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Letters from Proxima Thule

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A Rose in Twelve Names
So over coffee and Proukies (Madeleines--aren't I clever?) this morning I was babbling about how there is a weird kind of trend among a certain kind of writer these days--often young, often female, (though not always) almost always small press, something that were we older, and male, and middle-press, might be called a movement. Fantasy writers who were over Tolkien by roughly second grade, and start instead in folklore and myth and from there layer in postmodern fantastic techniques: urban fantasy, confessional poetry, non-linear storytelling, linguistic calisthenics, worldbuilding, academic fantasy, etc.

I'd easily name Sonya Taaffe, Dora Goss, Holly Phillips, and myself in this group, and call us the spiritual children of Greer Gilman, and I might add in Yoon Ha Lee, Erzebet Yellow-Boy, Jeanelle Ferreira, and Vera Nazarian if they wouldn't be upset by inclusion. I'm forgetting people, I'm sure, but it's morning. But I think there's a reason you find a lot of us in the same anthologies and collections. I think we start in a different place than traditional fantasy, which is ironic considering that Tolkien himself started there, back in the primal stuff of the human psyche, as screwed-up and psychedelic and labyrinthine as it is--it's just that 20th century fantasy started from Tolkien, and saw him as the source himself, not as one branch on the tree. We tend to start in myth and branch out into incredibly varied stylistic and emotional takes on the source material, and though of course all of us produce original material not based in or relating at all to folklore, (I, for one, cracked up laughing to find that Goss's "Sleeping with Bears" is not actually about Goldilocks) it often feels like folklore, or fairy tales, or myths, or young wives' tales, even when it isn't, which is kind of an accomplishment in itself.

I was standing over the sink talking to justbeast and grailquestion--who sadly get to hear most of my writerly thoughts in rough form before the internet gets them, and pity the poor souls--and I said, "But what the crap would you call that, if you wanted to call it a movement? Ballet Folklorica? Infernofolk?"

And they went to work, and I stood there in my kimono getting ready to start work myself, holding a cup of coffee, and looking at the kitchen door, when I cracked up laughing and said to the empty room:

"Dude. It's Mythpunk*."

*Best part? I google this term to make sure I'm sufficiently clever, and find it's a semi-obscure gaming term. So on top of this we get to have "reclaim the vocabulary" leetness. Rawk.

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I'll buy that, sure. But it's kind of early for thinky response.

Come back later with thinky response. :)

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Will you be at Wiscon this year? I know they'll be copies there, probably discounted, and I hope I'll have a reading...

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There's a copy available for download on the website under the "critical" section.


You are a movement. I've been trying to nail down a name for it since Wendy Walker began to walk this literary planet.

"Dude. It's Mythpunk*."

The problem being that *punk is as dead for movement-naming in writing as *core is in music.

I will proselytize as necessary, however ('bout time to write my Apocrypha review; I should finish it this afternoon. And here's the two word preview: "um... DAMN.").


I dunno, I still think -punk is at least funny. I heard "monkpunk" last year and just about burst vessles laughing.

i adore it. i might have to write some new songs to qualify, but it's the good sort of challenge. love me some Mythpunk. (and please, god, no 'alternative' spellings!! that's the other thing I'm sick of)

I think you'd definitely qualify on the songwriter side of it. :)

I would never be upset at that inclusion. I am flattered by it! You punks are the best. :)

Well Punk is generally perceived as a dead term days, even cyberpunk has given way to other terms. There are exceptions and Mythpunk is one of them that's not dead.

Dev, one of the current movers and shakers of Mythpunk and holder of the 'For Great Justice' website that pops up when you google the word, is a HRSFA (Harvard Radcliff Science Fiction Association) Alumnus, and occasional gamer buddy of mine.

I'm not sure he'd be willing to give up the term easily. He's also one of the 'Indie Movement' gamers, who have a tendency to be heavy on story and myth inclusiveness (what is often called narrativist style), so it might be easier to see if there could be an inclusiveness between the writing movement and the gaming category and work together on things.

Dead schmead. When do things turn the corner and become undead and therefore usable again? not to mention part of the fun is the silliness of calling any of us "punk."

We'll see how big a deal I want to make out of the term before I talk to Dev.

See below. :-)

"Mythpunk" was little more than a name of a site, and I'm hardly a mover or shaker, but thanks for your kind words.

And hey, Dev, should you want to play in the same sandbox, I'm game.

Mythpunk? Greer Gilman? Holy minotaur, but I am flattered and blushing. :-)

I think Mythpunk is an apt term, and although other *.punk terms might be dormant or "out of style" does not meant this one has to be. Why? Because its crop of practictioners is so far from dead, but is instead vibrant and producing in the here and now and being creatively alive.

There can never be too many 'punks on the block. But your first two choices were full of the stuff of lulz and ambrosia. I especially liked Infernofolk. It sounds like the next Lollapalooza or Woodstock. Except with 20% more Dante and katabasis.

young wives' tales? I *love* that. (It's probably something that's bandied around a lot, but I've barely begun to crawl back out from under my rock...)

And mythpunk, colour me funnied. :D

And thus was a movement born.

::offers virtual chocolate in celebration::

Mythpunk, huh? Yes, that does seem to fit.

However, I have to confess I love Ballet Folklorica. Maybe it was just all the swirly skirts that distracted me in an Ooooh Shiny moment.

*ahem* Mythpunk? Cool.

Much, much better than "Infernofolk", though that did make me laugh.

So the next thing to do, thinketh me, is to come up with a Mythpunk Reading List, both consisting of Mythpunk writers and writings that influence Mythpunk writers.

Yes, I know it's a vast, ginormous list. But that's part of the fun of it!

This sounds a lot like what Don Keller meant by "Fantasy of Manners" (aka "mannerpunk") when he first wrote about it in 1991, before the term mutated into meaning comedy-of-manners-influenced-fantasy.

I completely agree that there must be a Mythpunk recommended reading list! I love this new term :).

Talk about random connections! My name is Dev, the guy responsible for the only extant "Mythpunk" stuff on the internet right now, and found your articles while googling.

I think the ideas are truly awesome, so I'd be very pleased to drop my own usage of "mythpunk". I think it's too cool an idea (and too catchy a phrase) for me to just use as a self-publishing imprint. (I was thinking of rebranding my stuff differently anyway...)

I do want to mention that a certain game designer, Jon Walton, has been doing some interesting experimental stuff in storygames that might be similar to a more "mythpunk" ideal. Do you think so?


Hi, Dev!

I think it's totally awesome that you're willing to drop the term, though probably unecessary. Let's just form up and call it all mythpunk. I'm going to propose a panel at next year's Wiscon on it, and hey, there's steampunk and cyberpunk gaming, so why not? It's just that there is a genuine new movement in fantasy, and somebody's got to call it something.

You should give some of the writers I mentioned a read--I /may/ actually be in talks with a gaming company about licensing some of my poetry, so my mythpunk might meet your mythpunk after all!

Just to be clear, I picked up "mythpunk" just because it was a cool sounding name, and the games I was trying to write weren't closely related to the cool ideas you're talking about. (Of course, some games I write in the future may well touch into actual mythpunkish materials.)

In any case, I'll definitely try out some of those authors you mentioned. Thanks for the suggestions!

Myth punk

I followed a link over here from Strange Horizons magazine, and it's an interesting discussion. I like the name mythpunk, at least in a tongue-in-cheek way. And yeah. I can see where y'all could be considered the spiritual children of writer Greer Gilman -- but in that case I'd say you're also the fairy godchildren of Terri windling. Hasn't that gal done everything but stand on her head to promote the use of myth and folk lore in fiction and poetry for a couple of decades now? Particularly among women writers? Just sayin'.

I guess I see mythpunk as a distinctive subset of the wider catagory of Mythic Fiction and Mythic Arts. It's a useful term, to designate those of you working with myth in a less linear, more experimental, more stylistic and poetic way than, say, Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint, the latter being more interested in storytelling than language and style.

I'm not sure about "mythpunk" myself, only because punk to me evokes do-it-yourself subversive tinkering which...ok, maybe so. I am still not crazy about the way the word goes together. As a former childhood stutterer, mythpunk sounds like a word that would make me bite my tongue.

But I do write stuff like that, though I'm less inclined towards experimental narratives than some. One of my stories was accepted by Magpie Magazine, and their tagline is "Celebrating the freak folk revolution in art, music, and writing." The same issue contained an article about Joanna Newsome, a musician who strikes me as *exactly* what you'd get if a faerie got trapped here and decided to become a recording artist. I like freak folk for what I write, some of which reads like Manly Wade Wellman on acid, but it's a term that has been around for a while and mostly associated with music. In any case, the connection suggests to me that it's more than just a literary phenomenon, and like steampunk is a kind of cultural Thing that reaches beyond one art form. I find that idea entrancing.

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