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Religion and Mythology in Fantasy / Sci-Fi

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Religion and Mythology in Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Postby Forever Zero » Sun Apr 24, 2005 8:03 pm

First off, let me mention that I am agnostic.

Anyways, the topic. As I may have mentioned before on the old forums, I use an abundance of Religious and Mythological reference in my stories.

Why? Numerous reasons. The biggest though is not the same reason why other people use references. I don't slap the name "Zeus" on one of my characters just because he uses lightening. I find that to be unoriginal. Here's what I really do.

Xenogears, as I've mentioned in the Games forum, is my favorite video game of all time. One of the reasons for that is because of its Religious reference. I enjoy it not because I am a Religious person, but because I tend to analyze storylines deeper than most people do. I like to research and find out exactly where this name came from or that concept.

So that's the same kind of impact I'm putting into my story. We took stories, names, concepts, the works, from an armada of places. Kabbalah, Christianity, Celtic Mythology, there's too many to name at the moment.

I put in references that make you think, and I use things that no one's used before. (Removed due to privacy concerns)

I know lots of stories do this already (Mainly in video games). But all I see in that department is Greek Mythology or Nordic Mythology. I don't see any of the deeper, more 'mystic' side of Religion, and that's what we've been using an abundance of.

The only two stories I can think of that does the same thing we're doing with our story is Xenogears and Evangelion. And those two, from those who have seen either of them, will no doubt be mentioned as two of the greatest stories ever made.

But I'm basically just ranting. So I guess give me your input on the subject. Do you think using Religious reference is a good or bad idea? Why / why not?
Last edited by Forever Zero on Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Magus » Sun Apr 24, 2005 8:39 pm

I'm all for references and allusions, as long as they fit into the story. If they don't add anything to the story or don't make sense then don't include it. I personally love allusions in stories I read. If you ever pick up a Stephen King book you'll notice MANY allusions to other literary works.

Here's an example of how an allusion might not work. You're writing a fantasy novel, completely disconnected from the "real" world. But you have references such as "We all have our cross to bear" or "He hangs there bleeding on his cross.". They don't fit because, being completely detached from our world they wouldn't have any basis in the story. Those are obvious ones that don't work. But subtle ones, or ones included in texts based either wholly or partially with our world, they make sense. I personally love yours, Forever Zero, for it's subtlety and practicality within your story.

I just watched Hearts in Atlantis yesterday for the second time, and have just started the book today. One line that I wish they could have added when Bobby throws the money to his mother's feet was something along the lines of "Thirty pieces of silver". That would have been awesome.

So, just overall, some work and others don't. I love making allusions, but my fantasies, at least for a while yet, they simply wouldn't make proper sense, being detached from "our" world. I love reading allusions, but only, again, when they fit.
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Postby Spiderkeg » Mon Apr 25, 2005 7:04 am

I tend to put in a lot of vague references, inuendos, and scenarios that parallel moments in religious history or text. I don't usually name characters like-like from a real (or fictious) religious character but I may displace the name onto a place or item, to offer some connection. I want the reader to get the assume or figure out the correlation, but not to make it so blunt and obvious.
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Postby Neurolanis » Mon May 02, 2005 4:03 pm

I was going to start this exact thread but ForverZero all ready has!

I think Fantasy is an echo of myth. The first story telling was myth -- stories which tried to convey something to the listener. These were wisdoms or philosophies cleverly disguised with entertainment value to bring in the listeners and (in theory) fill their minds with wisdom. Over time the wisdom faded away, the philosophy faded, and the entertainment value became central. Sometimes modern tales have a point they're trying to make, and this point making often falls under critical attack. Yeash. So we should all be writing video game stories? Really?

I want to help to revive the myth. Myths are powerful because they hold truth. I am struggling to bring myth into my work -- the novel I'm working on is a Fantasy but it does have a strong mythical background which I'm proud of. I would love to write a huge three-part Sci-Fi Mythology!! That would be a huge project, and I am not nearly comfortable enough with my grasp on the subtle language of the myth to write my own yet. So right now I'm writing Fantasy with "mythological themes" like you seem to be, FZ.

I think the "space opera" is in fact a Sci-Fi with mythical aspects. Even "Star Wars" fits this description. A true Sci-Fi Mythology has yet to be accomplished.
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Postby Manji » Tue May 10, 2005 11:16 am

How so? Star Wars seem to be a pretty good Sci-Fi mythology.
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Postby The Master » Tue May 10, 2005 1:01 pm

The original Star Wars was classic fairy tale inspired fantasy. The unlikely hero and his motley band of adventurers (including the wise old wizard and good-hearted thief archetypes) rescues the damsel in distress from the evil fortress and saves the day. Even the title sequence is a give away that is a fantasy: "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away" = "Once upon a time". The space/alien planet settings are merely the set dressing for a pretty standard fantasy theme.
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Postby Magus » Tue May 10, 2005 6:05 pm

I agree. Star Wars is nothing short of a Science-Fiction set Fantasy. My sister even summarized it once as being "the story of a young farm-boy who discovers he has magic powers and sets off to save the universe from the dark lord." It's awesome, I believe, but definitely a futuristic fantasy of sorts.

By the way, we're watching The Empire Strikes Back in Chemistry tomorrow.
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Postby Manji » Wed May 11, 2005 10:49 am

Yes, but that's only if you judge it by the films. The newer films, the hundreds if not thousands of books that have been released since, the Expanded Universe storylines . . .
When you take all of that into account and not simply the movies, the mythos is quite impressive.
It contains it's own heroes, legendary villians, evil warloads, political intrigue and a small dose of tragedy and human drama.
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Postby Manji » Wed May 11, 2005 10:58 am

I'd also have to say, if you want to find a more complete and blunt representation of a fantasy pretending to be something more, check out Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube.
A goverment operative (Knight) sent by the president (King) to rescue his daughter (The Princess) who has been kidnapped by a group of terrorists/Cult who wish to use their secret weapon (Magic) to brainwash the Princess and use her to kill the King and use their Magic to overthrow the kingdom. A young scientist (Mage/Wizard) who regrets that his creation is being used for evil and aids the young knight.
During the game, you assault a pre-industrial village. The Princess is kidnapped a few times after you save her and you must save her again. During the course of this second rescue attempt, you assault a massive castle straight out of a fairy tale, travel through a series of catacombs and at the end get the only weapon in existence that can kill the antagonist.
It's a great example of putting a spin on a classic fantasy/fairy tale to make it something more original and compelling.
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Postby Neurolanis » Sun May 15, 2005 12:06 pm

I agree that Star Wars is a fantasy set in a Sci-Fi context.

On the issue of myth in today's fantasy stories, it barely exists. You might read Greek Mythology and see loads of soap operish social and politcal complexity that many of the better fantasy tales today reflect. But, the thing with myth was that every action was part of a message it was trying to convey. It wasn't really about all sorts of complex relationships and politics, it used those things in trying to express wisdom.

Let me make up an example to explain what I mean:

A king is losing his two daughters who are joining a new religion.
[A father is losing touch with his daughters.]

A dark knight comes to him and offers to slay the relgious leaders.
[A dark thought comes to the father to attack their new direction -- battle outside influences on his daughers.]

A white knight sees the dark night's plot and stops him.
[The angel in the father's ear speaks out against the devil in the other.]

The king decides to abandon his own relgion to follow his daughters.
[He abandons his beliefs to follow theirs.]

In doing so, his people become and angry and the kingdom suffers.
[He has betrayed his own world, his own pyschology and suffers for it.]

The king goes back to his old religion, feeling that he's lost them forever.
[He returns to his natural self, but fears now that his daughters will drift emotionally, spiritually away from him.]

The king discovers that the central church for this new relgion may be in his own city. He agrees to this, and has his daughters close afterall.
[He realizes that they can still be close, despite the fact that they believe in different things.]

------------------------------------

In a fantasy it would likely just be a soap opera, complex for however it may feel to work. That's fine. Imagination is great! But I think it's important to realize the original purpose of story telling.
Last edited by Neurolanis on Sun May 15, 2005 12:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Neurolanis » Sun May 15, 2005 12:13 pm

Another huge point to all true mythologies is that every action (or lack of) has a reaction. No action goes without punishment or reward in some way.
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Postby Mornara » Sun Jan 14, 2007 3:20 pm

I was just browsing through some of the old topics, since I actually have a couple of free hours on my hands, and found this.

It's something I have thought of a great deal. I grew up in an ultra conservative family, one that thought mythology was from the devil. Being the iconoclast that I am, I read everything I could get my hands on. I now incorporate a lot of religion and mythology into my own writing. I even chose some of my college electives to learn more about other religions, and have developed a lot of new ideas from that.

Right now, I'm helping develop an RP, and am drawing heavily on Christian Mythology to create the side of evil. I am using the concepts of Princes of Hell, and the names of some of the more powerful demons in mystical Christianity as my main characters. So I have Asmodeus, Nebiroth, Abbadon, and several others.

That is the most extreme usage that I have, but even in my other projects, I use religions and mythologies. To me, it represents the common themes and feelings of humanity, as well as giving the reader something vaguely familiar.
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