When we met up at DragonCon 2015, my editor at Titan, Steve Saffel, suggested I put together a blog series of what amounts to the “science” of the Shadowside — all the factual research that went into crafting Zack’s world. Steve (who much prefers the title “Dark Editorial Overlord” to that of mere editor) pointed out that, although I’ve been steeping myself in extra-Biblical writings for the past ten or fifteen years as part of my non-fiction work, things like The Book of Enoch and the Testament of Solomon are not exactly common fare for your average fiction reader.
I agreed — a “science of the Shadowside” series sounded like great fun, except “science” was hardly the proper word for the kind of work that went into building the architecture of the Shadowside series. That was more an exercise in mythopoesis.
WARNING: SOFT SPOILERS AHEAD
There’s a scene in Conspiracy of Angels where Zack cracks a code to get into his old files. In those files, among other things, is a PDF he himself compiled of ancient writings and references to his extended family of warring angelic tribes.
In the final version of that scene, we see him skim through this document once he breaks the code for his password. But in the original draft, there were extended quotes drawn from Zack’s document. Those bits got cut for fear that they made that section read a little too much like an angelic Wikipedia article — but, of course, I still kept them. In fact, I’ve got whole sections of fake Scripture written up, using rephrased primary material on the Nephilim and Sons of God (Bene ha Elohim, if you want to get all technical with the Hebrew). All of these additional stories establish the hierarchies, rules, and past conflicts among Zack’s brethren.
It is my goal that, someday, you’ll get to see those stories. Actually, if I get my way, what you’ll see is a mock-up of Zack’s own document, complete with his highlights and scribbles. Because that’s the kind of thing I love to see released in tandem with the series of books that I fall in love with. Supplements like that add to the fun and the richness of the world.
For now, let me share some quotes (mainly from primary sources) that helped to inspire the names of the tribes that make up Zack’s extended family. None of these quotes are exactly spoilery and I can guarantee that, although I’ve used many of these as jumping-off points for the fabric of Zack’s world, I’ve definitely put my own spin on things.
The spark of inspiration for the tribes came from an obscure passage described as a Fragment of the Key of Solomon and attributed to Eliphas Levi’s “Philosophie Occulte” by S.L. MacGregor Mathers. While the actual provenance of this fragment is questionable (for reasons too extensive to delve into here), the names of the tribes, as well as their supposed sobriquets, were too compelling not to play with in my fiction:
The five accursed nations are:–
1. The Amalekites or Aggressors;
2. The Geburim or Violent Ones;
3. The Raphaim or Cowards;
4. The Nephilim or Voluptuous Ones;
5. The Anakim or Anarchists.
–Mathers, The Key of Solomon the King (Appendices)
If you’ve read the book, you’ll know that I took the title “The Voluptuous Ones” verbatim for the Nephilim and it helped to define the nature of that tribe. “Anarch” is a term Lil uses in reference to Zack, and later, we learn why it applies to his tribe. The above quote was the inspiration for that plot twist as well.
Now, let’s look into some of the sources that might have inspired this source (as well as providing further inspiration for me). We’ll start with the most classic reference to angels living among mortals on the earth, taken from the Book of Genesis:
The Sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
– Genesis 6:2
The “Sons of God” in this passage are widely believed to be angels — Watchers, to be precise, whose story unfolds more completely in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. But not all scholars interpret them as angelic in origin:
Some commentators believe that the expression ‘sons of God’ refers to the ‘godly line’ of Seth, and ‘daughters of men’ to women from the line of Cain.
– Commentary on the Living Bible
Enoch I was a tremendously influential text on the angelology of the ancient world, however, and the idea that the angels themselves, as well as their half-human progeny, were gigantic in stature, lies at the heart of many of the terms used for them — Gibburim, especially, which means “mighty ones,” and is translated variously as “giant” or “hero” — in the same sense that the Greeks used the word to denote larger-than-life heroes like Heracles and Achilles:
The Book of Giants was another literary work concerned with Enoch, widely read (after translation into the appropriate languages) in the Roman empire….The ‘giants’ were believed to be the offspring of fallen angels (the Nephilim; also called Watchers) and human women.
– Robert Eisman and Michael Wise, The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered
Those giants…are termed n’philim (lit. ‘those who have fallen’ or ‘perished’). A similar tradition mentions such a race of primordial giants in the Rephaim.
– John Gray, Near Eastern Mythology
Fun fact: there are so many interpretations of what the root word for “Nephilim” actually means (from “fallen” to “miscarriage”) that it’s pretty much up for grabs.
And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.
– Numbers 13:33
The Emim – a large and numerous people, as tall as the Anakim – had formerly inhabited it [Moab]. Like the Anakim, they are usually reckoned as Rephaim, though the Moabites call them Emim.
– Deuteronomy 2:11
Now only King Og of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. In fact his bed, an iron bed, can still be seen in Rabbah of the Ammonites. By the common cubit [63.5 cm/25 in] it is nine cubits [5.7 m/18.75 ft] long and four cubits wide.
– Deuteronomy 3:11
If you’ve read the story of David and Goliath, you’ve read about an encounter between an ordinary mortal and one of the few surviving giants supposed to live in the Middle East after the Flood.
The Nefilim (‘Fallen Ones’) bore many other tribal names, such as Emim (‘Terrors’), Repha’im (‘Weakeners’), Gibborim (‘Giant Heroes’), Zamzummim (‘Achievers’), Anakim (‘Long-necked’ or ‘Wearers of Necklaces’), Awwim (‘Devastators’ or ‘Serpents’). One of the Nefilim named Arba is said to have built the city of Hebron, called ‘Kiriath-Arba’ after him, and become the father of Anak whose three sons, Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, were later expelled by Joshua’s comrade Caleb. Since, however, arba means ‘four’ in Hebrew, Kiriath-Arba may have originally have meant ‘City of Four,’ a reference to its four quarters mythically connected with the Anakite clans: Anak himself and his ‘sons’ Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.
– Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis
The tradition in Genesis 6.4 may reflect the Canaanite myth of the birth of minor gods from the union of El and human women. The conception of the Rephaim as supermen may reflect the Canaanite tradition of defunct kings as rp’um, or Dispensers of Fertility. The identity in tradition of ‘the fallen ones’ of Genesis 6:4 and the Rephaim is supported by the nature of the latter in Proverbs 2:18; Job 26:5 and Phoenician funerary inscriptions.
– John Gray, Near Eastern Mythology
So far in the series, we’ve seen members of the Anakim, Nephilim, and Rephaim. While there is a reference to the Gibburim in the first book, we don’t get to see anyone from that tribe. That changes in Book Two.
Harsh Gods, the follow-up to Conspiracy of Angels, comes out in the fall of 2016.
*Despite all the conflicting definitions, the most widely accepted meaning of the word “Rephaim,” aside from “giant,” is “shade” — as in shades of the underworld.