Using Mythology in Science Fiction/Fantasy

(Random aside – I put this down for a potential blog topic in December, and all I wrote next to it was “IT’S AWESOME.”  Good job, Kit.)

So, I went and saw Thor tonight.  (When you read this on Monday, I mean Sunday night.)  Admittedly I am a bit behind the movie times, and I know it is based off the comic book character, but still my point stands.

I think the very coolest thing an author can do is wrap their story around some mythology.  Sometimes this does always go well – things can be too blatant, too predictable – but when done right, it adds a depth to the story that is a beautiful thing.

It gives you a lattice to build off of that, at times, has been in the human consciousness for thousands of years.

Another example that’s recently been pointed my way – I am reading a book on alchemy for story research.  I don’t think it’s going to work out – definitely leaning towards straight magic at this point – but it’s been interesting, and the author makes a rather decent argument that the Harry Potter books are built on the alchemical process.  I don’t know if it is or not – I was in the HP fandom long enough to hear and read many many theories – but if it’s not intentional, that almost makes it more awesome.  To match something that people have been working on and believing for thousands of years without even meaning to.  Aha, brilliant.

I like the idea of there being some sort of greater consciousness, some sort of universal truth, that we all as humans can tap into.  And I love the idea of there being something bigger than us, something we can aspire to.

Let’s face it – in a lot of cases, mythologies resonate with us on some level.  Even in today’s modern society where, as some people say, “God is dead.”  Where Science rules all, and we’re more worried about who’s going to win American Idol than our spiritual wellbeing.

Jung would say something profound about archetypes.

How do you feel about using mythology as a base?  Any mythologies that stand out as your favorite?

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Natasha McNeely on 2011/06/06 at 11:12 AM

    I love authors who use mythological themes in their writing and even more when it’s truly based on mythology. There are so many different things that can be done with it and it brings the story to life.
    One of my plans is to write at least one novel centered around Ancient Egyptian pantheon and mythology. It’s the pantheon I find most interesting, though others like the Greek pantheon also interest me.


  2. I’m so in love with this post; mythology tied in to modern fiction is one of my biggest weaknesses in life, and it’s something that I think needs more love. You’ve hit the nail on the head, here. 🙂

    I’m happy to dabble in any mythos, myself, but I’ve a soft spot for Greek, as I grew up absolutely enthralled with it. Norse is another favourite, and Egyptian is always wonderful.

    Also, that book on alchemy sounds fascinating — I’d love to take a peek at it and see what it has to say about Harry Potter myself! Mind if I inquire as to the title?

    In any case, you have inspired me to do yet more research, and that is never a bad thing. 😀 Thank you!


    • I love Norse mythology. Thor and Odin and the Midgard serpent! I’m also partial to angel mythology and Hawaiian/Polynesian mythology.

      The alchemy book is called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy. 😛 Say what you will, it was much better than other books I’ve read on the subject. The Harry Potter mentions are mixed in throughout the book.


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