Introducing the Medusa Writer’s Studio
From an Alternate Source
In an ancient Libyan kingdom, an old king died with a daughter as his only heir. Although there may have been some grumbling from the populace at first, Queen Medusa quickly proved herself to be a competent leader, a capable huntress, and a keen commander of her nation’s military. Which was fortunate, as her homeland soon came under attack by an army from across the sea.
The invaders were led by a warrior named Perseus. And despite fielding the best soldiers of the Peloponnese, his forces were thwarted and repulsed by the young queen time and again.
The stalemate only ended when Perseus snuck into the Libyan encampment at night and assassinated Medusa in her sleep. Up close for the first time, Perseus was overcome by slain queen’s beauty and the thick coils of dark hair unlike any he’d seen before.
Knowing he’d be unable to describe Medusa adequately in words, Perseus took her head with him back with him to Greece, to be interred under the agora at Argos.
A Tale of Two Medusai
The story of Medusa as a beautiful and competent North African ruler was circulating at about the same time Ovid was writing about Medusa as a hideous snake-haired cave-dwelling monster.
The first version of the story was shared among the throngs of a busy marketplace. The second was pitched to the men in power and sons being groomed to follow in their footsteps.
The first version thrilled its listeners by depicting a woman in power who could only be defeated by the treachery of a man. The second comforted an audience who viewed a powerful woman as an unnatural threat to be violently put down.
The first version survives today only as an aside in the Roman-era travelogues of Pausanias. The second has been cemented by centuries of gatekeepers into the bedrock of Western Civilization, and has been celebrated in sculpture, artwork, story, and song.
In recent years, a third version of Medusa has emerged. Survivors of sexual violence have adopted Ovid’s Medusa as a symbol of defiance and resilience, reframing the ability to petrify men as Athena’s gift of protection rather than a curse.
The Medusa Collection
Mieke Marple’s 2500-piece Medusa Collection of generative art is the next evolution of her “Bad Feminist” exhibition of 2019–2020, which reframed Medusa as a feminist icon.
Marple’s pieces speak for victims who have been unjustly cast as monsters. They recall that behind the story of a snake-haired Gorgon was a woman whose name meant “protector” or “guardian,” and that it was she who powered the Aegis that gave Zeus his authority.
Medusa Writer’s Studio
Furthering this narrative, the Medusa Writer’s Studio is a literary collaboration between Cryptoversal Books and the Medusa Collection. The community-directed novel under development is not a feminist retelling of Medusa’s story so much it is an attempt at voicing a long-repressed part of a once-diverse canon. The women-centered stories that were erased by centuries of scribes and editors can now be reconstructed from the breadcrumbs that remain.
Through the Medusa Writer’s Studio, a growing Medusa community will help direct author AKA in the production of a full-length novel version of Medusa’s story that’s already being described as Circe meets The DaVinci Code.
I look forward to working with this project and will provide regular updates as the novel progresses toward publication. You can learn more about the Medusa Writer’s Studio community on the Medusa Collection Discord server.
Mythoversal brings inclusion to Greek mythology by broadening representation, amplifying marginalized identities, and reversing centuries of gatekeeping and erasure. The site hosts the Medusa Writer’s Studio and other mythic retellings.
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