By David McDonald
When I read about the ReDeus anthology, my first thought was to wonder what had happened to Australia in this new world where gods walked the earth. Parochial, perhaps, but a natural impulse! I could definitely see possibilities in exploring this idea, because Australia is a country of two parts, and I knew that both those parts would have stories of their own in the ReDeus universe.
The first part is the Australia that has existed for just over two centuries, since it was claimed by the British Empire and made a dumping ground for many of its most undesirable elements. This nation may not have the same weight of history as Europe, an old building here is anything over a hundred years not a thousand, but it is fiercely proud of its heritage of independence, from the tax rebellion of the Eureka Stockade to the bushrangers who became folk heroes, or the unorthodox soldiers who offended conventional sensibilities but fought valiantly and successfully in every war in which they were called upon.
While its roots remain in the Christianity of the Empire, modern Australia is a melting pot of cultures and religions. In Melbourne you can see houses of every god imaginable coexisting, peacefully, if not always happily, alongside one another. I regularly drive past a huge Buddhist temple, while around the corner from my house there is a thriving Sikh community centre and place of worship. Cathedrals dominate the city skyline, watching the parades of Chinese New Year go past.
As I read about the world of ReDeus, I felt that this cosmopolitan and independent character would mean that no one pantheon would find it easy to claim dominion, and that it would be more likely that there would be that same uneasy coexistence. I imagined worshippers of different pantheons rubbing shoulders with each other, rather than being strictly segregated, as is the case in the New York of this world. This would bring its own tensions, but also make Australia an attractive destination for those seeking to escape from those pantheons that had claimed their own dominions.
But, there is a second part to Australia, one that the nation still struggles to come to terms with. That is the history of the nation prior to the British settlers, the indigenous cultures that inhabited the continent for untold millennia. Where I grew up, I was fortunate enough to go to school with indigenous Australians, and call some of them my friends. But, it is only now that I am starting to see just how much their stories have been silenced.
As I mapped out my ideas for this story, I thought about how these two parts would combine. If the gods of the Old World returned, why wouldn’t some of those worshipped here before Rome was even conceived also stir? And, given the history of this nation, I saw no reason why they would be welcoming of those trespassing on their land. I wondered would happen to those they might see as invaders with no right to be there.
When writing about other cultures, one has to be careful of appropriation. Sometimes, that makes you cautious about what you write about, but I really felt to write a story about Australia and to ignore that vast swathe of history would be a far greater wrong, given that for too long indigenous culture has been minimised or glossed over. In all of this I have attempted to be respectful of indigenous culture, and I hope that it is taken in that way.
Australia is pretty well known for being a country filled with things that want to kill you. We have the most venomous snakes going around, we have spiders that can fatally poison you or make big hunks of flesh fall off. My sister lives next to a beautiful beach but can’t go swimming because if you get past the crocodiles the sharks might get you, but probably not before the poisonous jellyfish swarm all over you. If that is what the mundane creatures can do to you, imagine what the supernatural ones would be like!
My story is based on conflict. There is the conflict between a society with a distinct anti authoritarian streak and the representatives of gods used to getting their own way, and there is the conflict between the original inhabitants of this vast country and those who are much newer. Hopefully that conflict has created a story that you will enjoy, and that we will return to again.
ReDeus: Beyond Borders will be available in print and eBook formats when it is released in late May.