Past Meetup

Writing Lab: Fabulous Beasts & Fantastical Prose Pt.II

Location image of event venue


Do you know and love Edith Hamilton's book of Greek myths? Are you an enthusiastic reader of Norse legends, Chinese proverbs, and short weird fictions by Poe, Hawthorne, Gaiman, Lovecraft, and above all, Jorge Luis Borges? If these topics and authors interest you, consider joining us for an evening of collaborative writing. The purpose of this writing lab is to brainstorm, plan, and write entries for a New Book of Imaginary Beings. towards the compilation of a New Book of Imaginary Beings.

Join us for this experimental writing workshop if you are interested in fantastical prose. This is the second session, but you are welcome to attend even if you haven't yet been part of the project.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ATTEND, please RSVP as early as possible, so that I can arrange to get you a copy of the original book.

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A summary of "The Book of Imaginary Beings" by Jorge Luis Borges:

"The Book of Imaginary Beings is Borges's whimsical compendium of more than one hundred of the;strange creatures conceived down through history by the human imagination. ; This unique contribution to fantasy literature ranges widely across the world's mythologies and literatures to bring together the fantastical inventions drawn from the Kabbalah, Homer, Confucius, Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, and Kafka, among others. Here readers will find the familiar and expected dragons, centaurs, and unicorns, as well as the less familiar and altogether unexpected Animals That Live in the Mirror, the Humbaba, the Simurgh, and other undeniably curious beasts. Throughout, Borges's cunning and humorous commentary is sheer delight."

The descriptions of mythical beasts from folklore and literature which comprise TBOIB are written in a style like that of a medieval bestiary -- these are not natural histories, but fantastical lives of beasts. A summary of each entry is listed at the book's Wikipedia page; here is a sampling:

- "The Wonders of God's Creation Manifested in the Variety of Eight". A mysterious creature that lives in the world of Bliss. Allegedly, all sounds, sights, and smells to this creature are divine.
- "Barometz ". This "animal" is actually a plant in the shape of a lamb with golden fleece.
- "Behemoth". A massive creature that is often likened to an elephant or a hippopotamus.
- "Burak". A horse-like creature with long ears and the wings and tail of a peacock. It may also have a man's face.
- "Hidebehind". A strong, nocturnal creature which feeds off the intestines of its prey. It captures and hides from wayfarers in the woods by sucking in its body so that it can hide behind the trunk of any tree, or the person trying to look at it. It is said they have an aversion to alcohol.
- "Hippogriff". A creature invented by Ludovico Ariosto in the 16th century in his epic Orlando Furioso, based on an expression of Virgil's denoting the impossible, "to cross griffons with horses"; the griffon [see above] being a cross between a lion and an eagle believed by Virgil's commentator Servius to loathe horses.
- "Minotaur ". A monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man.

These do enough to show the book's content to whet your appetite, though they hardly begin to give a sense of the book's style.

In developing content for this New Book of Imaginary Beings, we'll draw upon the same kinds of sources that Borges did -- the literature, religion, and folklore of the world, East and West -- but also upon new sources, including contemporary cinema, urban legend, the history of alchemy and evolutionary biology, and video game culture. Our aim is that this collectively-written miscellany will sparks the imagination, and attract the eye of readers interested in myth, richly-written fiction, and tales of the exotic.

The New Book of Imaginary Beings is being edited by Zachary Bos. Writers who participate in the project through these writing labs will be fully credited for their work in whatever published form the final book takes, whether in print or digital format, and will retain copyright to their work. Copies of the book will be provided to all participants of the writing lab, as will copies of an already-compiled list of fantastical beings to serve as a starting point for anyone new to the project.

There will be additional sessions of the Fabulous Beasts writing lab in coming weeks, so if you can't make it to this first event, just email zakbos at gmail dot com and let me know that you'd like to contribute to the book.

- WP article about "The Book of Imaginary Beings",
- Article at The Guardian by Caspar Henderson, who last year revisted the TBOIB and compared its contents to "nature's real marvels",
- TBOIB on Google Books,
- Monsters in the illuminated pages of the Macclesfield Psalter,
- The Alchemy Website,