After spending so much time thinking about the horror genre over the last couple of weeks (here, here, and here), this seems like a good time to talk about some actual horror by Aniko Carmean. At least, in my opinion, her Stolen Climates falls within the horror genre. (Maybe urban fantasy horror. Or mythic horror. Something.)
Carmean’s book holds a special appeal to me because I love the use of mythology in fiction. I read my first urban fantasy novel—Moonheart, by Charles de Lint—about sixty million years ago, back when they still shelved all science fiction and fantasy together in a dark corner of the bookstore. Moonheart nearly exploded my brain. The idea of fairies living among us (and we’re not talking about Tinkerbell, here) captivated me like nothing I’d read before.
You have to understand—I searched for leprechauns in the clover every St. Patrick’s Day clear through high school. Even now, I walk a wide circle to avoid crossing a fairy ring. (When I was young, I stood in the middle and waited for something to happen.) As I got older, the work of Charles de Lint gave me a way to see magic amid the exhaust and noise of modern life.
But everything has its dark side, including myth and magic. In Stolen Climates, Aniko Carmean draws from the nature religions of Central and South America, where Mother Nature can be very dark, indeed. Though I read all sorts of mythology as a child, I always steered clear of the Aztecs and Mayans. Just too scary for young me. Stolen Climates gives a glimpse into those ancient stories, making me wonder what I’ve been missing. I asked Aniko to share a little of the background to the story, and here is what she said.
In mythology, twins represent the duality of the universe by showing the two faces of one reality. Twins in Mesoamerican creation myth are portrayed as possessing god-like abilities to slay monsters. The Popol Vuh, a written account of Mayan mythology, tells the story of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. The Hero Twins were tricksters who outwitted the lords of the underworld into offering themselves as sacrifices to the Gods. What fascinated me, though, was not the twin myth on its own, but the myth in combination with the fact that in ancient Mesoamerica, twins were regarded as negative portents. Twins were considered so dangerous that the Aztec killed one of each pair born.
All of these ideas got caught in my mental filter, where they fermented, transmuted, sublimed. In the end, I decanted what was left of that heady combination of myth and fact. Therein lay my inspiration for los gemelos, the Cayalanzuvan twins in Stolen Climates. Los gemelos are La Zalia’s unnamed enforcers, the ones who bring punishment to those who trespass against the Goddess. Only one of the twins speaks, but the other carries a ball of string to play cat’s cradle. The string symbolizes the interconnectedness of all in Nature, and the twins are incarnate guarantors of the natural order. In Stolen Climates, I use twin mythology to give a sense of apprehension around the power associated with Nature’s often-horrific will.
I am not sure where I first read the Hero Twin myth, but a good deal of information can be found in the book Aztec and Maya Myths, by Karl Taube. I’m sure there’s a bit of Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology informing this as well.
See what I mean? Mesoamerican flavored mythology makes great food for a horror novel. Carmean brings it to life in the modern world, a time when Mother Nature should be very angry indeed. If you take your fiction dark with no sugar, I highly recommend Aniko Carmean’s Stolen Climates.