Stories We Tell Ourselves

In some ways, Strix has ended up being a story about stories (apparently I’m getting all meta in my old age). While I had fun creating parallel mythologies that approached the same events in different ways, I couldn’t help thinking about the implications of story and myth. Marie Bilodeau and I talked about this at Ad Astra. Certain stories stick around. Sometimes, you can trace their movement through conquest and migration (think the spread of Mesopotamian and Greek gods); sometimes, you see very similar tropes emerging independently (there’s a Native American flood story.)

I think certain stories persist because we need them, whether as a society/culture, or as individuals. In different guises, the same messages come through again and again. Love Prevails. Good Beats Evil. One Person Can Make a Difference. Different narratives wax and wane as society changes, too. The closing of the American Frontier in 1890 had profound psychological ramifications precisely because the story of “Young Man Goes West and Finds Success” could no longer work. A new story was needed, so we got the terribly nostalgic “Chasing the Dream,” which is basically The Great Gatsby in a nutshell: striving so hard for something you can’t catch, and which may never have even existed in the first place.

If you want to understand a culture, look at its myths. They both reflect and shape the way we understand the world. When we grow up surrounded by a certain narrative, we (consciously or unconsciously) try to recreate it, whether that’s by getting the white picket fence and 2.4 kids, or by assuming a role we think we ought to have (which is explored far more articulately and profoundly in this essay here).

You can also think about stories affecting things on the individual level. For myself, I’m a sucker for robot stories. More specifically, I’m a sucker for the specific story “Artificial Life Attempts to Reconcile and Cultivate its own Humanity.” I’m drawn to emotional androids/cyborgs— Rommie, Seven of Nine, heck, even Ciris—and they’ve cropped up in my own fiction (River, anyone?).

He may be my nemesis, but P.C. wrote a really cool story…

The converse is also true; the Borg and Cybermen simultaneously terrify and fascinate me. I will take a fleet of Daleks over one Cyberman any day, but I can’t stop watching them, even when I feel physically ill. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I realized their story was the mirror image: rather than artificial life embracing emotions and humanity, the individual is subsumed into the unfeeling collective.

I’m scared of the guy on the left. Oswin Oswald aside, Daleks generally just kill you. That doesn’t make me go cold inside the way upgrading/assimilation does. (image courtesy

When I consider my own occasional difficulty in accepting and expressing my emotions, this preoccupation with feelings suddenly starts to make a lot of sense.

We’re all the hero of our own life story, but it’s interesting to stop and really think about what that story is. What tropes help us figure things out, what plot points do we already anticipate? Essentially, I guess, stories are a mirror in themselves. How we use them is up to us.

And the story of Hapax and Strix?

As is the nature of fiction, I’m sure everyone sees different things. For me, Hapax has always distilled down to “Hope Beats Fear.” As for Strix…

“Hope Beats Fear, Even When Things Look Really, Really S***”


Posted on July 2, 2013, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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