Ravens and Research

It’s a gray, drizzly day here, which is the perfect kind of day to pick up The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater if you haven’t already. It’s got ghosts and psychics and boarding school boys–the perfect combination for fall reading. Fellow 2014 debut author Julie Murphy sent me her copy and I loved it; thanks, Julie!

If you have read the book and you wish you had more until the sequel is released, or if you haven’t read the book and you’re interest in peaked, you should check out this interview with Maggie Stiefvater. Read about Stiefvator’s research process, and see images of the real Gansey notebook:

Fangirling out over here. I also love that there is a real journal–it makes me wonder about other fictional artifacts and what an author needs to physically create to understand her characters. Have you ever created anything for your characters?

Make sure to check out the whole interview through the link.

Looking at the Mad Scientist: Frankenstein Online

Last November, I read Frankenstein for the first time. Until then, I’d just seen the movie and read the background information on how Mary Shelley came up with the story. So I’m psyched to see that Biblion is looking at the book, Mary Shelley, and her circle. Lots of cool background information and essays.

Right now they have a lot of info up about the Romantics. Seriously guys, the drama in this group could make for some awesome TV drama. (Downton Abbey is already a hit, so why not have more historical dramas?) Get those English major vibes going!

PS–I’m also going to see the National Theatre Live version of Frankenstein when it’s shown in a couple of weeks. Really psyched to see Benedict Cumberbatch rock this one.

(H/T NYPL Wire)

Speaking of Monsters

Here’s a cool essay by Paul. A Trout about why humans create monsters. One reason is a cultural warning for people to stay away from real creatures (lions, tigers, bears, oh my) that thought people might be a tasty snack:

[T]he basic function of the monster was to give fear a face, to graphically capture the dread that is bred into us by millions of years as a prey species that was stalked and sometimes eaten by huge and terrifying carnivores.

So dragons aren’t just cool in stories; they could have served an evolutionary purpose. Another reason is that people may have seen fossils of ancient creatures and developed stories of monsters based on those giant bones. I saw the Mythic Creatures exhibit at the Museum of Science a few years ago, which featured this idea.

Anyone who has had a nightmare also knows that monsters could come from dreams, where the familiar is mashed together to create something terrifying:

Among the salient experiences our ancient ancestors remembered and stored in their unconscious must have been life-threatening encounters with predators. Which means that during altered states, images of predators would have undergone further shaping, twisting, recombination, or hybridization. The upshot is that proto-humans were able to conjure up hybrid images of animals well before cognitive fluidity and mythmaking emerged during the Middle Paleolithic.”

Wherever the idea of monsters came from, I think it’s awesome that almost all cultures and social groups have some kind of scary creature in their stories. And it’s fun for writers now to be able to play with these cultural touchstones and myths. (Even if it does mean a restless night’s sleep.)

Check out Trout’s book for more on the history and creation of monsters.