Mythcon 45: Days 3 & 4 (Final Report)

At Mythcon, Camelot comes to the costume contest: Chris Gaertner as King Arthur and Sørina as Morgause.

At Mythcon, Camelot comes to the costume contest: Chris Gaertner as King Arthur and Sørina Higgins as Morgause.

I should have learned from last year, but I suppose there’s no way around the exhaustion on Day 3 that comes from so much stimulation from dawn until the wee hours. I win the struggle to keep my eyes open, mostly, by force of will and by keeping my hands busy scribbling notes as I gobbled up the day’s sessions:

  • An analysis of the distinctions that separate genre fiction–fantastic fiction, high fantasy, and science fiction–in the U.S. and France (to probably no one’s surprise, STAR WARS straddles the high fantasy/SF boundary but, push come to shove, lands more in the fantasy camp)…
  • How the Harry Potter series fits squarely into a tradition of dystopian literature, alongside such works as 1984 (I’d say HP has a strong dystopian element, but that’s not the major thrust, as evidenced by the very different outcome for the protagonist)…
  • Janet Brennan Croft’s look at the use of the names taken by and given to characters and things in The Lord of the Rings (it’s a great technique for reinforcing themes, underscoring character, and reflecting plot developments)…
  • …and a search for Darwinian influence on The Hobbit and LotR. (I have to admit, I didn’t get this one; Tolkien’s work shows little evidence of any influence of evolutionary theory, IMHO. It’s not a natural fit for most works of high fantasy, let alone one prominently featuring a race that’s immortal, slow to reproduce, and unchanging–making elves completely removed from Darwinian forces of natural selection.)

But my favorite presentation of the day was grad student John Polanin’s dissection of Hell in the works of Neil Gaiman. (Full disclosure: Despite my long history with comics, until a month ago I’d never read Gaiman, deliberately avoiding both his prose and his comics because, based on what I knew of his work, it verged close to my own, and I didn’t want any undue influence. Now that my own book of original myths is finished–coming soon!–I finally read American Gods…but that’s the subject for a blog post all its own.) For one thing, Polanin has an engaging, conversational style that injects easygoing humor in the right places. For another, Gaiman holds a fascinating place in our pop culture. And best of all, Polanin’s talk led me to another “eureka!” moment…but I’ll save that for another blog post, about superhero comics and myth.

MY BAD: In my previous post I should have mentioned two more events. On Saturday morning, scholar guest of honor Richard West, a truly lovely guy, gave a truly wide-ranging talk on the theme of this year’s Mythcon, “Where Fantasy Fits”; and that night, a collaborative reading of Beowulf (in part) brought the sounds of Old English to remarkable life, each passage followed by the newly released Tolkien translation. The passion of both the poem and the readers came shining through.

On this Sunday evening, the last night of the convention, focus shifted to fan fun, with a dinner banquet where people play with their food (you had to be there), a small everybody’s-a-winner costume contest, a firmly tongue-in-cheek drama from the Not Ready for Mythcon Players (yours truly was drafted), and a clever poetry slam. On the less frivolous side, this year’s author guest of honor, Ursula Vernon (creator of the graphic novel series Digger), humorously reminded us of our duty as storytellers, and the winners of 2014’s Mythopoeic Society awards were announced. Congrats to all!

More socializing, more Bardic Circle, more getting to bed way too late…

…and the wrap up this morning. The sole panel I attended, on interpreting Jung’s archetypes through the lens of C.S. Lewis, triggered all sorts of feedback and follow-up questions; as someone who trades in archetypes regularly, I devoured the ideas offered and, even when I found some of them lacking (need we accept that there’s a connection between the numinous and moral law, just because Lewis says so?), they left me hungry for more.

That’s the general state that Mythcon fosters: It leaves you hungry for more. I realize now that for me, Mythcon offers a brief return to those voracious college days (without the exams!), when a rich stew of intellectual stimulation, new friendships, and quips and insights traded over mealtime conversation (all in a tranquil campus setting) had yet to be backburnered by the daily grind. As we sing a farewell song to Mythcon 45, I find I can’t return to this banquet soon enough.

2 Responses to “Mythcon 45: Days 3 & 4 (Final Report)”

  1. Janet Brennan Croft says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your reports — particularly on the sessions I missed! Hope you join us again next year.


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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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