If I were asked to choose just one book to recommend for everyone to read in my life, I would not recommend a classic, or even a national bestseller. I would insist everyone (especially artists), read a little known book called Angels on Fire by horror writer Nancy Collins.
By Collin's own description, it is a book that evades the basic labels. It is, by no means, a horror novel, but a "dark love story". The book begins with an artist named Lucy who has just gone through the worst day of her life when an angel falls from heaven and lands at her feet. But if you think this is a retelling of the film City of Angels, you are sorely mistaken.
You see, this angel is not the typical angel. Joth is androgynous and appears in different forms to different people. And Lucy gets caught up in trying to save him from the demons waiting to turn him towards evil on this earth.
Why would this story interest artisans? Well, that takes a bit of explaining.
In this world, Angels and Demons are not creatures we were brought up to believe in. God is known as The Clockwork and Hell is known as The Infernal Machine. Both are one and the same, only the Clockwork creates while the Machine destroys. Angels help maintain the Clockwork while the demons try to destroy parts of it to make it The Machine. It's on a big scale where angels and demons basically wage a territorial war.
Simple, right? But that's only the foundation.
Basically, angels foster and try to nourish and encourage creativity in all human beings while demons try to put them down and make them lose hope. For instance, artists are the biggest sources of creation. The act of creation is powerful. Angels cower in fear from it, they can feel humming power from paintings and angels are in awe of human work. These are Angels who can "bleed" milk blood on you and heal you in a second, but they kneel before any artist. A first edition of a book glows like a supernova. Being a woman makes Lucy especially powerful because she is a giver of life and power is automatically bestowed upon her.
On the other hand, demons find ways to put down artists. They make hacks successful while causing the work of a true artist to be butchered and sold. Basically, they're doing what artists feel is happening today: They glorify the losers and make the winners feel like their work is futile. They make artists addicted to drugs, get involved in abusive relationships, and essentially cut short the lives of artists when they would have otherwise made great art, writing or music. Demons destroy by dishing out depression, self-doubt, hate, addictions and distractions that we might think are important and to steal away an artist's power to create.
In Angels on Fire, artists are powerful beings and above the average unimaginative person. How often does that happen in life? We are so dangerous that it needs demons to take us down.
Artists have a gift. We create worlds, change minds, and influence others with words and images. We make different realities. We see things other people can't see. We make things other people can't even begin to make. Even though sometimes we might not execute our ideas as well as we'd like to, they're still our ideas. And - hopefully - our ideas will inspire more people to create, therefore fighting the "evil" that is out there.
And all of this pep talk comes from an entertaining book that talks to the musician that is my fiancé, and the artist that is me. It has touched my friends who I've begged to read it and I implore you, reader, to find this book and read it yourself. You will never doubt your power again.
Rating: Four Fairies
Author: Nancy Collins