CHADWICK GINTHER is the author of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, fantasies in which the larger-than-life personalities and monsters of Norse mythology lurk hidden in Manitoba. His short stories have found a home in On Spec, Tesseracts, and the Fungi anthology from Innsmouth Free Press; his reviews and interviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, The Winnipeg Review and Prairie Books NOW. A bookseller for over ten years, when he’s not writing his own stories, he’s selling everyone else’s. He lives and writes in Winnipeg.
Describe Tombstone Blues in a tweet.
Now, describe it as a movie pitch.
Let me get my trailer voice going…
“In a world…”
No wait. How about…
Ted Callan is the hero of Thunder Road, the two-fisted adventure tale that the Winnipeg Free Press calls “True Blood meets Beowulf.” After being given nine magical gifts by the dwarves, this unemployed oil patch worker learns the gods and monsters of Norse mythology live on hidden in Manitoba and they all have plans for him. Drawn into the plots of fortune telling Norns, smart ass trickster gods, and nihilistic giants, Ted’s quest to get his old life back might just kick off the end of the world.
In Tombstone Blues, you lay a considerable amount of waste to Winnipeg, Manitoba. What do you have against Winnipeg?
Did anyone ask if Joss Whedon hated New York after The Avengers? When superpowered mortals and gods clash, there has to be collateral damage, but I have nothing against Winnipeg. I love the city, or I wouldn’t have set my book here. That said, I think there is a love-hate feeling that most Winnipeggers have regarding our home. We can trash our city, (whether it’s about the cold, the crime, or the state of the roads) but watch out anyone else who tries!
While it may not be evident yet, rest assured, the buildings that were destroyed were chosen for a reason. Some of those reasons should be revealed in the third novel, others were intended to be the seed for future stories.
Also, please don’t blame me. It was Thor, and he’s worse than the Hulk when he’s angry.
Norse mythology forms the backbone of your Thunder Road series. What is your fascination of Norse folklore based on?
Ultimately, you can blame the Greeks. I came to their stories first. When I was growing up, the Mighty Hercules cartoon was on television, and despite the annoying centaur, it instilled a love of mythology in me early on. When I went to my local library to read more Greek myths, right there on the shelves next to D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, was D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. Those stories about the gods of the vikings spoke to me more. I checked that book out of the library repeatedly. So repeatedly, in fact, that the librarian took me aside and said “maybe another little boy wants to learn about mythology”. But I couldn’t stop, and to her credit, she never stopped me either. There was something about the inevitability of Ragnarök that fascinated me even from a young age. Not only could the Norse gods die, they all knew when, where, and how it was going to happen. The final nail in the coffin: as a player of Dungeons & Dragons, the Norse definitely had the coolest magic items.
How was it to use such mythologies in a narrative? Were they any pitfalls to avoid? What, if anything, did you feel you could push or transform a little?
Using mythology gave me a natural entry point for the existence of magic in my stories. The settlers of New Iceland in Manitoba also left a huge mark on my home province. If you look at a map of Manitoba you’ll find several names from Norse myth: Baldur, Gimli; we even have a rural municipality of Bifrost.
The first pitfall was trying to choose which versions of the myths I would use. There are differences between the Poetic and Prose Eddas, and the Nordic and Germanic traditions, let alone the comic book and cinematic versions that have become so popular. I decided to hew as closely to the Icelandic tradition as possible, because it gave me a focus, and it played into the connection I wanted to make between myth and Manitoba.
I also decided to avoid Ragnarök itself by choosing to set my novels after the Norse apocalypse. That created other challenges. It left me with fewer gods to play with for one, but it opened up far more possibilities. I’ve always felt that if Ragnarök is on the horizon, it is the only place the story can go. (And yes, I know that Loki dies in the myth cycle at the hands of Heimdall, but I figured if anyone could weasel his way out of his doom, it was Loki.)
Did the handsome Marvel Comics versions of Thor and Loki affect your narrative?
When I started drafting the books, Thor hadn’t appeared on screen yet. If I remember the timing, Iron Man had just been announced, and all of the glorious possibilities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were an unbelievable dream. I never expected Iron Man to be as successful as it was. I never in my wildest dreams believed that there would be a Thor movie, let alone two, and that they would be awesome. So it wasn’t a worry at the time. I was more concerned with getting cross pollination from the Marvel comics
Because of the D’Aulaires’ influence, I always pictured Thor as a redhead, and also looking rougher than he is depicted in the Thor comics and movies. So there wasn’t much to avoid there. I feel Hiddleston is pretty damned perfect as Loki, so I’m glad that I’d drafted my stories before the movies, or it would be pretty hard to avoid his image. D’Aulaires’ also represented Loki as blond, so I think that’s why I have him as a blond in his true jötunn form.
There are so many different versions of these stories, I think there’s room to share. But I am certainly happy that the popularity of the Thor movies. It has made the general public so much more aware of these characters. The success of these movies can only help me out. But I am avoiding Norse Myth related comics until I’m done with writing the trilogy.
If Norse gods are indeed real in the world of your novels, what about the others? Is there any chance of further stories, with Ted going up against Quetzalcoatl or Neptune or Jesus?
In Thunder Road, Loki said that it was too bad that Greek gods were gone. Loki has also said that he stole some power from another trickster figure, Raven. I guess the big question is, do you believe Loki?
There is definitely more going on in the world than Ted Callan knows or has seen. Whether he’ll live long enough to piss off another pantheon and get them to climb in the ring with him, we’ll have to wait and see.
Next: The Subconscious Interview with Chadwick Ginther