What if is one of the most attractive questions in writing historical or science fiction. It’s a powerful framing device that opens up events of the past, future, or both together to be examined or twisted in different directions as a narrative experiment.
Deity Creation by first time Galway author Paul Mee is a mix of sci-fi and historical fiction, one that looks at the history of Christianity/Judaism and the story of Jesus Christ, and asks: What if one of the world’s largest religions was a social engineering experiment by an alien race?
This potentially grim take on human society is offset by the fact that Mee takes a fairly light-hearted tone with the narrative, offering a grounded take on sceptical ordinary people faced with seemingly miraculous happenings.
In fact Deity Creation has an almost sitcom-like quality as it moves through a succession of little moments in the life of Christ. And while a text like the Bible must present those with the reverence the subject and presenter demands, Mee prefers to show what it must be like for the long suffering Joseph and Mary with a child who’s a real handful.
As below, so above. For a people engaged in a scheme that starts with a single human lifetime, but will ultimately take generations to unfold, there’s little grandiose posturing among the Deusi team orchestrating this, and more humdrum office reality of a team forced to work together on the dreaded group project.
It’s a bold choice of topic for a writer to take, especially for a first work. And while it could easily be viewed as someone simply trying to be edgy or attention grabbing, Mee’s writing never descends to the realm of mocking faith, or the people who have it.
Deity Creation would have failed if the writing ever became mean spirited. But instead, even when telling a story centred around religion on Earth, specifically Judeo Christianity, being a work of fiction, it still contends that the principles which underpin them are worthwhile and humane.
Deity Creation spends most of its time on earth, which certainly fits the purpose of the story. But it does leave the alien side of the narrative somewhat underdeveloped. We learn little about the Deusi or Santu, the other alien race in this tale.
Mee has said that he has potentially looked at this as the start of a series, so fleshing out who these races are could be the focus of a follow-up book.
It can be difficult for an author to fully divorce themselves and their views from their writing, and that’s as true of Paul Mee as any other. Many science fiction works set up conflicts between civilizations based on a desire for conquest, create strange needs meant to highlight just how alien alien-life can be, or just leave the antagonist utterly inscrutable.
But Mee, who in his day job is a chartered accountant, has instead chosen the economic models of two space faring civilisations, and the philosophies which underpin them, as the reason for war.
This might seem like a step down from the grand scope science fiction often embraces (I’ll throw in the overused ‘space opera’ descriptor for good measure), but what could come across as trivial instead fits with the, forgive me, down-to-earth approach taken with the other half of the tale. It’s certainly far from ridiculous considering that half of the 20th century was consumed with that exact conflict here on earth.
It took Paul four years to write Deity Creation, and as someone who had never written fiction before, a while longer before he had the courage to approach local publisher Tribes Press to bring it to our shelves. It is available through the publisher, or can be bought directly from his own website paulmee.ie.