By David McDonald
When mulling over ideas for Native Lands, there were a few themes that I wanted to explore. The first was the idea that the coming of the gods would make little difference to essential human nature. There would be those who would seek to follow the moral precepts of their gods and behave in a virtuous manner. And, then there would be those who see the Return as an opportunity for power, and be willing to follow whatever god promised the most, paying whatever price was demanded.
I also had the image in my mind of a man catapulted into this world, returning to homeland after the gods had returned with no time to adjust to a completely changed world and trying to work out whom he could trust. How would a soldier, already reeling from the trauma of the battlefield, deal with this crazy new state of affairs? But, before I could address these themes, I had to decide what gods I wanted to use, and where I was going to set it.
I came to the realization my knowledge of Native American mythology was limited at best. I guess that is understandable given that I live almost as far away from North America as is possible while still being on the same planet and that my only real exposure to Native American culture had been via old Westerns and the occasional Hollywood movie – hardly the most reliable of sources! But, whatever the reason I knew that this was a state of affairs that I had to remedy, so I got to work doing some research.
Fortunately, we live in an age where a wealth of information lies at our fingertips so it didn’t require me to make a trip to the States (though perhaps I should have tried to convince Crazy 8 Press to sponsor me? Haha). I soon realized that there was no homogenous mythology, but instead a rich and diverse set of beliefs, spread across the tribes and regions of the entire continent. To treat them as if they were interchangeable would be deeply disrespectful so I knew that I had to ensure that I used elements that were related to the region I had chosen as my setting.
As I read, I settled on the Navajo who are truly an amazing group of people. I learnt about everything from skin-walkers and the Changing Woman to the Code Talkers of WWII and onwards. It was obvious that I had found a mythos that I would love to write about. This set my story firmly in the South West, and helped me find a villain for my piece. The Navajo were not the only tribe who called the South West their home, and in the mythology of the Acoma I discovered a being that bore more than a passing resemblance to the evil entity of a religion more familiar to me. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I am sure you will agree that some creatures are universally disliked!
Writing this story has been an educational experience for me, as I have learnt about some wonderful cultures. Hopefully I have been able to them justice, and you will not only get a lot of enjoyment from this tale, but also a new appreciation of the rich tapestry of Native American spirituality.
ReDeus: Native Lands will be available in print and digital editions in August.