Melange

I’m not too sure on length of tonight’s post, as I have a very sore, swollen left hand (got it trapped between a boat-trailer and the ute (AKA ‘truck’) thinking I was faster than I am. I then went to sea, and caught this little 8 and a half pound fellow, and just after seven pound brother who closed his feeding claw around the hand, and explained to me in no uncertain terms that I had broken it. Anyway, he is Christmas dinner, shrimp on the barbie for his, and my, pains. Needless to say today the words have flowed quite freely and I have been alternating between chicken pecking and holding the hand up and getting too impatient and just typing. Hand is complaining a bit. Sooky thing that it and I are.

We, and our writing, are products of this sort of mixture of experience and ourselves. But it struck me today when I was dealing with a mixture of modern setting, Celtic legend and largely invented aboriginal heritage (the island’s original aboriginal settlers died out after the the Bass strait flooded, leaving the islands* as the real ‘Terra Nullius’ of Australia until the first sealers arrived – many of them from the islands worlds of Scotland and Ireland. They took Aboriginal women mostly from Tasmania to be their wives (some even by marriage, which was quite something in those days) that so much fantasy (and some sf) anyway is a melange. Like a good trifle or Eton Mess (do you know what that is?) it is a mixture of things which, together, produce something different which, unlikely as it may seem when you look at the ingredients, when you put it together well, is better than separate elements. Sometimes these are things that logic says will not go together (Balsamic vinegar and strawberries – which, um, works) and others are more natural partners. The more experienced cook does know what he can mix… well, mostly. Some of my meals and some of my stories just didn’t work. However when you have craftsmen like Roger Zelazny and his melange of Indian mythology and sf, mix modern western characters and ideas and something total different – culture or mythology, the outcome is richer and deeper than either.

My hand is sore now, so it’s your turn. Think of some melanges – and how you could turn that to your own work.

*The Furneaux group – which in my own melange I use the the Tasmanian aboriginal belief that these were the ‘blessed isles’ or abode of the dead. – they could see them from Tasmania, mountains and hills, verdant and rising out of the sea. Unreachable, and without any sign of smoke. No hearth-fires meant no living people.

23 comments

  1. For my ‘Tribes of the Hakahei’ series I threw in a whole heap of things (first time I’ve ever done any real research for a story). Robin Hood was good at archery, so maybe he was an elf. The ‘Navigators’ of the South Pacific were actually, originally, genetically engineered to navigate space craft. Trolls were marines. Some Native Americans believe their ancestors came from other worlds through underground gateways– so, a gateway to another world in Area 51. Zorigami (Japanese clock spirits).

    The whole idea of the series was, what if myths really did start from fact. I ended up with elves, and dwarves and others in space (in a sci-fi story, not a fantasy– okay, it isn’t hard sci-fi) and I like to think it works.

  2. My con vampire books are introducing something similar… every conspiracy theory ever has some basis in fact and all the various mythologies also have some basis in fact. Most of all the above end up at SF conventions sooner or later. It works because the whole thing is weird, so more weird just slides in there like it belongs.

      1. One or two mythtrethes as well… And yes, the lucky ones do. I love the scene because there’s so much gloriously dysfunctional humanity on display there, just being itself.

        That part, I don’t make up.

  3. I love mixed up genres. I’ve got genetic engineering plus parallel worlds plus magic. And write mysteries in the universe. My WIP is best categorized as YA weird diminensions cyberpunk. With Barbie dolls and dinosaurs.

    1. I thought Barbie dolls WERE dinosaurs… (now there is a story seed). Mixing it up does offer whole new possibility, built sometimes on the shoulders of giants. And you do it well.

  4. I have an element of manitou in my stories, plus Indo-European mythology. Most people who hear the term think of a specific deity, but “manitou” also means the spirit or power of a place or creature (the genus loci, or medicine power, or puha [Comanche]). I mixed that with the ley-line idea and came up with ancient cretures, “Powers,” who live in and feed on the energy of places; that is, the energy generated by the lives and deaths of plants and animals living in an area or released by geologic activity. The Powers tend to be amoral by human standards because manitou can also be neutral, available for good or evil uses. Powers are not supernatural or immortal but they seem to be.

  5. I haven’t researched it deeply, but the parallels between being taken by the elves and kidnapped by UFO Aliens are a bit unnerving. Two different cultures trying to explain the same phenomenon within the limits of their world view? And what might that phenomenon actually be? Not sure where I’d take it.

    1. Pam, I’ve read a theory that “taken by the elves” and “kidnapped by Aliens” are ways that people tried to explain a purely natural event that is very uncommon. Apparently, some researchers actually duplicated the event that caused people to think they might have been “kidnapped by Aliens”. Oh, one of the clues is that one thing people remember is being awake and unable to move. This is *known* to happen naturally as we normally don’t move around when dreaming and sometimes when waking people naturally can’t move until they’re completely awake.

      1. Not being able to move happens to me – when I wake and a cat informs me (by the smallest of prickles) that any further movement will be followed by 10 claws being sunk into a particularly tender bit of me. I am sure cats are really aliens… (they even look eerily like grey men…)

        1. Chuckle Chuckle.

          Don’t blame you for not moving. [Wink]

          Seriously, many years ago I was sleeping in a strange (not my usual one) bedroom and woke during the night. I couldn’t move, wasn’t sure of where I was and had this feeling that something “bad” was going to happen.

          Don’t remember anything like that happening again but I’m sure that if I was hyponized by somebody believing in “alien kidnappings”, I’d given them a “good story”. [Wink]

          1. I’ve heard that it can be an effect of a lightening strike. But, as I said, I haven’t researched it deeply. I don’t like to read scary stories, and have no desire to attempt to write one.

  6. Sorry, a bit OT because the examples for the on-topic line of conversation are things like the Fables comic (mixing of various fairy tales and some other, similar characters – ie: Animal Farm) and the Kingdom Hearts game series (as it mixes Disney characters with Final Fantasy).

    But my OT bit is that no matter how many times I look at the photo, my brain has mixed your commentary about your hand (I’m sorry to hear that – I hope it gets better soon) with the photo. So all I really see is the creature as your injured hand and the camera strap as the tweed of your jacket sleeve. Very Lovecraftian.

    1. er. I should rephrase my first paragraph. It meant to imply, “Because of the thoughts contained in the second paragraph, I can’t focus on the actual topic.”

        1. Ohhhh. I just thought that was what happened if you used tanning oil as opposed to real sunscreen. 😉

        2. The name, actually, is Claws. And here. See. This is my certificate of mental competence. I am sometimes referred to as ‘Sanity’ Claws. Ho ho ho…

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