Wright’s Writing Corner–Musings on Writing From the Beautiful And Talented Wife

My wife writes:

On 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.

Read more: http://arhyalon.livejournal.com/321862.html

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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18 Responses to Wright’s Writing Corner–Musings on Writing From the Beautiful And Talented Wife

  1. Noah D says:

    I’m not sure how you’d write a being without free will. I don’t know what that would ‘look’ like.

    More comments on angels in media at Arhaylon…

  2. Sean Michael says:

    Hi, Noah!

    But angels DO have free will. They are simply so configured by their NATURE that they know absolutely what they want, whether good or bad, that they will never change their minds. Which means that when God created the angels and gave them the choice of loving and obeying Him or hating and disobeying Him, the choice they made of their own free will will last for eternity.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Mary says:

      Instead of eking out their freedom bit by bit, they use it all in one grand gesture.

      • Sean Michael says:

        Hi, Mary!

        And all that the angels do, after they made the choice to love or hate God, was freely chosen to be either good or bad. Never will a good angel do a bad thing or a fallen angel a good deed. They don’t want to do anything else except what followed from the choice they made.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  3. Rob Corrigan says:

    Probably my favorite angel story (although it’s really a detective story featuring angels) is Neil Gaiman’s Murder Mysteries.

  4. I like her notion that angels would warp the world around them. It reminds me of Charles Williams’ The Place of the Lion.
    I’m having trouble coming up with any compellingly written angelic characters. Even when someone is trying to draw one, they generally only get one aspect or another and not a sense of a whole alien person.

    • Sean Michael says:

      Hi, idontknow,

      Good choice, how the Platonic Types which became physically present in THE PLACE OF THE LION were actually angels whose presence “warped” the world awound them. And nice to come across someone else who has read the fantasies of Charles Williams. My favorite is probably MANY DIMENSIONS.

      Like you, I’ve been having difficulty trying to think of stories, whether SF or fantasy, convincingly depicting angels, good or bad. I did like Poul Anderson’s description of what Heaven or hell might be like in OPERATION CHAOS, but that was not the question Mr. Wright asked. The Valar and Maiar seen in JRR Tolkien’s THE SILMARILLION and THE CHILDREN OF HURIN?

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

      • I oscillate between preferring All Hallows Eve and Descent into Hell…

        In Pilgrim’s Regress Lewis used Slikisteinsauga to try to illustrate a limitation of angels: they have their sphere of knowledge and love and we ours. We are assured there are things the angels long to look into but presumably aren’t able.

        But most depictions run aground on a different problem: “How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” And until then, how can we describe them?

        • Sean Michael says:

          Hi, idontknow:

          I enjoyed reading all of the fantasies of Charles Williams, but it was MANY DIMENSIONS which particularly stuck in my mind.

          I cannot really comment on C.S. Lewis’ PILGRIM’S REGRESS because I have not read that book. But I agree have powers natural to them which makes them far superior to human beings. But of course angels are still CREATED beings and there remains some things which either has not yet been revealed to them by God or are beyond their abilities to know or discover.

          The silly conventions depicting angels with wings and halos are actually desperate attempts to get some idea of what angels are like by showing them as NON HUMAN.

          Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

          • By all means read Regress, and also Till We Have Faces if you haven’t.

            I don’t know art history very well. I thought the 2-wing angels were a variation on Isaiah’s 6-wing angels, and much easier to draw than Ezekiel’s wheels!
            jim bellinger

            • Sean Michael says:

              Hi, Jim Bellinger:

              A good point re Isaiah’s description of the six winged seraphim who attended God in Isaiah 6. And the strange beings Ezekiel struggled to describe in Ezekiel 1 has been the despair of artists ever since!

              And I have read a fair amount of C.S. Lewis, simply not, alas, PILGRIM’S REGRESS and TILL WE HAVE FACES. So many books we all should read!

              Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

  5. bear545 says:

    With my unfortunately plebian tastes, I would say that among my favourite portrayals of angels (apart from Milton’s) is Pasquale’s guardian angel in the comic strip Rose is Rose. Usually he is a little version of Pasquale with cute little wings, fluttering around his charge as they go on adventures like two young best friends. Whenever Pasquale is threatened, however, the angel instantly becomes a dour faced, sword in hand one hundred foot tall warrior of heaven.

  6. The_Shadow says:

    How about the Eldila of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy? Lewis some downright convincing angels, in my opinion. Particularly in Perelandra.

  7. Sylvie D. Rousseau says:

    I read almost no fantasy literature apart from Narnia and LOTR. Tolkien’s elves and dark lords are interesting and credible invented angels. This is the only example I know. On the wrong side, I watched one movie about an angel “falling” in love and found it uninteresting. Such creatures trapped in a boring fate have nothing to do with bad or good angels. This is one thing I also remember from my perusing of the Twilight saga: one of the two leading Volturri always looked bored. This is a common view of sceptics that eternity is an infinite time, thus thoroughly boring. And the portraits derived from that view do not make a memorable entertainment.

  8. Ben Zwycky says:

    I would hope that my own depiction of angels would meet with the approval of this community’s discerning readers, but I doubt that anyone here has read my novel. It’s also quite a spoiler to mention that they feature at all, so I won’t say any more about the role they play in the story.

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