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I don't generally like sf about angels, but... - Input Junkie
September 25th, 2011
10:07 pm

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I don't generally like sf about angels, but...
This discussion blames Jim Butcher for the prevalence of angels in sf, and now I want a timeline/bibliography.

There was the singular cherubim in L'Engle's A Wind in the Door, but that probably isn't the annoying sort of angel, or at least I liked it.

I'm also fond of MacAvoy's Damiano trilogy.

The earliest "angels" I can think of are in Sharon Shinn, and they were handwaved science fiction.

There's one who's author and title I don't remember, but included a scene of a woman putting makeup on a male angel.

However, all of this is earlier than urban fantasy/paranormal romance.

I thought angels were still rare compared to vampires, fey, and werewolves. Have I been missing something?

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From:whswhs
Date:September 26th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
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There's a short story by H. G. Wells, I believe, that involves an angel appearing on Earth. I haven't read it in a long time, though.
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From:st_rev
Date:September 26th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
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Lucifer, the Sandman spinoff, premiered in 2000 after a mini-series in 1999. Sandman itself debuted in 1989.

The first Dresden Files book was published in 2000, and the series is just the World of Darkness RPG setting (premiered in 1991) with the serial numbers filed off. The WoD subgame Demon: the Fallen didn't come out until 2002, but angel-related RPG precursors In Nomine and Nobilis came out in 1997 and 1999, respectively.

In conclusion, the discussion you linked is stupid. Bashing Jim Butcher just seems fashionable lately. Perhaps the combination of success and apolitical dorkiness offends.

Edited at 2011-09-26 02:54 am (UTC)
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From:st_rev
Date:September 26th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
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And anyway, Dresden Files is really a very, very obfuscated remix of Zelazny's Amber series.
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From:st_rev
Date:September 26th, 2011 02:51 am (UTC)
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Also cough*CSLEWIS*cough.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:16 am (UTC)
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I was thinking about angels as characters, but I don't think I made that clear.
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From:agrumer
Date:September 26th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
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Not so much SF as fantasy, and not so much angels as "a Christian God", and not so much the discussion as that one guy.

Said one guy immediately modified that to "Judeo-Christian", even though the original reference had been to "flaming archangels ejected from heaven in the second war on God", an explicitly Christian notion, which ties this back to the discussion of people who use "Judeo-Christian" to mean "Christian, but I don't want people to think I'm an antisemite".
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From:vr_trakowski
Date:September 26th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
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There are angels in Many Waters, the fourth in the Wrinkle quartet, and another in A Wind in the Door, though I cannot at the moment remember his name.

Also, there is one in the Doctor Who episode Ghost Light (1989), if you're counting TV.
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From:alyxyn
Date:September 26th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
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Proginoskes, a singular cherubim. I haven't read Many Waters, so I can't help you there.
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From:roadnotes
Date:September 26th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
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The one with the woman putting makeup on an angel is probably Metal Angel by Nancy Springer, where he comes to earth to become a rock star.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
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Thanks.

I was thinking Larque on the Wing, but that definitely isn't it.
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From:ritaxis
Date:September 26th, 2011 04:00 am (UTC)
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For me, the first angel is too many angels.

Except for The Golden Compass.
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From:madfilkentist
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
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I'm glad someone mentioned the "His Dark Materials" trilogy.
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From:matt_ruff
Date:September 26th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
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Gandalf and the other Istari were essentially angels, I thought. And Tolkien wove in plenty of other Christian tropes.

As st_rev notes, there's also C.S. Lewis.

Crediting Jim Butcher makes no sense. Christian fantasists have been around as long as the genre has.
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From:fidelioscabinet
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:45 am (UTC)
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Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim books have fallen angels*, and (IIRC) at least one non-fallen but very troublesome angel. He's operating off a (more or less) Christian set of premises, as far as I can tell.

*In Hell, or trying to get out.
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 26th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)
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I can't speak about the proximate cause of the current prevalence because I didn't know there was one - hiding under a rock these 15 years, sorry. I'm guessing Pullman would have to have something to do with a resurgence of Christian themes in sf/f? Or even the Left Behind books.

Regarding the first angels in sf, I guess you have to define sf. Somebody's probably made a convincing case that you can't have sf without a scientific worldview, and fixed the start date at 18xx. Which would be a pity because the secularization of fiction might be another way to approach this: I bet if you go back into the 19th century there are angels all over the place in speculative fiction or whatever we want to call it: all those fey and fairie queens and spirits and guides* and so on are functionally angels** - anyone who seems disappointed in the human lot is liable to map either onto Blake or Milton or Swift or even Thomas More (Swift gets 2 hacks I reckon: Laputans are satires on theological scholasticism, which was arguably "angelic" at time of writing, and his Houyhnhnms are pretty clearly angelic).

Explicit angels are, I guess, less common but surely also not rare (although there goes Lewis, I think...). Clive Barker's Weaveworld has a visually arresting Seraph in it.

As a side issue, if we take an atheistic stance for a moment, what category of fiction would the Bible be?

* to be honest I don't know that much about this genre of Victoriana, but William Morris and Blavatsky surely fit, even if the latter might not have wanted to be called an author of fiction. Frank Younghusband is early 20th c but in the same tradition.
** cf. Klaatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:22 am (UTC)
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The thing is, the current batch doesn't seem to be Christian-themed fiction, or at least not Christian like C.S. Lewis, or anti-Christian like Pullman.

It's more like having angels as another sort of super-powered humanoid. The war in heaven might be there as background, but the story is about one or more angels living with people.

Edited at 2011-09-26 09:27 am (UTC)
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From:richardthinks
Date:September 26th, 2011 08:53 am (UTC)
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(isn't a singular cherubim a cherub?)
/pedantry. Also I might simply be wrong about that... Hebrew loan-words in English by way of Catholicism are probably the worst possible case for linguistic mashing.
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From:nancylebov
Date:September 26th, 2011 09:24 am (UTC)
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Proginoskes calls him/them/itself a singular cherubim.
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From:ice_hesitant
Date:September 26th, 2011 12:32 pm (UTC)
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I find angels incredibly irritating. Let me give you my worst angel experience.

Book: Darwinia

First few pages: Europe has been replaced by an alien continent. It's the 19th century. A group of explorers is about to go upriver.

I expect: Like Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle but with fictionalized flora and fauna so that the author can nerd out about biology or paleontology.

I get: angels and demons waging war eternal or some shit.

Aargh! Why would you name your book that if you were going to do that other thing!? Rated FFF, would not read again. Would like to unread if possible. Pass the brain bleach, por favor.
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From:romsfuulynn
Date:September 26th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
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Lots of angels in movies (30's forward.)

Lots of angels in romance fiction - I won't be where I can get to my Byron database, but it is common enough that it has a "plot point" in Byron.

Anne Stuart had Falling Angel in 1993.

Usual romance structure is "guardian angel" who is working off some life behavior guiding some living person - love ensues and they must choose between angel or mortal life.
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From:jsburbidge
Date:September 26th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
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Stranger in a Strange Land, although it's hard to see the angelic background as a predecessor to the urban fantasy use.

There's also Jurgen: Cabell's placing of "the God of Jurgen's grandmother" in the much broader context of Koschei could be considered a predecessor to having angels etc. without having a "purely" Christian universe.
From:llennhoff
Date:September 26th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Holly Lisle's Devil's Point Trilogy deals with a world in which a woman prays for demons to be released from Hell and be given a chance to repent, and God grants the prayer.
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