I was reading this review of Prometheus on a blog I found on Tumblr (by Locustar), and I was struck by something that was touched on, but not explored in the text. The author mentioned that he took out mythology books, repeatedly, from the library as a kid, and moved on to science fiction as he got older. I had the thought that this memory of his was a close mirror of my own childhood, which led me to wonder how many more of us have had this path in our lives? How many more of us started on mythology and wound up hooked on science fiction?

As I wrote in my bio for Amazon, mom let me stay up late to watch Star Trek and other sci-fi shows (like Doctor Who and Blake's 7) when I was a kid, and I attribute that to the feelings of excitement and happiness I get when watching scifi, but as Locustar's post reminded me, there's a definite link between scifi and the mythology of the ancient world.

The examples are really too numerous to list, so I'll mention just a couple of science fiction stories in the public eye. As Joseph Campbell pointed out, Star Wars is the Hero's Journey from ancient mythology (there's a nice summary of it here), almost verbatim  The movie Prometheus, as mentioned by Locustar, is not just a prequel to Alien, but a mirror of the Greek myth of Prometheus who brings enlightenment to humanity and is punished for it forever. Even the recent Battlestar Galactica can be seen as an Odyssey metaphor.

In my opinion, all storytelling draws on mythology either directly by retelling a story, or indirectly by borrowing the techniques, in one way or another. Science fiction, and speculative fiction in general, seem to be more directly related than most. Perhaps it is because the genre, just as the myths do, is used to both entertain and to educate (at least when it's more than just special effects). Free of the bonds of the immediate world around us, speculative fiction can get to the heart of what it is to be human and the dangers and benefits of being the most we all can be—just as the mythology of old did. Looking at it in this light, I guess it's not really a surprise that mythology can be a "gateway drug" to science fiction.

Who knew wondering around the Greek wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a kid would lead to dreaming about walking among the stars?


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