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.
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.
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.
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.