Write the Truth

XalliopePublication is a tricky business. Just ask my friend, K. Marvin Bruce. Marvin and I have known each other for years as he’s been trying to break into fiction publishing. I don’t envy him. His novel, Passion of the Titans, was under contract with an indie publisher who eventually reneged on their agreement. What can you do? As a supporter of publishers you don’t want to sue, so the novel is floating around again, looking for a home. Meanwhile, I was flattered to receive in my mailbox a copy of Calliope magazine. Calliope is published by the Writer’s Special Interest Group of American Mensa, Ltd. Marvin’s story, “Initiating an Apocalypse,” won third place in their fiction open. Not only am I pleased for my friend, but I was glad to see his story was about gods. Zoroastrianism doesn’t get much attention these days, but Marvin’s tale is about a hapless professor who wants to start an apocalypse by using Zoroastrian deities. I won’t give any spoilers since I’m sure few people have read the story.

His tale has me thinking of gods in fiction. I suppose mainstream literary fiction avoids deities, but fantasy, science fiction, and horror all make good use of them from time to time. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods made quite a splash, and although Marvin has no hope of becoming a widely recognized name, his novel also features gods. It is a literary incarnation. We like to see gods in some ways limited to human circumstances. Omnipotence rarely makes for a good plot. In many respects the Bible attests to this. If God is omnipotent (which is not a claim the Bible actually makes) why can’t the world be a happier place? Indeed, the solution most fondly groped by theologians is either free will or a version of the Zoroastrian solution: a god who is evil. Enter the Devil.

The Devil is also undergoing a kind of literary renaissance. We find a plethora of books and movies starring the prince of darkness. Despite the panegyrics of rationalism delivered by angry atheists, nothing salves the human soul like a good supernatural entity. Fiction writers have long recognized that. Gaiman was not the first to make the gods do his bidding in literature. There is a likelihood that even Homer knew the appeal. Many people can accept that gods might exist, and they certainly don’t object to stories in which they cavort. Fiction, as literary analysts know, teaches us about reality. The characters may not be literally true, but the fact is that in our minds there is still plenty of room for gods. And, if you one of the rare ones to read Marvin’s story, you’ll see that, true to human experience, deities don’t act as we expect them to. Savvy publishers, it seems to me, would do well to recognize the appeal of the gods.

True Myth

A friend of mine, I am glad to see, has started a blog. I’ve mentioned K. Marvin Bruce (“Marvin”) before on my blog, but his situation is such that job and blog don’t mix too readily and so he writes under a pseudonym. While Marvin knows a fair bit about religion, his blog focuses more on writing—he started his blog to announce his forthcoming novel. For those who are feeling adventurous, please stop by. His site is called Reinsurrection, and is located on Blogger.

I don’t envy Marvin his task of trying to make a writing voice heard in this overly noisy world. The decibel level of the internet is deafening for those with any artistic sensitivity. Marvin’s an academic in a poet’s skin, a dangerous combination in these days driven by cash and commodity. His novel, which he permitted me read before sending it off, is called The Passion of the Titans. It’s a fun send-up of Greek mythology told through the eyes of Medusa. For those of you who like off-color parody and classical mythology, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy it. It’s due out this summer.

Classical mythology is boxed, academically, in a compartment hermetically sealed away from religion. In fact, mythology is religion. (I wouldn’t look for too many religious ideas in Marvin’s book, though!) What it comes down to is that universities in the “Age of Reason” determined that mythology was fictional and religion—or at least one religion—was factual. Western society has tended to romance fact while jilting fiction as a way of understanding reality. Our obsession with the factual may be our eventual undoing. As for me, I can’t wait for Marvin’s book to appear. Hopefully it won’t be his last.