Angel in the Dark
|Title:||Angel in the Dark|
|Cover Artist(s):||Suzan Lovett|
|External Links:||online version (with art) can be found here |
print copies with art may still be available (more details forthcoming)
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The novel is well known for its dark themes, lyrical writing and innovative combination of art and text together at a time when more and more fanzines were eliminating interior art due to the advent of personal desktop word processing.
The cover or one of the interior art pieces won a 1997 Huggy Award.
"Thanks to Lezlie, Pamela, Renae, Teresa, Doris, Sallie, Suzan, Sharon, Mary Lee and Lois, Megan Kent and Charlotte Hill, MFae, Cynthia and Kathy for proofreading and 'debugging' the Americanisms, to James for the final proofread, and most of all, to Mary."
Summary from The Hatstand: "Set in the CI5 world, this story traces the slow evolution of Bodie's and Doyle's relationship, which reaches its apex just before the darkness in the title becomes reality."
Summary from Media Monitor: "A story of love and the fear of love; of beauty and obsession - 'For Beauty's nothing but the beginning of Terror we can scarcely endure, and we adore it so because it serenely disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrible.' - Rainer Maria Rilke. This is a powerful, dark, and poignant story but be warned, it is not a 'soft' story."
A Victim of Bureaucracy and Inflexibility at Archive of Our Own?
On December 21, 2017, the Archive of Our Own deleted the work after it was reported as a "non-fanwork". The feedback and comments the work received at AO3 were also deleted. This is a Wayback link to the header for the story on February 16, 2016. At that time, there were 10 comments, 3 kudos, and 664 hits. Those comments, sadly, can no longer be accessed.
The PDF was converted to HTML format and copy-edited by volunteers and reposted to AO3 with the art on Dec 29, 2017. Both the author and the artist gave written permission for the novel to appear on AO3.
A post by Morgan Dawn made in response: Come On Everybody, Let's Put On A Play! (a proposal for preservation of fanzine fanfic on AO3).
Reviews and Reactions
Some reviewers found it an (unintentional) near-au version of the Sebastian story Wonderful Tonight -- Angel in the Dark is what happens when Bodie and Doyle don't have Kate Ross (the psychologist of CI5) to talk through their messed-up relationship issues with.
In a number of ways ANGEL IN THE DARK could almost be an a/u version of Sebastian's "Wonderful Tonight"....(Or vice versa -- I know WT was published first, but they were probably both in progress at the same time.) There are some very interesting parallels between the two works.
*Not recommended* - Abusive B/D realationship; DEATH story; partner rape; suicide - Although the *gorgeous* drawings by Suzan Lovett are a definite attraction! I know of at least one Pros fan who bought this zine for the illustrations and then gutted them out of the zine, which they then gave away unread, having no intention of reading a novel-length death story. A beautifully written story that would best be described as a profound love gone very, VERY wrong. In this story we see Bodie as something positively sadistic and Evil. Two years after reading it I'm still trying to wipe the psychic scars imprinted by this zine out of my head. Extremely Dark and Disturbing.) 
Anonymous :Angel in the Dark will certainly turn many readers off because of the ending. I have no distaste of death stories -- and in fact found the deaths very anti-climatic -- and a relief. What drew me to this story was the emotional rollercoaster that was Bodie and Doyle's relationship.
Having Doyle as the unreliable narrator was hard to adjust to at first -- and yet, it was very seductive to slide into his depressions, wallow in his anger, climb back up to joy and sex (but never love, sigh) and then back down again. When you have an unreliable narrator the world narrows, twists and even warps. Which is why I was not too upset when Bodie came across as being distant, cool, and cryptic. (Of course I like Bodie that way, so it hit my kink).
But all this is my personal kink - complex, bitter and effort filled relationships. What would have held me to the page was the poetry of a few passages (damn, I wish I had my copy here). With a few strokes Thomas was able to convey the helpless attraction that Doyle had for Bodie -- the love that drew Bodie to his side and the insecurity that shoved them apart again and again. (I am thinking of the Icarus passage and where she talks about the fish leaping and struggling in the stream -- yes, it was about their relationship). This worked because I could absorb it on many levels -- the intellectual (cool, an analogy. or was it a metaphor?). The artistic (wonderful word choice). The emotional (no words, here just reaction). And the envious (ooh, I wish I'd written that).My complaints -- I never connected with Bodie the way I wanted to -- that's the limitation of the Doyle pov. I wanted more.
byslantedlight:I finished it a month ago, but hesitated to write anything because I'm still working out all the layers in that novel. I wanted to do it justice, because I see it as a very fine piece of work, one of those things that pushes fan writing to a new level. I've been unable to find a way to express this in some detail...This is a novel I will reread, and find new things each time I do so. So this is a me, too post.
It is a very fine example of Sandy's favorite story theme "They're fucking, but not talking about it." The confusions and misunderstandings and miscommunication are subtle and complex, and very far from cliched. This novel is especially gratifying to a Bodie fan - wonderful artwork - I find I bought a print 3 years ago. I wondered at the time where it had appeared and what it illustrated. Now I know. The story is told entirely from Doyle's point of view.....Again, I thought uncertainty was the point; Bodie and Doyle don't really know what they think and feel, at least in any verbal form, and the reader is in the same position... I'd like to hear from [the writer] about what she was doing, but I thought she intended the reader uncertainty. I think that's what I was thinking of when I said this was one of those stories that push fan writing to a new level. It is perhaps not emotionally satisfying, but it provides lots of food for thought, and whole new layers of characterization.The style is rather sparse and dry, except when Doyle is looking at Bodie or imagining sex with Bodie or having sex with Bodie. Then a wonderful lushness takes over the writing. Take time over the reading; there's a lot to absorb, and to admire if you like to watch very good writing at work.
This was really interesting, in a disturbing kind of way, and even though I think I disliked alot of it I'm quite interested to read it again (maybe when I'm in a different mood to start with) and see how it sits then. Perhaps bizarrely, I liked the ending of it much much better than I liked the rest of it. Won't say what it was, for spoiler-ish reasons obviously... I said before that it was gloomy, and it really was, but the ending... somehow made it less so. Which feels like a strange thing to say - but does anyone who's read it know what I mean?
Of course it may be that no one around has read it, or cares, in which case I'm just mulling to myself. But that's okay too.
I think one of my problems was characterization. I'm all for our lads being a bit damaged - I mean, look what they do - but I also think our lads manage to hang onto not just their humanity but their connection to other people as well. AITD took that away from Bodie, I felt, and I'm not sure that I can justify that from his behaviour in the eps. I know there's been huge debate about this everywhere and probably forever, but the Bodie that I see is the one who feels for Frances Cottingham, who is pinch-faced over Claire in Man Without A Past, who disobeys Cowley to protect Doyle, who doesn't want to leave Doyle's side in DiaG, etc etc etc. And this Bodie doesn't quite work for me as the wholly damaged individual presented in AITD.
Doyle, on the other hand, works quite well I think. Continually trying to work out Bodie, failing but unable to give him up. Ever. And it's the "ever" part that works for me, I think.The other thing that got to me a little was the troubled-sorted-troubled-sorted-oh-no-troubled-again nature of the zine. Every time it seemed that things were understood between them, they turned themselves over again - and not particularly because anything happened to make them do so. I suppose it was the nature and the extent of the misunderstanding between them. And I suppose this is why I found it so gloomy. A touch on the relentless side even. Then again, maybe that's just life and maybe that's why the zine sits badly with me - I don't read fic/tion for reality, I see enough of that all around me, have enough of it for myself! Hmmn. So maybe the ending was in fact the ultimate escapism and that's why it was the only part that really worked for me! 
I liked Angel in the Dark very much. It was beautifully written, in a rather sparse style until Doyle is thinking about Bodie, when the language becomes lyrical. I did not see the characterization as beyond acceptable limits at all; it's a bit of a stretch, but the best Pros stories are a bit of a stretch.
No [the "stupid" things they do], makes them seem awfully *human*, at least in my opinion -- which is why I count Angel in the Dark among my favourite stories. Of course here it is totally a matter of individual tastes, and why we like to read something, or not -- I am not making a hierarchy here, just pointing out that to me this is a good point, something that makes the story realistic and more enjoyable -- I understand that for other people this is not so and it is perfectly right, too.
Do you remember when we had a discussion, quite a while ago, on whether Angel in the Dark portrays a great romantic exceptional relationship, or a seriously dysfunctional one? Well I think the relationship is dysfunctional indeed, and by all means should not be tried at home 8-); that the events are a rather unglamorous way to go and be, nothing romanticized about it -- and this is exactly what makes me like it, the messy failure of it. Am I the only one who likes dire and unromantic failure and stupidity? (Or maybe I find stupid doomed failures romantic? 8-)To get back to that other discussion over Helen Raven and resolution, I think that Angel is perfectly resolved from the point of view of the narrative structure, a perfect tragedy in the technical sense -- climax with revelation, bodies strewn all over the stage, curtain. Narrative resolution is different from logical resolution, that is the sense that all turns out tidy and satisfactorily -- and lots of great stories are unresolved in this second sense. As I explained already, I don't mind this second "unresolvedness" (does this word exist?), I actually welcome it, since I feel that a too-orderly ending is contrived, a fairy tale where all live happily ever after. (BTW, when we discuss resolution there is a lot of misunderstandings due to the word meaning two different things -- maybe we should specify which resolution we mean). 
A fan:Now [Angel in the Dark] really got to me. Why isn't there a fandom warning about it? Normally if a story won't get out of my head, I invent my own mental sequel so that I can move on. I couldn't do that with Angel in the Dark. It sits in my mind and I can't stop thinking about it. It's rather like a child wiggling a loose tooth - an annoyance that is a patt of what you are. This story takes the reader by the throat and never lets go. This Bodie is darkness personified but with totally believable flashes of manic cheer. This Doyie struggles and rails against a fate that has him pinned like a butterfly from the word go. To ignore this story is to deny yourself some of the most sensitive writing in any fandom (not to mention the wonderful Suzan Lovett illustrations). I wept, laughed and suffered with these characters. They are totally real, the plot is believable and lively, the incidental characters are well-rounded and appropriate and the sex is among some of the most memorable I've ever read, but Thomas's ability to reduce (or maybe I mean elevate) a situation into an escalating spiral of scorching futility left me feeling shell-shocked, depressed and battered. There is this awful conviction that this is right, this is what would happen and I so do not want to believe that. I felt this zine changed my outlook for good. Reading this story is a mistake, but missing it is a greater mistake. Thomas leaves her readers with the unshakable conviction that for Bodie and Doyle there could be no other way. I wish I hadn't read it, but I'm going to read it again. I never want to see it again but I can't take my eyes off the front cover. I wish I'd never bought it. I'll never sell it.
I have to say though that I like lots of angst BUT it has to be good. I am also a quite down-to-earth practical person, so I don't suffer gladly the type of foolishness that some characters exhibit in order to have the angst continue for pages and pages. Or if they do, the writing must be really really good. Case in point: one of the novels I like most is Angel in the Dark by Thomas... The basic mechanism in the novel is that Bodie and Doyle start a relationship but it is a very disfunctional one because they are unable to make the other understand what they want, mean and feel. They are both damaged and insecure enough that they cannot trust the other to understand, or themselves to explain. In the hand of a lesser writer that can become either a weepy-adolescent wallow, or a modern day version of a cavemen convention. Thomas does a great job of showing clearly to the reader what the characters mean think and want, and to show in a believable way how those people can keep failing to communicate, until the tragical double death at the end. *drool* I am convinced, and happily in tears. Note that I am not very demanding when it comes to "canonical" characterisation; if the characters are coherent internally and I can manage to somehow see some glimmer of Bodie and Doyle in them, I am convinced. If I have to choose, they should be people first and Bodie and Doyle after.
Oh. I have it. I read it once. Loved it. Hated it... it is an unforgettable story, and highly depressing, too. If I want to find a flaw in it, is the premise: the characters start as already over the edge, not anymore walking the fine line they walk in the show. They are already immersed in a thick fog of desperation, and maybe there should be more introduction or explanations for that. But the rest is formidable, just as it is sad.
msmoat:I finished reading my borrowed copy of this 'zine today, and wanted to read it again, immediately. I adored it, and it is now at the top of my Must Have Own Copy list. Bodie and Doyle have been in CI5 for several years, and they're suffering from combat fatigue. Doyle is pulled up for carelessness, Bodie for being a little too wild. They're both effectively under review. It's a kind of 'Wild Justice' scenario, the dark side of their characters brought to the fore, but not outside the bounds of interpretative possibility. There are some aspects of the story that are similar to Thomas' short story, 'Ambush', which I love but a lot of people feel is very out of character. However I think that in 'Angel in the Dark', these scenes are placed in a much more fully developed context. There's a case story which is central to the plot, and politics, and both of these intrude with devastating and ultimately tragic effect. The physical side of their relationship develops far more quickly than the emotional (there are very many hot sex scenes) – both partners have huge blind spots. Doyle doesn't read Bodie well, and Bodie won't communicate what he's feeling directly. The author does a brilliant job of charting the emotional depths and heights, never going over the top, and producing some of the most heart-stoppingly gorgeous intimate scenes I've ever read...There are some style issues, POV particularly, but I didn't find these irritating.
byslantedlight:Well, I like the cover... *g* I tend to read the end of this one, but that's it. It's a vision of the lads--particularly Bodie--that I can't see. Hard-edged killers when the job requires it, yes; totally dependent on each other, yes; psychotic, no. In the end this one doesn't work for me, but it is definitely worth reading once. And, er, it does trip a bit of a kink for me--but it also crosses the line into too unrealistic and too outside the characters for me. 
przed:I just re-read this story, and absolutely adored it. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, because it's quite angsty, but it's one that makes me feel the story very deeply, and leaves me with it echoing in my head and my heart - and I love that. Sometimes I want pure, happy-ending feel-good fluff, other times I want something a little deeper, and that's what this zine is, for me! It's a Doyle-centric point of view, it's lovely and long, and... oh, it was good and read-able for me too, writing-wise!
This is one of my favourite zines, thought it's definitely not for everyone. I read most of it at my very first Escapade. I'd borrowed it from the con zine library and every moment that I did not spend at panels or socializing was spent holed up in my room, devouring the zine. I then spent nearly six months trying to track down my own copy so I could read the stuff I hadn't had time for at the con. (Yes, I skipped to the ending right before I handed it back in so at least I wasn't left totally hanging.) Thomas' view of the lads here is definitely not my own, but I find it a plausible one. They've both been worn and frayed by their experiences in CI5, and the cost they end up paying is a terrible one. The few moments of happiness that they find as the story progresses make the inevitable tragedy of the end so much more heartrending. Which is possibly why I adore it so much. Happy endings are all well and good, but there are times when I can't resist a glorious tragedy.
At last! For years I've wanted to read this out-of-print story and have finally managed to, courtesy of AO3. It was very looooooong. Lots of night visits from Bodie, lots of scenes with Bodie curling up under a sheet and Doyle agonising over Bodie's intentions and yes, it was very looooooong. But there was something in the writing which meant it didn't disappoint and I read on and on and on on my newlyacquiredkindle. But I think there is a problem with kindle reading in that I don't feel the basic shape and ideas of a story, are quite as clear or apparent when reading from a kindle as they are when reading online (which, for other reasons, I hate) or when reading from a plain old page in a zine. But it may just be a question of time.... 
byslantedlight:To begin, I totally agree with you about the troubled-sorted-troubled-sorted-oh-no-troubled-again nature of the zine. Once, maybe twice is okay, there are bumps in the road for most relationships, but after that I begin to wonder about their intelligence. Especially since they're pushing, if not already, forty when the story begins. For someone to be that clueless about themselves, much less the person they've spent a great deal of time with over a ten year span, is hard to accept. Doyle doesn't seem to be able to get across exactly what he wants to say, and Bodie appears not to want to—though we never learn why Bodie behaves the way he does.
Having said all that, I enjoyed the story in a weird sort of way, probably because it is very well written. It was like watching a train wreck, though, standing by as two people tear themselves apart.Maybe read as orig fic, I would have enjoyed it more, been able to buy into the premise of two deeply flawed men having such a tortured and ultimately fatal relationship. But, again, I think their ages would have made it impossible for me to buy into it. Heathcliff and Cathy were young when they went through these gyrations, and the middle-aged Heathcliff comes off as more pathetic than romantic imo. So my Bodie and Doyle in this situation? No, couldn't see it. 
Hallo! I finished my re-read last night, and I think I actually feel differently towards the story this time. I do know what you mean about this Doyle doesn't seem to be able to get across exactly what he wants to say, and Bodie appears not to want to, but it seems to make a bit more sense to me this time. I think the whole point is that they have got to the age they have without being able to cement any relationship except with each other, and the story is about the tragedy of that - that they're both so damaged by what they've done in life, that even though they do in fact love each other, and act upon that, they can't admit it emotionally. Doyle eventually does, but he feels the same weakness as a result that Bodie seems to have feared all along...
That said, I'm also frustrated, as you said, by the fact that we never see the whys of the situation. We see more of Doyle, of course, as it's largely from his perspective, and there are glimpses of reasoning from the narrator now and then, but I think one of the reasons this doesn't completely win me over is that I want to know more. Doyle's seen so much, and has come to feel that everything's futile - and now no one can convince him otherwise, where once they did. Bodie seems to have been "damaged" when he was much younger - whatever it was that allowed him to be a mercenary also seems to mean that he can't value emotions any more, his or anyone else's. But... I want more than this! The Bodie we see in the eps wasn't as emotionally cut-off - he felt for Frances Cottingham, he match-makes between Cowley and Annie, and he's clearly cut up with Claire is hurt, and whenever Doyle is hurt - so how did we go from that ep-Bodie, to the AitD Bodie? I want to know! I think perhaps if there was reason, there might be hope that it could be fixed, but without that reason the only tension is fairly relentlessly negative...
Characterisation - I must make that post, but it seems ve-ery quiet on lj just now, and I wonder if it might be ignored if I wrote now... maybe tonight!Hmmn - so actually I do agree with what I originally wrote still, about the story being relentless and the characterisation not being my Bodie (more so my Doyle - I can see how she got there for him), but now I'm thinking that perhaps, for the author, that was the point of the story... Hmmmn... published in 1996 - a bit late for the doom-and-gloom grittiness that I think we saw alot of in the 1980s (e.g. Facelift, and Where the Wind Blows and so on), but perhaps it's rather of that ilke - and what people are looking for now is something more upbeat... 
A comment left on the story at AO3 before it was deleted in December 2017:
I have just finished reading your story and what can I say, absolutely magnificent, what a remarkable story from beginning to end with everything in between. The ending had me gripped but I like the way Bodie leaves it to the last minute to express how he feels, beautifullly written.
A comment left on the story at AO3 before it was deleted by AO3 in December 2017:
"It has taken me nearly a week but I have finally finished your epic work. I loved every word. Just stunning! Hauntingly beautiful and the ending, as sad as it was - is fittingly perfect. How could we ever have one without the other. You have such a gift and I hope we get to read more of it...hint hint! p.s any chance of finding the art work?
I haven't lived under a rock all my life, and I knew about K/S, it just never occurred to me that slash went beyond Trek. Big surprise when my first Pros fan story was Angel in the Dark by Thomas. I'd never seen the guys as gay, but my own first Pros effort was a bit of slash. I was so uncertain about the sex I got my mate to read it (she's a brutally honest soul) and told her to tell me if she thought it was risible. But she gave it the go ahead, and so I posted. 
Gallery of Interior Art by Suzan Lovett
The following are low resolution images of the zine's interior art with commentary. Art has been included on Fanlore with the publisher's permission.
This interior frontspiece was used as the basis of the zine flyer. Because of the popularity of Suzan's art at the time, the inclusion of this image on the flyer made the flyers collector's items. Even non-Pros fans would scoop them off convention flyer tables in spite of the fact that the image (seen more clearly here) was largely obscured by the flyer text.
This scene appears early in the novel and depicts Doyle as he watches over a sleeping Bodie. The art throughout the novel incorporates key story phrases which were selectively abbreviated to convey a specific mood. Here the selection reads: "Passion imprisoned in stone, moulded by some unseen creator, wanting only a lover's hand to release it." The 'lover as stone' metaphor becomes central to the story as can be seen in the final image in this gallery.
Many readers point to the combined power of the text and illustrations that made this zine a memorable read: "To ignore this story is to deny yourself some of the most sensitive writing in any fandom (not to mention the wonderful Suzan Lovett illustrations)." In this image the tenderness of the two men (Bodie cradling Doyle) is complemented by the text selection: "Bodie watched him all through the night."
Another theme in the novel is Doyle's struggle to feel worthy of being loved. In this image, his lover Bodie encourages Doyle to look deeper into his psyche. The text selection reads: "...to hold captive-...a timeless purity" and is part of this longer section: "He scarcely recognised himself. Where was the grim, hard-faced man he saw every day? Those wide-startled eyes, did they belong to him? No, *his* eyes were cool, his smile ironic, as befitted a man who regularly consorted with corruption. But the face in the mirror seemed to hold captive a timeless purity." Interestingly, the abbreviated text selection gives the image a slightly softer mood than the full paragraph.
Another example of Bodie as a stone metaphor. The text reads: "...a rhythm which flowed like water disturbed, like music in the dark." and is part of this longer selection: "Sunk in misery, Doyle watched him with dull eyes. He wondered how he could have ever thought Bodie was made of stone. Stone-hearted, yes. But his body was a study in motion, muscles rippling across the span of his shoulders, living curves surging along his spine, slinking around his buttocks, setting up a rhythm which flowed like water disturbed, like music in the dark." The image, even without the surrounding text to provide context shows the reader exactly how Doyle perceives Bodie's body and spirit at that moment in the novel -- as the opposite of stone, alive and fluid.
This text selection foreshadows a key plot point of the novel, namely ghosts and spirits and transformation. The excerpt: "...the spider's ghost -- trapping light.." is part of the longer: "Sometimes I think the spider's ghost is living there, trapping light the way it used to trap flies." The image shows Bodie kneeling at Doyle's feet, with a the spiderweb clearly visible in the upper right corner.
This scene shows Doyle and Bodie finally reuniting. The text reads: "...to embrace the stone..." and is part of the larger section that says: "He slept restlessly, when he could sleep, dreaming of a stone shape encasing him. As he moved to embrace the stone in return he found it was warm and alive and he was licking an endless flow of tears from brilliant blue eyes, then kissing the lids closed as the lower half of their bodies moved in unison." Bodie as 'living stone' is a metaphor repeated throughout the novel. In this image, the entwining lovers mirror the stone that encases Doyle in his dream. In the background, Bodie's face looms forbiddingly, partially obscured by the lover's bodies, hinting at the novel's dark ending.
- Summary from The Hatstand.
- Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed December 21, 2017.
- Morgan Dawn's personal notes accessed Dec 29, 2017.
- Jan Levine's 1996 post to the Virgule-L mailing list, posted with permission.
- Raonaid's Zine Recommendations, Archived version
- Review posted by Morgan Dawn to the Virgule-L mailing list in July 1996, quoted with permission.
- a fan commenting on the story on the Virgule-L mailing list, quoted anonymously with permission.
- from Angel In The Dark, Archived version
- a fan discussing the novel on the CI5 List, quoted anonymously with permission.
- comments by [MS], 2/12/1999, CI5 Mailing List, quoted with permission
- from DIAL #20
- MS' comment posted to the Pros-Lit mailing list on Oct 30, 2001, quoted with permission.
- from DIAL #21
- 2008 comment at The Reading Room, accessed January 2, 2011; WebCite.
- 2008 comment at The Reading Room, accessed January 2, 2011
- 2008 comment at The Reading Room, accessed January 2, 2011
- 2008 comment at The Reading Room, accessed January 2, 2011
- from Noble Sentiments, July 2012
- from Angel In The Dark, Archived version
- from Angel In The Dark, Archived version
- the_safehouse: The Good Old Days...I've been wondering..., September 12, 2015
- from DIAL #20