For the last few years, George O'Connor has been bringing the Olympians to beautiful graphic-novel life courtesy of First Second Books. Today I'm pleased to celebrate the newest addition to the series: Aphrodite, Goddess of Love!
The Three Graces, attendants to Aphrodite, tell of her strange birth and hasty marriage to Hephestus. They tell of the love (or more accurately, lust) she brought to Olympus, building up to the story of the Apple of Discord and the beauty contest between Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena that lead the Trojan War. Though I'm pretty familiar with Aphrodite's story, George O'Connor has has breathed new life into it, adding bits of story I hadn't heard before, and managing to make Aphrodite (my least favorite goddess!) a not un-sympathetic character. My reaction ranged from simple appreciation to actual chuckling out loud. (Best Eris ever!)
It's not for younger kids--Aphrodite, after all, is the goddess of sexy times (though there is a tasteful veil drawn over the specifics). But this is a spot on retelling for the older middle grade reader (10 or 11 or so) or teens (I know for a fact my own member of the target audience, my 13-year-old son, loves this series, and I just had the pleasure of watching my 10-year-old enjoying it very much), and I highly recommend the series as a whole to anyone with an interest in Greek mythology, as well as to fans of storytelling in graphic novel form. There's lots of good back matter, adding educational value to the series. And though it doesn't show as clearly as it might on the cover, Aphrodite, dark of skin and hair, adds diversity to the pantheon.
So it's an honor today to be taking part in George O'Connor's blog tour for Aphrodite, and I hope you enjoy his thoughts on myth and fantasy as much as I did!
Over to George:
Hello, patrons of Charlotte’s Library, this is George O’Connor. The lovely Charlotte has very kindly allowed me to guest star here as the third stop on the blogcrawl promoting my new book, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, the sixth volume of Olympians, my graphic novel series retelling Greek myth.
But I don’t belong here. Seriously.
Charlotte’s Library is a blog celebrating sci-fi and fantasy books for young readers. But Olympians is shelved in non-fiction. I know it because Dewey Decimal told me so.
Oh, I know that there is a section of the blog that’s all about retellings of fairy tales, legends and myths, but that’s a mistake, surely. Somehow that section just accidentally appeared on her site. I know there’s a very flattering review of my book Poseidon up there as well (“an extraordinarily kid-friendly introduction to the Greek pantheon”) but I’m certain that’s just a series of typos, or maybe the blogger equivalent of infinite monkeys randomly typing out Hamlet.
Myths aren’t fantasy. Myths really happened, in the sense that they are stories that are told to convey truths bigger than reality. We know from myths that thunderstorms are Zeus, King of the Gods, raining his displeasure down upon hubristic mortals who defied the order of the universe. An earthquake is Poseidon throwing a tantrum because some cursed sailor escaped from his island prison. A volcano is the vented vapors of an entombed giant, fuming and furious after an eternity of imprisonment beneath a mountain. Because really, that makes more sense than excited electrons and shifting tectonic plates and magma and stuff, right?
Myths are more than that, too. One of my favorite things about mythology, beside the action and monsters and sexy stuff, is the window it provides on another way of life, another culture, a lost time when the idea that the physical embodiment of the generative power of the cosmos could create a perfect female body for herself out of the ocean foam and come ashore and make the whole world fall in love. A time when the changing of the seasons was brought on because the daughter of the goddess of grain was kidnapped by the lord of the dead to be his dread bride. There are tantalizing little hints of these vanished worldviews that created and promulgated these stories that explained the world around them. Myths are not fantasy. Myths are REAL.
But in a sense, maybe, it is fair to say that myths are born of fantasy. I’m pretty sure that were I to dig down deep into Mt Aetna in Sicily that, no matter how deeply I delved, I would never pull back a core sample with a slice of Typhon preserved inside. I believe in tectonic plates even though I can’t see them. I’m reasonably sure that were I to walk out under a blue sky and taunt Zeus the Cloud Gatherer that I would not be smote with his lightning bolt (not that I would ever try, just to be on the safe side). At some point, all these ideas must have been born out of a fantasy, some unknown storyteller’s attempt to make sense of the world. And somehow that fantastic idea took root in a culture and grew and blossomed and became religion, and grew and blossomed beyond that and became truth, and kept growing and spreading and becoming more REAL in the unreal sense that only stories can and became MYTH. The apex, the ultimate, the fantasy that explains truth more fully than any ‘real’ thing ever could.
Hmm, maybe I do belong on this site.
Thank you so much, George! You are welcome back any time!
Courtesy of First Second, I'm happy to be able to offer a copy of Aphrodite--simply leave a comment before midnight next Sunday, February 10.
And here are the other stops on the Aphrodite blog tour o' love (so seasonally appropriate for Valentine's Day!)