So the gods have returned to Earth. Cool concept. Now what?
I was invited to contribute to the first two anthologies of ReDeus tales, but my schedule wouldn’t permit it. Asked again to participate in the third volume, and finally having a window of opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I loved the idea of the various pantheons of gods coming back to their ancestral lands and seeking adherents.
When I cast about for my story, I initially struck on the notion of exploring what it would mean to be an atheist in a world populated by actual deities. Interesting idea, right? Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t the only one who thought so: the redoubtable Dave Galanter had already tackled such a story in his “Tricks of the Trade,” which appeared in the first ReDeus collection, Divine Tales. So it was back to the drawing board.
In searching for another tale to tell, I asked myself what it would actually be like living in a world where the gods had made themselves manifest. Would most people interact with them, or would they simply see them on television and read about them on the Internet? The latter seemed more likely to me, but it also made me question what people would think about the gods and how that would make them behave in their everyday lives. Certainly the majority of human beings today are religious, but they generally worship an unseen, unheard god. Would it make a difference if they got to see and hear divine beings, even if from afar.
I imagined that if the gods descended on Earth, it would leave the bulk of the population—if not the totality of it—in awe. I’d heard the term “god-fearing” bandied about throughout my life, but I’d never quite made the connection between that term and the concept of a loving god. It seemed to me, though, that if deities suddenly appeared among us, fear might actually be a reasonable response. But the notion of being afraid of a god still felt awkward to me. How can you genuinely worship a being that frightens you? That feels too close to intimidation, which is pretty much a bad reason to do anything.
I thus discovered the rudiments of my story. I would show the return to Earth of a powerful god—in this case, the Native American trickster and spider-god, Iktomi—and explore the impact of his interaction with one particular citizen. I would also posit how the appearance of a deity could change the day-to-day life of the populace. Beyond all of that, I thought, lay the essence of my narrative: why do we worship, and should we?
What enfolded in the writing was a tale of murder. While readers will discover who killed who and why, it is the other questions that arise that prove the greater mystery. But then that’s precisely one of the powerful things about the storytelling milieu of ReDeus that Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Paul Kupperberg have posited.
ReDeus: Native Lands will be available in print and digital editions in August.