Some of you will be excited by this post; others dismayed. Rather than working on one of the many projects that I already have in process (especially ones like the second Fo’Fonas book, and the Blood Magic series), I sat down with some of the first writing time that I’ve had in awhile, and started something totally new. It’s also very different from anything else I’m currently writing. To read the test scene rough draft, you can download the PDF below. If you want to know more about how this came to be, keep reading.
The impetus for this was a “technological apocalypse” discussion that I had recently, in which we discussed the possible effects of, and responses to, a massive CME hitting the Earth. This, of course, would itself make for a fascinating story idea (and will probably be a writing prompt on the site soon), although not one I would be very good at writing; I would be too bogged down in the heliophysics and plasma dynamics, and end up glossing over most of the human effects of such an occurrence.
However, it did leave me thinking about “end of the world” scenarios, which often brings up thoughts of religion and mythology. I’ve always been fascinated by the common threads that wind through many of the world’s religions, even religions that ought to have no connection with each other (one of the best examples of this is how most religions, even religions that developed on opposites sides of the world, have some kind of early days world wide flood story). So I started to wonder what if those common threads are actually the things that are true about religion? What if all religions are actually just imperfect explanations for real properties and beings in the universe?
If I wanted to write such a story, though, I had a problem. First, I don’t really like apocalypse novels. There are a few good ones, but most of them feel kind of the same, or at least not as creative as they could be. Second, I’m not a huge fan of the subgenre some people refer to as “urban fantasy.” The premise of these is usually that there has been magic in the world all along, and most people just don’t see it for some reason, or don’t admit that it’s magic. Still, those challenges made me in some ways more excited to try writing something in this vein. Could I, in fact, come up with a plot, and setting, and characters for an urban fantasy that I would want to read?
Bearing these things in mind, I did what I’ll often do when I have an idea like this: I wrote a first scene, introducing a character and doing some exposition. That’s how Fo’Fonas started, so sometimes these starts fizzle, and sometimes they explode. I’m not sure which this one is doing yet.
The first trope I threw out the window was the downfall of technology. In my post-apocalypse world, there are still cities, computers, cars, smartphones, airplanes, and all of the other devices and tools we’ve developed in the past centuries. Then, I took perhaps the largest common thread in religion, or at least in western religions: a divide between those above, and those below. Whether this means Zeus and Hades, Jupiter and Pluto, Bao and Set, or God and Satan, most religions with which I’m familiar have some kind of a good versus evil mentality. However, I didn’t want a stark good versus evil battle. So I made that a metaphor. So in this story, Earth has become a political, and sometimes physical, battleground between beings from rival planes of existence, where Earth’s plane is sandwiched between the Upper and Lower planes.
Whenever you go to start writing a new world, you take whatever it is that you’ve changed, and you try to figure out how it’s going to affect people. All people, but especially your main character. Who is going to be most affected? How will people react? Most people, I decided, would probably adapt well to the presence of gods on Earth. On a day to day basis, it’s sort of like knowing who the president is. Sure, it’s good to know, and sure, it could have positive or negative effects in the long run, but there’s nothing really to do about it, so it’s best to just get on with life.
My main character, though, couldn’t be content with that, not least because it wouldn’t make for much of a story. When I first started writing him, I tried to write him as a cowboy sort of character: out on his own, rugged, determined to live free, using his knowledge of the land to out-maneuver and avoid the immortals. I realized around the third paragraph that Allon was no cowboy. This was a man who liked civilization as it was before, and sought freedom from the gods in much the way that the Founders sought freedom from Great Britain. Once I started writing him that way, the story started to work much better. It also became a spy story.
Will this story go anywhere beyond this? I don’t know. I find the world I’ve created somewhat fascinating, but I’ve long struggled to write a “real world” story that I felt was sufficiently tight. When I write alternative world fantasy, like Fo’Fonas or Blood Magic, I get to put the mountains where they’re convenient to me, invent a city if there needs to be a city, and have new technologies develop when I want them. With this sort of story, even with the angels and demons running, flying, or possibly slithering about, I’m somewhat bound by the realities of the modern world.
So you may see more of this story someday, or you may see other scenes using this world concept, but for now, I hope that you enjoy a taste of my creative process. Feel free to leave any remarks you might have in the comments below; all feedback helps me improve my writing.