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On The Origin Of Mythic Orbits and Genre Short Stories

Short stories are often used to promote feature-length novels, but Travis Perry did something different in “Mythic Orbits.”
| Dec 30, 2016 | 2 comments |

The Mythic Orbits 2016 anthology project was inspired by my love of short stories, especially science fiction short stories.

Back in the 1950s, a number of science fiction magazines made money off regular sales of short story collections. Most of the major authors of the era started out as short story writers. For many of them, their short stories are every bit as important as their novels.

Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is probably at least as well-known and his best known novel and was in fact an anthology of Bradbury’s short stories about Mars. So was Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, an anthology about robots. Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven, and many other prominent authors of the past wrote short stories that I often find more interesting than their novels.

Short stories have not been quite so prominent in fantasy, though George R.R. Martin has written some.

Short stories have been huge in the history of the horror genre. Edgar Allen Poe never wrote a single novel, yet is well-known for his short stories and poems.

But sadly, the short story has fallen on hard times. Too many stories are given away for free online. Many publishers treat them like promotional material and novels as the “real” stories worth selling. And publishers who do sell either short stories or flash fiction are asking writers to produce stories with specific themes in mind at specific times, instead of letting authors submit their very best works, those stories they felt internally inspired to write.

I wanted to do things differently. I wanted people to submit to me their most inspired creations, then assemble these into a collection that would be the sort of thing I would love to read myself. I also wanted to promote my fellow Christian authors in a way I believe honors God.

For Mythic Orbits, I recruited authors starting at the Realm Maker’s conference in 2016 by wearing a sign on my back saying I was interested in short stories. At the suggestion of Lisa Godfrees, our collective group created something called “The Coalition of the Willing” on Facebook. I sought their input in naming the story collection, in designing the cover (for which I did the artwork, based on feedback from the group).1

I also have kept the price of the book down and invested more in the story quality than anything else. The real prize of this collection is not its artwork or layout, but the works of the authors I was able to recruit.

The most important author who submitted a story was Kerry Nietz. Kerry not only have me a cool story and allowed me to use his name in promoting the collection, he gave a lot of pointers on various aspects of the project and cleaned up the EPUB file I had made for the novel. He even put me in touch with Tosca Lee and Kathy Tyers, both of who read Mythic Orbits 2016 and gave it their endorsements. (Very exciting for me!)

By the way, the name Mythic Orbits was created by our collective group and was intended to suggest both science fiction and fantasy and to identify this book in a distinctive way, along with any that follow after it in a series. This is something I would like to do–make this an annual anthology, if God allows it.

Along with science fiction and fantasy, this anthology of 14 authors includes horror and paranormal stories. There is no single theme to these tales, though the subject of empathy or lack thereof does come up in them over and over. This is most definitely not an anthology about orbits which are somehow mythical.

As a showcase for the best speculative fiction stories by Christian authors, my first goal for was simply to demonstrate that Christian authors really can write speculative fiction well. Stories with a wide range of appeal are included, mostly serious, some with humor, some with “happy endings” and others clearly not so happy. But all worthwhile.

Some of the authors wrote using Christian themes but others did not. Some of these stories feature Christian characters in speculative fiction worlds, some make use of Christian themes either subtly or overtly, while some have no discernible connection to Christianity at all.

There was no specific content or doctrinal test for Mythic Orbit‘s tales, though they are basically clean. As long as the violence mentioned in a few of these stories wasn’t portrayed too graphically, this collection would rate a “PG” in the U.S. movie rating system. This is based on the suffering mentioned in a few of the tales and a few relatively mild words like “bastard.” Sexuality in the anthology is limited to being attracted to someone and a single story kiss.

In doctrine, these stories did what speculative fiction as a whole does—created worlds unlike our own and put the reader inside them. These stories do not assert these unreal situations are actually true, though imaginary things can reveal truths about what is real, of course. Nothing in any of the stories overtly contradicts the Bible. Even strict interpretations that there cannot possibly be ghosts or fairies or certain monsters, which some of these tales include, could be harmonized simply by reinterpreting stories as involving demons if a reader wished to do so.

Christian readers should be drawn to this anthology. So should speculative fiction readers, including the readers of Speculative Faith.

  1.  My business model is to keep costs low, then to share as a percentage the total income from book sales among all the authors. I hope that helps motivate them to participate in promoting this book. If this sells well, each of them will get a slice. My own cut is a minority of the total money that will be coming in–fully 76% of all income from this project will go back to the various authors, divided among them proportionally.

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Peter Younghusband
Member

You have just convinced me to buy it! Great article and I love you passion!

Paul Lee
Member

I sincerely wish Travis, Mythic Orbits and all its authors the best of success. And in the spirit of promoting other Christian authors, I want to make sure that the efforts that have gone before are not forgotten:

http://wherethemapends.proboards.com/thread/2448/publication-announcement

I really supported The Cross and the Cosmos quite a lot back in the day. For a long time, I was reviewing every single story individually. For the most part, it crashed and burned. I’m not so optimistic that any of the individual authors from T2C ever did much better, though I hope and trust that they’re still striving forward with their anthologies and their storyworlds. There was good talent there. G.L. Francis is seriously the best contemporary poet I know of, and Frank Luke’s medieval fantasy alternate church history is conceptually intriguing.

It seems like acknowledging past efforts is an appropriate way to spend New Years’ Eve.