SF/F Genre Glossary

What is Mythic Fiction?

This is a continuation of the Speculative Fiction Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.

the trickster
The Trickster by Kinpouju

What is Mythic Fiction?

Mythic fiction is rooted in real world mythology and folklore. The mythologies, and folk tales, used in mythic fiction, are not meant to be disguised. These stories also use a real world setting for some portion of the story.

This subgenre can overlap with magical realism, but mythic fiction does not always treat magic as mundane or expected. Mythic fiction can also overlap with urban fantasy, but the stories are not necessarily tied to an urban setting.

Literary Examples:

  • The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint
  • The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars by Steven Burst
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I think most writers of fantasy draw from existing mythologies to some degree, but change details and the names of the gods in their pantheons. Do you incorporate myth and folklore into your writing?

18 Comments

  1. Yes. Lately, I’ve been trying to learn more about different mythologies outside the Judeo-Christian and Western European mythologies I grew up with. Some people are tired and bored of those – personally, I’m not, but I’ve also learned to love the variety and the possibilities of other mythologies.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I think understanding the variety can help bring extra richness, or a bit of the unexpected to a mythpoetic work – even if it’s not explicit. I applaud your effort 🙂

  2. I really want to read AMERICAN GODS!

    I don’t (usually) write fantasy, but as a reader, I love when myths (whether real or original) are incorporated into stories.

  3. Mythology is a fun way to explore cultures in a fantasy world. Deciding what kind of superstitions, creatures and magical feats different peoples believe in can make for interesting plot points. It also allows you to explore things such as, “Hoe much influence, if any, do god(s) have over mortals?” Or, “What are supernatural creatures capable of?” And also the role mere mortals play in all of this.

    These are by no means original thoughts, but as Stephen mentioned there’s plenty of room for variation–which, I think, is where all the fun occurs.

  4. In short story- and novel-scope works I often write from mythology or towards events that would be adapted culturally into myth. They’re one of our species’s greatest traits, and the most powerful artistically. You know my current novel has some creatures that pop up in world mythologies, though the themes are more important to me.

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      “events that would be adapted culturally into myth” I never considered this angle to myth making. I think I’d like to play with that too.

      I think myths tap into something in the human core.

  5. I think I incorporate elements of all kinds of mythology into my work. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved Greek Mythology. Most recently, I’ve been learning more about Asian myths – from China, the Philippines, Japan, and Thailand.

  6. Mythic Fiction can definitely be married with Superhero Fiction. You can look at characters such as Wonder Woman and Shazam as fine examples. What are some of your favorite mythic fiction stories, T?

  7. Some stories I borrow more thoroughly than others. Merph & Whitey’s world has a strong Norse influenced mythology (names haven’t even been changed in all of the places).

    I hadn’t really thought about mythology in urban fantasy, but American Gods is a good example and two of the stories I liked alot on PodCastle were also mythology mixed with urban fantasy (Tim Pratt’s Little Gods and Gary Kloster’s And The Blood of Dead Gods Shall Mark the Score).

    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      I noticed that in some of the stories you’ve written. Some seem to refer to a familiar mythology even if it’s not explicit.

      I think I’ll give those stories a listen when I get the chance. 🙂

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