Tolkienists.org

Mythcon

Mythcon 51: A virtual Halfling” Mythcon

51st annual Mythcon



Session 9

1 August 2021 18:00 utc — view in local time

    Papers

    № 1: From Malacandra to Mars: Representations of the red planet in C.S. Lewis, Robert Sawyer, and Andy Weir

    William Thompson, Associate Professor of English, MacEwan University

    In his introduction to Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science, Howard V. Hendrix suggests that the long-standing fascination with the red planet emerges from an unspoken anxiety around the extinction of the species. According to Hendrix, the fascination with the Neanderthals, like our fascination with greenhouse-blasted Venus or with Martians of the Dying Planet scenario, arises from forebodings that such scenarios present ourselves and our world as viewed — both seen and dreamed — through a funhouse mirror” (Hendrix 10).

    The ongoing fascination with mars has resulted in texts that treat the red planet in strikingly different ways. In C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet, Elwin Ransom is forcibly reminded of his reading of Wellsian science fiction after overhearing his captors, Devine and Weston, speak of sorns. Ransom is overcome by a vision of the alien: No insect-like, vermiculate or crustacean Abominable, no twitching feelers, rasping wings, slimy coils, curling tentacles, no monstrous union of superhuman intelligence and insatiable cruelty seemed to him anything but likely on an alien world” (Lewis 49). His subsequent experience of the utopian world of Malacandra is offset by Weston’s imperial, colonialist vision, in which Weston foresees Malacandra as a stepping-stone for the future of humanity. Weston’s colonialist vision is darkly realized in Robert J. Sawyer’s Red Planet Blues, a book that follows in the tradition of texts anticipating the colonization of the red planet, such as Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars. Red Planet Blues is a futuristic, cautionary tale of the exploitation of the red planet, in which the alien is recast in terms of the insipid, commercial concerns of New Klondike, a frontier town characterized by its prospectors, prostitutes, seedy bars, and corrupt police. Conversely, Andy Weir’s The Martian recasts Mars in terms of scientific exploration. Weir grounds the story of Mark Watney’s survival in scientific termsextracting oxygen from hydrazine, growing potatoes, and planning his three-thousandkilometre trip to Schiaparelli. At the same time, The Martian is a re-imagining of the Robinson Crusoe story, an eighteenth ‑century text rife with imperialist overtones. Each of these texts demonstrates a similar fascination with the alienness of the red planet and the question of human habitation. Weston’s vision of human progress is spiritually bankrupt, which is in turn realized in Sawyer’s New Klondike. The Martian is driven by scientific curiosity, but Weir returns again and again to the utter desolation of the Martian landscape. I want to argue that these texts continue to re-imagine and re-assess the future of humanity in relation to the red planet, and that more than ever, narratives of Mars serve as a mirror for the anxieties around human progress, from the spiritual to the scientific to the ecological.

    № 3: Transmedia Mythopoeia: Towards an interactive mythology? A roundtable

    Brian Thomson

    You enter a bookstore and go to the fantasy section. You pick a book. You open it. As you flip through the pages, you suppose, unsurprisingly, that this book contains a fair amount of lore and a map. Why would it not? This is standard practice in fantasy: How else would you immerse your reader in a novel without building a believable” world? Nonetheless, mythopoeia is not limited to the book form. Films, television series, and videogames also form part of mythopoeia. Storytelling need not be limited to one medium either, or even one at a time, especially when the boundaries are blurred. Transmedia storytelling, for example, is a narrative technique whereby a story is told through different media platforms, usually digital, but sometimes include reality itself. Commentators have noted that the Adventure and Romance Agency, an odd business specializing in creating adventures for their clients in G.K. Chesterton’s Club of Queer Trades, foreshadowed the creation of the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) based upon this concept. Today, this fiction has become a reality. With the advent of the internet, extended reality technology, and artificial intelligence — which have shown storytelling potential — reality has opened itself to be gamified, as well as narrativized, in completely new ways. What will this mean for the mythopoeic works of the future?

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    date recorded 📅2022-01-23
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