Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Thursday, February 05, 2015

In which I have fan fiction! And answer more questions..

Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012
Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Since the post on Fr. Augustine's class of Thaliad readers has had so many hits, I'd better answer their "two more questions" right here. I am looking forward to reading some of the alternate sequels (Gabriel! fan fictions! can't wait!) written by the students and to watching the youtube videos of some of the class discussion.

I'm touched that Gabriel gets to have his own adventure in the sequels. I expect he's pleased as well. And I must say that I never expected readers to continue their own stories based on a blank verse narrative. That's downright amazing--Fr. Dude must have quite a class. Guess I'll know after I watch those youtube videos.

So a big hello and thanks to Fr. Augustine's students of St. Louis Priory School at the St. Louis Abbey. I'm so pleased that you read Thaliad.

1. In Book III of the Percy Jackson trilogy, Thalia battles a Manticore named Doctor Thorn. Mere coincidence? 

Coincidence, although my younger son did read the Percy Jackson books when they came out. So it was probably in the house somewhere... Osmosis?

I'll tell you where Thalia came from (and I pronounce it THA-lee-ah, rather than the traditional Greek way.) One day when I was living in Greenville, South Carolina, I found a dining room table in the alley. It was a somewhat battered and broken two-pedestal number. I had a dining room but not a table. After some ferreting about, I found the owner and permission to tote the thing into my house. It stayed with me for many years, one of the pedestals repeatedly breaking (notably at my daughter's 11th birthday party, when there was cake and presents on the table, as well as a lot of girls leaning on one end.) I finally got a new one last year because there were now too many clamps under the tablecloth. The two-pedestal table belonged to the Great-aunt Thalia (THA-lee-ah) of my neighbor in Greenville, so I always referred to it as Great-aunt Thalia's table.

As for Thorne, I just like the sound of it, though you could ponder the presence of metaphorical thorns in the way, I suppose.

2. Also…was your name spelled without the ‘A' on the book spine because it looks cool? 

I am afraid that came as a surprise! It's amazing how a book can be proofed and proofed and proofed, and some obvious thing like that can be overlooked. You'll just have to consider that edition as extra-valuable, like a rare postage stamp with the picture printed upside down.

3.  Why Castor and Pollux to represent Samuel and Ran, and not Romulus and Remus? 

Good question. Romulus and Remus would probably be better! After all, they are city-foundation figures. Since they quarrel and one kills the other, those quarreling twins would be evocative parallels for Ran and Samuel.

On the other hand, Castor and Pollux become the bright stars in the constellation Gemini, and there's a lot of sky and star in Thaliad. And some other parts of their story are suggestive. Since Castor and Pollux were horsemen, people regarded them as patrons of travelers. They were known for athletic contests and fighting (the mortal twin dies as a result of a foray into revenge.) When their sister Helen is stolen by Theseus, they set out for rescue but also vengeance, so there's a bit of analogy for you. (Of course, they weren't adverse to stealing brides for themselves....)

If you all had been around when I was writing, it might have gone otherwise!

4. Will there be a sequel? 

I doubt it. It arrived in my head one day, and the story unreeled until the end. But perhaps I'll wake up one morning with a related tale lodged in my brain.

* * *

You're right. That wasn't two!


  1. Too many authors -- not you -- avoid talking about their creative process. I wonder why. Care to weigh in on that one? And consider this: your generous outreach might become the catalyst for a few new authors. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving.

    1. Desire for mystique? Neurotic secrecy? Clubbishness? I have no idea.

      I do think that there's a complex linked chain of writers, though it tends to be influence via reading their works...

  2. Although the creative impulse behind fan fiction and the desire to flesh out the fictional worlds of others don't surprise me, I wonder if the character in question particularly interests younger people because they don't live in a world where they easily lose track of their peers. If they want to know what became of a friend from their past, they can find them; that person is likely linked to them through social media, possibly for life. By contrast, we older folks can think of many people who passed through our lives long ago whose fates are a mystery, and certain to remain so...

    1. That seems exactly right! Nobody vanishes anymore... Even the dead linger on, ghosts who receive praise on twitter and Facebook.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.