Thursday, October 23, 2014

Almazan: Making Your Gods Unique

Guest post by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan

I became a diehard Beatles fan after watching the Anthology miniseries in 1995. Their group dynamics inspired me to write a fantasy story (though by now it’s evolved into a series) about a group of four people who perform magic together. Each of these magicians, called Avatars in my book, obtain their power from a God or Goddess associated with a season. (Spring and fall have goddesses, while summer and winter have gods.) I thought this was a unique approach. 

Then a friend recommended I read Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion series. I didn’t get around to it until January 2013. Although the start was a bit slow, the ending was amazing. However, I was a bit chagrined to learn Bujold also has deities associated with the seasons. Another unfortunate similarity involves country names: her main country is called Chalion, and mine is called Challen. Part of me feels I should change that since her books came out first, but I’ve lived with the name since the late 90s and find it hard to shift. I suppose I could stage a takeover or revolution to change the name if necessary

So, what makes my Four Gods and Goddesses different from Bujold’s deities, or any other deities? Well, I didn’t base my Four on a specific mythology but developed them from scratch. (Of course, everyone has mythology floating in their unconscious, so there may be some hidden influence from that.) One thing that is different about my Four is that They do not present Themselves as a family. While the Goddess of Spring and the God of Winter are close, there is no mention anywhere of Them actually marrying each other. Spring and Winter are older than Summer and Fall (Fall appears as a girl between ten and twelve), but the former are not the latter’s parents. The Four have a unique origin, but this is not described in Their religion or made known to Their followers. Kron, the main character of Seasons’ Beginnings, suspects the Fours’ power is related to that of Salth’s, his arch-enemy. The Fours’ origin won’t be made explicit until the last book of the series. 

The Four are not the only gods and goddesses in my world. Each country has its own God, Goddess, or combination, and each deity has a certain sphere of interest that affects the country’s history. The Four of Challen have chosen Their interests specifically to help Their people. Spring has the gift of healing, Summer, plants; Fall, animals; and Winter, weather. The Four have each gifted three Avatars with Their associated magic and directed the Avatars to use this magic on Their behalf. Some of the Four have secondary interests. For example, Winter is associated with death (Challens speak of the dead as visiting the God of Winter before they are reborn), and Fall protects women.

How do Challens worship the Four? Every solstice and equinox, there is a soltrans (ceremony of season change) at the main temple in the capital city, during which the Avatars for the old and new seasons stage a mock combat. (The Four don’t fight among Themselves, but the show pleases the audience), and everyone reaffirms their links to the God or Goddess of their birth season when they get married.

There may be many other weather gods or animal goddesses out there, but they are all tied to specific times and place. Each deity, whether fictional or historical, has a unique meaning in the culture He or She is part of. If your fictional world features religion, it’s important to show how that affects the culture. A deity imported from a conquering culture will have a different impact than a native one. If you develop your gods and goddesses with as much care as you do your other characters, and you weave Their influence into your world, your gods will be unique.
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Other published works by Sandra include Twinned Universes and several science fiction and fantasy short stories.

She is a founding member of Broad Universe, which promotes science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her day job is in the laboratory of an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! and taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.

Sandra can be found online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads

SEASONS’ BEGINNINGS: Kron Evenhanded is an artificer, able to enchant any man-made object, but he finds people more difficult to work with. When he visits the city of Vistichia, he encounters Sal-thaath, an extremely magical but dangerous child created by Salth, another magician Kron knew at the Magic Institute. Kron attempts to civilize Sal-thaath, but when his efforts lead to tragedy, Kron is forced to ally himself with a quartet of new deities and their human Avatars. Together they must defend Vistichia as Salth attempts to drain its life and magic. But Salth has Ascended halfway to godhood over Time. Will Kron’s artifacts be enough to protect the Avatars, especially the woman he loves, or will Time separate them?

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