Today a guest post by Dana Cameron, the author of the awesome Fangborn
World folklore and the Fangborn
I use a lot of real-world folklore and mythology in Seven Kinds of Hell, Pack of Strays, Hellbender, and the Fangborn short stories, so I can explain how my heroic werewolves, vampires, and oracles have influenced humanity from behind the scenes for as long as there's been...well, for as long as there's been humanity to protect and stories to tell. Since every culture has stories about shapeshifters, I figured that indicated something about the prevalence of the Fangborn and their exploits. Plus, it's fun to make the most of my anthropology and archaeology training, and explore things I find intriguing.
One of the problems I initially encountered was that in a lot of the European shapeshifter stories, the shapeshifters are really terrible creatures. How can my Fangborn be the good guys, when so many European stories about werewolves and vampires involve predation, soulless carnage, and damnation? And how could I reconcile the facts that dragons are often considered emblems of evil in the West and symbols of strength, fertility, and order in the East?
I don't draw from any one tradition. If I happen across a cool image or a description of a supernatural creature in a museum, it goes into my Fangborn folder. I don't try to reconcile all the world's cultures either. For one thing, I'm writing fiction, not a scholarly work. For another, it can't be done: Even if there are similarities between two or three (or a dozen or two dozen) traditions, that's not necessarily proof that there is a real-world cultural connection. In my business as an academic archaeologist, I had to be very careful to demonstrate with a lot of proof of every sort, that similarities were actually direct cultural connections. How do I make this work in my novels and short stories?
It's easy: I behave like a bad academic. I do all the wrong things. I pick whatever suits my fancy and use that, figuring, if I think it's neat, the reader will think so too. I hand-wave about the history, and then...don't try to formulate any hypotheses. I get back into the story. So Zoe, my protagonist, sees these artifacts and observes that a snake or wolf may not indicate that the Fangborn were too visible in their tracking of evil, and found their way into local folklore. Or if she sees a contradiction, she muses that perhaps it was part of their camouflage: Who wants to go looking for a bloodthirsty creature that will tear you're throat out? This bad publicity gives the Fangborn a smoke-screen to hide behind, while they fight evil in secret.
This is getting to have it both ways. You can do that in fiction.
On the other hand, I do make my descriptions about what exists in the real world as accurate as possible, so the reader will get into the story. If I use an artifact, I research it. If I use a character from Greek (like Pandora's Box or Heracles), Norse (Jörmungandr, the Midgard serpent), Japanese (yokai), or Maya traditions, I'll do the research (I'm still a good academic in that respect!).
In fiction, you tell the truth, as best you can, all of the time. In fantastic fiction, you do this so that at the moments you need to make something up, you will have convinced the reader that your creatures are not only possible, but believable.
* = The statue with the bib is an Inari-Fox or kitsune, a messenger or symbol of Inari. Notice there is candy beneath him, as an offering!
** = The snake is a detail from a 2nd c AD statue of Antinonus, Hadrian's lover. Clearly, a vampire!
About Dana Cameron:
Dana Cameron can't help mixing in a little history into her fiction. Drawing from her expertise in archaeology, Dana's work (including traditional mystery, noir, urban fantasy, historical fiction, and thrillers) has won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Awards and earned an Edgar Award nomination. Her third Fangborn novel, Hellbender, will be published in March 2015 by 47North. Her most recent Fangborn short story is a Sherlockian pastiche; "The Curious Case of Miss Amelia Vernet.” Her story, "The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars," featuring Pam Ravenscroft from Charlaine Harris's acclaimed Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, appears in Dead But Not Forgotten: Stories from the World of Sookie Stackhouse.
I-Day is near at hand, and soon the Fangborn will reveal themselves to humankind. As a member of this secretive race of werewolves, vampires, and oracles, will archaeologist Zoe Miller be prepared?
Still grappling with the newfound powers she gained after opening Pandora’s box, Zoe shares the responsibility of protecting “Normal” humans. Having long preferred to keep to the shadows, she knows the pending revelation of the Fangborn will set the world on fire. With Fangborn enemies in the Order of Nicomedia forcing their hand, Zoe and her supernatural Family have no choice but to step into the spotlight. But that decision has garnered the attention of the powerful and otherworldly beings known as the Makers. They claim to have created the Fangborn—not as saviors, but as predators. And it seems they have their own plans for Zoe…and for the fate of all the Fangborn.
Filled with stunning twists, Hellbender takes the Fangborn series to a thrilling new dimension.
Buy from Amazon
Dana Cameron kindly provided me with a signed copy of Hellbender
and some bookmarks for one of my readers!
For a chance to win this book:
- Leave a comment for Dana on this post
- Leave a way for me to contact you
- Do so before April 12, 2015
- Open internationally to anyone who's legally allowed to enter.
Winner is Erin
(Pearls Cast Before a McPig is not responsible for things getting lost in the mail.)