‘Making Monsters’ is a speculative and classical anthology about creatures of myth and legend, and their role in our modern-day lives. Monsters – and how we perceive them – still influence our dreams and hopes and stories, and in this gathering of both fiction and non-fiction, the editors and contributors explore what that means.
The antholology features my story, ‘Water’, a modern take on the tale of Hades and Persephone. And I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to Emma Bridges, editor, about what the anthology means to her…
Q: What was it like working both with classical and other scholars, and speculative fiction authors on this hybrid anthology?
A: One of the things I’m interested in as part of my academic research is classical reception—that is, the ways in which stories and ideas from the ancient world have been appropriated and rewritten in new contexts over time. Related to that interest, I also enjoy talking to creative practitioners about their approaches to retelling mythical tales, so working on this anthology combined those two things brilliantly. I think that when you put academic researchers and creatives into conversation with one another (whether in a room, or online, or between the pages of a book) it’s really interesting to see how the different approaches complement one another—everyone involved can learn something from that process. It’s been really satisfying to see how some of the people involved have also sparked off each other to share ideas and expertise—for example, I’ve seen several conversations happening on Twitter between the various authors, and I know that some of them are planning future collaborations.
Q; Has mythmaking ever ended—what is the difference between writing/painting about Typhon and Medusa now versus writing about them 2500 years ago?
A: Myth is, and always has been, good to think with. Storytelling creates a kind of distance which allows writers and artists to explore issues—political, social, aesthetic, personal—which matter to them. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the myths they painted, sculpted, sang or wrote about were already fluid tales which they could adapt and rework to suit the needs of the moment. This pliability is one of the most exciting things about myth: the characters remain recognisable, but new artists and writers can create different versions of their stories. In that sense contemporary storytellers are doing things which aren’t that far removed from what the ancient writers were doing; they’re taking familiar figures and story patterns, but adding or changing things to allow their audience to see something from a different perspective. So, for example, in Making Monsters many of the contributions help us to look beyond the dominant ‘hero narrative’ which is there in many of the ancient texts; they turn that on its head and let the monsters—who have been so used to being marginalised, demonised, or shunned—speak for themselves for a change.
Q; With whom, alive or dead, would you most like to collaborate, and on what?
A: I study a lot of texts from the ancient Greek world, and almost all of them were written by elite men; it’s really difficult to find voices of real ancient Greek women which haven’t been ventriloquised by a man. So my answer to this question isn’t just a single person; I’d like to spend some time with a bunch of ancient Greek women of all classes and backgrounds, and I’d get them to talk to me about their views on the tales which they never got the chance to tell for themselves. Then we’d come up with our own versions of the stories of some of the famous mythical women—Penelope, the archetypal ‘faithful wife’ of Homer’s Odyssey, who I’m sure has more to say for herself than Homer gives her (yet her husband never stops talking…); or Clytemnestra, notorious for murdering her husband; or Medea, who in an ancient play by Euripides kills her own children in revenge for her husband’s betrayal. Then twenty-first-century me might have some more ancient voices and texts to work with!
Find out more about ‘Making Monsters, here – and the anthology will be available to buy from September.