Some time ago I stated that the fantasy genre sometimes draws from too narrow a pool and that we could branch out the genre by pushing towards other frontiers. So it felt like a fun idea to go over mythologies of the world and share some of the lore, cryptids, and beliefs that may sometimes be overlooked. I’ve given brief glances at Asia and Australia so far. Neither of them are thoroughly covered by my short articles listing only a handful of creatures from their folklore, but I can always go back to them later. Still, having covered the two of those I found myself on a continent that a lot of people know almost nothing about.
Africa: a continent sometimes mistaken for a country by the uneducated. But for most people there’s not a whole lot that they can tell you about the culture outside of a few notable examples. We all know of Egypt and a great deal of us know some of the more popular Egyptian gods. But Egypt makes up a tiny fraction of a much larger continent and you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the west that knows about the rest of the cultures there. Maybe you’ll find someone familiar with Anansi, or will know something about the figures of the North African coast, maybe have a decent understanding of Voudon (or a wildly inaccurate one), but then it goes a bit blank. This leaves one to wonder…
In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:
A creature of the wild lands of Australia, the Yara-Ma-Yha-Who is said to be a vicious little creature that feasts on its prey for several days as it continues a cycle of draining blood and then slowly digesting until the prey becomes another of the horrible little creatures.
All in all, typical aggressive Aussie animal behavior.
But how much of that is true? Why do these creatures continue the process of regurgitating their prey over repeated instances and how’d a creature that bizarre avoid being spotted for so very long? Today we take a look at one of nature’s most misunderstood creatures. Continue reading Alterpedia: Yara-Ma-Yha-Who→
Neil Gaiman is a member of the nerd god pantheon. Though few of the mainstream know him by name, he’s definitely the Nerd Pantheon’s Hermes to Joss Whedon’s Poseidon (who can make a ship sink or sail with very little warning) and George R.R. Martin’s Hades (for he presides over grim shit and dead people). Gaiman is the nerdy trickster, whimsical, on the move, still providing wisdom from on high but mostly just creating things with a flair for batshit and little care for what could be considered normal. Gaiman is to books what Tim Burton is to movies (except he hasn’t overstayed his welcome and doesn’t have a fetish for Depp in white makeup).
Burton’s been doing this to Depp for decades.
So it makes sense that one of Gaiman’s most popular works is a novel talking about the modern interpretation and existence of gods. American Gods is a whimsical little take on modern society and the evolution of culture, with old gods adjusting to the modern society while new gods are born out of concepts such as the internet and television. It was a great premise and obviously ripe for the picking for a television adaptation. And, considering how well they’ve been doing with book adaptations on TV, everyone was kind of hyped when HBO picked it up.
Australia, the land of things that prove evolution is a biological weapon arms race. But the people who live there and the culture that has formed there have produced some of the most interesting creatures to be found. What sort? Well they have a range anywhere from larger beasts based on the ones you would find in the mortal plane (which is hard to imagine in a place producing 20 foot crocodiless) to wilder, more fantastic creatures born of the imaginations of people who believe in something as mind bending as Dreamtime.
Aboriginal stories range from the mundane to the truly ethereal and the average Australian’s sense of “fuck it all” gives them a wicked sense of creativity (and humor, as you’ll understand down the list). So for this week’s stop on the tour, let’s take a look at something a little unusual with… Continue reading Mythology World Tour: Australia→
Continuing our tour of world mythologies, let’s change it up a bit and move to a different continent, one that’s both more naturally dangerous and yet never produced a Genghis Khan figure… potentially because something ate him.
In the late 18th century, the American colonies did something that wasn’t exactly expected by the British Empire: they threw tea into the ocean. Now, to you and me this may sound like a minor offense, but the empire, being British, was gravely offended. By some accounts there was a skirmish afterwards and to this day we Americans only enjoy tea in ironic fashion like a nation of Hipsters.
But the end result left the British with a new found problem. You see, they hadn’t been using any of their own land for prisons. After all, who wants to live next to thieves, murderers and drunkards? So what they’d done for a long time was send them somewhere far from anything remotely looking like civilization: Georgia. This makes a great deal of sense – after all, to this day the only signs of human settlement in that region is the city looking thing you see out the windows as you come to and from their really big airport.
But with Georgia gone there was a need to send them somewhere else. That place had to be isolated, far from anything that remotely looked like civilization to prevent the prisoners from feeling human or like they mattered to the crown. It had to be unimportant to the empire so that they wouldn’t be taking up precious space from something like a tea crop or the shops where they made those powdered wigs. But, most importantly, to make sure that this place was punishment it had to be completely hostile to human life.
The answer came to them in a continent that had, to that point, only been known for being a peculiarity on sea maps that the Dutch had poked at a few times. Aside from that, very little was known about the place. After all, it’s hard to learn much when all you have are the terrified journal entries of the poor souls who’d wandered into the place like Jurassic Park. Still, before the bloodstains on the page it sounded like just the right place. So before long the prisoners were moved to their new home. Continue reading Introduction To Things That Want To Kill You (Australia)→