CSFF Tour – Angel Eyes By Shannon Dittemore, Day 2

Angel Eyes coverThis month CSFF is featuring Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore, and as you might guess, it can be classified as an angels book. Or supernatural. I don’t think those two are the same or that angel books are a subset of supernatural, but Angel Eyes would fit into both.

These classifications are significant, I believe. Supernatural stories encompass a broad range–pretty much anything that isn’t “natural.” Generally speaking, however, the supernatural elements are central to the story. This category includes fictitious supernatural creatures such as vampires and zombies as well as real supernatural agents such as demons and angels. Ghosts fit here, too–whether a person views them as real or pretend.

Other supernatural creatures such as faeries, witches, and wizards generally fit into the fantasy category rather than the supernatural category because they are viewed, as most stories use them, as make-believe.

Of course witches and sorcerers do exist, but usually stories with these creatures are not referencing beings that claim power from an evil source. Rather, they can, like regular humans, choose good or evil (e.g. the witches in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the wizards in Lord of the Rings and in Harry Potter). Their power is most often innate, though they can learn to use it more effectively.

I mention this particularly because angel books have the same issues as witch and sorcerer books–angels do actually exist, but writers can, and have, treated them as mythical beings with their own tropes.

Anne Rice may have started the latest surge of angel books when she declared at the beginning of her Songs Of The Seraphim series back in 2009 that angels were the new vampires. At any rate, following in the tradition of such films as It’s a Wonderful Life and TV programs such as Highway to Heaven, books have popped up with angels that bear little resemblance to the actual, factual beings mentioned in Scripture.

As a result, I’ve become … shall we say, cautious, about angel books. I have less trouble with those that bear no resemblance to Biblical angels than I do with quasi-accurate ones. The former I simply write off as make-believe creatures, little different from elves or hobbits or faeries.

Imagine my surprise when I read Angel Eyes and discovered a story that represented angels in a way consistent with Scripture.

Of course, there is still speculation–this is fiction, after all. For example, in one interview, author Shannon Dittemore said she developed the idea for the story by thinking, what if angel halos were actual solid objects? [And I’d add, what if angels actually had halos? 😉 ] From this key piece of pretend, the Angel Eyes story grows.

There’s more coming, too. The second book in the series, Broken Wings, is scheduled to release next month, and the third, Dark Halo is due out in August, I believe.

Take time to visit other CSFF tour participants and see what they’re saying about the book. You can find the entire list (with check marks providing links to the posts) at the bottom of my Day 1 article.

Vampires and Angels – 2

We had such good discussion on the Vampires and Angels Tuesday post, I decided to blog on it again rather than responding in the comment section.

Where to start?

First, I think I’ve made my point about real beings and historical events, but what about those elements that are purely make-believe? Such as vampires.

While vampires are imaginary, they do have one thing that defines them—they ingest blood in order to survive. The myth, of course, is that they need human blood—hence their status as evil because they killed others to survive.

Of late, however, the “good” vampires found ways to satisfy their need for blood without taking human life. So the question moves to a theological one. The Bible says in Old and New Testament that Jews, then Christians, were to refrain from eating meat with the blood. So what can we assume about creatures that survive by ingesting the blood of another? I’d say, if they existed in this world, they stand in opposition to God’s law.

But what if these creatures exist in a fantasy world without God’s law? Must we, as readers, interpret such creatures in the light of Biblical reality? I don’t think so, not any more than we need to interpret physical events in a fantasy world by earthly reality. In other words, if it’s OK to include a portal between worlds or a flat earth or a sword only the rightful king can remove from its stone setting or any number of things and beings and events that do not adhere to earthly physical laws, then can’t fantasy also reinvent elements in a way that does not adhere to Biblical laws?

Understand, I’m not saying Biblical laws are to be ignored, just that they don’t apply in the same way to a fantasy world or a fantasized rendering of beings. Consequently, in a fantasy, people don’t need to become Christians. Salvation can be depicted through symbol or allegory or through what C. S. Lewis called “supposal.” (For more on this, check out my article at Spec Faith). The idea is, the author imagines a fantasy world and then asks, how would God make Himself known in this place, to these people?

So I might imagine a world where all people drank each other’s blood. They didn’t think it wrong because they all did it. How would God show Himself to those people? I can see Him coming as the only person ever born who did not drink blood. I can see a story about a group of blood-drinkers determined to take His blood by force.

What about beings with power over others and even over nature? How would God show Himself to them? Any number of story ideas suggest themselves.

Now what if I called those beings with power, witches and wizards?

Have I violated Scripture if some of those mythical creatures side with the good that must come if God, as He would show Himself in that fantasy, shows up? Perhaps of equal importance, must I show that their power comes from God?

I suggest it isn’t necessary any more than it is necessary to show that a character in a realistic novel can speak or think because God gave him that ability. In a fantasy world, if “special” powers are the norm, or the norm for a certain class of people, then I don’t think their power has to be shown as either from Good or from evil. Certainly a story can show this if the author chooses, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Which brings me to Lord of the Rings. The wizards in Tolkien’s work are a special class of people; their power isn’t derivative. It is power that they use for good or for ill, depending on the intent of their heart. And nothing about his imagined beings is like real humans who practice divination or witchcraft. Tolkien has invented a different being but used a familiar name.

Frodo’s buddy Sam has a familiar name, but that doesn’t mean he is human. The point is, names must be understood in context. Because Aragon is called a Man doesn’t mean he’s restricted to act like men of reality act. In fact, he doesn’t.

In the same way, the White Witch, though Lewis depicted her as evil, did not act in any way like witches described in the Bible. She was as much a fictitious construct as Tolkien’s wizards.

Well, I have more to say, but this post is too long as it is. If you’re still reading, abundant kudos to you! 😉

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