Beginnings- origin myth for my alt-history bio/nano/cybperpunk novel
In New Zealand I grew up with the stories of the Maori atua, who are sometimes called gods. Their exploits filtered my view of the world and were potent seeds for the stories I told in my head. For example, when I learned in school about deforestation I made up a story about a crippled Tane, god of the forest, who lived in a giant tree and only came down to tramp through the bush on crutches. I’m still inspired by these heroes.
This extract is from my work in progress, a series of novels with the working title Kimchi Queen. Most likely it will not end up in the finished books, so I post it here, the hint of an origin story for my first entry in this blog.
Extract from A visitors guide to Te Ngau/The Bite:
When the Maori of the Restricted Zone of Aotearoa (RZA) tell our story, when we guardians and warriors of Queen Victoria trace our roots, we start at the origin of all creation.
To understand how Her Imperial Majesty Queen Victoria came to our great city, to die and be reborn, we must go back. Back to before Te Ngau was formed, before The Bite was taken from the side of the great fish that became the North Island. Back to the beginning.
First, there was Te Kore, the Void, nothingness.
Nothing implies something, so then came darkness, Te Po, the Night.
Night suggests a looming dawn, so next came the World of Light.
With light comes life.
The Earth mother, Papatuanuku, floated in the embrace of her husband, the sky, Ranginui. Between them, they had many children, who we might call Gods. The love between the Earth and Sky was so great they clung tightly together. The children were trapped between their parents, with neither light to warm them, nor space to stretch their limbs.
These young Gods did not like being confined in the dark, so they plotted their freedom.
One child, the wild one called Tu, wanted to kill his parents- an idea mocked by his brothers.
Another suggested the parents be separated. The strongest of them, Tane Mahuta, put his shoulders against the Earth, his feet against the Sky and pushed. Slowly, slowly, as long as it takes a seed to grow into a giant Kauri tree, light and space grew between the parents, until they were flung apart forever. Rain fell from the Sky, his tears of loss; mists rose from the Earth, her own tears of grief.
Tane clothed his mother in a thick cloak of trees. He became the God of the forests and all who live in them. He clothed his father in a cloak of stars.
Tu was angry that his idea had been ridiculed, so he waged war on his brothers. Tane hid with his children in the forest, so Tu made adzes to cut down trees and spears to kill the birds.
Next, the wild one attacked Tangaroa, who hid under the waves with his children, so Tu made mighty canoes to sail across the ocean, he made nets and hooks to catch the fish.
He went looking for the twins, Rongo and Haumi, who had buried themselves in the Earth. Tu saw their long hair poking out of the ground, so he uprooted them, cut them up and ate them. He planted pieces of Rongo back in the earth, and the pieces grew. Rongo became the God of cultivated food. Haumi was thrown into the forest, becoming God of foraged food.
Tu did all these terrible things and more, so he became the God of War. When Tane created humans, Tu became our guardian, giving us all the skills and tools he had made, so we could mill timber and hunt, so we could sail the ocean and catch fish, so we could make farms and gather wild food. Tu became the God of technology.
Technology such as the bio-machines called Victoria that now rule over much of the World of Light.
The story of how our human Queen came to New Zealand, to be killed and resurrected as an organic machine, is thought to have begun further back than might be expected.
It could start when a hero named Maui went fishing with his brothers. His magic fishhook snared a giant stingray, a fish so huge it turned into the island we now call Te Ika a Maui, the Fish of Maui, or: the North Island.
When he saw his great catch, Maui told his brothers not to touch the fish. The brothers were greedy, though, and one took a bite from the head of the stingray. This bite became the perfectly round bay where the city of Te Ngau now stands, looking across the Pacific to the rising sun.
Another version goes back even further. Some say Te Ngau, the Bite, was formed when a great ball of fire fell from the sky and exploded on the land, forming the crater, into which the ocean flooded.
This explanation recalls the earliest stories, when Ranginui had a previous wife, before the Earth. Is it possible that on other worlds the Sky fathered other children before our Gods?
The nature of life is such that these other children would have created other thinking creatures who we might call people. Was it they who sent the fire from the sky?
Is it one of these creatures, the one we call taniwha, or Te Tauhou o te Whetu– The Stranger from the Stars- who is the monster that is said to live in a lake on the island that sits in the centre of the Bite?
Only our exalted bio-computer, her Majesty Queen Victoria, Empress of the civilised world, knows. And she is not saying.