Commentary


    This page began at the bottom of the "About Mythosphere" page, but that was so long already it seemed better to start another page.  This is a chapter by chapter discussion of the story.  I point out literary or artistic sources for much of the material, and comment otherwise, sometimes merely on who I like among the characters, and who I don't.  It is probably not essential for anything, but I have always wanted a dialogue with Hardy or Dickens or Fitzgerald outside the book.  This is not quite a dialogue, but maybe a little like one.

Prologue:  This was written by Catherine very early in the process, and it was over a year before we had much concept of how it fit into the story.  The final draft, however, is only slightly changed from the first version.

Chapter 1:  Diana tells Trevor that her parents are quarrelling, but not that she is a cousin to Trevor's close friend, Eric Andersen.  The first information has no relevance to anything that might happen with Trevor; the later in some unexpected way might--this is typical of Diana's rather devious way of dealing with people.  The ten to one time ratio between Mythosphere and the outside world is not something I am very happy with--aside from adding an additional improbability, it's a real pain to keep the two time frame syncronized.  It was necessary, however, for several reasons.  First, without it, Mythosphere would be more expensive to run.  Also, it would be too expensive for customers.  It is not an amusement park with instant thrills, but an immersive experience.  People have to be there a while, but most people do not have a lot of real time to spare.   Being there for a month or two or three real time, however, would also be prohibitively expensive.  Also, to have viable populations, which are made up largely of casual visitors, people have to remain long enough to play some part in the actual functioning of the place.  Finally, the idea of a quick weekend escape with a lover which would actually add up to around three weeks would have to be a real selling point.

Chapter 2:  Mercury going to the mainland to find dancers:  most of the imprinted people on Mythosphere were first visitors, but some with special skills have to be recruited.  Whether they always entirely understand the implications of selling an imprint is another question.  Imprints are not just forms, they are a complete electronic recreation of the person.

Chapter 3:  Britomart:  Britomart, or Britomartis was originally a Cretan moon goddess, though Artemis (Diana) later took over her name.  It is the name Spenser gives his female virgin knight in  The Fairy Queene, where she is the heroine of one of the six completed books.  Her story there is closely modelled on that of Bradamante in Orlando Furioso and, in fact, "Bradamante" is merely the Italian version of the same name.  She is a very major character in that work of many characters.  I have retained her virtue and virginity, though her personality and beliefs are rather different.  Most readers seem to like her a great deal, though I am not sure that some of them would like her so well in real life, considering her frequent abruptness, her dogmatic views, and her authoritarian character.
    The affair between Guenevere and Lancelot, of course echoes the one in the romances--one of those coincidences more common in life than in fiction.

Chapter 4:  The philandering of Zeus (Jupiter) and the jealousy of Hera (Juno) are echoed here in the relationship between Richard King and his wife, Julia.  The results here, however, are more destructive than those on Olympus.

Chapter 5:  Mercury (Hermes) is, among other things, a god of commerce and money.  He is also a god of disguises.  Both these traits show up here.  He and Diana are, of course, first cousins.  The scene with the horses was, obviously no doubt, considerably influenced by Faulkner's "Spotted Horses."

Chapter 6:  It was Samuel Johnson who refuted the philosopher, Berkley's claim that reality is immaterial by stamping his foot on the paving stones.  It is surprising that someone as unintellectual as Kara would more or less remember this.

Chapter 7:  The tree that bleeds and gains the power of speech when brances are broken from it--this theme first appears in Vergil's Aeneid, is later picked up by Dante in The Inferno, and used again by Ariosto, then Spenser in The Faerie Queene.  I don't know of any use of it between Spenser and Mythosphere.
    Originally, this chapter was supposed to follow the Indians, but the knights had been neglected for so long it seemed imperative to get back to them before the reader forgot everything about them.  The mood in the wasteland scenes was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, a writer who had a huge impact on my childhood imagination.

Chapter 8:  I suppose it was Leah, who was described as sore eyed in the Biblical story, that inspired me to make this Leah cry constantly.

Chapter 9:  This painting by William Waterhouse inspired the mermaid Diana sees on the rocks.  The Island of the Hesperides was suggested by a painting by Lord Leighton.


             Diana
                              picture by Anthony Martin
Sorry this isn't bigger, but it distorts
with size.  I may replace it with a better
one when I get time.
Chapter 10:  These barbarian's are probably a little reminiscent of the Tuchucks in book IV of the Gor series.  These, however, have horses, and lack the qualities of a complex society with its wide range of people.  These are essentially all just what they seem--outlaw bikers and their women.

Chapter 11:  Anyone who has read any of the old heroic romances of the first half of the twentieth century, such writers as Raphael Sabatini and Frank Yerby, will recognize the particular "female in distress" motif this chapter is playing off of.

Chapter 12:  This chapter contains nothing absolutely essential.  Even the man buying a helmet, though he does appear importantly later, does not have to be shown here.  But I like the chapter nonetheless.  I have always hated the idea of viewing people as mere functions, either in life or in literature, and like to give everyone his due.  There are limits to how far a writer can go in doing so without making his book overly diffuse, but I have at least tried to give a clear sense of Jarvis and Marla as people who have lives entirely apart from Trevor and Kara's visit.
Chapter 13:  Catherine created Diana's dream without any sense of how it applied to the story.  It seemed too powerful to ignore, but it gave me real fits, though, in trying to harmonize it with the plot.
    The picture below of Perseus and Andromeda by Edward Burne-Jones is the one Diana has on her wall.  What it says about her from a psychological perspective, I will leave to those who like such questions.   The scene in which Athena descends invisibly and grabs Achilles by the hair is from Book I of the Iliad.
Chapter 14:  I really have nothing to say about this chapter, except that the small bird is a goldfinch.  They are particularly fond of thistle seed.

Chapter 15:  The singing reaper comes from Wordsworth's poem, "The Solitary Reaper."  There the language would have been Gaelic.  Wordsworth, himself, got the scene from a book, rather than from actual observation, so it is a scene with some literary history.  As for the satyrs, they have a reputation for carrying off or raping women, so this scene has a long history behind it.
The image of the pool was basted on William Waterhouse's "Narcissus," the gnome-like creature on the goblins in Cristina Rosetti's "Goblin Market," the fish by the beautiful description of looking down at trout in the water in Hemingway's "Big Two Hearted River."  The hair fused to the water was, I think, Catherine's idea, and I believe it is based on some painting.
Chapter 16:  I've tried generally to keep an Homeric objectivity, but I really don't like Merlin.  In the last couple of decades his clones have totally overrun many college departments, especially English departments.  I suppose the various allusions to T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock" are too blatent to need pointing out.  As for Guenevere, I have no grudge against her, but most reader dislike her.

Chapter 17:  Venus' dream was Catherine's creation, and I like it a great deal.  The only addition I made was the location in town, and the neon light outside.
Chapter 18:  For a hotel with the same floor plan, see the Andrew Jackson Hotel on Royal Street in the French quarter of New Orleans.  "Welcome to Cyprus--goats and monkeys!"  From Othello.  Othello's expression of sexual disgust at what he thinks is the behavior of those closest to him.  The fact that, like Othello, she is welcoming Eric to an island makes it more pointed.  Goats and monkeys are traditional symbols of uncontrolled lust because they are among the few animals that are perpetually in heat.  Diana has a good memory for quotes, but most often quotes plays, as one would expect from someone who had majored in drama.
Chapter 19:  The pool has already been discussed.  As for the shadow child, I am not quite sure what to say about her.

Chapter 20:  The house of God is Mount Kilamanjaro to the natives of central Africa, somewhat parallel to the situation with Olympus in Mythosphere.  The phrase comes from Hemingway's famous story, "The Snows of Kilamanjaro."

Chapter 21:  The map on the "About Mythosphere" page might be helpful in following the movements of people, though I am not sure that most readers care about the exact geography, however necessary it may be in creating a story.
Chapter 22:  "Antres vast and deserts idle"--the line is from Othello.  Antres are caverns.  There was an early dispute among scholars about whether this line was corrupted or not, and some suggested the phrase, "deserts wild."  Samuel Johnson, however, ended the matter with the assertion that "deserts ide" was not only clearly correct, but a strikingly beautiful and appropriate choice of words as well.  No echo of Xena was ever intended, but I could not help seeing a certain parallel, so deciced to mention what  I assumed every reader would think of anyway.  I had no one in particular in mind as a model for the evangelist; the one described here seems to be typical of the type.
Chapter 23:  The Fisher King of grail legend is, of course, suggested in this scene, though that turns out to be a red herring, as several things in the story are.  The description of the leopards was suggested by a wonderfully creepy image in the film, The Cat People.  The oracle scene was suggested by a scene from a very fine Hatian novel, The Beast from the Hatian Hills.  When I find the author's name, I will add it.  I know nothing about palm wine except from what I have read in Amos Tutuola's novel, The Palm Wine Drinkard.  This is something definitely worth reading--not really a novel, but a wild narrative filled with mythic and folklore elements.

Chapter 24:  Perhaps it is merely a failure of imagination, but I find nothing to say about this chapter, except that Regan, Sigurd, and Fafnir are from the Volsungs Saga, the most famous, though certainly not the best of the sagas.  It does, however, involve killing a dragon.
Chapter 25:  Notice that Neptune's arguments, though they sound fairly persuasive, are actually nonsense.  Diana and Mercury also give impressive shows of hypocrisy.  In this respect they do not differ greatly from Homer's originals.  The bloody horse head is, of course, from The Godfather.  Hemingway's wives, Hadley and Pauline both made sure their children were born in the States.  It was their example which suggested this detail.  Somehow Mercury always ends up reminding me of Faulkner's Flem Snopes, though I do imagine him as having values and a conscious, just not enough of either to interfere with business.  Diana's quotation about the "Nicean barks of yore" is from Poe's beautiful little lyric, "To Helen."  Diana's relationship with her sleeping lover comes from the myth of Diana and Endymion.

Chapter 26:  Since Violet does not like her name, "V. King" could as well stand for Venus as for Violet.  The attention to dress and personal appearance is typical of the Carribean, and is true for all social classes.
Chapter 27:  The reader can probably imagine my annoyance when, during the writing of this book, the Harry Potter book came out.  No one had mentioned a hippogriff in a century, and the moment I write about one . . . Britomart's capture of the hippogriff is modelled on the way her prototype, Bradamante captures the sorcerer, Atlantes.  Riding the hippogriff, he attempts to stun her with the rays of his magic shield while she pursues him, looking away whenever he turns the shield toward her.  At last she lies down and pretends to be stunned.  He dismounts and approaches, and she grabs him.  In Orlando Furioso Bradamante, herself, never actually rides the hippogriff, though her lover, Ruggerio does.  In some versions of the Grail story, the hero who fails to ask the proper question awakens the next morning to find the castle deserted.  In others he finds himself lyping on the ground and th castle gone.  More could have been done with the village, but it was really time to start pulling things together.  For anyone who has not watched the Telletubbies, very large, tame rabbits are a very noticible feature of the rather artificial looking landscape.  Lyn's hedging her bets on religion, absurd as it sounds, is a very common attitude.  As for Britomart's views, they are consistent with her character, and should not be taken as those of the authors.  Unicorns can only be captured by virgins.  Britomart, as a married woman, is naturally sensitive about her virginity.  Ann Rice's Sleeping Beauty books--these are very kinky indeed.  The earth rising at the horizon--this very likely optical illusion was suggested by Poe in his story, "The Balloon Hoax."  Whether natural optical illusions occur in cyberspace, I honestly don't know.
Chapter 28:  "What blue remembered hills,"--this is from A.E. Houseman.  The whole passage reads, "What are those blue remembered hills,/ What spires, what farms are those?/ That is the land of lost content,/ I see it shining plain,/ The happy highway where I went/ And cannot come again."  The cider pressing scene owes much to a similar scene in Hardy's The Woodlanders, and the butchering scene to a butchering scene near the beginning of Hardy's Jude the Obscure.  Kara's theory about Babylon being "baby land" seems to me accurate both in reference to the nursury rhyme and to the present environment.  Children of the Corn has always seemed to me a stupid movie, but seems to have made a great and lasting impression on many children, so Kara is by no means alone in her reaction.  The lack of respect Dwight Harris' father had for either the land or for anything not symbolic of a recent expenditure of a great amount of money seems to me very typically American, and as true of most rural people as of city ones.
Chapter 29:  Richard Hamilton--I got the name from an old set of series books about a boy enterpeneur named Dick Hamilton.  Catherine suggested the scene between Jupiter and Ada, but I vetoed it--it seemed simply too much.  But I ended up writing it after all, and actually rather like it.  For one thing it highlights Ada's rather odd fascination with and attraction to Diana, though I am not sure I understand all the implications of that.  It also clarifies the fact that Ada's relationship with Violet is one of actual friendship, and not of exploitation.  Don Quixote--Sancho, relying on folk wisdom, does so well as governor of his island--actually a village in the middle of an arid plain--that he is insufficiently amusing, and the wealthy couple have to stage an invasion to frighten him into resigning.  The reference to Princess Lei is, of course, to the third Star Wars movie in which Jabba the Hutt has her on a leash.  "Some things are just plain wrong"--few educated people wold have the nerve to make so dogmatic a statement as Britomart does, though in reality this is the principle on which the vast majority of people, educated and uneducated, operate.  As for the movie, Damage, the actress is Juliette Binoche, and she does look and dress very much like Diana in this film, though elsewhere, with lighter and longer hair and different clothing, she looks much less so.
Chapter 30:  The map might help in following the movements of the characters.  Barbara Woodhouse was an Englishwoman who had a very popular dog training show on television, and reached almost cult status with her authoritarian manner that cowed both dogs and dog owners.  Like the prologue, this scene (the first visit to the cave) was written by Catherine very early in the process, but unlike that, a great deal has been added.  I am not sure why, instead of resolving matters, she had the dragon send Kara away to return later, but there has turned out to be several advantages, so I kept it that way.  Now that I think about it, the reason was obviously that Catherine did not know at the time what Kara was there to ask the dragon about.
Chapter 31:  The picture of Gawain and Lancelot here and throughout follows the Medieval romance tradition.  Gawain is the traditional ideal of knighthood.  Lancelot is the knight who will sacrifice all for love.  If one accepts love as an absolute, then Lancelot is superior.  If one considers duty of equal or greater importance, then Gawain is.  "Daisy Dukes"--jeans cut to short shorts like those worn by the leggy sister of the Duke brothers in the TV show, The Dukes of Hazzard.  Dodder is an orange, thread-like parasite that winds itself over other plants. 
Chapter 32:  I like this chapter; it seems to me to combine real human behavior very effectively with action and melodrama.  There is nothing, however, that seems to require comment.