Hercules Meets His Match
Available for the first time, free to my newsletter subscribers, is a 7500-word Hercules story I wrote a few years back. This is the story that started me down the path of writing in the world of Aegean mythology.
At the time I wrote this story, I was writing my way through a space opera series about a group of kids from all over Earth who represented our world in a galactic sports tournament. It was a bit like the Olympics in space.
It was fun, but to be honest, I’d gotten burnt out on aliens. I’d written about tentacles and slime, I’d written about advanced tech, I’d written about creatures made of rock, and I was ready for a new project to take my writing in a different direction.
And so I started…a contemporary YA romance?!
It wasn’t as much of a stretch as it sounds. A character in my Galaxy Games series was reading a contemporary YA romance series, and I thought it might be fun to bring those in-story books into our world.
I wrote one chapter and no, it was not fun. It was not fun at all. It was intense, heavy, and emotionally draining. It gave me a much-increased level of respect for authors who write books in this genre.
Before I could even think about moving on to chapter two, I needed to cleanse my writing pallet with something light and humorous, a work of mythology…
In “Hercules Meets His Match,” you’ll find residual elements of sports from the Galaxy Games, a romance inspired by the other book I’d just started, and not an alien in sight.
Hercules to the Romans, Herakles to the Greeks, Melqart to the proto-Phoenicians, was the strongman of Aegean mythology. He’s famous for performing twelve impossible tasks, or labors, as penance for a brutal crime.
When I was a kid, it seemed to me that Hercules had gotten off easy, receiving the equivalent of “community service” as punishment for a triple homicide. A slap on the wrist! It seemed to me that he shouldn’t be celebrated as a hero for only doing his good deeds at the direction of his parole officer. I had strong opinions about the required attitudes and motivations required to call someone a hero, and for me, Hercules fell far short.
I have always had issues with how Hercules was portrayed in popular culture. This story gave me a chance to explore those issues. In the writing process, I became more sympathetic toward the character than I had been before.
This is Hercules at the end of his Labors, which I see as a divine course in self-improvement. This Hercules still makes mistakes, but when he does, he recognizes them and makes unprompted and self-motivated efforts to repair the damage. This Hercules has been humbled, and as a result he has grown his ability to empathize with other people. In short, he’s become a hero. He’s a better person than I imagine him to have been when he started. He still has a long way to go, but he now recognizes his path forward and is willing to progress.
I enjoyed writing a story that was grounded in tradition, but with an original plot that I had claimed the freedom to improvise and embellish. Having included a character to be an equal to Hercules, I wanted to explore her origin story within a mythological world.
And that’s what I’m doing now.
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