Sunday, September 4, 2011

SpecFic Colloquium Blog: Stephen Michell

I was at a party a weekend or two ago, drinking Sleeman Original and eating delicious catered food. The ramblings of a blond-haired British gentleman caught my interest: he presented the idea that dreams create a culture's mythology. I liked the idea. The image of a whole society dreaming: a giant gelatinous mass of faces and eyes, grand and petite, awake, hungry, breathing.

The myths of Bronze Age Greece are the most prominent in my mind. The stories of Heracles, Perseus, David, and poor, perpetually-disembowelled Prometheus, are stories that invoked a sort of idolatry within ancient Greek culture. The characters and events of myth were idealized versions of their own society; men with colossal strength, women with boundless beauty, courage, honour, all were hopes, aspirations, dreams perhaps, of the society.
Indigenous North American mythology, though perhaps more abstract and unusual to our Greco-derived sensibilities, is still characterized by the same sort of idealism: stories of Raven, Coyote and Nanabush abound, all of whom are synonymous with the Trickster. These tales tell of journeys across vast landscapes, spiritual interactions with animals, and a greater understanding of nature and the universe: an expression of our society’s dreams, waking or with eyes closed.

I’m not mad. I am, however, a touch disconcerted. When I pause to think of my own mythology, of the tales and stories that echo some aspect of my hopes and dreams, and I draw a blank. Perhaps the heroes of our day are celebrities, writers and actors, great minds of art, or perhaps they’re innovators, brilliant thinkers, or money makers―I don’t know. But it makes me wonder: if Western Civilization is partially derived from the thoughts and wonders of ancient Greece, where then stands the contemporary Cyclops? What lake or labyrinth hides the modern Minotaur, the killer Kraken, the monsters of today?
. . . Perhaps they’re reading this, or perhaps they’ll be attending the 2011 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium―you should be.


The 2nd Toronto SpecFic Colloquium will take place on Saturday October 15, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema (186 Spadina Avenue). Register now at


Stephen Michell is a student at the University of Toronto as well as a fledgling writer, with his first publication in Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine. Working as a writer in Kensington Market, he has much time for self-reflection, and believes he has nearly “found himself.” He is currently reading Crime and Punishment, and enjoying it, though he still contends that Red Dragon offers the best first sentence he’s read. He is also sort of on the market for an agent. Say hey to him at the 2011 SpecFic Colloquium; he’ll be the guy quietly drinking coffee, digesting the words and wonders that are spinning around him.

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