The following is a repost from my old blog. I thought it would be interesting to see something I was thinking about while writing The Pagan Night, and how the fundamental theme of the book remains unchanged, even though the characters, plot, focus… well, even though almost everything else is different from the draft I had when I wrote this post. Enjoy!
June 24, 2011
I have one of those colds where you turn your head and something slips inside your skull, some deep, tectonic plate of mucus, and then your whole head squeaks for about twenty seconds while the phlegmy geology of your sinus caverns readjusts itself.
On the plus side, I was on an actual vacation last week. Like, I left my house and bought souvenirs and everything. I still remember when I was in France and we visited a winery, and the tour guide handed me a wine label and said “Souvenir!” and the verb (souvenir = to remember) and the noun (a bit of kitsch that only has value as it relates to my memories of this time) connected for me. Language is weird.
I was thinking about the current project last night. We’re out of nyquil so I was drinking a glass of wine before bed, and I was thinking about what I was trying to get at with the religion. In the book the dominant religion worships the sun and the moon as dual deities. I’m using a lot of the mesoamerican idea of duality for this religion. See, the Aztecs treated their gods as both good and bad things. I guess it’s more accurate to say that what you and I would think of as a good deity would frequently have evil aspects. For example, Quetzalcoatl. He seems to be the one most Westerners know. The feathered serpent, his name means. I’m just speculating, but I think the name comes from rainbows. See, QC at his most basic level is the god of the wind. There are a lot of connotations to that; The wind brings rain, and it blows seeds from one place to another, so he was a god of fertility. But the wind is also the storm, especially as manifest in the hurricane. So one aspect of QC, the hurricane, was the god of destruction. He brings life, but he also tears your home down and floods your fields. Duality.
So in the book you have this church that worships two gods, each of which has positive and negative aspects. The sun is life, growth, beginning, exuberance, fertility and joyful abandon. It’s also fire, drought, sickness (as expressed by fever), fury, madness and war. The moon is death, sacrifice, winnowing, darkness, hidden things (both good and bad), secrets and mystery, as well as the logic and intelligence to puzzle out those secrets and that mystery. The moon is ending. And since all things end, meditating on the nature and value of your own ending. It is peace. But it is also the harshness of winter, the sadness of autumn, and the terror of darkness.
Anyway. I guess in my small way I’m trying to get people to think about evil. Good and evil, but mostly evil. When people ask where I get my ideas I usually shuffle something off about accumulating images in my head and trying to puzzle out what those images mean, and how they might relate. But often my books start as a meditation on something, and it’s usually something related to religion. So, in this case, I can tell you that this book started off as a meditation on the nature of evil.
The important thing is that, if and when you read this book, I don’t think that will smack you in the face. In fact, if you hadn’t read this post, I’m not sure it would have occurred to you at all. Because if you read a book that is obviously about the nature of evil, it’s because you are actively seeking out and looking for books about that subject. And while that’s noble of you, I think it might be a little much to ask of the general population. And I don’t worry so much about people who are actively thinking those kinds of thoughts. The people who need to think about these things are usually people who have to be tricked into reading about them. And tricked is the wrong word. I seek to entertain. And in my entertainments, if I can subtly introduce the idea that a black and white worldview is perhaps a bit juvenile, and that you the reader might be better off thinking more broadly than that, then that’s great. And if you can read the book and start thinking in those directions without realizing that the book is pushing you in those ways, that’s even greater.