Gaiman’s Lucifer denies that he ever made any human being do anything or that he could own a soul.1 Blish’s Sabbath Goat says:
“MEN HAVE ALWAYS LED THEMSELVES UNTO ME.”2
However, Blish’s fictitious “Covenant” allows temptation up to, though not beyond, each individual’s ability to resist it.
Lewis’ tempters try to fill their inner emptiness by consuming damned souls. Gaiman’s demons can consume souls, whether or not they need to. Unbelieving authors introduce change to the eternal realms: Blish’s Satan wins Armageddon; Gaiman’s Lucifer retires.
A fantasy author’s moral critique of fictitious but authentic characters remains valid whether or not the reader believes in the hereafter. The agnostic Blish valued Lewis’ fictitious accounts of temptation, Heaven and Hell for their moral perceptiveness.3 Thus, the powerful Biblical-Dantean-Miltonic literary tradition survives and continues to address issues crucial to human life.
- Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Season Of Mists (London: Titan Books, 1992), Episode 2, p. 18.
- James Blish, Black Easter and The Day After Judgement (London: Arrow Books, 1981), p. 111.
- private correspondence.