On Writing About Atlantis


My début novel The Seventh Pleiade 300 DPIThe Seventh Pleiade is upcoming from Bold Strokes Books. The subject is the last days of ancient Atlantis, and I’m often asked: why did you write about that story?

My writing tends to take inspiration from myth and legend. While Atlantis has been the source of lots of sci-fi and fantasy literature, when I read Plato’s original account, it struck me as an open canvas. The story’s characters – what interests me the most – are not much more than seating cards at a dinner party. Plato gave them exotic names like Cleito and Elassippos, but they don’t interact or do much in the story. The familiar ones Poseidon and Atlas are curiously off-message for Greek mythology. Who knew Poseidon settled down on an island with a mortal girl and raised five sets of identical twin sons? Atlas is supposed to be a titan holding up the world, not Poseidon’s son who has a twin with the odd name of Gadir. There was a lot of opportunity for me to flesh out these characters, and add some new ones who could have been more important in Atlantis’ history than Plato realized, or wanted to admit.

Something that also inspired me from Plato’s account, not related at all to Atlantis actually, is the setting where the storytelling takes place. It’s a legend recounted by philosophers during a boys panegyris, where the sons of noblemen do manly things like compete in poetry readings. That was a nice little portkey that transported me into a great big queer epic. I wanted two boys to fall in love in Atlantis, and I wanted that love story to be a major narrative drive. To keep with an epic sensibility, I created a fantastical adventure.

I like to think my novel is more about people than the fantasy that surrounds them, and particularly people who are on the fringes of traditional legends, or absent from them completely. My very favorite author who writes in that vein is Gregory Maguire. In his Wicked series, he took villainized or marginalized characters like The Wicked Witch of the West and the Cowardly Lion and turned them into complex characters. For me, those characters were more relatable heroes than the ones in the original story.

Another thing about Plato’s tale of Atlantis is that it’s not much more than a morals lesson. The legendary empire is punished by the gods for hubris. It’s really more a biblical-style tale of reproach, like Noah and the Flood, than a full-fledged Greek myth. The anti-authority skeptic in me wanted to turn that part of the story on its head.

In that sense, The Seventh Pleiade is a vindication of lost Atlantis. Its people were flawed, like all of us, and they suffered a terrible tragedy. I wanted to bring out the pathos in that. Hopefully I wrote a novel that brings complexity and intrigue to a story people think they know.

12 Responses to “On Writing About Atlantis”

  1. 1 Devlyn September 24, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Thanks for the blog, very interesting.


  2. 2 Erin Saluta September 24, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    I love the line about doing manly things such as having a poetry contest! I think Atlantis sounds like a very cool background for a setting.


  3. 4 S.A. September 24, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Sounds like an interesting story, and I’m a sucker for Atlantis – looking forward to reading the book!


  4. 5 Yvonne Heidt September 24, 2013 at 10:52 AM

    I am also a sucker for Atlantis – I wish they would hurry up and find it! 🙂


  5. 6 Andrew J. Peters September 24, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Thanks so much Devlyn, Erin, Joel, S.A. and Yvonne for stopping by! Of course, Atlantis has always intrigued me as well. I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out in November. 🙂


  6. 7 Gun Brooke September 25, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    I’m very excited about this novel of yours, Andrew! I too am a total sucker when it comes to these types of scenarios. I will enjoy reading it when the beautiful, but raw cold, Swedish autumn descends on us. 🙂


  7. 9 Felice Picano September 30, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    I vacationed part of a summer years back on a Greek isle named Santorini, it’s old name was Thera. This is a semicircular isle, with a semicircular bay facing south in which a tiny island is growing. The little island contains the remnants of a volcano that blew it’s lid around 1200 B.C. Thera itself is a tall rocky island surrounded by cliffs on the bay and island side going up a hundred or more feet. When I was there Italian archaeologists were just opening–and showing to selected people including myself–their discovered ruins on Thera, in a city they called Akrotiri. These predated and didn’t quite resemble Minoan Art from Crete of the period. Crete–the next island south of Thera had its entire northern coast wrecked by a giant Tsunami, again around 1200 b.c. Many people think Thera was a big round island and probably the historic Atlantis. Akrotiri was probably a suburb of the capitol. When the volcano went off it produced what’s left and destroyed the Minoan culture and its cloud of ashes caused a sort of nuclear winter long enough to ruin many other nearby cultures like the First Dynasty of Egypt, the Hittties, Phoenicians etc.


  8. 10 Andrew J. Peters September 30, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    Hi Felice – Thanks so much for stopping by! Well, that sounds like my kind of vacation — visiting ancient ruins. 🙂 I’m familiar with the theory that the Atlantis legend is based on the volcanic eruption at Thera. Legends have to originate from somewhere, however much they become embellished. I’ve been drawn to Minoan art and culture. It’s a curiosity how they disappeared rather abruptly from history, and they were distinct in many ways from other cultures of the period. I took Atlantis from Plato’s story, placing it in the Atlantic between Spain and Africa, mainly because there were grander possibilities there. There certainly hasn’t been any evidence of a sunken island in that region, but the Tenerife from the Canary Islands and the Berbers of North African have folk beliefs that they’re descendants of Atlantis.


  9. 11 Mister_Dangerous October 9, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Congrats on your book being published. I really like the cover art. The book showed up this morning and I’m looking forward to reading it.


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