The Hero’s Journey: TG Style

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When I began writing the first in my Hero series, I started off with a desire to marry Joseph Cambell’s theories as outlined in Hero with a Thousand Faces to genderfluid fiction.  I thought it would be interesting and fun to use the theory– which has served as the basis for an array of very successful movies from Star Wars to The Matrix to Knocked Up– and apply it to the case of a man who finds himself trapped in the body of a woman.

For those who aren’t familiar, Joseph Campbell was a scholar who decided to study all the world’s myths.  He was intrigued to discover that certain stories were told in every culture throughout history.  The names changed, the settings, but the essence of the stories was the same.

One of the most persistent was that of The Hero’s Journey.  You can find all kinds of sources out there on the particulars– here’s one—  but the core of the idea is that the hero’s journey is universal because it is all about growing up.  When the story starts, the hero is self-centered, selfish, dependent– like a child.  But, through the course of trials and revelations that occur on their adventure, they are transformed into someone who is other centered, independent– like a parent should be.  This story has universal appeal because everyone is either growing up or has grown up.

And so, I started my own story with a character, Pete O’Malley, who had been a tough guy cop, and now finds himself trapped in the body of a beautiful stripper.  Not only is he a woman– and this is a problem for a lot of reasons including the fact that he was an unconscious chauvinist– but he has also lost his status as an NYPD officer.   So, when the story starts, he is mired in a case of the poor mes, focused entirely on himself and his own struggles, and not worried in the least about how his actions and attitudes or even his sex-change– may be impacting other people.

I won’t say anymore about his journey here, but you can read it for yourself if you haven’t.  The story was meant as a stand alone story, but I found myself interested in the character of Pete as well as the others we meet along the way, and so I eventually wrote a sequel and a kind of flash sideways that explored how Pete’s partner dealt with his own sex-change and why his response was so much different than Pete’s.

In all the books, I wanted to have my characters discover their best, heroic selves as a result of their being turned into women, and in each case I felt the character’s personality would have an impact on how they adjusted and accepted or struggled against their new lives as well as their obligations.

I feel the Hero saga is among my best work, and as I finish the third book, I am excited myself to see how all of these characters continue their heroes journeys, and how those journeys transform and remake them into different and, in most cases, better people.

 

The Hero’s Journey: TG Style

Zeus. Goddess. The Metanoia

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I felt like Zeus needed a sex-change.  That was my first thought when I started playing with the idea of a genderfluid book set among the world of the Olympian Gods.   As selfish an a-hole as any mortal man has ever been, Zeus had all the worst traits of masculinity, having done such wonderful things as rape his sister and then force her to marry him.

Sunday school must have been truly disturbing back in the days of ancient Greece, and probably caused more than a little uneasiness among siblings.

So, I figured, let me put this rapacious and repulsive embodiment of the worst of masculinity into a female body and explore what happens to him. I sat down to write what I thought was going to be a forced femme/vengeance story, but then I just couldn’t seem to write it.Nothing was coming out that felt good to me.

I started and stopped more than a few times.  Put it away and wrote some other material.  Figured it was just one of those ideas that wouldn’t work, but it wouldn’t go away.  Every time I finished a story, the idea of doing a TG story featuring Zeus would come back to me and linger.

One day I stumbled upon a New Zealand television series called The Almighty Johnsons, in which the Norse Gods were reborn in modern times as a bunch a beer swilling kiwis,  so I thought to do something similar with the Greek Gods;  Zeus and company would be reborn as fashion models working for Olympian Fashions.

But the story just turned campy, and I felt like I wasn’t really getting at what I wanted to get at.   Freud had based a lot of his ideas regarding all the stuff percolating in our subconscious minds from his readings of the Greek myths, and I wanted the book to be something of a Freudian dream.

Finally, I started to just play around with images, taking classic representations of Zeus and other figures from Greek mythology and giving them a TG twist.

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And then I had an image; Zeus, Lord of the Heavens and King of the Gods, would wake up with breasts.  How would he react?  What would he do?  How would having his body slightly feminized change or threaten or alter his personality?

Once I get started, I often will begin to dream my stories, to wake up with scenes playing out in my mind, or I will see them when I am on the train.   I also plunge into research, in this case learning a great deal about lesser known Greek Gods, such as Kybele, who was born both male and female, and whom makes an appearance in my novel.

The novel became about the relationship of the characters to themselves and others, and how those relationships would be altered as the gods changed not only in their bodies, but in their minds.  How would Zeus relate to the world as he became the goddess of marriage and wife to Hera?  What would happen to Ares as he transitioned from a God of War to a lesser goddess in service to Athena?  How would the goddesses react as their bodies and roles changed?

All in all, I have to say that writing Zeus.  Goddess. was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an author.  I was inspired and excited about the discoveries I made as the story unfolded, and I loved expanding my knowledge of Olympian mythology.  Now that one is done, and it is on to the next one, and in order to stave off my usual post publication depression, I am already working on the next one.

This time, I hope to do something I have never done.  I want to write a genderfluid comedy.  I don’t know what else it will be just yet, but I can’t wait to find out!

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Zeus. Goddess. The Metanoia

Metanoia

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Writing for me is learning, and I have been digging deep into Greek mythology lately as I dive into work on my next novel.  I feel like I have been in a rut, and I have decided to challenge myself now to create a bigger, deeper and more complex TG story than any I have ever made.  I know this much– the story will feature Zeus, King of the Gods and the embodiment of male virility, being stripped of his manhood and turned into a goddess, now the goddess of marriage and females while Hera becomes King of the Gods in his place.

I have always done research for my stories, whether it was researching the cities and locations, looking up recipes and police procedures, the impact of different drugs or even the history of the bra.  But this time I have delved deep into Greek mythology and done more research than ever, reading primary source myths, looking back over texts I had read before, like Metamorphosis, and reading up on the views on mythology by thinkers such as Otto Rank, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.

I am looking at these stories and characters as archetypes who ruled over aspects of the masculine and feminine, and I am going to explore slowly, carefully, and very deliberately what will happen when the God Zeus, most powerful of all male figures, finds himself gradually turning into a goddess, and now the goddess of marriage and females.

Hera, meanwhile, will become more and more the essence of the virile man, and I will explore the changes in her as well as she gains and loses in her own transformation.

The Greek myths have also been of interest to me.  Early on, when i was very young, I was attracted mostly by the shape changing.   As someone who was never comfortable in my own skin I always loved the idea of being able to transform into an animal of some sort, of being freed of the burden of myself.

But the universe portrayed by the Greeks also offers a lot to me as a writer now.  The Greek Gods are epic fuck ups and prone to surrender to their passions far more than to any kind of logic.  Justice is capricious and even non-existent.  People who really did nothing wrong get turned into flowers or statues, deer or warthogs.  Gods who do everything wrong suffer no consequences.

And the relationships are fraught with dysfunction.  Zeus raped Hera, his sister, and she married him out of shame.  She once drugged him and helped the other Gods tie him down as part of a plot to overthrow his rule and he changed in her the sky and made her suffer.   How fun it will be to explore their relationship as Zeus finds firm young breasts blossoming on his chest, as he grows smaller and weaker, while Hera gets bigger and stronger.  How will Zeus react as he finds himself losing his power as God of the sky and Lord of Lightning, and instead finds himself the goddess of marriage, and the object of his husband’s lust?

My process for these stories involves many things including the creation of images and art that I am inspired to make as I write and which in turn inspires the writing.   The image at the top of this article came about because as I was researching the story I kept seeing this image of a statue of Zeus in transition, now with his own breasts, and I just had to make it.   I will be making more.

I also look to other sources, music, videos, films, and right now I have entered kind of a fevered state where I am just writing, writing, writing, making art, looking at movies.  It’s kind of a creative obsession, which is when I am at my happiest.

The idea of writing something with the Greek Gods first occurred to me sometime ago, when I thought I might a story in which the Greek Gods are reincarnated in modern times as gender reversed versions of themselves.  Gods reborn in modern times has been done before in comic books and TV shows like The All-Mighty Johnsons, but even though I made some artwork I didn’t feel as excited by it as a do now.   Here’s one image I made back then:

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But the idea didn’t ignite, and it just kind of floated around in my mind until I decided instead to set the story back in ancient times and to create what, to me, would be a new series of Greek legends, ones which featured those traditional Greek Gods facing a genderfluid moment together.  I would even go so far as to say my ambition is to create a religious text for genderfluid people using these iconic figures of masculinity and femininity from the ancient world.

I want to do something epic, something I have never done.  I am excited by the challenge and the possibility that I will fail, but I know also that I won’t be bored.

I hope to have some readers who can say the same thing.

Metanoia