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Literature / Thalia's Musings

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Thalia's Musings is an original Web Serial Novel. It's narrated by Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, as she observes the comedy, drama, and tragedy of the ancient Greek pantheon. But when Thalia becomes more than an observer, the Fates take notice. Are Thalia's powers limited to helping mortal playwrights hack out a comedy sketch, or can she create happy endings in real life, even for the gods? The Fates want to know.

In the first volume, A Snag in the Tapestry, Thalia and her eight sisters have been ordered by Zeus to leave their home on Mt. Helicon and move to Mt. Parnassus under the governorship of the god Apollo. When Thalia and Apollo raise a cursed nymph from the dead, Thalia starts to wonder if the Muses have greater powers than anyone realized. The Fates, threatened by this possibility, put her to a test. But Thalia cares less about the Fates' games than the behind-the-scenes drama of the Olympian royal court.

In the second volume, Snarled Threads, Thalia is given a new test: she must use her powers to bring about a happy ending for the goddess Athena and her beloved Artemis. But the Fates have decreed that Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, will never be compromised by Love. When a huntress accuses Artemis of impregnating her, Thalia fears this turn of events is the Fates' judgement. Meanwhile, Thalia has her own problems as the young demigod Adonis captures the affections of both Aphrodite and Apollo.

In the third volume, Unraveled, it's been two years since Thalia last heard from the Fates. She has a new mission from Athena: keep Beroe, daughter of Adonis and Aphrodite, alive. Poseidon wants to make Beroe his new queen and use her as leverage to gain a seat at Zeus' court. Dionysus wants to marry Beroe and give her a life of hedonistic bliss in his forest. Beroe wants to battle for her own hand and join Artemis' hunters. And Zeus wants Beroe out of the way because she holds the memories of the dead and claims she's seen him kill Hera. All the more reason for Thalia to keep a secret she's discovered: Hera's in love. With the mortal King Ixion. And they may have been set up by Athena. Can Thalia save the people she cares about from becoming collateral damage in Athena's revolution? Will the revolution succeed before everything comes unraveled?

You can read it here. Volumes 1-3 are also available as e-books on the Kindle and NOOK. It's currently unknown whether there will be a print release or not.

Thalia's Musings provides examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction:
    • When all is said and done, most Olympians were this towards Artemis and Apollo when Zeus, Hera or their legitimate children abused them. But this does not stop Athena, Hestia and the muses from offering solace or Athéna to finally defy Zeus.
    • Thalia herself seems to mostly not care about everyday mortal problems and most of humans' personal tragedies. Probably justified because she knows all too well, from her sister and her friend's(?) misadventures, that most humans end up living in dull peace, not even remembering you or anything related to their lives. She still snaps out of it in really depressing cases, like Echo's, but always keeps it under wraps.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Artemis and Athena. In the myths, both of them are asexual, though Artemis did develop romantic feelings for one individual in some versions of the myths — and that was Orion, who is male. And in at least a couple obscure myths and traditions, Athena does have a son with Hephaestus, and is stated as having a soft spot for men. In this, both Artemis and Athena are gay.
  • Almost Kiss: Lampshaded by Thalia as it happens to her and Apollo.
    "The Almost Kiss. Such a classic trope in romantic comedy. The concept I am about to reveal to you may be beyond your mortal comprehension, so listen carefully: Romantic Comedy is what happens when my domain and Aphrodite's intersect. The fact that she and I have never gotten along terribly well is the reason works in this genre so often fail at being either romantic or comical." [1]
  • All There in the Manual: The bonus chapters are only available on the original website, not the ebook release.
  • Anachronism Stew: Takes place in Ancient Greece but forks and popcorn exist. Also Thalia refers to Echo's fragile psyche five chapters prior to the character Psyche showing up and occasionally uses modern memes. It's not too distracting as the story runs on Rule of Funny.invoked
  • Benevolent Precursors: The Titans made humans to care for their world. They wanted to interact with humanity, but due to their immaterial nature, humans took the Titans' caresses for a breeze, their smiles for sunlight, their shouts for thunder, and their tears for rain. So they made the gods. It's stretching a little, but perhaps the Titans weren't as evil as they are implied to be.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: To Thalia about a lamb:
    Apollo: Do not call me that creature's daddy. I've never copulated with livestock, which is more than I can say for others in my... family.
  • Brain Bleach: It actually exists: a dilution of the water from the river Lethe will effect amnesia in the drinker.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The dark, trauma-centric parts of the story (i.e. Artemis almost being raped by Zeus; Zeus's abusive relationship with Hera) are written very well, with an eye towards sensitivity and Grey-and-Grey Morality. Which is good, because in the second volume, there starts to be a lot of them.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • Thalia makes a smart remark about Daphne (following the tree incident) preferring Artemis to Apollo. Several chapters later, we find out that Daphne had joined Artemis' hunting group after being spirited away (the tree was left in her place).
    • In an early chapter, Eustachys writes a play which ends with Apollo and Thalia hooking up. Later, Eros references that part of the play and makes a comment about being in one of his plays. During the Pythian Games, Eustachys gets last minute inspiration and writes a comedy about Eros and Psyche cluing Thalia in to their whereabouts. One chapter later, he was an actor in the sequel, playing himself.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Thalia's method of answering her worshippers' prayers for comedic inspiration.
    "I try to help [them] by providing a series of comic mishaps in their lives. They never seem very appreciative." [2].
  • Cool Horse: Pegasus. Athena gave him to the Muses because he was too smart for her soldiers.
  • Crapsaccharine World: How Thalia describes Mount Olympus to Hades. Also overlaps with Gilded Cage; the Olympians are gods, and they can have anything they want... except safety, and the freedom to make their own choices.
    "I hate Zeus' court. [...] The whole thing's so fake. It's all bright and shiny and heavenly and perfect, but Zeus is just… I don't know, sociopathic? Everyone's scared of him. And he's such a perv. I can't stand being around him. I would never work with him one-on-one like this. And I would certainly never help someone I cared about run away with him. My home is in Zeus' realm and, as long as humans need to laugh, I don't see that changing; but sometimes I miss having a king I can respect. You know, to the extent that I respect anything."
  • Curse: The one Hera had placed on poor Echo was a particularly nasty one.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second volume, so much. There's still little bits of comedy, but they're scattered in between Artemis recovering from Zeus's attempt to rape her, and the attack from Hera that followed, Thalia planning revenge on Zeus for raping Calliope, Athena also planning revenge on Zeus and Zeus just generally being a dick to everyone.
  • Decoy Getaway: Pan creates an Expendable Clone of Echo to help her fake her death.
  • Dramatic Irony: Both Artemis and Apollo are under the impression that they protected the other from all sexual harassment and abuse as children. When they share their histories to their loved ones, both make their confidant promise never to tell the other twin.
  • Dysfunctional Family:
    • Zeus and Hera's family, both with their legitimate children and Zeus' bastards to whom Hera is the Wicked Stepmother.
    • Hephaestus, Aphrodite, and Eros.
    • Averted with the Muses, Hades and Persephone, and Asclepius and Epione's family.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom:
    Thalia: Because if anyone took Hades away from Persephone, she wouldn't turn the earth into a burnt-out wasteland. There would be no earth left. There would be a big black hole in the universe where it used to be.
  • Entitled Bastard: invokedAphrodite's opinion on Hephaistos. It seems to be flat-out hypocrisy, untill you learn about her history and his excusable self-issues. Then, you can kind of see where this is coming from.
  • Everyone Can See It: Let's see, Apollo and Thalia have feelings for each other. Hephaestus sympathises with her during the Daphne debacle, Eros and Aphrodite keep offering to set them up together. Even Artemis knows that her brother becomes afflicted with a case of Love Makes You Stupid when he is showing off for Thalia. Also everyone in Olympus speculates about them.
  • Exact Words: Aphrodite's Genre Savvy blessing on the Pythian Games: "To whichever two among the gods and goddesses here whom the Fates will choose, may you each meet your true love at the Pythian Games." [3] Thalia, being equally genre savvy, knows that if she or Apollo are chosen, they won't end up together since they've already met.
    • The first to be chosen is Aphrodite's own son Eros, who finds love at first sight with Psyche.
    • The second is Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband. She's more than happy to let him go.
  • Fembot: Thalia recalls Hephaestus constructing "solid gold, fully automated, mechanical assistants" that were built "in the form of very attractive women". He got rid of them once he had a girlfriend.
  • Food Fight: Thalia apparently starts these by asking, "Which art or science is greater than another?"
  • Forced Transformation: Hera is very fond of visiting this fate on Zeus's paramours. Io in particular was turned into a cow and then given to Thalia as a pet.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Hephaestus tries to invoke this in his marriage to Aphrodite. It doesn't work. After his divorce, he falls for Aglaea, a science-obsessed demigoddess who's had a crush on him for a while.
  • Golden Moment: Apollo attempts to invoke this trope after Thalia has a narrow brush with Hera's wrath. Thalia can't take it seriously and doubts he does, either.
    Apollo: Well, that's the end of that. I hope you've learned something.
    Thalia: I've learned I am never giving birth. [4]
  • Go to Your Room!: "And stay there until dinner."
  • Got Volunteered: Happens to Apollo when he tries to get Thalia out of watching eternal adolescent Eros for the day. (She owed Hephaestus a favor.) Hephaestus thinks Apollo is volunteering to help. Apollo is too nice to refuse.
  • Grief-Induced Split: Eros's disappearance culminates in Hephaestus and Aphrodite's long-overdue divorce.
  • Implausible Deniability: Thalia tries this with Apollo when he asks for an explanation of the noise from a Wild Teen Party. She claims her sisters are just singing each other to sleep — with a parody of "Tik Tok".
  • Immune to Fate: The Fates wonder if Thalia and thus the rest of the Muses are this. They don't like the idea.
  • Incredibly Inconvenient Deity: Thalia only agrees to help the playwright Eustachis if he performs a series of actions designed to annoy Apollo and possibly even bring the wrath of the sun god on his head.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: "[B]lame the pathetic contestants in the Theater division who drove [Melpomene] and Thalia to the demon rum." / "And demon wine and demon whiskey."
  • Invisible to Normals: The gods and demigods, unless they choose to be seen and/or heard.
  • Irony: When Hera says that during a wedding the attention belongs solely on the bride and groom and on the goddess that made the union possible. What she does not know is that it was Thalia's blessing (At least in part) that made that particular union possible. Thalia of course lampshades this in her thoughts.
  • Lighter and Softer: Some characters get happier fates than the ones in the original myths:
    • In the original myth, she was turned into a laurel tree; instead Daphne was spirited away, the laurel tree was left in her place, and became a huntress of Artemis.
    • In the original myth, she was stuck repeating the words of others until she either faded away or Pan caused her death (by having her torn apart by panicking shepherds); instead Echo regains her voice, spends a time as one of Artemis' huntresses and Pan helped her fake her death when Hera became suspicious. They are now in a shockingly committed relationship with each other and she visits with the other huntresses when they're off duty.
    • In the original myth, she was turned into a cow and forced to "wander the earth without rest, plagued by a gadfly"; instead Io regains her human form and escapes to parts unknown with her son.
    • In the original myth, she was turned into a bear and slain by Artemis; instead Callisto was healed and hidden in the constellations Ursa.
    • In the original myth, she was given a monstrous form as punishment; instead Medusa begged for the form as protection. The cause of her death is still currently unknown.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Apollo and Calliope, except on rare occasions when Calliope is drunk.
  • Love Makes You Stupid: According to Artemis, Apollo suffers from this.
  • Love Potion: Eros's arrows and Aphrodite's spells work in that fashion.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Artemis at the hands of Zeus, as Volume 2 reveals.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: One of the laws of the Pantheon, even for the Twelve. Apollo tries to invoke this as Governor of the Muses, but is quickly shot down by Calliope. It's strongly implied that Artemis, as Apollo's legal guardian, can invoke this to him.
  • Pass the Popcorn: A couple instances; usually summoned by Thalia. The first time Apollo turns it into charcoal dust, the second he shares it with her, the third he isn't there and Athena disintegrates it saying that it's not time for comedic props.
  • Rape as Backstory: Or rather, Attempted Rape as Backstory for Artemis. This does not actually make it much less traumatic, or so the character implies.
  • Rape as Drama: The second volume explores some of the darker sides to Greek mythology, when viewed from a modern perspective.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Thalia thinks Eros' disappearance will be this to Hephaestus and Aphrodite's troubled marriage. Averted when the resolution culminates in their long-overdue divorce.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Zeus and Hera and their children, ranging from good but troubled (Apollo and Artemis) to flat-out crazy (Eris).
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Primarily averted, as the writer did her research. For one, Everyone Hates Hades is averted and inverted; while Thalia mentions that Hades is feared among mortals, Hades is one of the few genuinely good and nice gods of the pantheon (if, according to Thalia, "the ultimate misanthrope introverted loner"), especially when compared to the other Titans' creations (e.g. Zeus, Hera...). However, Athena and Artemis' relationship plays it straight as in the original myths, both Athena and Artemis are asexual, with the only time Artemis shows any (potential) attraction to anyone at all being Orion, who is male.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Aphrodite and Eros to Thalia and Apollo.
    • Eros to Thalia and Athena, Apollo and Daphne, Zeus and Hera, Zeus and Io, etc.
    • Thalia to Artemis and Athena, which is half the plot of Snarled Threads.
    • Apparently, random Greeks ship Team Thalia (as well as Team Calliope, Team Terpsichore, Team Dionysus, etc.)
  • Show Within a Show: The play Thalia sponsors at the Pythian Games is Type 3. It provides a safe means of revealing Eros and Psyche's whereabouts, repenting to Aphrodite, and asking that Psyche be made immortal. Aphrodite and Hera take to the stage to grant both requests.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Almost every god and goddess has done this to a pretty mortal at least once.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Whatever happened at the last Pythian Games, apparently it included concussive pyrotechnics and made Hephaestus add more fire-proofing and structural reinforcement to the amphitheater.
  • Tangled Family Tree: It's the Greek Pantheon.
  • Technical Virgin: As if volume two, Artemis and Athena.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Psyche, it is not a good idea to point out psychological issues in public to a vain Love Goddess known to smite any mortal that is too pretty. Arguably all the mortal girls that participated on the beauty pageant in the Delphic games. As Thalia put it, Aphrodite hosted that event to know who to smite.
    • Also Chione, mortal lover of both Apollo and Hermes, at the same time. Not only did she two-time, a god but she also insulted his overprotective sister, Artemis. Telling a goddess to her face that she is a virgin because no man could possibly want her is essentially asking for death.
    • Adonis, who taunted Ares and two-timed Apollo and lied about it, in front of Artemis.
    • One nymph Thalia met while on Poseidon's court. She bragged to have bedded Zeus and mocked Hera for not realising her. She also pressed Thalia's Berserk Button by insulting Apollo. Thalia took her to Artemis. The nymph proceeded to insult the goddess of the hunt and got skewered by a few arrows as a result.
    • Zeus declares himself Master of the Fates. The Muses sum it up rather well.
      "Holy Hubris."
      "There is no possible way this ends well."
  • Truly Single Parent: Mnemosyne to the Muses, Demeter to Persephone, Hera to Hephaestus, and Zeus to Athena.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Referenced by Aphrodite about Apollo's and Thalia's banter.
  • Vaudeville Hook: A throwaway gag while Apollo is commentating (read: moralizing) the first bout of Poseidon and Dionysus' tournament for Beroe's hand. Wielded by Thalia, of course.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: When Hephaestus and Aglaea didn't show up to their wedding, Helios and Rhoda tied the knot.
  • Wild Teen Party: Thalia answers a mortal's prayer for comic inspiration by ordering him to throw one of these on Mt. Parnassus, which will infuriate Apollo.
    Thalia: Call Pan and Dionysus to the Corycian Cave on the slopes of Mount Parnassus and host a feast.
    Eustachys: A feast, Lady Thalia?
    Thalia: Yes, a feast, a festival, a party. Not just any party, a party so awesome that Dionysus will wish it was his idea. Loud, crazy music; tons of wine; a huge bonfire; and, of course, the most uninhibited dancing imaginable. Oh, and do it tonight.
    Eustachys: But if I do this on Apollo's very doorstep-
    Thalia: You can't see why this is a good idea? Man, no wonder you can't write comedy.[5]
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: The series as a Greek version of this as a related one-shot.
  • You Need to Get Laid: One idiotic nymph made the lethal mistake of saying this to Artemis of all people.