Interview with Jim C. Hines about "The Mermaid's Madness"  

Posted by Wishwords in ,

I'm so excited about this book. I absolutely loved "The Stepsister Scheme" and have been impatiently waiting for this second book in the series. I'm also excited about this interview. Jim is personable and encouraging to those of us who want to be authors when we grow up. He's also a damn good writer. So read the interview and go enjoy the book!


What struck me about The Little Mermaid was how totally messed up that tale really is. I'm ashamed to admit I hadn't read the original Hans Christian Anderson tale growing up. Like so many tales, if you've only been exposed to the Disney version, you're missing a lot.

In this case, when I got to the end of The Little Mermaid, where the prince hooks up with another woman and our mermaid sacrifices her life so that he can be happy, I had a visceral "Hell, no!" reaction. I just had to mess with this one.

Of course, this meant writing a novel in which 90% of the action takes place at sea. When I started writing, my experience with sailing was pretty much limited to the toys my kids played with in the bath. So I spent a lot of time reading up on sailing ships. After that, I wanted to come up with a really interesting ship, one which would make this more than just another sailing story. I think I accomplished that with the queen's ship, the Phillipa, but I'll let the readers be the judge of that.

I also did a fair amount of reading about the ocean, trying to figure out what it would be like to navigate the different currents, and how the merfolk would have to function in order to survive. Things like needed an extra layer of body fat, or crying more in order to rid their bodies of excess salt. I read as many mermaid stories as I could find, trying to incorporate more of that mythology into the story. Mermaids have a strange obsession with souls, which turned into an important plot element.

Hopefully the result is something both new and familiar. I'm happy with the result, and I'm very much looking forward to hearing what readers think.

Thanks for giving me the chance to chat about the book!


Web site:

Blurb: There is an old story — you might have heard it — about a young mermaid, the daughter of a king, who saved the life of a human prince and fell in love. So innocent was her love, so pure her devotion, that she would pay any price for the chance to be with her prince. She gave up her voice, her family, and the sea, and became human. But the prince had fallen in love with another woman.

The tales say the little mermaid sacrificed her own life so that her beloved prince could find happiness with his bride.

The tales lie.

Where should readers buy the book? Wherever is convenient for you. Independent booksellers have been good to me, so I try to support them when possible. Barnes & Noble has also gotten behind the princess series, so I'd happily send readers their way. But in the end, I get my $.48 whether you buy it from Borders or Amazon or Walmart, so do what works for you.

Creature #4 - Rakshasa  

Posted by Wishwords in , ,

I've hesitated to tackle any primarily Hindu creatures because they all seem to be individual gods or demons. But then I remembered the Rakshasa. I first heard of Rakshasa years ago when I played Dungeons and Dragons. It has been used quite a bit more in pop culture, most notably video and role-playing games, than some of the other creatures I've written about, but it isn't a creature that most people readily recognize.

In D&D, the Rakshasa was depicted as an anthropomorphic tiger. I remember a drawing of one in a smoking jacket, lounging in a wingback chair. I can sort of see where they got that depiction, but the legendary Rakshasa is certainly no mere humanoid tiger.

In Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the Rakshasa is a goblin, demon, or evil spirit noted for shape shifting, magic, and eating humans and spoiled food. In the great Hindu epics, they are depicted as powerful warriors as well as skilled magicians and illusionists. Their hobbies are disturbing sacrifices, desecrating graves, harassing priests, and possessing humans. Their demonic form is usually described or shown as humanoid, yellow, green, or blue with catlike eyes, potbellies, large fangs, poisonous fingernails, and a reek of rotten meat. Some note that they are most powerful at night, especially during the new moon, and are dispelled by sunrise, but in the epics they are noted for participating in huge battles, which I assume took place during the day.

There are a couple differing ideas about their origins. In the Hindu epic, Ramayan, it says that they sprang from Brahma's foot. In other epics, they are descended from the sage Pulastya. The Vishnu Purana, one of the most important Hindu religious texts, calls them descendants of Kasyapa and Khasa, through their son Rakshas. Early Sanskrit texts say they are the children of the Vedic goddess of death, Nirriti. And in some legends, they are the reincarnations of extremely wicked humans.

Interestingly, the Rakshasa appears to be limited to the Hindu and Buddhist cultures. The argument could be made that the Jewish and Christian Satan bears resemblance, but Satan is an individual archdemon rather than a race of creatures and more complex.

Well-known Rakshasa

Ravana - King of the Rakshasa, had ten heads, was said to have paid homage to the Buddha.

Pūtanā - Rakshasi (female Rakshasa), attempted to kill the infant Krishna by offering him milk from her poisoned breast. Krishna sucked the life out of her, literally.

Vibhishana - Ravana's younger brother, was not evil, helped Rama defeat Ravana and was made king of Lanka.

A group of Rakshasi - followed the Buddha, protected the Lotus Sutra, and taught magic (in the form of mantras) to the followers.

Rakshasa in art

If you ever get the chance to visit Cambodia and see the temples of Angkor (one of the places on my wish list to see), you will find many carvings of Ravana and even one of Vibhishana. There is even a bas-relief of the Battle of Lanka in Angkor Wat.

Rakshasa in modern books and comics

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny - The now-bodiless natives of the planet are Rakshasa.
Song in the Silence by Elizabeth Kerner - The demons are referred to as Rakshasa.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman - Rakshasas appear briefly.
The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander - The villain turns out to be a Rakshasa.
Rakshasa by Max Overton - The entire book is about Rakshasa.
Resurrecting Ravana by Ray Garton - A Buffy the Vampire Slayer original novel with Rakshasa as the bad guys.
Game World Trilogy by Samit Basu - Rakshasas are one of the major races.
Gold Digger manga-style comics by Fred Perry - One of the characters is a Rakshasa.

Rakshasa in video games

• The Exile and Avernum games - Rakshasas are one of the magic-casting enemies.
Linley's Dungeon Crawl - The Rakshasa is one of the monsters.
Final Fantasy for PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation Portable - The Rakshasa is a magic-casting, tiger-headed creature.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne - Rakshasas are Haunt class creatures.

Rakshasa in role-playing games

Dungeons & Dragons - Rakshasa are tiger-headed necromancers, enchanters, and illusionists.
The Palladium Fantasy RPG - Rakshasas are a race of demons (spelled Raksasha in the game).

Rakshasa in movies and television

Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Horror in the Heights" (A great TV series, btw even though it aired so long ago.)
Supernatural episode "Everybody Loves a Clown"

As always, please use this article to inspire you to write about or visually depict the month's creature. If you do and would like your artwork or fiction (around 500 words) posted, please email me. I would love for people to see your work.