s we are all hopefully cozying up to a Christmas fire, hanging out with family and friends eating lots of delicious food, it seems a good time to think about divinity and the nature of the Divine in my beloved fantasy books. As a former serious student of theology (seven years in a seminary), I'm quite interested in the subject, specifically with respect to the relationship between God and humanity and how different religions and cultures express their beliefs. I'm always interested in Genesis stories, as well as how a particular tradition experiences time--either as cyclical, including the concepts of karma and reincarnation, or linear, encompassing the notion of time moving forward toward a certain end--as in universal (or selective) salvation. What I find particularly noteworthy in most--but not all--of my paranormal and urban fantasy novels is that a concept of the Divine, with a capital D, is largely missing, which raises some complex questions about being created in God's image, self-referential entities, and what a lack of spirituality will do to creatures over the eons.
Now, I understand that George R. R. Martin is in a class by himself. I'm not sure anyone else has counted, but I have, and there are no fewer than seven religions described in the Game of Thrones series--so far (and yes, for all you purists out there, I am aware the series is formally called A Song of Ice and Fire, but that takes too long say). Seven theologies, seven different descriptions of deities, rituals, beliefs, the man is amazing. And I don't expect that from anyone else. The only one who comes even a little close to good old George is one of my author crushes, JR Ward. In her highly developed world, the Scribe Virgin and her dark counterpart, the Omega, are god-like creatures, although reference is made to both of them being the offspring or creations of a single Deity who is never seen or heard from (except to impose strict balance in the world so that everything has a price so that symmetry is maintained.)
One of the things I appreciate about JR Ward's world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is that the Brothers, and even the King, are not the ultimate arbiters of their own fates. Because of the existence of the Scribe Virgin, all the Brothers must serve someone or something greater than themselves. In contrast, some of my other all-time favorite characters are essentially self-referential--meaning there is no authority greater than themselves. In Thea Harrison's Elder Races world, there is reference to the original seven gods, although those references come later in the series. But Ms. Harrison suggests that Dragos Cuelebre, the dragon of my dreams, is also one of the gods. This is never explored at any length, and Dragos is portrayed as not abusing his power, but you've got to wonder about his past, which is never drawn in any detail and what being regarded as, or actually being a god does to a creature.
And then there is my other favorite book boyfriend, Jericho Barrons. We never find out what Barrons is--I've read that Karen Marie Moning wanted to free Barrons and the Nine from the strictures of labels--but we know that he and his kind have been revered as gods. Not to mention the Fae princes in the same Fever series--they have certainly been worshiped as gods and no power can seem to impact them, and they are almost unanimously monstrous as a result. That's what you get when there's no higher authority to hold your feet to the fire of good behavior.
Without a concept of the Divine, or an absolute (or even relative) moral code, it's hard to imagine what keeps decorum decorous. Why aren't all of these immortal, powerful, dominant, demanding and controlling beings taking headers off the deep end on a regular basis? Some of them are, of course. Nalini Singh suggests that it is love or the lack therefore that keeps quasi-omnipotent beings like Archangels on the straight and narrow. Lijuan, the archangel of China, is worshiped as a goddess and is out of her mind, totally mental, which is a problem when you control an army of the undead. Ms. Singh suggests that it is because Lijuan killed her mortal lover when she realized that her love for him would render her vulnerable, and therefore weak. Raphael, on the other hand, has the love of Elena to keep him sane and steady. I've written about this elsewhere. But what I hadn't stopped to wonder until right this minute was where is God in this world of archangels? I thought they went hand in hand, but there is no allusion to the Divine at all in the Guild Hunter series.
And then there is the issue of humanity being created in God's image. In the same way that the potential existence of life beyond Earth poses some sticky wickets for Christian theologians, so too would the existence of shapeshifters, vampires, elves, faeries, and the occasional deities of mythology come to life. A few series examine these questions, such as Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. In Sooie Stackhouse's world, the humans who have recently learned that they share the planet with the undead wonder about the state of the vampires' souls. But what about the whole God made flesh issue? If beings could transform between humanoid and animal, as so many of my beloved characters can, what does that say about the state of their souls or the image of God? The mind reels.
I'm guessing that at this point I've lost many of you entirely. My apologies. But I do think about this stuff, and Christmas Eve seemed as good a time as any to vent some of my musings. I did warn you that this blog was about deep thoughts I've had while reading vampire porn, right? OK, OK, less deep thoughts and more deep throat, I've got it. Until next time, dear readers, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming in time for the New Year.