By Steve Lyons
I keep being reminded of the wisdom of Blackadder the Third: “Sir Thomas More, for instance – burned alive for refusing to recant his Catholicism – must have been kicking himself, as the flames licked higher, that it never occurred to him to say, ‘I recant my Catholicism.’”
When the gods returned – to the world of ReDeus – they summoned millions of people, descendants of those who had once worshipped them, back to their ancestral lands. “Those who don’t make it out in time are given a choice,” according to the writers’ guidelines. They can swear fealty to the gods of whichever country they are stranded in “or be treated as prisoners of war”. That paragraph became the starting point for my story in Native Lands. I wanted to see inside a POW camp.
I wanted to look at some of the inmates of that camp, and ask the question: What is keeping them – each one of them – from bowing down to the Native American gods? In some cases, the answer is obvious; in others, less so. Why would a modern-day Italian-American, for example, care about the Greco-Roman gods of his forefathers? Why would pledging allegiance to them be any different, any more appealing to him, than pledging it to their American rivals? Or vice versa?
On the other side of that coin is the question, what do the gods want from us? Do they judge us by our actions or by what lies deeper in our hearts? We might buckle under and do as they tell us, out of fear or respect for their power – but what if that isn’t enough for them? What if they need more?
My story is called “Enemy of the State”. It concerns one particular prisoner of the gods and a parole hearing that goes very badly for him. His crime was a minor one – in his eyes – but the gods will never let him go. So, he joins a group of fellow inmates in a desperate escape attempt. Of course, a prison built and run by the gods is going to have more than your standard security measures in place… How far will a man with no particular commitment to any belief system go when his freedom is at stake? And what will be the likely consequences to a man who challenges the gods and loses?
I didn’t know much about Native American mythology before I wrote this story. By chance, though, I read an old Ghost Rider comic, in which Johnny Blaze is set upon by Thunderbirds: creatures that create storm clouds with the beating of their wings and shoot lightning from their eyes. That inspired me to find out more about them, and soon enough they were circling in the sky above my POW camp. Otherwise, everything I needed to know about prison life came from watching many hundreds of hours of Prisoner: Cell Block H. I just knew that would pay off some day!
ReDeus: Native Lands will be available in print and digital editions next week.