Interview: Cory O’Brien, Writer of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes

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What happens when you’re an all-around smartass creative type with an interest in mythology? Well, for writer Cory O’Brien the answer was creating the website BetterMyths.org. Blessed with the drinking tolerance of Bacchus and the wisdom of Minerva, O’Brien has compiled some of the best of the best in the realm of sarcastic myth telling with his book Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No Bull-Shit Guide to World Mythology. Cory O’Brien took a few minutes out of his schedule to answer some of Fanboynation’s questions on his recent projects.

FBN: What prompted you to start BetterMyths.com? Was there alcohol involved?

Cory O’Brien: One night, five years ago, I noticed that one of my friends had the name of one of my favorite mythological characters (Tiresias) as her gtalk status. She didn’t know the origin of the name – it was just a nickname someone had given her – so I got really excited and started telling her all about Tiresias. That reminded me of another myth, and then another, and by the time I got to my third or fourth I think she wanted me to stop harassing her so she told me to start a blog instead. I don’t remember if there was alcohol involved, which means there probably was.

What is your favorite Myth that you?ve broken down for the rest of us? What was the weirdest?

Cory O’Brien: Aaaaah! This is probably the question I get asked the most often. That’s like asking Guy Fieri what his favorite high-cholesterol food is – it’s a tough question! Today I think my favorite myth is Aladdin. Aladdin is just such a worthless piece of shit, it’s hilarious.

Weirdest is easy, though. House full of vaginas. Boom.

FBN: If you could be any God or Goddess, who would it be? Why is that?

Cory O’Brien: I’d be Hephaestus, because of all the gods I can think of right now, he’s pretty much the only one who actually makes stuff, and he’s really really good at it. I spend a lot of my free time on woodworking and sewing and electronics, so I think I’d get bored with a life of nothing but nectar and ambrosia and orgies. Hephaestus has a gimp leg and his wife routinely cheats on him, but a gimp leg is a small price to pay for ultimate crafting prowess, and his wife is Aphro-fucking-dite, so you take the good with the bad.

FBN: Do you have a particular ritual for getting into writing?

Cory O’Brien: I know I’m supposed to say I shotgun a sixpack of beers while listening to a solid hour of viking metal, and I wish that was my process, but I generally just read the myth I’m about to re-tell while refusing to suspend my disbelief at all. That helps me see how ridiculous these things are, which is my whole schtick.

FBN: In your book, Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes, you reference Joseph Campbell. How much of an impact do you feel he has had on your work?

Cory O’Brien: Well, anybody who writes about mythology is impacted by Joseph Campbell because Joseph Campbell is like the Thomas Edison of writing about mythology. To be honest, though, I didn’t really start reading his stuff until it came time to write Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes. When I did, I’d already read so much mythology that it was just like “Wow, he’s right. That pattern was totally there all along!” And the insights he had really helped me see mythology as a path to greater spiritual understanding, in spite of (and largely because of) how ridiculous most myths are. So I guess I’d say he hasn’t impacted my work so much as he’s impacted my life.

FBN: Where do you find the myths you work with? What is your research process like?

Cory O’Brien: Just being alive, mainly. We’re constantly surrounded by hidden references to mythology, so a lot of what I do is just keeping my ears open and pouncing on anybody who references a story I haven’t heard before. My dad is a professional storyteller, and I majored in English in college, so I got a good background in the Greeks from that. Probably my best source these days is the people who read my blog. I love getting emails about myths I’ve never heard before. It’s like the internet is doing my research for me!

FBN: You even delve into the myths of The United States. Have you ever considered writing a book entirely on that?

Cory O’Brien:Yes. WINK.

FBN: On top of all this Myth work, you’re also a musician. How would you describe your music to people who have never heard your work before?

Cory O’Brien: Hahaha, wow. I wouldn’t say musician so much as deeply geeky amateur rapper. It’s mostly like a freshman-level Classics course, if the freshman-level Classics course had to rhyme. Also, I’m really good at sex.

FBN: You seem to heavily hate birds, at least according to your website and biography. Is there a story behind your bird rage?

Cory O’Brien: Where I live in Chicago, we keep a few hens. We used to have a rooster, too. Emphasis on used to. That asshole would attack anything bipedal, except my one roommate, who insisted I just needed to make friends with the little bastard. So one day I went into the pen with a handful of corn, to try and make friends. I squatted down and held out my hand, and all the hens came over and had a taste. But that rooster just watched me, suspiciously. Finally he crept up to me, and examined my hand one last time for signs of a trap. Excellent, I thought, I’m finally going to win the fucker over! Then he bit my hand and walked away. I hate birds.

FBN: Where is the best place for our readers to keep up with your work?

Cory O’Brien: Well, there’s my blog, of course. I’m also pretty active on twitter, so that’s a good place to watch for updates. And if you like non-humorous fiction that has absolutely nothing to do with mythology, there’s this other blog I do.

 

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