world and twist the what-if. If we’re looking at old, tried and true  tales, then it’s turning the story on its edge and presenting a new view.

Whether called revisionist, speculative or just plain fantasy, taking the classics and showing a new perspective is part of the evolutionary process. Fairy tales, myths, fables were once passed down, word of mouth from person to person. The oral tradition actually kept the story current to the times as the teller would adapt or change aspects to suit the understanding of the listeners. The constant evolution means many stories have passed over the lips of humanity to be lost in the trails of time. With the newer tradition of taking those now codified tales, whether Sleeping Beauty or the tale of Eros and Psyche and telling a new story, the process continues to bring evolution to the myths and fairy tales of our ancestors.

Here is a lesson plan on revisionist fairy tales for anyone who teaches about writing and reading: http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=992

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