Written by Kendare Blake
Greek gods have always been a source of fascination to me. They are on the one hand, gods, with all that descriptor entails: extreme power, knowledge, immortality. On the other hand, they are oddly human, with more flaws than even their mortal subjects. They’re childish, petty, violent and not above backstabbing. When they do try to help they often do more harm than good (hiding someone by turning them into a tree is not a solution based on good judgment). And considering the oppressive way they ruled, and the punishments doled out at the slightest infraction, “god” probably isn’t the best word for them.
In Antigoddess, the Greek gods are dying. Their deaths seem to come from their very core, their own corruption manifesting itself physically: Poseidon is overtaken by barnacles and slicing coral, his blood turned black as an oil spill. Aphrodite burns with fever and madness, all the love she’s wielded like a weapon on mortals rebounded on her a hundredfold. They’re monsters now, certainly. But weren’t they always? The Greek gods would curse you as soon as look at you. They crushed cities with earthquakes. They waged wars for amusement, treated mortals as if they were plastic soldiers rather than flesh and blood, and held grudges for generations. Sure, they spared some. They even loved some. But with all that red in the bad column, you have to wonder if what’s killing them isn’t just karma.
Or perhaps it isn’t fair to judge them so harshly. Their flaws are our flaws. It’s just that they have the luxury of being untouchable. There’s a scene in Homer’s The Iliad, where the gods, who have been orchestrating the Trojan War, finally grow incensed enough to join the battle physically. They face off. Ares boxes Athena in the ears and she goes crying to Zeus. None sustain real injuries or score real progress in the battle. It’s a temper tantrum. It’s a farce. There will be no lasting scars.
Invulnerability is the monster’s crutch, as it would be for most flawed creatures. Power corrupts, as they say. And absolute power…well. You know. Take it away and you’re left with a panicked, grasping, desperate being with all of a human’s emotional issues and enough muscle to toss a Mack truck.
So when a god of Antigoddess knocks on the door of teenager Cassandra Weaver, it isn’t a savior she sees but a monster. A powerful, frightened monster who has spent an eternity mowing down mortals with no concept of consequence, no concept of time, and no understanding of after. Cassandra sees a god bearing scars, a being that isn’t a force or an embodied idea. It isn’t divine. It walks like a human and bleeds like a human. It wants like a human. But it isn’t human. And Cassandra knows by instinct that it’s going to hurt everyone around her, even when it’s trying to help. That’s just what monsters do.
From the Tor/Forge September 9th newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from the September 9th Tor/Forge newsletter:
- Alien Ecology as Character? by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
- Playing Fast and Loose with History by David Barnett
- Goodkind Collection Sweepstakes