By Allyn Gibson
My first year in college I read Karen Armstrong’s A History of God. Armstrong, a Catholic nun, wrote a book that charted the development of monotheism among the three Abramahic religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It was an intriguing book for a nineteen year-old, and I came away from the book feeling more secure about my atheism than I had before. An odd reaction, that. There were things in A History of God that I hadn’t known, that hadn’t been taught in the Methodist church when I was growing up. The most remarkable, for me, was the discovery that Judaism developed from a Canaanite polytheistic religion and that the monotheistic Jewish deity was the Canaanite’s god of war. “Really?” I thought. I filed away this piece of knowledge. It wasn’t particularly useful or helpful. It was, however, something that was nifty to know.
Years passed. I read other books on religion. (Despite my absence of religious conviction, books on the topic are of great interest to me. As I write this, I’ve been reading Diarmid’s McCulloch’s massive and magnificent tome, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years.) At roughly the same time that Bob Greenberger approached me about pitching stories for ReDeus: Beyond Borders, I was reading Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God. Wright covers similar ground to Armstrong, and the idea of the Abrahamic monotheistic deity as a god of war came back to the fore. Could I explore that idea? How would I explore that? In the world of ReDeus where there are gods and demigods astride the Earth, with one notable exception — the Abrahamic monotheistic deity — it almost seemed like a dangerous idea, the kind of thing that Warren Ellis would write. But how to write it? Ah, that’s the tricky part for any writer. “The Soldier and the God” explores the idea through the style of a Little Golden Book. No, really. There are two reasons why I decided to write the story of Gavriela, a disenchanted soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces, and Hadad, the Canaanite god of storms, in this style. First, it was a challenge to maintain that tone throughout, even though there are some very dark moments in the story. I imagined that I was writing a book for children of eighty or a hundred years after the Day of Return (the day that the gods returned to Earth in ReDeus: Divine Tales), and this story, and others like it, would be the way they would understand how their world of gods and men came to be and what the world without gods was like before it. Second, the narrative distance between the events the story describes and the way the story describes them due to the form provided a way of exploring one of the underpinnings of the ReDeus world without breaking the playground equipment. There’s narrative plausible deniability here; did this actually happen, if it did happen then how reliable is it, or is this simply a story that’s told to children? I leave that to you to decide. “The Soldier and the God” may be more than a little strange and not at all Warren Ellis-esque, but I had fun writing a Little Golden Book from the end of the 21st-century. You can write interesting things when you set yourself a challenge.
ReDeus: Beyond Borders will be available in print and digital formats in late May.