There was once a king who was so evil that the gods created a wild, beast of a man to keep the king in check. After an initial scuffle, instead of fighting, the king and wild man teamed up and attacked the gods themselves. As you may imagine, they fared poorly. This is the story of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest piece of literature on record.
Many of these ancient stories, the Odyssey, for example, tell tales of man versus gods, and it’s always gods in the plural because back then there were gods of each aspect of life and not a god of all. A man might win against a god, eventually, but he will always lose something of himself in the battle, for better or for worse. I wanted to repeat this kind of tale, in my own way with my own gods, in my last novel.
In my upcoming book, men, well, mostly women, are again fighting the gods, but these deities are a man-made side-effect of a world altering technology, and are not quite aware that they are gods. I wrote this with an eye on the Zuckerburgs and the Gates of the world who certainly did not seek to bend the fabric of our reality, are not great philosophers or ethicists, and yet, by virtue of the technology they created, make decisions that control the fates of individuals and, arguably, nations.
Why do I gravitate toward man versus the gods stories? I’m Buddhist, so my god is amorphous, singular, and often not quite a god. I’d like to say that it’s because this type of story is the ancient cornerstone of narrative, but I’m not actually that fancy. I think it’s because I like the idea of being able to act against what fate, or the gods, or the universe, or just life has dealt us, however lowly or futile our actions might play out.
I know what it feels like to be a victim of random misfortune; worse, I know what it’s like to have sorrow heaped on top of sorrow until it feels like I may be crushed to death. Sometimes, it feels like the primitive gods are real and they all have a personal vendetta against me. I fight sorrow on a personal level with everyday actions: meditation, family support, work, and self-care. But, I can use my stories to seek vengeance, with the hope that I fare better than Gilgamesh.