Serpent

jennaria in ship_manifesto

Ineffable - Aziraphale/Crowley (Good Omens)

Title: Ineffable
Author: jennaria
Email: karolja@yahoo.com
Fandom: Good Omens
Pairing: Aziraphale/Crowley
Spoilers: Er. The whole book, I suppose.
Notes: All quotations are taken from the Ace trade paperback 2001 edition, on account of that's what I have. Page references may vary if you're looking at a different edition.

Good Omens is a comic novel about Armageddon.

This is, technically, true. However, much like saying that The Lord of the Rings is an epic novel about the fall of Sauron, it doesn't actually convey the reasons why you'd be interested in reading it. Let us try again.

Eleven years ago, the Antichrist came to the earth, and was handed over to be delivered to the proper place until he could grow into his power. Unfortunately, there was a slight mix-up with the babies, and consequently the Antichrist has been growing into his power completely unsupervised. The powers of Heaven and Hell have only just realized this, and their agents on earth are looking for him frantically...not least because the aforementioned agents have been on earth almost since Creation, and they've come to like Earth as it is, and would really rather Armageddon didn't happen. This was all predicted in The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the sole completely accurate description of the last years of human history in existence.

That will do, for a start.

I. Dramatis Personae


Those agents of Heaven and Hell are, respectively, Aziraphale (an angel and part-time rare book dealer) and Crowley (an angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards). We have more information on Crowley than we do on Aziraphale. Crowley has "dark hair and good cheekbones and he was wearing snakeskin shoes, or at least presumably he was wearing shoes, and he could do really weird things with his tongue. And, whenever he forgot himself, he had a tendency to hiss." (p. 6) He drives a 1926 Bentley, which he had from new, and wears sunglasses all the time. He lives in a flat in Mayfair. If he works (apart from, well, being a demon), we never hear about it.

The thing of it is, he's not an especially demonic demon, quite apart from the lack of goat's hooves, horns, or batwings. He's not incompetent (the mix-up with the infant Antichrist notwithstanding): it's more that, in his view, the world is simply too big for the 14th-century mindset of 'one man, one damnation'. His style is far more, oh, the M25 London orbital motorway, which combines "incredible carnage and frustration" with its "very shape...[which] forms the sigil odegra in the language of the Black Priesthood of Ancient Mu, and means 'Hail the Great Beast, Devourer of Worlds.'" (p. 5) He got a commendation for that. He also got a commendation for the Spanish Inquisition, which would be more flattering if he'd actually had anything to do with it.

When you get down to it, Crowley's secretly rather a nice person. He's not good -- his idea of a fun time involves tying up wireless networks and letting air out of automobile tires, for example -- but he's nice. He likes people (in the general; he reserves the right to find individuals quite irritating, like the rest of us). Besides, humans can do worse things to other humans than anything Hell can invent, in Crowley's educated opinion. He's been here since The Beginning -- he was the snake who tempted Eve to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil -- and all those millennia of history have had a slowly accruing effect. He'll take your soul if you insist on offering it to him on a silver platter, because that is after all his job, but he's really not the Mephistopheles type. And he objects to anyone, Aziraphale in particular, pointing this out.

Ah, yes. Aziraphale. He has 'well-manicured hands.' He's a book dealer, or rather a book collector, who specializes in books of predictions and prophecy, Wilde first editions, and the Infamous Bibles, and his sense of fashion is stuck somewhere no later than 1950. Aziraphale's likewise been around since The Beginning (he was the angel at the Eastern Gate who was supposed to stand there with a fiery sword), and "centuries of association with humanity was having the same effect on him as it was on Crowley, except in the other direction." (p. 31)

Not that Aziraphale doesn't believe in the goodness within human hearts. It's his job to do so, after all. But he has to do a certain amount of...er...

Aziraphale had tried to explain [free will] to [Crowley] once. The whole point, he'd said [...] was that when a human was good or bad it was because they wanted to be. Whereas people like Crowley and, of course, himself, were set in their ways right from the start. People couldn't become truly holy, he said, unless they also had the opportunity to be definitively wicked.

Crowley had thought about this for some time and [...] had said, Hang on, that only works, right, if you start everyone off equal, okay? You can't start someone off in a muddy shack in the middle of a war zone and expect them to do as well as someone born in a castle.

Ah, Aziraphale had said, that's the good bit. The lower you start, the more opportunities you have.

Crowley had said, that's lunatic.

No, said Aziraphale, it's ineffable. (p. 26)

Aziraphale is Crowley's exact counterpart: where Crowley is nice but not good, Aziraphale is good but not always nice. He's fairly consistently underestimated, even by his own people: he's a Principality, but that doesn't mean as much as it did back in the 1400s. Instead, he gets dismissed as 'that southern pansy.'

Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide. Two of these were wrong; Heaven is not in England, whatever certain poets thought, and angels are sexless unless they really want to make an effort. But he was intelligent. (p. 142)

Not English by birth, perhaps, but English by choice -- Aziraphale has quite decided opinions as to which countries are Civilized and which aren't (Australia isn't). The intelligence isn't in dispute. But sexless? This isn't Dogma.

II. "Unless They Really Want To Make An Effort":
or, what do you think happens when you throw an angel and a demon into close proximity for six thousand years?

On the whole, neither [Aziraphale] nor Crowley would have chosen each other's company, but they were both men, or at least men-shaped creatures, of the world, and the Arrangement had worked to their advantage all this time. Besides, you grew accustomed to the only other face that had been around more or less consistently for six millennia. (p.30)

All very true. But in the very next paragraph, the Arrangement (mentioned above) is described as "the sort of sensible arrangement that many isolated agents, working in awkward conditions a long way from their superiors, reach with their opposite number when they realize they have more in common with their immediate opponents than their remote allies" (p. 30, emphasis mine).

Some of it's sheer exposure and repetition, certainly: they have been down here (or up here, depending on point of view), without significant interruption or substitution, since Eden (about six thousand years, as also mentioned above). But then there's the part where Crowley persuades Aziraphale to help him bring up the (presumed) Antichrist. There's the part where they spend the next eleven years practically in each other's pockets, constantly talking and conferring about what they're doing. There's the part where, upon finding out that the boy to whom they've been impromptu godfathers is not, in fact, the Antichrist, they immediately go (together) out to Lower Tadfield, which is where Crowley delivered the baby in question, to find out what happened.

There's the part that their first instinct is always to turn to the other. Antichrist arrived on earth? As soon as he can, Crowley calls Aziraphale. Figured out where the Antichrist actually is? Aziraphale dithers for 12 hours, because he ought to call Heaven, but he wants to call Crowley. Just narrowly escaped from the forces of Hell? Crowley runs to Aziraphale's bookshop. Faced with Armageddon happening right now?

[Aziraphale] smiled at Crowley.

"I'd just like you to know," he said, "if we don't get out of this, that...I'll have known, deep down inside, that there was a spark of goodness in you."

"That's right," said Crowley bitterly, "Make my day."

Aziraphale held out his hand.

"Nice knowing you," he said.

Crowley took it.

"Here's to the next time," he said. "And...Aziraphale?"

"Yes."

"Just remember I'll have known, deep down inside, you were just enough of a bastard to be worth liking."

It's the part where, at the end of the book, everyone else except those too young for that sort of thing are paired off into romantic couples -- and an angel and a demon are dining at the Ritz, and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.

III. More Than Just White And Black Wings


There is, I believe, an entire sub-genre of angel/demon fiction out there. The angels have white wings and emit holiness like subatomic radiation; the demons have either batwings or black feathered wings and sometimes extras like claws and poisoned fangs, and project a cloud of either evilness (naturally) or temptation. They have big dramatic battles. Angel and demon alike are extraordinarily beautiful.

Aziraphale and Crowley aren't.

They have wings, but the only description we're given is that "the wings of demons are the same as the wings of angels, although they're often better groomed." (p. 330) Crowley uses Holy water as a sort of acid bath against another demon, but there's no other mention of holy vs. damned objects. And despite the fact that Heaven and Hell are at war, etcetera and so forth, that there are sides to be taken, Aziraphale and Crowley don't fight.

It's not logical at all. The very first scene of the book takes place in Eden, with Aziraphale and Crawly (still in snake form) discussing what's just happened. Aziraphale quite clearly knows that Crawly is a demon, whatever his form, but he isn't indignant or angry or anything of the sort, nor does Crawly attempt to bite Aziraphale or anything of that sort. They talk to each other as might members of opposing political parties. Crowley later describes Aziraphale as "the Enemy, of course. But an enemy for six thousand years now, which made him a sort of friend." (p. 26)

That's where the fascination lies. They shouldn't like each other, much less trust each other. Demons aren't supposed to trust anyone at all. But they do. By the time we meet them again in (loosely) the present day, they've long since established what they call the Arrangement:

The Arrangement was very simple, so simple in fact that it didn't really deserve the capital letter, which it had got for simply being in existence for so long [...] It meant a tacit non-interference in certain of each other's activities. It made certain that while neither really won, also neither really lost, and both were able to demonstrate to their masters the great strides they were making against a cunning and well-informed adversary. [...] And then, of course, it had seemed even natural that they should, as it were, hold the fort for one another whenever common sense dictated. Both were of angel stock, after all. [...] Besides, the Authorities didn't seem to care much who did anything, so long as it got done. (p. 30-31)

They're supposed to be enemies, but they aren't. They're friends. Humans aren't even in on it, much less other angels or demons. They're not exactly at the center of the book -- this is really an ensemble piece, with the Antichrist and his friends (who are all eleven years old), the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse, Agnes Nutter (who prophesied all this, if you'll remember), her descendant Anathema, and the Witchfinder Army (which consists of two rather confused men), among others. But Aziraphale and Crowley are what lure in the people who aren't already lured by "psst, a comedy about the Apocalypse!" or, even more straightforwardly, "psst, a collaboration by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman!" I myself had read the book a couple times and enjoyed it, but it took my SO discovering the book and swooning over Aziraphale and Crowley to drag me into the fandom as such. These are characters with six thousand years worth of history. That deserves plenty of discussion. And fanfic.

IV. The Hidden Hand of Satan in the Affairs of Men
So why sell your soul get involved in this fandom anyway?


Because of the characters.

Because it doesn't take anything seriously, not even the end of the world. Unless you want to.

Because it's a small fandom, but not so small that it isn't active.

Because Aziraphale and Crowley are supposed to be enemies, but are actually best friends, even if they don't admit that until the end of the novel -- and by then they're on a slippery slope, headed straight for a closer relationship than ever. Because 'unless they make an effort' means nothing when it's so clear an effort can and will be made.

Because the canon was written by one of the funniest (T. Pratchett) and one of the most imaginative (N. Gaiman) authors going in modern fantasy. Because this one is different, the two voices merging into something new such that even people who don't usually like one or the other like this book.

Have I mentioned the characters?

V. The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives.


OVERALL:

lower_tadfield -- this is where absolutely everything gets posted, of every quality. For those who are fascinated and want a good overview of the fandom. Very laid-back: anything goes, even spam-posts about Crowley cheese.

stjamespark -- a more focused community, newly established. Fiction, artwork, and book-discussion only.

puzzlebleuink -- the collaboration between one of the best authors in the fandom, and the best artist. If you've read the book, then I shall point you directly to Crown of Stars, which extrapolates beyond canon in an ensemble piece that leaves you staggered and reeling. If you haven't, then by all means go back to their first effort together.

FICTION:

Survivors' Guilt, by irisbleu -- remember those six thousand years of history? This tips over into slash only at the very end: up until that point, it's an exploration of what it means to have been around for that long, for both Aziraphale and Crowley.
(Other stories: here.)

Ordinary People, by daegaer -- suppose Aziraphale and Crowley hadn't been angel and demon. Suppose they'd been, well, human. How would that have gone?
(Other stories here -- note that "Ordinary People" is the sole piece of actual slash she's written. Everything else is UST and/or character exploration.)

As follow-up to the previous, cimness's Anything But Ordinary remix of "Ordinary People". (Sadly, Cim has not, to my knowledge, written any more GO fanfic.)

Naked and Unashamed by louiselux -- so what's this lust thing? How does it work?
(Other stories here.)

Novelty by argyleheir - Aziraphale and Crowley go to what we Americans would call a garage sale. Also, the author is a terrible tease.
(Other stories here, with the note that Argyle specializes in the historical side of things.)

ART:

This is not a complete overview of the fandom's art, but it's a good start. Personal favorites: [direct links removed per the web site]
Crowley, wet and furious [by 'Angel', last of her pictures listed]
Aziraphale and Crowley, alone and unobserved (warning: this picture not work safe), by omelton [last picture on the fourth page]
Aziraphale and Crowley in the snow, by linnpuzzle (see below) [about half-way down the third page]

Wizard Crackers -- art by linnpuzzle, though it's not completely up to date. Check her LJ for more recent work. (She has all her art in her memories, but it's not sorted by fandom, alas.)

Comments

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the artwork links don't work and I can't find the pictures on the website!
Brilliant manifesto! I adore the book and characters!
The first one's most of the way down on the first page - it's by Angel (saeryph, the last of her pictures listed. The picture by omelton is all the way down on the 4th page, and linnpuzzle's is on the third page, about halfway down. I've removed the links.

Thank you! I figure they're worth adoration. ;)
Brilliant little synopsis. You've just summarised why I love this pairing (and this book!) so much. Hope it increases the size of little ol' fandom, just a touch.

I reccomend to those who've read the book, and those who haven't but don't mind spoilers, my favourite piece of Aziraphale/Crowley, the AU in which Aziraphale is Zirah the demon and Crowley is Caphrael the angel. It's The Sacred And The Profane and it's just. Oh.
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Re: The Sacred And The Profane -- the thing is? That's one of those stories that one either loves or hates. For myself, I could never get into it.
A good, comprehensive overview of where the fascination comes from. Thank you for the link to the nightingale Berkeley Square song; the slash potential, it piles up! But one nitpick - isn't Aziraphale the angel of the Eastern Gate, not western?

He's fairly consistently underestimated

Yes, but don't the fic writers abuse it...

But Aziraphale and Crowley are what lure in the people who aren't already lured by "psst, a comedy about the Apocalypse!" or, even more straightforwardly, "psst, a collaboration by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman!"

Word. I bought the book just so I could find out why half of livejournal was convinced this Aziraphale and Crowley were so maniacally gay for each other.

And another good bet for Aziraphale/Crowley is the GO section of Yuletide.
Nitpick fixed. (Ouch. And here I'd double and triple-checked, I thought.)

Thank you for the link to the nightingale Berkeley Square song; the slash potential, it piles up!

That's an insight I owe to irisbleu: she played me the song, and my jaw was on the floor.

Yes, but don't the fic writers abuse it...

Wait, are you saying they do or they don't? I'm just back from work and haven't gotten my brain kicked properly into gear yet.

And another good bet for Aziraphale/Crowley is the GO section of Yuletide.

I think there's at least one other archive as well out there, the name of which I've managed to completely forget (plus, of course, the Pit of Voles).

thank you!

*bookmarks*
You're welcome! :)
Brilliant essay! This was such a great read. Thank you for writing it! :D There isn't enough Good Omens essays around.

*whisper* I have one tiny little nick-pick:

Aziraphale's likewise been around since The Beginning (he was the angel at the Western Gate who was supposed to stand there with a fiery sword)

Aziraphale was the angel of the Eastern Gate... ;)


May I also recommend hjbender's wonderful Good Omens fan fiction? :)

*adds essay to memories*

Already fixed. Thanks, though!

hjbender's not to all tastes, I think -- she tends more toward the crackfic and the smut for smut's sake (for lack of a better way to describe "Feathers"). But thank you for the link. Glad you enjoyed the essay!
A fun thing to read and something I think I needed very much. Now I'm off to get my proper dosage of GO fic before sleep. Goodnight and thanks for entertaining essay.
Good night -- glad it filled a space and gave you fic to read. :)
Lovely job! Nicely detailed and the history and dynamics of the relationship and, more importantly, (for me at least), very well written and easy to read.
Thank you! Glad to see my years of writing essays for school paid off. ;)
Excellent manifesto. I know nothing about the fandom but you've succeeded in selling me on it.
Hooray! Come on in, the water's fine. :)
Well done! I'd considered wandering over here to see whether anyone had written an A/C essay; glad to see someone beat me to it. :)
I live to serve. ;)
Great essay! I first read the book at the age of ten or so, back when I was so innocent about teh gay that it never ever occurred to me to read anything into the relationships between male characters, and even then I thought that Aziraphale and Crowley were hot for each other. *g*
Some books are just like that, I think. Even if you don't know what it is, you know Something is There (with portentious capital letters and everything).
So it isn't just me then??

A great essay exploring one of my favourite books and relationships. Thanks!
Bwahaha. Oh no. It's lots of other people. (Seriously. lower_tadfield has over 900 members, which admittedly isn't Harry Potter, but given the state of that fandom, that's probably a good thing.)

Glad you enjoyed it!
Very nicely done! Thank you!
Glad you liked it!
Brilliant. I have it bookmarked to thoroughly check out every link.

If you're curious, I have Crowley and Aziraphale sims just setting up house at the moment and I'm thinking of documenting their story. Ha!
Oh, do! It's been tried a couple times (and posted to lower_tadfield, which is how I knew), and turned out a scream each time, but each time the author (player?) lost interest or otherwise got distracted, so the images trailed off.
There was nearly no fanon in this manifesto.

And that is what I love most about this book and fandom. Their relationship is just so there and we don't need all the "well, it works if..." explanations. It doesn't have to be taken any which-way because no matter what these two will always be a pair. Together whether they're friends or something more.

Just fantastic. :)

Also, you rec'd a bunch of stuff I've never read, so thank you! :D
Nearly? Did a little sneak in after all when I wasn't looking? :hunts and kills the fanon: ;)

I'm glad you enjoyed it -- it was a delight to write, precisely because there is such evidence, just sitting there. And I'm doubly glad you found more fic to read. That's always a good thing.
As a new addition to the fandom (and still unsure what to read), I really appreciate the recs and the great manifesto. Thanks!
:grin: Glad to be of service!
Brava! You did a wonderful job describing A/C, and all their quirks. I adore "Good Omens" (mainly for the footnotes and the hilarity of Gaiman and Pratchett), and even caught the Aziraphale/Crowley bug the first time I read. Thanks so much for the fic recs, because I didn't even know there was much GO fic outside of Victoria P's site Achromatic.

Off to check out the recs!
Good heavens, I don't think I've ever read her stuff! Must go investigate myself. Thank you for the counter-rec.
Wow. This is very well done and thought out essay. I love the book and am delighted to see that you wrote the essay in its style. You make a great case for the Aziraphale/Crowley ship. Of course, that's preaching to the converted, but whatever. And to complete your manifesto, you included art and fic links for the newbies to the fandom! That is so great of you. Having just read the book earlier in the month, I wanted to get into the fandom, but didn't know where to start! So thanks for this! *gets ready to jump in fandom with both feet*
Of course, that's preaching to the converted, but whatever.

Not necessarily. There's a reason why this is posted here rather than just to lower_tadfield. ;)

Having just read the book earlier in the month, I wanted to get into the fandom, but didn't know where to start!

:grin: Glad to have been of help! It's always difficult to start out in a fandom where there's a lot of stories to wade through.
The GO section of http://skyehawke.com/ (if the site stays up :P) has some excellent stuff as well.
Skyhawke! Thank you, I knew there was another archive, but I couldn't remember the name.
Huh. Afte reading that book, I was all "oooh, those two! The possibilities!" But I thought I was alone with that. Shoulda known better. Thanks for all the links! *wanders off to explore her new little fandom*
:grin: There's always a fandom out there. Except when there isn't, and then you create one. (Er, sorry, thinking of another fandom of mine. ;)
Before i knew what slash was, i read Omens and thought to myself, "those two are totally doin' it." Later, once i fell in love with fanfiction, i thought back and idly wondered if there was much fanfic about the two of them (there's always some, but i'd never dreamed there was so much). Then i discovered this community, and some tiny corner of my mind said, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if someone did a manifesto about Crowley and Az?" but in a kind of "wouldn't it be cool if Joss gave us an onscreen Buffy/Faith kiss?" way - like it would be neat but yeah right.

So you can imagine how you made my night when i checked my flist today.

All that and it's well-written too. Genius i say! Genius! ::applauds you::
Thank you! (A little belatedly, but none the less sincerely. ;) It's always a pleasant surprise when there's fanfic out there for the pairing you're interested in, and an even better surprise when there's good fanfic.
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!!! *DANCES* I have been waiting for SO LONG for someone to put an essay about these two up here, thank you SO MUCH. It was well, written, well researched, and an interesting read. You are my hero! Also, forget making my day, you've made my entire life with the lyrics to "A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square", as I've always meant to research that line from the book and see if there was any significance, but I never got around to it because I didn't really think it would be important. All in all, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!
You're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it (and that the lyrics proved properly satisfying ;).
This is brilliant, thank you so much for writing this. It's very coherent and persuasive and even if I hadn't been madly in love with this pairing since the moment I first picked up the book, I would be after reading this--if you understand what I mean.

Thanks also for the lyrics; I knew the line was a reference to something but I couldn't be arsed to look it up. Now...wow. So very very blatant, omg.
It's one of those old 40s songs, the kind you can imagine being played over an oldfashioned radio. irisbleu first played it for me, and I nearly fell over laughing, because maybe Terry and Neil just were like, hey, random reference we can use, but it's just that one more thing.
Fascinating, interesting essay, and summed up everything to love about the book, but I *still* don't see the pairing.
Er. Thank you (I think). Out of curiosity, what sort of evidence would you want to see to 'prove' the pairing?
First, I can't resist a very indignified *SQUEAL*! :) I love this book. Love these two. I just read it for the second time a couple of weeks ago, after starting a class on apocalyptic art!

Anyway, you've done a wonderful job here! If I hadn't already read this, I'd be chomping at the bit to get to a bookstore! And the quotes you've used and the explanation of the relationship is spot on to how I've always felt about them. :)

Also, thanks so much for the links! I remember looking for fic the first time I read this years ago, but couldn't find much that suited me. So I look forward to these. Thanks! :)
Thank you! It's such a wonderful book -- I can't think of anyone I've ever encountered who's read this book and not liked it. The Aziraphale/Crowley element is just the frosting on the cake. ;)

There has been a fic boom within the past year or so -- I know that irisbleu only came into the fandom last October, for example, and there are several other authors, excellent and otherwise, who are also very recent vintage. So there's reading aplenty ahead of you. :)
Very comprehensive, very well-written, with excellent links. Great job!
Thank you! I'm glad you found it useful. :)
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