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Sunday, July 21, 2013

PR Special Edition: Tessa Gratton Guest Post!

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Our guest today is Tessa Gratton, author of the recently published  Norse fueled YA The Lost Sun!

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SummarySeventeen-year-old Soren Bearskin is trying to escape the past. His father, a famed warrior, lost himself to the battle-frenzy and killed thirteen innocent people. Soren cannot deny that berserking is in his blood--the fevers, insomnia, and occasional feelings of uncontrollable rage haunt him. So he tries to remain calm and detached from everyone at Sanctus Sigurd's Academy. But that's hard to do when a popular, beautiful girl like Astrid Glyn tells Soren she dreams of him. That's not all Astrid dreams of--the daughter of a renowned prophetess, Astrid is coming into her own inherited abilities.

When Baldur, son of Odin and one of the most popular gods in the country, goes missing, Astrid sees where he is and convinces Soren to join her on a road trip that will take them to find not only a lost god, but also who they are beyond the legacy of their parents and everything they've been told they have to be.
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Kiss my Asgard: Modernizing Those Crazy Norse Myths

Here’s the thing about translating Norse mythology into a modern setting, for modern readers: it was easy.

Norse mythology was created (for lack of a better word) in a freezing land by hard people who believed in monsters and that death waited around every corner. The stories are about blood-oaths and revenge and trolls and frost giants, about shape-shifting and the end of the world. Not things most of us have a lot of experience with (I’ve only met trolls on the Internet), and they could be very hard to relate to. Of course nobody had televisions and cars, or microwaves or penicillin or any of the things that make life convenient for us. (It would have changed the outcome of most of the Icelandic Sagas if somebody had had a cell phone.)

It should have been difficult to take those stories and make them immediate and relevant in a world that DOES have television and cell phones.

But it wasn’t. Early in my reading, before the first real spark of THE LOST SUN, I realized why Norse mythology is not only accessible, but completely relatable: it has a sense of humor.

Norse mythology is funny.

Tricksters and earnest fools quest together, odd-couples get married or buddy up. Gods cross dress or turn into horses to distract the bad guys. They have huge fights that are nothing more than epic “Yo Mama” contests. They make fun of each other and tell jokes.

I knew I had a way in. Although I wouldn’t call THE LOST SUN funny by any means, I used the laughter and entertainment I felt reading many of the stories to find my way into the darker cores of them. Humor got me through incredible violence and revenge, through blood-curses and crazy passion, right to the heart of the stories, which became infinitely relatable. While there, I realized that modern American culture and Viking Era Nordic culture share several values: honor, family, making a name for oneself, justice, democracy. And humor. Irony. An appreciation for the underdog.

The people who loved these stories of gods and monsters were a lot like the dominant culture of America. When I began puzzling the history of my US of Asgard together, it was surprisingly simple on a cultural level. We have a history of invasion, of slavery, and conquest, of hopes and dreams and longing for new land, the tension between individualism and family, for riches and home and democracy.

So that’s the truth: modernizing Norse mythology felt easy. Of course, only you, dear readers, can judge whether or not it worked! 

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I love mythology, its one of my favorite things for writers to use as a building block for their story.  I mean these are stories that started out as oral traditions to explain the sometimes ludicrous nature of the world.  I'd love to know how it came to be believed that there is an army of battle hardened women that lead men into their afterlife--what would make someone think of that to explain the world?

So yeah Gratton's "United States of Asgard" does seem to work on a cultural level for me.  How about all of you?

Wanna know more?

About the Author

Tessa Gratton has wanted to be a paleontologist or a wizard since she was seven. Alas, she turned out too impatient to hunt dinosaurs, but is still searching for a someone to teach her magic. After traveling the world with her military family, she acquired a BA (and the important parts of an MA) in Gender Studies, then settled down in Kansas with her partner, her cats, and her mutant dog. She now spends her days staring at the sky and telling lots of stories about magic.