Wright’s Writing Corner: De Angelus

Today’s article on writing about Angels.


The first Great Idea listed by Mortimer Adler happens to be Angels. So, today, I thought I would write about writing about angels.Some things are intrinsically hard to write about. Angels may be one of those things. I have almost never seen them done well in fiction. I have, however, read really stirring accounts of people who believe that they have seen real angels. While I have no way to judge the veracity of their stories, I can feel the power of the narrative. It come with a sense of awe and wonder.

Somehow, that sense almost never appears in depictions of angels in fantasy and science fiction. Depictions of angels in genre literature and media is almost universally negative. They are the real bad guys, while demons are misunderstood, emo, moody hunks. Or they are weak. Angels are rigid. Angels are hand-wringers. Angels are boring.

Only the ones who fall in love.emphasis there on the word fall.are even the slightest bit interesting. When they fall, then they get to be the cute scruffy hunks.

A perfect example of the way angels are often handled is Neil Gaiman’s Angel Islington from Neverwhere. I love Neverwhere, but Islington is just a villain, and not even a particularly inspiring one. Still, Islington does stand out in my mind as the archetypical example of that kind of wimpy evil angel that seems so popular now. One sees these angels in books and TV shows. They are also popular in a certain kind of movie.


Well….a number of reasons….



  1. Comment by Earl Wajenberg:

    Well, at least Islington is both fallen and a villain. Not a sympathetic emo demon or a priggish and unsympathetic servant of heaven. The alignment’s right.

    • Comment by lampwright:

      The problem I had with Islington was that we, the reader, didn’t know he was fallen until the last minute. He was put forward in the story as an angel…a good one. So his evil seemed particular henious to me. But you are right that the emo demons and the priggish servants of heaven are worse.

      • Comment by Mary:

        “even Satan masquerades as an angel of light. ”

        As Dorothy L. Sayers observed, you have to portray the reality of temptation and what the fallen angel seems like, or you end up with a falsified turnip ghost of a demon.

  2. Comment by namacdonald:

    (Long-time reader, first time commenter)

    One interesting portrayal of angels in contemporary fiction that you might have missed:


    It’s a gorgeous graphic novel by Kevin Kelly (of WIRED Magazine) and a group of conceptual artists- and it’s available for free online (part 2 is in production, funded by Kickstarter this last summer). Worth reading.

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