Medusa in Your Head
There are lots of reasons why Medusa is the most interesting character in mythology to me, and why she inspired my
Medusa’s Consortium series. One of the biggies for me is that Medusa gets in your head in ways no one else can.
For Freud, she represented the male fear of castration. You’d expect that from Freud though, wouldn’t you? According to Freud, this fear is associated with that first view of mature female genitals — back in the day when muffs really were muffs – thus the association with snakes in the hair. The turning to stone is the resulting erection. Apparently there’s no evidence in the literature surrounding Medusa that she ever turned a woman to stone.
Medusa is also a classic example of god-bashing or in this case goddess-bashing. A conquering people often debased the gods of the conquered lands, the assumption being that they were able to conquer because ‘our-god’s-stronger-than-your-god.’ Greek mythology often shows this through the rape or seduction of someone by one of Greek pantheon – most often Zeus. Those being raped or seduced are usually local goddesses. Poor Medusa, however, gets a double whammy. She is raped by Poseidon in the temple of Athena, where she should have been under the protection of the goddess. Then, in the classic example of victim blaming, Athena curses her for debasing her temple – thus the snakes in the hair and the face that turns anyone who looks at her to stone.
From a feminist point of view, Medusa represents female rage. I suppose that’s as much why I chose to tell her story my way as anything. Strangely enough, I didn’t know about the feminist viewpoint when Medusa’s Consortium was conceived. I only knew that her story made me rage, that I wanted revenge for Medusa. That being the case, like everything a writer puts to pen, the story of Medusa’s anger has to be, on some level, the story of my own anger. The way Magda Gardener works through it as a modern anti-hero in my novels is, no doubt, on some level my way of working through my own issues. That, I guess, is far more Jungian than Freudian.
But then not everything is about penis envy. At least, for me, and from the point of view of Magda Gardener/ Medusa, it’s not the penis that is envied so much as the power it represents. It is the desire for the power and the freedom to control one’s own destiny. It’s the lack of that control that causes the rage. Magda Gardener and her consortium give me a wonderful way to retell her story in a modern setting, in a place where her revenge is ongoing, as is her redemption. And Magda Gardener’s redemption, her need for family and connection is every bit as important as her need for revenge. Here’s a little excerpt from Blind-Sided, in which Paul Danson, a New York City police detective in way over his head, meets Magda Gardener for the first time. Enjoy.
In New York City away from those she loves, living with the enigmatic vampire, Desiree Fielding, Susan Innes struggles to come to terms with life as a vampire whose body serves as the prison for a powerful demon. When Reese Chambers arrives unexpectedly from England, desperate for her help, she discovers that Alonso Darlington, his lover and her maker, has been taken captive and Reese has been warned to tell no one but her. Before the two can make a plan, Susan receives her own message from a man calling himself just Cyrus. He not only holds her maker prisoner, but also her lover, the angel Michael, and if she wishes to see either of them alive, she’ll come to him and not tell Magda Gardener, the woman they all work for and fear. With no help coming from Magda or her Consortium, Susan and Reese must turn to the Guardian – the terrifying demon now imprisoned in her body. He alone can help them, but how can she possibly trust him after all he’s done?
We Meet At Last — Excerpt:
When he saw Magda Gardener for the first time, Paul was on his way back to his desk, updating Margaret on the phone. … At the sight of her, everything around him faded to background noise and he had a rabbit in the headlights moment. The only thing he wanted more than to run away before he caught her attention was to be the center of her attention. For a moment he stood unmoving, seriously fearing that he’d forgotten how to breathe. She wore faded jeans over legs that went on for miles all the way down to the black leather ankle boots that were totally soundless as she moved across the ageing tile floor with a dancer’s ease. Even in the baggy white cable knit sweater it was not difficult to tell that there were dangerous curves beneath. She had a yard of fiery golden ringlets just like in those Pre-Raphaelite paintings his mother used to love. My God, they looked almost like they lived and breathed and moved around her shoulders in adoration of the woman they belonged to, and yet, they were simply and carelessly tied back in a black ribbon. He couldn’t imagine what the eyes of a woman with such porcelain skin and such breathtaking hair must look like, and he had to imagine, because she hid them behind a pair of tortoise shell sunglasses. He didn’t know how long he’d stood there looking at her with Margaret all but shouting in his ear, asking if he was all right. It was only when she came to him, offered a smile and extended a hand that he remembered himself.
“Margaret, I’ll call you back,” he said and disconnected nearly dropping his phone as the woman’s warm fingers closed around his. For a second, he felt the room tilt and go slightly out of focus, and then her voice pulled him back.
“Detective Danson. My name is Magda Gardener. I need to talk to you about some missing persons.” She glanced around the room. “Preferably in private.”
“Of course,” he managed, nodding down the hall toward one of the empty interrogation rooms, very aware that all eyes were on them. He mumbled something about getting her a coffee or a Coke. She thanked him but declined.
“Please leave the door open,” she said when he made to pull it shut behind them. A slight flush of pink tinged her cheeks. “Afraid I’m a bit phobic where closed doors are concerned.”
He did as she asked, then pulled the chair usually reserved for suspects around to his side of the table and she settled into it, not waiting for him to ask how he could help her. “I’ve spoken to Vince Layton, and I know that the man calling himself Cyrus Rivers, has my people.”
After a couple of fish gasps, Paul responded. “You talked to Layton?”
“I did, yes. He was happy to talk to someone else who believed him, and he told me that you were the person I needed to see. Of course Desiree Fielding told me the same, but not very willingly, I’m afraid.” She offered him a warm smile that had his heart racing. “The woman means well, but she’s sometimes way too secretive. I, on the other hand, am not, Detective. I want my people back, and I want this Cyrus and the monster who pulls his chains … neutralized.”
“Neutralized.” Paul suddenly felt light-headed, like maybe he’d helped Layton finish off the bottle of Jack. “Look, Ms. Gardener, the two of us are on the same page here, and I assume you’re talking about Darlington and Weller.”
“And Susan Innes. He also has her now, though I’m sure Desiree didn’t tell you that.”
“Jesus,” he whispered, fighting the urge to hang on to the edge of the chair, which felt strangely unstable at the moment. “No she didn’t. Why not, is what I want to know?”
“Because you’ve been accusing her and Reese and Susan of … well of all sorts of things, and if you’ve talked to Layton and gotten the same responses I have then I’m sure you must understand that the three of them would like to keep the situation secret, and frankly the lives of Alonso and Michael may well have depended on it in the beginning, though now circumstances have changed.”
“And how exactly have they changed, Ms. Gardener?”
Her glasses slipped just the tiniest bit and his whole body erupted in goose flesh. He found that he desperately wanted to look away and yet at the same time, he never wanted to look away from her again. “Cyrus and his boss have my people, and they’re counting on me coming for them.” She pushed the glasses back up the bridge of her nose.
He swallowed hard with a throat that felt like it was full of sawdust. “What, you mean like an exchange – you for them?”
“More like I’m the cherry on the cake,” she said with a quirk of a smile.
He ran a hand over his stubble and puffed out a sharp breath. “So what exactly do you want from me, Ms. Gardener – a stake-out? Because if that’s the case, then you’re going to have to tell me exactly what the hell is going on before I put you, or my men, at risk.”
“Actually,” she stood and moved to pace the room, “I want to know what you know, Detective, and if you tell me what you know, I’ll tell you what you don’t know.” He was about to say that it didn’t work that way, when she continued. “For instance, I know that you and the lovely Dr. Margaret – she is delightful by the way – are battling with the fact that there just might be vampires in the world. I’ll make it easier for you. There are, lots of them, and yes both Desiree and Susan are vampires and Reese is the lover of one – Alonso Darlington. Though I reckon you’ve probably already figured that out – I mean about the two being lovers, since you’ve been in touch with the Cumbrian authorities.”
Paul heard everything after there are vampires in the world through a loud ringing in his ears, and the woman pacing back and forth in front of him seemed suddenly out of focus. She turned and settled herself on the edge of the desk looking down at him. “If you struggle with the existence of vampires, Detective, then the rest of the story is going to be a very hard pill for you to swallow.” The smile she offered him was empathetic and, to his surprise, she reached out and took his hand. “Detective you already know the monsters are real. You encounter them every day. While Desiree was shocked that she couldn’t glamour you, she shouldn’t have been. You have the capacity to understand the darkness better than most, Paul. I know this about you. I’ve done my research. You have the capacity to look for answers that others doubt, that others don’t believe possible. That being the case, why wouldn’t you be able to figure out for yourself that there are vampires and things much, much worse in the world? She gave his hand a squeeze and settled back on the desk. Her hair swayed as though it were suddenly caught in a breeze, “much worse.” Her voice was little more than a whisper and the look on her face was one of deep sadness. Paul just sat there. How could he respond to that? How could he respond to any of it?
“What do you want from me?” He managed at last, realizing that it was the question she should be asking him.
“I want you to help me find where Cyrus is keeping my people. I want you to take me to this place where you found Mr. Layton. I may be able to pick up something from it that you missed.” When he made no answer, she raised a golden eyebrow. “Detective?”
“She really did pull that man’s head off? Susan Innes did?”
“She did, yes, and that man was no man.”
“And she …”
“She healed Reese Chambers with her own blood, yes.”
“Jesus.” About now he was seriously wishing for his own bottle of Jack. “I can’t … How can I bring in the department on this? How can I get anyone to take me seriously about what you just told me – they already think I was drunk on my ass that night and that I went home with some bimbo.”
“It’s simple, Paul, you can’t bring them in.” She waved a hand dismissively, “Believe me it’s better that way. I have my own people and they’re prepared to deal with this sort of thing.”
“This sort of thing?” he snorted. “It happens often, does it?”
“More often that you would imagine. I clued you in because you basically already know, and because you can help. But you have to believe me when I tell you that stepping in yourself or bringing anyone else in will just get someone killed. I don’t want anyone killed, and I don’t want anything making us monsters look like the bad guys.”
“Us monsters?” he managed.
She gave him a bored look. “You knew that the moment you saw me, didn’t you?” She heaved a deep sigh and
shrugged her sweater down over her hips, “Look Paul, I can take from you what I need, and unlike Desiree, you won’t be able to stop me. I’m the one Cyrus and his people want for reasons that don’t concern you, reasons you and your whole department are far better off not knowing. What does concern you is that I can help you understand what’s going on and help you end it. What does concern you is that you’ll know the truth and if I believe you can live with it, which I do, then I won’t take it away from you when everyone is safe, and warm and happy at home again.” She gave him a look that felt like a warm buzz across his body and then she added. “There aren’t many people who really want the truth, Paul, but you do, and I believe you’re capable of handling it. What I want is your help to find the place where Cyrus is holding my people. The rest I can handle, and trust me, when I say, its better that way.”