Mythcon 45: Day 2

The most fascinating presentation went straight to the seam that runs through the middle of Mythcon and ripped it open. Generally speaking, the Mythopoeic Society’s focus on the Inklings draws two types of people: those who approach the material from a Christian perspective (of the Inklings, C.S. Lewis in particular infuses this into his work; Tolkien to a lesser or less obvious extent), and those who don’t. Those (like me) who don’t can have a view of the world rooted in solid science. These differing viewpoints aren’t necessarily opposed, and by and large one won’t even be aware of these differences running beneath the surface at a Mythcon.

Then came Joshua D. Reichard and his presentation on “Matter, Myth, and Meaning: Science, Fantasy Literature, and the Spiritual Quest,” the thesis of which was that “scientific materialism,” in the view of Lewis, is a pathology as extreme as religious fundamentalism; it’s a mythos that has taken hold of the collective Western consciousness with a stranglehold grip.

Well.

To Reichard’s credit, he presented the thesis in as neutral and accessible a way as possible. That didn’t stop the room from quickly polarizing into those nodding in agreement (not me) and those raising their eyebrows (and some, their voices) in objection. One of the problems with Reichard’s approach, IMHO, is the definition he and Lewis employ; by this definition, scientific materialism is a reduction of the universe to mechanistic processes devoid of hope or joy. This last part is so contrary to the lived experience of us science-oriented folks that it immediately renders Reichard’s premise suspect. Reichard fares better with his suggestion that fantasy literature may provide a means to reconcile the science-oriented and religion-oriented viewpoints. That line of thought deserves further exploration.

Less controversial but no less dynamic was Vicki Ronn’s examination of the role of fairy tales in reflecting the concerns of contemporary culture, as reinterpreted in Vertigo’s Fables comics and ABC TV’s Once Upon a Time. (Pity poor Ronn, who had to binge watch the entire multiseason run of OUAT; that’s dedication to one’s research…or a new form of psychobludgeoning torture.) She easily merited a full hour to present her work, but crammed in what she could–including some of the delicious visuals from Fables–into half that time.

I have no one but myself to blame for my glazed eyes during a presentation and related panel on bringing Tolkien’s works to digital life. As I should have anticipated, this focused on online gaming, and as I’m not a gamer, meh. But a tip of the hat to Christopher Crane, Jr., and his brother, Elliot Crane, who in an earlier presentation surveyed fantasy literature to explore the power of naming–doing so at the tender ages of 13 and 11, respectively!

The night that followed the day-long conceptual stew was soaked in too much alcohol and went way too late, which is to say, I had a blast. At Bardic Circle, I even sang; no one hemorrhaged.

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Myths are stories that explore the Big Truths of our lives and our world through larger-than-life metaphors. Unfortunately, new myths are in short supply today. This blog aims to fix that, by talking myth, encouraging mythmakers, and looking for new myths in all the wrong places.

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