I first came across a book of Greek mythology when I was seven. Thankfully, it was a “kids” version, but nonetheless, I was fascinated. Zeus, his long-suffering wife Hera, his myriad conquests and small army of illegitimate children did not resemble the kind of religion I was introduced to in Sunday school. There was Io, whom Hera, in a jealous rage, turned into a cow, Leda and the proverbial swan, Danae, who was visited by Zeus in the guise of “golden rain” (my seven-year-old self could only guess at how that worked). Not to mention all those envious and vain goddesses who punished humans who displeased them and started a war over a golden apple—not exactly what you’d call god-like behaviour.
In a lot of ancient mythologies, like Greek, Roman and Norse, gods have their separate “domains”, the sun god, the sea god, the father of all gods, and smaller deities with narrower specializations: medicine, the arts, childbirth, dawn, and so on. Unlike monotheistic gods, they interact with humans-- often and with pleasure, if you know what I mean. That usually results in large numbers of demigod children who grow up to be heroes with unusual abilities. Not only do the gods interfere with human affairs, they have their own internal politics that put any royal court to shame. One of my favourite mythological characters of all time, Loki, did some pretty horrible stuff to his fellow Aesir, not to mention that he sired the nightmarish goddess Hel, a giant wolf and a serpent (yes, he got around). All that until the day he crossed the line, and was punished by being tied up in a cave with a snake above him dripping venom on his head.
In Asian mythology, it gets even more interesting. Try Googling, just for fun, what those pretty Chinese dragons got up to in their spare time (hint: it did not involve consent). Also, in many Hindu and Chinese myths, gender is a fluid concept, and there are all kinds of bisexual loving going on, amongst gods and humans and any combination thereof. You have your bi-gendered gods, androgynous spirits and even a god whose domain is homosexual love, Tu Er Shen. His backstory is rather tragic: he fell in unrequited love with an imperial inspector, who, when he found out, sentenced him to be beaten to death. But, since his crime was that of love, after his death Tu Er Shen was delegated as the god of homosexual affections.
In Fire Play, I imagined my own pantheon with its own rules, even though I drew my inspiration from ancient myths and legends. Demiurges exist in a separate realm, but they can take on human form and live among us. Some are good, others... not so good, some are tricksters, none are infallible. They have flaws and screw up and face the consequences. They play with humans and sometimes fall madly in love with them. And when that happens, passions rage and entire lives are at stake. After all, who can resist the affections of a god?
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