To celebrate the publication of Stained Light, the thrilling conclusion to The Gaia Chronicles, author Naomi Foyle has written up the origin story of her series – from the core ideas behind her work to a very exciting plan to adapt the story for the stage. Stained Light is out 6 September, available here.
The Gaia Chronicles began, for me, back in 2013, as an image of a young girl chasing another girl up a tree, and a writerly desire to express in futuristic fiction what I was learning as a human rights campaigner for a just peace in Israel-Palestine. My goal was not to create an allegory for the Zionist-Arab conflict, but to explore ideas about settler-colonialism, violence, revenge and forgiveness, the Abrahamic faiths, sustainable development, human diversity and the beyond-human world in a setting that reflected the fact that European culture has deep roots in the Middle East.
For the first volume, Astra, I drew on my travels in Turkish Kurdistan to create the walled nation of Is-Land; and the myths of ancient Sumer for my storyline and characters, most of all Astra, who like Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of the Morning and Evening Star, chooses to descend to the pits of hell and, to be resurrected, requires the help of a warrior woman, her father, and transgender spirits. I soon realised, though, that I was also excavating my Quaker childhood in Canada. A first-generation settler on indigenous land, I was brought up to hold ideals of social and environmental justice that, as I entered adulthood, sometimes made the world-as-it-is seem almost impossible to bear. Like Astra, though, I learned to channel my volatile dissatisfactions into collective action, a process that deepened as I continued the series.
Through the Palestine Solidarity Campaign I was already connected with a strong interfaith community, including Christian and Muslim Palestinian eco-activists, and Jewish supporters of a One Democratic State. Researching Rook Song and The Blood of the Hoopoe, I knew that I needed to know more about Islam. Tentative questions led me, ultimately, to become a Fellow of the Muslim Institute, and to visit refugee camps in Lebanon with the Muslim charity Interpal. Friendships with disability scholars and activists helped me to develop the books’ blind characters and the wheelchair warrior Enki Arakkia. When, in 2016, I was diagnosed with cancer, all these communities combined to uplift and sustain me, and this healing experience eventually infused the final book in the series, Stained Light, with a powerful sense of gratitude and hope.
But while The Gaia Chronicles entertain utopian impulses, they also confront human violence: most painfully, child sexual abuse. While disturbing to write about, this aspect of the books reflects a pervasive, hidden, often institutional reality. I am therefore pleased to say that my current venture, a collaboration with puppeteer Raven Kaliana, seeks to aid in a process of institutional change. Raven is also an educator on child protection, and together we intend to adapt The Gaia Chronicles for the stage, including performances to audiences of social services and environmentalist professionals. We are currently seeking project members, including a playwright, so if that’s you, please get in touch.
Meantime, thank you to my readers for encouraging me to keep on pouring my soul into this epic series. I hope you find Stained Light a fitting grand finale to Astra’s adventures!