Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nonfiction - Millennial Mythmaking: Essays on the Power of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Films, and Games

Edited by John Perlich and David Whitt, Millennial Mythmaking follows up their previous anthology of essays - Sith, Slayers, Stargates, and Cyborgs - with another round of contemporary comparative mythology. Generally connecting back to Joseph Campbell's theories of mythology, this collection examines modern novels, films, and games and compares them to traditional themes (mostly classical, but also western) and analyzes the roles of science fiction and fantasy as contemporary mythology. Topics in the book include the Harry Potter novels, The Wizard of Oz and Wicked, Pan's Labyrinth, Spirited Away, the game "Second Life," Planet of the Apes (the film), The Triplets of Belleville, Ghost in the Shell, and a few recent TV shows.

While the essays in this anthology are written in scholarly style (including lots of notes and citations), they are perfectly readable for those of us who have a more amateur interest in science fiction/fantasy and comparative mythology. Even as someone who is more familiar with older texts (as in H.G. Wells and William Morris), I was not bored while reading most of these essays, nor was I confused with plotlines, as the authors give basic overviews of the works they discuss. The essays in Millennial Mythmaking have interesting points that, for the most part, they develop and support well. Not all of the essays are equal, however. The first one, in particular, did little for me and seemed unclear. One or two others rambled a bit or were not entirely clear in such things as sequences of events, but these are the exceptions. I was also disappointed by some grammatical and punctuation errors in my copy (which has no indication on it of being an ARC).

A positive thing about Millennial Mythmaking is that it does not limit itself to English-language texts. While it is much less broad than it could be, it does go far enough to include some Japanese, Spanish, and French works. It focuses more on films than anything else, which can be a little disappointing for literature buffs, but it didn't detract too much from my overall impression of the book. So, for anyone interested in modern comparative mythology or the analysis of sci-fi/fantasy, this is a decent read.

My copy of Millennial Mythmaking was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Published by McFarland, it originally went on sale in December, 2009.

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