I’m in two minds about the use of historical people and spiritual concepts in fiction. On the one hand it seems disrespectful to tear precepts and practices from their cultural contexts to insert them at will into stories. Then, on the other hand, that’s what writers do and have always done. I used the poetry of John Donne for instance, for a dark tale would have scandalised the poet in his sermonising latter years. But since he can’t neither complain nor recommend me for the stake, I persisted and it was published.
Perhaps, if writers do take stuff they need to go large. Instead of just an Arabic word here or a Himalayan backdrop there, or a karate move now, or a Buddhist robe then, for white, angst-ridden, men of means to act out in, maybe writers should dig deeper into their own histories and backgrounds?
Sometimes they go large, but go wrong,Star Gate was reasonably cool, except for attributing the Egyptian gods and pyramids to aliens. Um no, that’s a bug bear of mine.
Anyway, as indicated previously, what I’m tired of is the shortcut for mystery and mysticism being Middle/Eastern Pastiche. Although, there is an argument that Western culture and history is one long pastiche, vis a vie syncretism.
However, the West, for what it’s worth, has an equally mysterious legacy of mystics and alchemists and cults, but few people seem to be using it as a source of popular entertainment. Sure, there are novels about John Dee and Nicholas Flamel, and novels about alchemy and esotericism from Umberto Eco and his cheaper imitation Dan Brown, but a comic-book like superhero story and subsequent film franchise would be inspired.
What I want I haven’t seen yet. Like a action adventure set in a world described by CS Lewis in The Discarded Image. Like an action version of Foucault’s Pendulum, or a version of The Librarian or Warehouse number what’s-his-name that’s not about collecting and hoarding artefacts in America. Like SHIELD but more historical. A bit like Buffy, but with an immortal Giles heading a band of occultists maintaining the harmony of the spheres instead of staking (or making out) with vamps. A bit like X Files, but it’s as if Mulder and Scully are Wyrd. Like Thor, but not in space. Like Supernatural, but from the immortal perspective rather than that of the flannels.
My super heroes are the centre of their universe.
Neil Gaiman achieved some of what I’m looking for through Sandman, and American Gods, and there’s Hellboy, but basically most of this runs alongside a faux-Christian theology of dark versus light that is done to death. I want to peel that back. I want less demons and more daimones. A bit His Dark Materials but not based on Milton. Like Percy Jackson, but less American teens as the offspring of Olympian gods. Like Paulo Coelho’a works, but with actual alchemy. And yes there’s Harry Potter, but I don’t need villains who work to school term timetables, and I do want more of the context to the classical references.
I’m going to have to write this aren’t I?
The thing is, I don’t have to invent my characters nor refer to other fictions. Western history is full of powerful,wealthy and/or intelligent people messing about with tinctures, spells, chants, weapons, fey folk and sigils, to achieve all sorts of ends. I have the resources, and now I have a list, divided characters into specialities, and named their locations. I can see it, and I know their leader. Forget Batman and Dr Strange, forget Thor and his space bifrost. They don’t far enough and their worlds are too much our world.
I want something weirder.
I want something new that is very old.