Wow, the end of summer is sneaking up on us while we’ve been busy celebrating our tenth year of publication! Let’s continue the party by introducing you all to one of our regular bloggers, Suz Thackston. Suz is the author of the column “Waifs, Wolves, & Warriors — Women in Greek Mythology” and her love of ancient myths and speculative fiction shine through in her work.
LSQ: Tell us about how you got involved with LSQ’s blog — how long have you been a blogger, how did you first learn about LSQ? What made you want to join the blog?
Suz: I’ve been blogging in some capacity for, geez, almost two decades now. My old LiveJournal is still hanging around out there in the aethyr. Every few years I go back and re-read it. It’s fascinating to see what’s changed and what’s remained the same. I’ve had my WordPress for 7 or 8 years now, with long, long neglected stretches in there. I think there’s a Blogspot or something like that of mine out there too. I really should keep better track. I first heard about LSQ from you (Anna) and was very intrigued to hear about the premise of a women-centered SF and fantasy site. Also delighted to be invited to participate. There’s SO much great writing going on there!
LSQ: Tell us about your bi-monthly column, “Waifs, Wolves, & Warriors.” What is it about Greek mythology that you love? Do you have a favorite Greek character or myth? Do you find that knowing about Greek myths and ancient history helps you in your own writing?
Suz: “Waifs, Wolves and Warriors” arose from a lifelong love of myth of all sorts. I think I first fell in love with Greek myth in particular back in my Latin classes when I was 11 (although of course they used the wrong names). I circled back around to Hellenic tales in particular 12 or 15 years ago. I’d made my way to modern paganism via American Neo-Wicca which morphed into reconstructionism when I realized that the dualistic paradigm didn’t quite fit for me, but the gods of ancient Greece do. Falling in love with the gods brought me back naturally to the myths I’d loved as a child, re-reading them with fresh eyes as I search for clues to help understand my gods better.
My favorite is the Descent of Persephone from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. But all the Greek myths inspire me. Homer in particular lights my fire–the ability to see all sides of issues, the honesty in presenting the foibles and failings of the ‘heroes’, the glimmerings even in a society steeped in misogyny of the brilliance and power of women.
LSQ: Are there aspects about Greek mythology, and in particular female Greek characters, that people frequently get wrong?
Suz: I think the aspect that I bump up against most is a very common trope in the modern world, the assumption that the myths are meant to be read literally, and that all ancient Greeks understood them to be literal. Like today’s Christians, I’m sure there were folks who understood the tales to be literal truth, but I doubt it applied universally, and that’s not relevant anyway. I’m firmly in the camp of ‘stories are far deeper and more important than literal truth.’ Zeus isn’t a horndog rapist any more than the Christian god is a bloodthirsty child murderer. I don’t pretend to have the bottom-level final unpacking of any myth, not even one in which I’m as thoroughly steeped as the Demeter mythos. They’re like endless onions, you never stop pulling back the layers. It’s also okay to stop at the first layer – not everyone is interested in all of them. But one should understand that the literal interpretation is the least important or exciting.
As for female characters, my beloved Persephone is the one I see most discussed and bitterly argued over. Is she a raped and murdered child? A rebellious teen with an overbearing mother? An archetype of the natural progression from innocent childhood through sexual awakening to powerful womanhood? A victim? A symbol? A call to action? A representative of a necessary status quo?
The answer to all of these is ‘yes.’
LSQ: Can you name some authors you draw inspiration from and tell us why?
Suz: Oh, my, so many authors! I love the old Greek playwrights, Aeskhyus and Sophokles and Euripides and Aristophanes. And the old authors, Homer and Sappho and Thucydides and ‘the father of lies’ Herodotus (as if storytelling is lying!!). I also love modern takes on them. Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad is sheer divinely-inspired genius. Weight by Jeanette Winterson thrilled me. Mary Renault’s amazing series are a little heavy for me for “fun” reading but if I approach them as research, they transform. She’s so devoted to historical accuracy that she makes it sing. I could write responses to this question for hours.
LSQ: Can you tell us a bit about your own fiction writing? What are the writing projects you are working on at the moment?
Suz: I’m in the last stages of shopping out my VERY Greek myth-inspired first novella, Dark Horses, which is, not surprisingly, based on a variant of the Demeter myth. I’ve got a few short stories in various stages of angst and excitement – one is destined, if I finish it in time, for an anthology on The Odyssey. I’m in the beginning stages of a book about death for 7 to 10 year olds and a series of dark-ish faery tales aimed at the grandkids I don’t have yet.