Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How Do You Talk to an Angel?

Better question, how do write an angel? Angels and demons are popular figures in urban fantasy, making the leap from what might be perceived as Christian or religious fiction to urban fantasy and gothic horror quite easily. Demons, have always been particularly fascinating for writers because demons are fallen angels. They are flawed. They are imperfect.

Why are they flawed and imperfect?

Because they rebelled against their nature and their design. In most cases of fiction regarding angels and demons, the concept of free will and self-determination is an entirely human trait denied to angels. Angels were first, imbued by their creator with divine energy and purpose. It was not theirs to question, to envy or to think outside the box.

Enter Lucifer.

Lucifer is big in any tale of angels and demons. He was an angel called the Morning Star. He was the right hand of his Creator. He was the best and the brightest, most fiction in this genre agrees on this. He also didn't have any patience for the ideas that monkeys were being set above those who with no free will of their own, served.

Of course, when he rebelled, he fell from Grace. He was 'cast out' or 'cast down'. The war in Heaven is waged and Lucifer and his ilk lose. They are then consigned to the realm of humanity and the nether regions below, forever denied to be in the presence of their creator again.

Remy Chandler

At least, that's how Thomas Sniegoski tells it in his Remy Chandler novels. His first novel abotu Remy is called A Kiss Before The Apocalypse followed by Dancing on the Head of a Pin. Main character Remy Chandler is actually a Seraphim who has taken human form. Once known as Remiel, Remy left Heaven after the great War because he was disillusioned. He came to Earth to live among humans and to find his purpose again.

It wasn't until he met Madeleine though, that he truly embraced his life as human, as Remy. He has a dog, a brownstone in Boston and he works as a private investigator helping people out and occasionally intervening to help avert the apocalypse. Sniegoski's world is so rich and vivid and filled with fantastic characters that sometimes you forget these are not your typical angel and demon tales, because his main character is the angel.

If you haven't read these novels, I would highly recommend them. Sniegoski also has a Remy short story in the anthology Mean Streets. That short story takes place between the first and second books.

Supernatural

Angels and demons are popular fodder for the series Supernatural (knew I had to squeeze that in as we count down the days to Season 5's beginning). Demons have been appearing on the show since season one when Yellow Eyes pinned Mary Winchester to the ceiling, gutted her and consumed her with hell fire. Angels, however, didn't enter into the fray until season 4 when Castiel literally lifted Dean Winchester out of hell.

The dichotomy of Dean, touched by angels while his younger brother Sam is touched by demons is well played. Neither wants to be pawns in the game of war, but that's what they are as both sides seek to manipulate and use the Winchesters. In Season 4, Dean also met Anna, an Angel who ripped out her own Grace and fell to Earth. When she fell, she was born as a human. But she had to take her Grace back, to become a full fledged angel again, in order to save the Winchesters.

Anna, however fallen, is not a demon. She still seeks to do good and to protect, she just doesn't obey which is considered the greatest crime of an angel. It is with her guidance that Castiel begins to question as well. Another interesting difference in Supernatural's mythology of angels and demons, most demons are fallen humans, corrupted by demonic influence. There seem to be three kinds of demons: white eyes, who are high demons in the enchelons of command, fallen humans so twisted and perverted that they can't be expunged easily. Yellow eyes, true demons, fallen angels themselves most likely and black eyes, corrupted humans who became demons but are just foot soldiers in the war.

The demon Ruby, for example, was a witch in her human life who sold her soul and became a demon. Very different mythology, but no less fascinating and compelling.

It's All About Choice

What makes angels and demons so compelling in urban fantasy is that it comes down to choice for them, not just thematically, but at the root cause of their interactions. Just as Nicholas Cage's angel in City of Angels had to choose to be human to experience love, passion and loss in all its painful glory, so too do the angels in Supernatural and Remy Chandler and more experience these things. The demons are utterly human and the angels are utterly alien and those that come in between are totally compelling. I love most stories about angels from Touched by An Angel to Highway to Heaven to The Fallen (also written by Sniegoski btw) and much more.

Tell me, what do you love about angels and demons in urban fantasy and do you have a favorite story, character or book?


Later this month, Thomas E. Sniegoski, author of Remy Chandler, will be visiting the Daily Dose for an insightful and fun interview. Be sure to keep an eye out for that and in just nine days, we'll launch our Supernatural contest to win season one on DVD.


7 comments:

  1. Angels and Demons do seem to be on the uprise lately. One of my favorite angels is Raphael from Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series. And I of course am in love with Larissa Ione's Demonica demons - I love to read about demons who have redeemed themselves.

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  2. I so need to pick up the Nalini Singh books. I keep forgetting about them, yet I know they are out there. Thank you for the reminder Mandi. I'll have to check into Larissa Ione as well.

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  3. I have to agree with Mandi about Nalini's book. What I love about his character is that he's been around so long, that even though he's one of the "good" guys, it's all relative. He could snuff out a human life w/o a thought. There's quite a bit of apathy in his soul - he's seen it all and done it all that there's not much that moves him anymore. But that's what makes him so fascinating. I love the complex good/bad traits, when a person is not all one or the other. Keeps the tension building.

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  4. Nalani's book are real great and I think her perspective about angels is real unique. I love to read about demons and angles. My favorite books are Midnight' Master by Cynthia Eden(Niol is a demon as we imagine them, Mr Wet Dream with a bad side, but also very caring) and I totally adored S.J. Day's Marked Series. I couldn't put these books down.

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  5. I also like Angels' Blood and I am also excited about Covet, J.R. Ward's new series about fallen angels. I can't wait for this one to come out.

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  6. Gena Showalter has a series out called Lords of the Underworld and it is awesome. It's about the immortal warriors who opened Pandora's Box and demons flew out of it and as their penance, they must house those demons inside their own bodies.

    But, uh, as far as favorite character.... Dean Winchester, baby! He may not be an angel or demon but he's pretty extraordinary anyway.

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  7. Enjoyed this post, you have such an easy of talking, really like it. Hhmm, I'm drawing a blank on angels right now, except for the Mark series already mentioned. But I do have Angels' Blood maybe I should crack it open after I finish the Fever series.

    But demons, I start ticking the off each finger! Couple of them already mentioned: Lords of the Underworld, Demonica series and I will add the Nightwalkers series by J. Frank, Diana Rowland's Mark of the Demon and Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark.

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