Book review: Making Monsters

Making monsters“We have always made monsters: in art, in myth, in religion; out of clay or bronze, pixels or hybrid flesh; from the stuff of human nightmares; by cursing women with bestial traits. This anthology brings together fiction and accessible academic writing in conversation about monsters and their roles in our lives—and ours in theirs.”

So says the blurb from the back cover of Making Monsters. A collaboration between Emma Bridges (Public Engagement Fellow at the Institute of Classical Studies) and Djibril al-Ayad (a speculative-fiction editor and publisher), it’s an anthology collecting a mixture of short stories, poems, and essays about (mostly) classical Greek and Roman monsters and our responses to them. Medusa, as shown on the wonderful cover illustration, and Sirens seem to be the most popular of the monsters – and are used by many of the entries to explore the ways in which women in particular are viewed as monsters – but the Furies, Circe the sorceress, and Talos the bronze giant all make appearances too, and there are even some monsters from further afield like the Japanese tengu. It’s a wonderfully varied collection – some of my favourites are Megan Arkenberg‘s re-imagining of Danae as an inventor of living mechanical creations that I would have loved to have seen animated by Ray Harryhausen; L. Chan‘s “Field Reports from the Department of Monster Resettlement”, in which a harassed Singaporean civil servant attempts to get a group of monsters to agree to relocate from the locations they haunt; and Margaret McLeod‘s poem “Helen of War”, putting a different spin on the mythological tradition that says that Helen of Troy never went to Troy at all. There’s definitely something for everyone in this anthology, and I’d highly recommend getting hold of a copy to anyone who likes mythology and/or speculative fiction!

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More classical board games: Cyclades

2017-02-12-17-19-45Not a game that I’ve made this time, but one I bought some time ago: when I found out there was a board game called ‘Cyclades‘ about a bunch of Greek cities fighting for control of the Cycladic islands with the help of various gods and mythical creatures, I pretty much had to get a copy and give it a go. I finally just got around to trying it out with my usual crew of fellow-Classicist-board-game-fans and can report it was a great success (and not just because I won. OK, a little bit because I won.)

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Greek Myth Comix

I’ve just come across this fun blog illustrating the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Greek myths in comic form, and thought I would share it. Favourite post so far: the infographic with a statistical breakdown of all the deaths in the Iliad, because who doesn’t sometimes need a quick reference to how many people are killed by rocks in the whole poem (10) or the Top Three Grimmest Death? Though I’m pretty sure that last one is debatable, so feel free to make your own nominations…

Cult Classics Films – The Oscars

The vast majority of recent ‘Classical’ movies are, almost universally, completely mangled versions of the Classical history/mythology/literature on which they were supposedly based, without even the potentially redeeming feature of decent acting (I’m thinking of ‘Troy‘, ‘300‘, ‘Centurion‘…I’m sure you can fill in others). Classical movies from several decades ago, on the other hand, are, almost universally, completely mangled versions of the Classical history/mythology/literature on which they were supposedly based, without even the potentially redeeming feature of decent acting…and yet possessed of a certain vintage charm that somehow makes them utterly hilarious and hugely entertaining to watch.

In our never-ending quest to bring our readers the best in home entertainment, therefore, Res Gerendae‘s dedicated team of film critics selflessly set out to investigate and judge a series of cult Classics films – broadly defined as films relating (or claiming to relate) in some way to Greek or Roman history or mythology, dating from the 1950s-1980s. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I give you – the Cult Classics Oscars!

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