I’m going to be doing a new thing. Over at Patreon, I’m going to be posting some craft essays with some extras. I’ll reprint the essays here without the extras. What are the extras you ask?
Might be a WIP, might be a curated playlist, might be a writing exercise. Want to get in on that? Head over to Patreon and drop a dollar a month. For real that’s all it takes and you’ll get that AND get in on that Daiyuverse action.
NOW let’s get on with the mythos. Go get a snack, I’m going in.
Welcome to Nerdtown population you and me.
You ready to get down with some deep dorking about writing and myth creation? LET US NERD!
Few things before we get going.
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First for reference material I’m going to be referring to my cowboy/mermaid myth that was in the first issue of Rigorous. Link here, feel free to follow along.
Let’s get started.
One of the things I enjoy playing with is myth creation. I’ve long been a fan of mythology from the European classics we all learned in school to myths from the African Diaspora, Afro-diasporic religions, indigenous religion and myth. I love it. For our purposes I’m considering myth to be a broad umbrella term that covers religions, mythos worlds like Lovecraft, etc. Vampires, werewolves, fairies, Gods/esses. All that stuff is mythos for us.
For me creating or remixing mythos is a combination of what if, I wish and let’s roll with it and see what happens. I am using the I wish method to create an expansion to what we can consider a Western by introducing mythic magical elements. As we see in the Cowboy and Mermaid myth, I took the idea of a long gunslinger (inspired by a re-read of the Gunslinger) and I had very specific things I wanted to do:
- I wanted to inject Blackness into a Western.
- I wanted to figure out, what would happen to the mermaids in a dry dessert world.
- I wanted to give the sense that there was a mythos/reality in place in this world.
- I wanted to tell a magical story the way I would tell a realist story.
Before getting into mythos remixing, it is highly importance to do your research. Remixing doesn’t mean you can take what is sacred and poop on it. I mean, you can but it is a dick move and nobody needs to be that person. For the new cowboy myth, I’m working with, as I was starting it I had a basic framework to deal with.
- Another lone cowboy on foot
- Vengeance (inspired by watching the reboot of the Magnificent 7)
- A huge black horse
These are, in terms of classic Western mythos, very disparate things. Westerns have Christian churches, steely eyed white dudes and gays well, we know.
How did I start?
The great thing about being a writer is that, you get to make it up as you go along. My basic is this. We have the lone, broken hearted cowboy on a mission. Why? (SPOILERS) his town was destroyed by oil/railroad barons. His family, everyone is dead. Classic right?
I decided to give our gays very prominent role. They are going to be the bridge between the classic Western, they fucked up my town now they gotta die, to the mystical. I don’t want to disrupt the Western so much as tweak it, instead of finding the sheriff, our cowboy is going to be taken to visit a Loa who, in this world has several manifestations and it is just how it is.
In creating or remixing mythos, don’t dither. This is where you as a creator need to drive it like you stole it. For mythos creation, I recommend some notes. If you get nerdy like me, sometimes a framework as opposed to a full outline is enough. You can use my bullet list method, decide on who is telling the story, what is in the world, what myths you want and go. Be bold, own it and don’t be afraid to just go for it and see what happens.
Now back to our cowboy.
In this story, I wanted to create a world where the Loas are the dominant gods. And they hang around but, I don’t want them to be presented in the horrible racist way a lot of things to do with Afro-diasporic religions. Frequently, we are presented with the scary ignorant savage trope and that is crap. So, prior to starting I did a lot of reading by people who are practitioners, I paid close attention to how they talked about the way they feel when they communicate with their Loas.
For me as a writer, part of my general mission in my creative life is staying in my lane and being as respectful as I can to the material that influences and inspires me. I feel it is my responsibility as a writer to do my research and consider carefully how to use the source material. I want to show actual love and appreciation and not the I LOVE U I DO WHAT I WANT type.
If you are a White writer, inspired by cultures outside of your own this is triply, eleventy million times more important. If you want to think of it selfishly, you don’t want to be dragged in public and to be bigger about it, you don’t want to insult and demean the people you are appreciating.
Next, we play.
Not enough talk about writing includes this and I’ve found it to be an integral part of my process. Even when I’m writing serious material, I want to play. I want to fool around in the world I’m making, play with detail and textures and speech. Writing fiction doesn’t have to be all serious business.
Now how about a lil taste of the new Cowboy myth?
“Thank you kind sir. It has been too long since my shadow was welcome across any doorstep.” Warmed and calm the man took a table and ordered himself a feast. Salty fried potatoes, meat patties, beer and a request to the piano player for something bubbly. The piano player refused his coin and sat rocking before playing an effervescent bright tune that had every toe tapping. As the sun set outside, the café began to fill with a colorful array of patrons.
No one treated him like a stranger, folks nodded, some stopped to talk to him and one tall freckled man with a ginger afro and gold hoops in his nose sat and presented the man with a little cake. “Hello and good evening sir. My name is Andreas and you are?” The stranger smiled at the cake then the man. “My name is Francis. Good evening to you, eh may I?” Andreas nodded, “please do or you’ll like hurt my husbands feelings. He makes little sweets for folks and you look like a man in need of a sweet. I recommend having it with a brandied coffee.”
Once the coffee came, Francis bit into the little cake and closed his eyes. Heady vanilla so strong it was almost musky followed by the slight tang of spices he couldn’t name made him see stars. “Your husband, has a gift sir. This is the best cake I’ve ever head, pray don’t tell my Mama Gods rest her sweet soul. What a gift, how can I repay your kindness?”
Let’s talk a little about my process and how this story is being shaped.
Okay strap in, I’m gonna show you my brain. The initial push for this story came from the cover of the Hank Williams song, I’m So Lonesome I could Cry as done by Johnny Cash and Nick Cave.
I like to sing this version to myself and as I was doing so on my way to work, I had a vision of another cowboy. Said cowboy hung around my brain not saying anything for a few weeks and then my partner and I watched the reboot of the Magnificent 7 (excellent, very enjoyable eye candy) and that first glimpse of Denzel as a cowboy, my cowboy started talking and said, “I want every one of those motherfuckers dead.”
The general arc of this story reflects my personal interest in the manifestations of the vengeance narrative that doesn’t just involve some rando angry white dude. I have a thing with that and well, I’m just gonna go with it. I’ve not really tried it out pairing it with a Western aesthetic so, I figured why not?
Throw in some Zydeco music, my person relationship with Baron Samedi and frequent conversations with my personal group of dieties and here we are. The soundtrack for Black Rider is moving from a lot of Johnny Cash, Dr. John, The Blues Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the exquisite version of Psycho by Teddy Thompson from that awful Psycho film reboot soundtrack. Film=garbage, soundtrack=100%.
I’m not totally sure how our cowboy is going to meet the Black Rider or if he will. I don’t know yet, I’m leaning towards he will because I want to try my hand at writing a big ass gun fight influenced by the Haitian Revolution and the mythos surrounding how it got started. Why? Why not!
Okay my loves there you have it. This is how the Cowboy in this myth is born.
Next time, I’ll talk some about how the voices of things manifest in my brain.
Questions? Comments? HAVE AT IT YO!!