The final novel in the Harry Potter series came out almost a decade ago, but because of the extreme success of the series, Rowling can’t write anything down on a napkin in a bar without people wondering what it’s about. The fandom is still active churning out fanfictions. The movie studios are about to launch a trilogy based on the tumultuous life of an author of one of Harry’s textbooks. A play just opened that explores the relationship between Harry and his second son. A new series of short ebooks (which include background information on established characters, as opposed to being short stories with a standard narrative) will come out in September. All in all, it’s glorious to be the kind of Potter fan that likes this kind of transparency in world-building. And yet, there are others who quite vocally don’t want anything else Potter-related to come out at all, and I can see several reasons for this.
Any new information might run counter to internalized prejudices.
One of the main themes of the books is the need to fight against prejudice — in this case, Voldemort valued pure blooded witches and wizards as opposed to those with Muggle ancestry. They were seen as lesser. As the books unfolded, Rowling made it clear that this sort of self-righteousness in the Wizarding World wasn’t limited to Mudbloods, but extended to werewolves, house elves, centaurs, merfolk, etc. To a discerning reader, these lessons do have real life corollaries. And yet, when she was asked about Dumbledore’s past relationships or if he’d ever been married, and she then revealed he was gay, there were fans who erupted in rage and confusion. How could such a great wizard be gay? Instead of recognizing that they shared some of the same kind of prejudices rife in the Wizarding World, and against which Harry Potter fought, some fans grew outraged that they would either 1) have to respect a gay man based on his own merits, or 2) lose all respect for the wizard. Still others were furious that she hadn’t done enough to further the cause by revealing in text that Dumbledore was gay from the outset. Ridiculous, because in many ways, the stories were a love letter to the disenfranchised, the prejudged, and those who are seen as “lesser” by the people in power. The biases Rowling created were fictional — there are no laws restricting where a werewolf may work, but there ARE laws in OUR world that restrict who is allowed to marry. The allegory is clear. There are those who wish to avoid Rowling scraping against their prejudices, and are therefore vocal about silencing her. But they aren’t the only ones.
Any scenes that show happy, canon pairings (i.e. Harry and Ginny, or Ron and Hermione) make it harder to ship anyone else.
This is a VERY real issue. The shipping wars may have taken place online, and were therefore bloodless, but there was a time when those who shipped Harry/Ginny could barely be civil to, or be friends with those who shipped Harry/Hermione. Pretty much every pairing under the sun has been explored (yes, including Voldemort/Lily Luna), but the fact that the epilogue and beyond clearly show couples with strong marriages has caused anguish to those who’d rather the canon ships go down in flames. These people are so deeply in love with the pairing of their choice that they would rather see nothing more of Harry Potter for the rest of their lives than read anything that breaks their rebellious little hearts. But still, the list is not limited here: there are others who feel an even more personal sting than the passionate love for unauthorized pairings.
A few less successful authors are jealous of her success.
Envy is an ugly thing. A few authors on Facebook and Twitter have taken to all but blatantly calling Rowling a has-been. It’s true the the ebooks launching in September will probably sell millions, and authors who can only command a few thousand readers (if that) almost violently offer their own books as alternatives: “If you like Harry Potter, you will LOVE this book full of cliches and cardboard characters!” These authors wish Rowling would stop writing because every time she publishes, that bar of unbelievable success rises even higher. I pity them. To envy is to be human. For every success story, there is backlash, and these authors are part of it. Our society provides the rest.
In this culture where misogyny is just barely kept at bay, the very public success JKR enjoys is considered crass.
It’s no secret that JK Rowling writes under her initials because her publishers advised her she’d reach more of an audience if people could just assume she were male. I’m certain no one saw the success of the Harry Potter books become so immense and so global that keeping that kind of secret was impossible. People bought her books despite knowing she was female because she’d addicted them to finding out what happened next. But after the seventh book ended, the door slammed. Even The Tales of Beedle the Bard (which was published after the pleas of many, many fans) was scornfully called a “cash cow”. People are in awe at the fortune JKR made as a woman, but many believe she should have retired after Deathly Hallows. They see her success as a trick of some sort, and if she continues to be successful, to make money off her words, she is simply milking the cash cow rather than doing what she loves: writing.
Whatever the reason is, it is 100% arrogant to tell a creative person to “Stop. Just stop.” How many of you would dream of telling any other author to just stop writing? I don’t care if you’re prejudiced, if you can’t stand Ron and Hermione’s marriage, if you’re jealous that your books aren’t selling, or if you think she has hit a point that her financial success has become too much. You aren’t her audience. You don’t get to tell her what to do.
As someone who works in the law enforcement field I have always found Karrin Murphy to be an interesting character and someone who is easily relatable. While some have a hard time understanding her mindset it is pretty easy for me because I deal with the same mindset every day. When some people see suspicious activity I see just the usual police mindset. Let me take a moment to discuss a few things about Karrin that comes out to me. First is the fact that from the first short story to storm front we see Karrin move from a regular beat cop on patrol to Captain Murphy of her down division. For those who do not know how rank works in the police departments here is a brief scale:
Field Training Officer
My guess is that with Karrin’s rank she was bumped up to head special investigation and probably skipped some ranks in between, which can often happen. For example an officer who goes to run the city jail in my department becomes a Sergeant because of the new responsibility and heading a department, skipping many of the traditional patrol ranks. The question of why Murphy was bumped was never answered but it absolutely part of police culture for a family legacy such as Murphy to be protected to a certain extent. Many families have a long history of military or police work and when you grow up with it you become more used to it, you also become more and more of a family. Even now I see how Murphy comes to the aid of her fellow officers or even more front and center is how they guard her, even after her drumming out of the force. One inconsistency in the firing of Karrin Murphy is that since the 1980’s the Chicago police department has been highly unionized. Without knowing her previous record as an officer or issues she may have had it is hard for me to say that she would have been possibly fired for the offense that was committed. Usually the union does have the backs and defense of officers who work hard and in most cities they are also covered by a civil service commission that would also be brought in.
During police work and after there are an incredibly high percentage of officers who find themselves in some sort of mental distress. This is pointed out well in her episode with alcohol and valium. Studies have found that female officers are 23% more likely to contemplate suicide and 25% more likely to have a heart attack than a normal female. Not only is Karrin dealing with these stresses but also the stress of being best friends and hopefully lovers with one of the most powerful wizards in the world. In Skin Game we see Karrin try and save the day and break one of the swords of the cross, during most police training we are trained to respond and neutralize the threat to innocents before we consider anything else- in my mind this is what she was doing. I believe Karrin was a superbly well written police officer who has a plethora of issues that she is dealing with all while saving the world. Mr. Butcher does an great job of showing her not just as a wall and a silent police officer but as someone who makes mistakes, has real issues and problems and is a true three dimensional person.
The FAQs right off the top. The next book of the Dresden Files is I’m working on it.and I was supposed to turn it in this Christmas and if that happens on time, then I’ll reckon you’ll see sometime early next spring. So there, now you know that. Cuz everybody always asks me that like first thing. I just thought I was gonna beat you to the punch to that tonight.
Q: Are you still planning on doing a kids book with Maggie and Mouse?
A: Am I still planning on doing the young adult book with Maggie and Mouse when Maggie goes off to school? Yeah.
Q: Is there an HBO show still in the works?
A: No there is a possible show in the works. It doesn’t necessarily belong to HBO or anybody else. In my dream world, it goes to Netflix but we’ll see what happens or if it happens.
Q: When are we going to get some mermaids? And how is Nemesis spread from person to person?
A: Probably not until the big trilogy at the end because wizards don’t like to go in the ocean and they don’t do unless they’re desperate. How is Nemesis spread from person to person? ::sing song voice: I’m not going to tell you. That would make it way too easy But I will tell you that it go to Lea through the dagger.
Q: Any Cider Spires short stories?
A: No, I still have too way much world build before I can start spinning off little stories about the place. And much more to do on this book, which I’m very much looking forward to. I’m almost like Hey Dresden, c’mon get out of the way, I want to go to this new place that I haven’t seen before. And you know, Dresden is over here going “But we still have to do awesome”. yeah you’re right – we do have to do awesome. I’m so sorry about the city, but you know Just stay out of town on Midsummer and you’ll be fine.
Q: Do you work on multiple projects at once or one thing at a time?
A: I work on one thing at a time. I’m writing the short story which is Butters’ first mission as a knight. It’s kind of awesome; he’s out training with Michael and they’re doing cardio training and he pulls up and stops. Michael’s like “what’s wrong?” Butter’s’ is like “that guy”. Michael says “what guy?” Butters’ is like “the bum asleep on the bench. There’s a giant yellow exclamation point floating over his head. What? You don’t see that?”It kind of starts from there. Butters- Knight of WoW. I’ve gotta finish that up and send outlines for a couple graphic novels to Dynamite. One of those will be Harry Dresden vs the Joker, pretty much. Although in this case, he’s called Puck. Cuz Puck is an awful person – he really is, in the Dresden Files. He doesn’t run around being cool; he’s terrible. And fun. And there’s another one where we’re gonna go catch up with the all folks who went off to form their Feng Shui out in California after Blood Rites. There’s a problem and so Lara is hiring Harry to resolve her problem for her so she doesn’t lose her grip on the White Court and that’s the other graphic novel. After I get those two projects knocked off, then the rest of the year, it’s back to Peace Talks. It’s Peace Talks, Peace Talks, Peace Talks. Which is really winding up looking like a royal rumble of who would win this fight.
Q: Is Harry going to allow Bob any role in raising the new spirit baby?
A: No, Harry is going have that “Dad with shotgun” talk with Bob. Is what it amounts to. You’ll see more of that with the book. We start off early with Bonnie.
Q: In Proven Guilty, Harry is run off the road by a car and it never goes back to who ran him off the road Are you ever going to tell what happened?
A: Yeah, that’s weird right? Yeah.
Q: I heard once that you had a conspiracy theory about the show. I can’t find it anywhere. Mind telling us about it?
A: You gotta understand that I have no proof behind this. Because if you have proof, it’s not a conspiracy theory. And in fact, it makes it a worse conspiracy theory if there’s proof. What you need for a conspiracy theory is pictures and yarn and thumbtacks. That’s what you need for a conspiracy theory!
So this is my conspiracy theory. Set the wayback machine for 2007. Bonnie Hammer is the president of the Science Fiction channel Bonnie Hammer, who does not like science fiction. They put her in charge of it. I can only assume that it was corporate Siberia. I assume she made enemies and that was the result. So she’s in charge of the Science Fiction channel and she’s giving them GhostHunters and Extreme Wrestling. Which don’t get me wrong – I like wrestling. I watch it for the writing. But maybe not on the Science Fiction channel?
Meanwhile, her vice president comes along, a guy named David Howe, and he was the one who was behind bringing the SciFi channel’s Battlestar Galactica to immediate and popular acclaim. So when you’re the president of a company who works for somebody else and your subordinate comes up and does something awesome, that does not necessarily reflect well on you. And certainly not in Hollywood, where the motto is “it’s not good enough to succeed; you also have to make sure your friends fail.”
He gets behind the next project and his next project is the Dresden Files It was coming together pretty well. Just about two weeks before the show started shooting, all of a sudden all these changes got made to the internal structure of the show. I suspect it was Bonnie Hammer that was behind it, but I don’t know. That’s why it’s a conspiracy theory.
Originally the show was going to be a serial. It was going to cover the events of Storm Front and Fool Moon in the first season, and kind of interweave the plots. And the big showdown would have been extremely crazy because it would have been wizard-Loup Garou- Shadowman all at once. It would have been insane. But, two weeks before, they said we’re going to get this producer from Charmed on and he’s gonna be in charge now. And the guy from Charmed came on and said, “we’re not going to do a serial. We’re going to do episodes – nobody likes a serial.” And everybody was like, “Wait? Are you using the same word? Are you talking about breakfast cereal maybe? Because people dig serials.” We told him that we didn’t have time to re-write all these episodes. They were built to be one right after the other, which was where they get their punch from. And the Charmed guy is lke, “oh it’s not a big deal. We’ll just change the names of characters and disconnect all the episodes and do them out of order and it’ll be fine.” (At this point, Jim gives us all the eyebrow.) And that’s what happened. Plus he was the boss from Los Angeles, when they were filming in Toronto. You imagine how well that worked out.
Lots of little things would happen that would sandbag the show. For example, by the time the guy in California would write changes to a script, he’d turn them in by 9. But 9 in California is midnight in Toronto. So by the time changes came, and scripts got printed out and taken around by exhausted production assistants, it would be two in the morning.
Q: With Harry being a nerd who loves movies and sci-fi, how has he managed to go this far without making some sort of Zuul or Vinz Clortho reference to Rashid the Gatekeeper?
A: Uh, partly it’s the Gatekeeper and the Gatekeeper is really scary. Also, I haven’t gotten there yet. It hasn’t been right. I gotta feel it. I gotta feel the nerd come on or it doesn’t work. You must feel the nerd come around you…
Q: Are we going to revisit the inmates in Demonreach and see who some on those people are?
A: Those people are there to be locked up there forever and ever. The only way you would ever see who any of them were is if something horrible went wrong. So no, cuz that would be awfu!
Q: Would you write any more short stories for anthologies or with other people?
A: I actually edited a book this year. I wanted to try something new. so I tried on my editor hat and I edited a series called Shadowed Souls. Which actually has the short story of Molly on her first mission as the Winter Lady and so you get to see what her job is and what her position is within Winter Court and why it’s so important that she does what she does And it’s also her team up with Ramirez, so those shippers.. Toot Toot!
Writing with other people, not so much. I agreed to write a short story for Correia, in his Monster Hunter International universe, because I think the janitor at MHI would have a really interesting job. So I want to write that story. And there are also several of us who are putting together a story about a bad guy that goes through multiple realities, so everyone’s characters are interacting with him for a bit. Basically, each of the author’s get like ten thousand words of the story that we’re supposed to handle. So Harry Dresden will be involved with part of it and then wash his hands of it and walk away shaking his head.
Q: What is the difference between wizards and muggles in the Dresden Files?
A: First of all, you have to be born with a certain amount of talent to be able to touch magic at all. Sometimes that talent is greater and sometimes it’s lesser. But you’ve got to have one particular gene that flips the switch and says, “Yes. Weird.” Once you’ve got that, then you’ve got to be in a position where you can develop that talent and be in a position where you have the intelligence and the drive and the focus to make something of it. It’s just like any other talent, actually. Some people are born with a really great genetic setup to play basketball. That doesn’t necessarily make them Michael Jordan, because not only do they have to have the gift, but they also have to be in the situation to express it. If you were born with the awesome basketball gene spread and you were also born Inuit, probably you aren’t going to get a chance to express that. I always built magic in the Dresden Files as something was a talent like any other. You’re born with it, but that doesn’t make you a wizard without a lot of hard work as well.
Conversely, you could be born without a really awesome spread of talent and yet if you work hard enough, you can really make something of yourself. Most people can probably use a little magic. Most people could probably be dangerous in the Dresden Files world if they had enough training and worked on it for years and year and years. But there’s only a few who are really born ready to go to the NBA draft. And of those people, that’s who you see on the White Council. Those people who are born with that and who then developed it as well.
Q: How do thorn manacles work?
A: Do I explain that to you? Yeah, it won’t hurt anything. Why not? Essentially, what it does is when a wizard is drawing magic in, the thorn manacles divert it to somewhere else. Wizards have to give a little bit of energy from inside themselves, but mostly they have to pull it in from the outside. Mostly, the thorn manacles take the magic and shunt it out into the NeverNever and you don’t get to use it. The pain is the result of the energy that’s going by and going elsewhere. It’s inefficiency of transfer, if you want to put it in engineering terms. That’s really nerdy, so I won’t do that.
Q: Why did you base the Dresden Files in Chicago?
A: Because my writing teacher would not allow me to set them in Kansas City. They started off as a school project and were originally set in Kansas City. She read them and said, “You’ll sell this. I don’t know if this will be the first thing you’ll sell, but this is of professional quality and you’ll eventually sell it. But one thing: You can’t set it in Kansas City.” I asked why not. She said, “You’re already walking close enough to Laurell Hamilton’s toes that you don’t need to set this book in Missouri. So set it somewhere else.” There’s a globe in her office. On the globe, in America, there are four cities. One of them is New York City, which I don’t want to use because superheroes have that place all sewn up. And my editors lives there and would catch every city mistake I made. And sneer at me. D.C. was one of the other cities. And I didn’t want to write D.C. because then you have to write politics and you’re gonna piss off somebody. That’s how it works. LA was there and I didn’t want to use LA because it’s Los Angeles. And that left Chicago.
Q: Mac’s Ale. I’m a homebrewer and I’ve been trying to figure out what kind of beer this is. And I really need to know what you based this on.
A: Mac’s Ale is based off of my imagination and my brain. I’m not actually a beer drinker. I don’t like beer a whole lot. I”m more of a cider guy. It mostly came from my imagination and my beer drinking friends and from their descriptions.
Q: Are we going to see Mac actually do something other than what he’s done so far? Like actually pull some things off?
A: Maaaaaaaaaaybe. You’ll get to find out more about him, at any rate, Whether you’ll actually get to see him doing stuff is still a really serious question. I don’t know. I’ll figure that out as we go.
Q: How do I come up my names for people, places, things?
A: Mostly I look at the meaning of the name. I’ve got a giant book of names and their meanings and I generally try and find something that is either appropriate to the character for the name or completely inappropriate to the character for the name. One of the two.
Q: How did Harry get anywhere in Chicago in 20 minutes during Dead Beat?
A: Hey, when you’re on a T-rex, you don’t have to wait for lights!! As we all know, we clocked the T-rex at 35 miles per hour.
Q: When are we going to see dragons again?
A: Dude, I can’t possibly do a dragon thing unless it’s a whole book. So that would be book 20 or 21. Something like that. Probably 21. I think 21. That seems about right.
Q: Speaking of Molly and Ramirez, at least going into the short story you reference earlier about Molly’s first job as Winter Lady, what’s the status of their technical or non-technical virginities?
A: That’s awfully personal, don’t you think? Molly’s is still technically intact. Ramirez, we don’t really know. And I don’t think it becomes clear during the course of the story. Well, it kind of does, but you’ll have to read it.
Q: Will we ever find out who keeps letting the coins loose?
A: Kind of, yeah. But at the same time, it’s sort of necessary for them to be out in the world. They’re not designed to be kept in a vault somewhere and locked up. So it’s very very difficult for anyone to guard them, for example. Because the coins just do the One Ring thing to them until they get loose But yeah, they’ve been spread out in in all kinds of different place. And the best you can do is to pick a guy who you hope is as close to incorruptible as humanly possible and then leave him in charge.
Q: How much of Hannah Ascher’s precision magic was hers and how much was Lasciel’s?
A: Much of it was Lasciel. Hannah was basically just providing the muscle and Lasciel was providing the direction. So she was way better than she would have been otherwise without Lasciel there advising her.
Q: How much will Bonnie know?
A: You’ll have to see. The problem with Bonnie is not that she knows a lot; it’s that she doesn’t know how to apply anything. LIke she can tell you all about green and how many nanometers the wave of lenght of light that the color green is and so on, but she doesn’t understand that grass is green yet. Because she hasn’t seen it. When we first join Peace Talks, Harry comes home and Maggie and Bonnie are in the kitchen making pancakes. Bonnie has informed Maggie that she knows 317 recipes for pancakes and the ingredients that they have make 17 of them possible. And so they’re trying to make pancakes. But they don’t know how to tell when it’s time to fip the pancake over. Well, you wait until it’s golden brown. Well, what’s golden brown? It’s on the pan. It looks white from here. Harry gets to walk in and Bonnie turns to him and says, “Pancakes are inanimate!” excitedly because she just figured out that they’re inanimate objects. Bonnie has a long way to go before she’ll be anything. But she’s where Bob started.
Q: When are we going to see more of Ivy and Kincaid? Does Ivy know that Kincaid is the one who technically shot Harry?
A: We’ll see more of them next book and I won’t tell you that.
Q: Why do Justine and Murphy both smell like strawberries?
A: They use the same shampoo. They use that green Suave. And that’s why. It’s really good shampoo if you want to grow your hair long. It’s got no silicates in, so it doesn’t abrade the hair. Don’t ask me how I know that.
Q: One of the things I love about the series is when I recognize Chicago landmarks. How are you able to be so accurate with that?
A: These days I can actually afford to come to Chicago and look. So I do that to a degree. Originally, I had a couple guidebooks of Chicago and that was all I had to go on. After a couple of the books came out, I had some readers who lived here. So I could ask them. And now I have Google Maps. And more importantly, Google Street View. That’s useful to the point that I actually had a member of CPD SWAT approach me and say, “Listen, this scene that you set up in the short story ‘The Warrior,’ where you have the guy on the roof and you said specifically which lights were out in order to have the approach and so on. So that the sniper would have the best point of view. I checked that out and you were right. And I need to know who you consulted about that kind of information. Because we sort of like to keep track of people with that kind of knowledge.” And I said, “I just played Call of Duty and looked at Google Maps. And Google Street View. I’m sorry.” And the CPD SWAT guy is like, “Oh God.”
Q: Any more info on the young adult series with Maggie and Mouse?
A: No. I’ve got to have enough time to write it. I’m still trying to get caught up this year. It’ll be hopefully not before too much longer because that’ll be fun. Plus I’ve been planning on writing that one with my sister, so I would only have to do half of it. Maggie is a great character because she’s been through alot and she has a lot of social anxiety issues. She genuinely needs Mouse as a service dog next to her to help her stay cool and deal with people. So she has trouble in close spaces, in open spaces. She’s got a lot on her mind. Except when everything is totally going to hell and is on fire. At which point, she is completely normal. Because she’s Harry Dresden’s daughter
Q: Are we ever going to find out which of the Fallen said those seven words to Harry?
A: You’ve probably gotten all the answers you’re gonna get as far as that goes, as far as which Fallen said that. I mean, I’m not saying that Lasciel lied about everything but she could’ve. Or it could have been one of the others. But Lasciel was the one with the axe to grind.
Janelle and I met through a mutual friend on FB (whom neither of us are friends with anymore, natch) and discovered a mutual love of the Dresden Files. We talked. We conjectured. We bonded. When Skin Games came out, we conceived a plan to go to Redondo Beach for a book signing on opening day. I would drive to Pismo to her place, she would drive us down south, we would get a hotel the night before so we could get the books on our Kindle Apps the second it was released (9:00 Pacific Standard Time!), then we would buy copies and get them signed and basically have a Dresden geek fest for two days.
All was well until we climbed into the car and she told me that she didn’t like the character of Lieutenant Karrin Murphy.
What. WHAT?? That was almost the end right there, I have to tell you. How could she hate someone so beloved, someone so important, someone so faithful and true. We argued, debated, muttered, and passionately orated on the subject for the entire drive between Pismo and Redondo. As we hit the naturally hideous traffic in Southern CA, this took maybe 7 hours, thoroughly enjoying ourselves the whole time.
It is incumbent on me to give credit where it is due, Janelle is smart and knows Dresden better than most anyone, she is erudite, and she lays out a good argument. But she she isn’t correct this time. I’ll tell you why.
First…she is basing this on the evidence of the first three Books—Storm Front, Fool Moon, and Grave Peril. And if it were just those three books, I might agree with her. But character development matters, and Jim Butcher has certainly developed her character through the series. More cogent to this argument, he has developed Harry’s character.
I am not going to rehash Janelle’s arguments as you can and should read them for yourselves. Instead, I am going to lay out the defense.
Murphy is at the core, a cop. And a cop who knows very little of the Supernatural world. She knows it exists, that is why she is smart enough to ask Harry for help. But her primary drive is the protection of the people of Chicago and taking down the perpetrators. So in Storm Front when people are killed by gruesome magic, and Harry is the only Wizard around, what is she to think? Especially when she is being stonewalled, as I will discuss shortly.
And yet, she still cared for Harry. Remember the scene in Storm Front when she took him home, tucked him into bed, left him money? All the times she brought him coffee? There are many tiny scenes where she shows her care. In fact, once you move beyond the first three, those scenes come up with regularity and in more profound ways. Remember how Murphy willingly helped Harry in Proven Guilty, KNOWING she was going to face serious consequences at work, and did it anyway? We see more of that, and it will come up again in future posts as we move through the series.
Harry didn’t, or couldn’t, tell her enough of what was going on. She didn’t know about the White Council. Or the laws of Magic. She didn’t know about the Doom of Damocles over his head. Harry might have had reasons he couldn’t tell her, but it means that the information she was working from and basing decisions on was very limited. And because of that, because he lied to her (and admitted as such, not hiding it from her), what was she to do? You can only make the best decisions you have based on the information you have, and Murphy was being left in the dark. And when someone lies to you…why should you trust that person? I sure wouldn’t. It is especially difficult because she considered Harry to be an ally and a friend, so this betrayal cut even deeper. And it WAS a betrayal. Dresden made his choices with the best of intentions, but he absolutely betrayed their friendship. I don’t know about you, but I don’t react well when a friend lies to my face and betrays our confidence.
This is actually a major factor in the early books, and not just with Murphy. You see it with Butters and Billy Borden as well. Harry is forever conflicted between not wanting to lie to his friends, but not wanting to tell them the big, scary information that could get them killed. And it never turns out well. Things run much smoother when he just tells people everything. This is another area where Harry’s character develops through the series.
She had very good reasons for not being in a romantic relationship with Harry. I think of that elevator conversation in Proven Guilty. The fact that she will age normally and he will not? Very good reason not to get involved. Life isn’t as simple as I want this guy, let’s go for it. And Murphy is practical. We also get to see this slowly develop and change over the books, where both of them start to be willing to take the risk of getting romantically involved, even knowing the cost. I find it sweet, really, in my deep dark secret romantic heart.
Notice how Murphy appears to Dresden when he is using his sight
“The door burst open. Murphy came through it, her eyes living flames of azure blue, her hair a golden coronet around her. She held a blazing sword in her hand and she shone so bright and beautiful and terrifying in her anger that it was hard to see. The Sight, I realized, dimly. I was seeing her for who she was.”
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher. Page number varies by format.
Does that seem like someone who has ill intent or is going to betray him? The sight reveals truth. And Murphy is a warrior, an Avenging Angel, a protector. If she had ill intent towards Harry, the sight would have shown that.
I am going to stop here because so far, we are focused on the first three books of the series. I have much to say (Arctis Tor, Chichen Itza, AHEM), about their relationship and connections in future posts, but all in good time.
As The Were Chronicles series (well, the FIRST series – there are more stories to be told in this world) draws to a close with the appearance of “Shifter”, the third book, it might be time to revisit some of the issues and questions that lurk within these pages.
In random (hah. “Random” Book 1.) order, then.
1. Whose head are we in? (or, the whole triptych thing…)
This whole series started out life as a short story, a romp on the trope of Were Creatures, and my own creation, the Random Were, stepped up to take center stage. In the original short story, that was actually funny and some of that survives in the whole “my mother is a were-chicken” thing.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize that what I had in my hands was much stronger meat, and the short story wanted to be a book… and then three books.
Why three books?… and why not a classic trilogy where #1 begins things, #2 carries on and #3 finishes off the story, instead of a triptych?
Because I was doing something that was pretty rare (possibly because of good reasons…) and that might have been pretty near hubris to believe to have the ability to carry off. I used a triptych structure rather the classic trilogy because these books are technically the same story arc. But they are each told in first person by a different person, and therefore the events – even when shared to the point that individual protagonists from different books all take part in the same scene – are inevitably DIFFERENT when seen from the point of view of a different participant.
Here be spoilers so if you haven’t read the books and wish to you may want to skip this next section.
Book 1, “Random”, is the Book of Jazz. Jazz is YOUNG. She is frustrated with being overprotected because of events in her family’s past over which she had no control but for which she is the one paying the price. She is curious. She is impulsive. She is empathetic. She is precocious. She is also the first in her immigrant family who is truly FROM this new place to which they have come, and carries no old-world baggage with her, not personally. She has never known that other world.
“Random” also serves to set up my milieu, this world where Were and Human live side by side in an uneasy truce – the world where acceptance is real but comes at a price and where there are undercurrents the depth of which may not be immediately obvious to the participants or even to anyone watching from the side. Jazz has to live with trying to find her own way in the world, of champing at the bit and pulling at her harness, of wanting to taste that freedom which she knows she ought to have – and she blunders into a situation where the thing she Turns into, when her Were proclivities come into play, is enough to change both herself and her world.
Moreover, the fact that her first Turn came unexpectedly early and before her long-suffering, guilt-ridden, sullen, wounded, fragile, and yet so incredibly strong brother Mal had made HIS first Turn changed the family dynamics.
Mal – the hero in Book 2, “Wolf” — had actually lived through the events only known to Jazz through the diaries her dead sister left behind and thought he was the CAUSE of her death of his sister and never stops blaming himself. He had been very young when the family left their old world and came to the new one but his roots are still back there and his attitudes and his background knowledge are drawn from THAT paradigm and his own responses to the situation in which he and Jazz find themselves are perhaps extreme but very different from Jazz’s own.
When Jazz finds out what was really behind her sister’s death, she is horrified and recoils But she is that one step removed from it all and all she can do (at least in the beginning before she becomes involved up to her neck) is to observe as a non-participant.
Mal’s response to what he understands to be his older sister’s death by overdose is always and forever colored by the fact that he was the one who had handed her those pills. His choices in the aftermath events that transpire from HIS point of view gives them quite a different shape than when seen through the Mal prism.
The story arc – spoilers ahoy – for all three books is really Celia’s, the eldest child of the Marsh family, the older sister of Mal and Jazz. And here it is in an nutshell: Celia was a self-aware young but not too young child when she came to the new country. She endured endless savage bullying at school, from both her peers and then a particularly malevolent teacher. She thought she had found a way to circumvent her Were-imposed circumstances, but failed to plan the whole thing properly and overdosed on a drug which could delay the Were Turn, the pills having been supplied to her by her younger brother Mal. She dies, but leaves behind diaries detailing the circumstances of her death. The stress of finding those diaries and learning the true story of her sister’s death may have been a factor into her premature Turn. And that in turn triggers Mal’s choice to pre-empt his own failure to Turn by trying to become something more than the Random he was born and aiming for a true Lycan (or traditional Wolf) Were alter ago,
Against all odds he succeeds and while he’s trying to find his Lycan feet, he finds out that Lycan scientists have had their own agenda for generations, and discovers that the sister he loved and thought lost was still alive but devastatingly crippled and locked away in a Were-proof fortress . He makes a plan to rescue her with the help of his friend Chalky – he cannot do anything directly so Chalky is the one who plans and executes the rescue. Celia is rescued and ‘re-born’.
This is the under-story of ALL THREE books, and that’s what makes them a triptych, three leaves of the same thing, rather than a trilogy, a continuous three-book story which goes sequentially and chronologically and does not revisit already covered ground.
This was a conscious decision in POV focus. I had to write a story according to how it would appear if I saw it first through one prism – and then through a different prism which cast light and shadows into entirely different places – and then again through a third prism which changed it again.
In my mind these are *three different stories* and each is shaped by the detail of whose head we’re in, whose eyes we’re looking through. There is enough material that is “new” to each novel in that I’m talking of divergent lives even when certain events have been shared by more than one character – but because the same BIG PICTURE exists in all the books.
Yes, that does mean that some of the same ground is covered in each book – that sometimes entire scenes are played out again, as observed by our new protagonist. But I have never seen these are purely repetitive or padding – they’re stories with psychologically significant differences, and it fascinated me to see how changed the basic story was according to whose eyes I was seeing through, whose voice I was telling it in.
It was a calculated risk, a literary choice and a stylistic bravura, and I could only hope it would be seen and understood as that. The jury is still out on it
2. The underlying issues (or, what’s the problem here?)
The individual books took on a different character according to what the basic underlying issues turned out to be in each story.
“Random” dealt with the ideas of bullying, discrimination, acceptance, of the price of liberty and who would be willing to pay it and how much they would be willing to pay. Celia – my poor doomed Celia – was the one put through the wringer in order to illustrate these things, and Mal himself followed closely behind in those footsteps. I shone the bright lights into the shadows of these ills in our own “real” world, and I’ve had responses that tell me that those shadows have been illuminated. Because there was a recognition factor in play. Because readers responded with – “oh, not that specifically… but things like that *have happened to me*. I understand this.”
I am using the Were as the face of the persecuted ones but in fact they could be anybody at any historical or geographical context. The paw print that identifies the Were on their ID cards is a reflection of a yellow star on a coat. The herding together of the thing that is feared and mistrusted and hated is a reflection of places like Manzanar. The relentless bullying because one is somehow different from the rest is not unlike the bullying one experiences if one is gay and coming out into an unaccepting hetero world, or someone of a different faith, race, or ethnicity coming into conflict with a world which does not accept those things and responds with inflicting pain.
What this book was about was simply this: “THIS IS WHAT THIS IS LIKE”. I suppose I hoped that such things would be recognized – by those on the receiving end with an accompanying message of “you are not alone” and by those who might have meted it out in the past with a horrified realization of what they had inflicted on others. It was message of empathy and hopefully of putting someone in a bad place on a path to redemption.
“Wolf” was my bow to my education – it was all about science, and how science can be used and misused. Genetics, pharmacology, all the promise of the good things and all the possible ways that the good things can go bad. I dealt with addiction, with medical experiments, with the idea that sometimes people are used and abused and then discarded in the pursuit of some esoteric piece of knowledge or of power.
In “Shifter” I turned my focus on fundamentalism and how those who believe utterly that they are right and everyone else is wrong can ruin the world for everyone else around them.
I might write fantasy but these books, as one perspicacious reviewer pointed out, are more about being HUMAN than they ever were about non-human “monsters”. In fact, in this book, a lot of the monsters ARE pure human and the creatures we so love to think of as monstrous are just as fragile and vulnerable as we would be. The enemy is ALWAYS us.
What I write about are the concerns of the human mind, the human body, the human heart, the human soul.
I do not, never have, never will, aim for preaching my own gospel through the bully pulpit of my own fiction. All I do, as the writer, is choose an issue, a problem, an idea, and use the power of story to reveal it, to explain it, to disarm it, perhaps to conquer it through understanding. I hope my stories are entertaining enough to be read for their own sake – but as a reader, and most emphatically as the writer, I always want my stories to have more depth to them than just the surface glitter of pretty sunlight on the surface of water. And when I tell a story the underlying stories are always there. Not preachily, not dogmatically, I would never do that to my readers any more than I would like it done to myself, but they’re there. They will always be there.
Read all of my books with an eye to what it means to be a human being, and a part of a world where any and every human being has an individual story worth knowing, worth telling, worth reading.
3. The real thing (or, where’s the [fantasy] beef?)
A corollary of all that in Question #2 is simply this – the way I choose to tell the stories of THIS world, the stories which are sometimes too painful to address directly because they may trigger responses from readers which are entirely too close to the bone, is by cloaking them in that layer of silver tissue that is fantasy. I tell real stories which are transplanted into fantasy worlds; I aim for a bewildered recognition of a reader’s own self in the glimpse of a dragon, or medieval knight, or desert tribesman, or a lost princess, or a Were-creature, or even just another fellow human trying to make sense out of a world which sometimes stubbornly fails to cooperate or be helpful in any way at all.
Mary Poppins, the Queen of Nannies, had it wrapped up in that maxim that it’s a spoonful of sugar which helps the medicine go down – and sometimes that little bit of sugar is all that is necessary. You provide the reader – to change the metaphor completely – with a beef sandwich of a story – the two layers of bread are the fantasy disguise and they are nice and fresh and fragrant enough to tempt the eyes and the hands and the taste buds – but when you bite into it and the taste floods your mouth it’s the inside layer, the beef, the fundamental truth, that gets chewed on, too.
All fiction is fantasy, really, because all fiction is essentially a lie and therefore a fantasy by definition. But the sub-genre of fiction that is directly identified by that moniker implies that you are telling stories of what can never really be. Things like fairy tales and the Syai Empire, Narnia and Middle Earth and Hogwarts and Westeros. Things are bigger there, bigger than life. They can be both more obvious and more subtle (depending on the power of the storyteller) but they are still dismissed as, uh, impossible, fantastical, you know, “kid’s stuff”.
Except that they are not. They have never been. As GK Chesterton once said in a favorite quote, fairytales are not there to tell our children that there are dragons out there, it is to tell them that dragons can be conquered. True fantasy – while bringing delight and enchantment – also arms its readers against real monsters and tells those readers that the monsters can, in fact, be conquered.
This is the strength of fantasy. This is what I hope to reach for by choosing to tell my stories in this genre. The beef is quite simply the truth… given taste and allure by a condiment called “fantasy” which is sprinkled on it with a hand that can be as liberal or as frugal with that application as is deemed necessary.
The stories I tell are all true. Just close your eyes and stop staring at the bread before you take a bite. It won’t take long to discover the beef hidden inside. And no, I am not cheating. I have ALWAYS been offering you a sandwich, not two pieces of fairy bread hiding between them something you never knew was there.
Fantasy is a perilous and beautiful land. But it’s how you engage with it that matters. It is entirely possible to stay on the road and look neither right nor left and the road will still be a fantasy highway – but look to the sides and you see more than the highway – you see the world it runs through. And the story – which can be just the journey, and that’s fine too, but it’s sometimes just so inadequate… – becomes more than just putting one foot in front of another. It becomes not a journey so much as a context, and the context begins to draw you a picture of who you really are, deep inside.
I am a woman by God or nature, a writer by profession, a scientist by education, and a duchess by historical accident.
I read because I love stories, I write because I love to build worlds and spin dreams like the Fates spin lives. I blog to share my eclectic interests — books and writing, travels on earth and in space, puns, animals, photography, the environment ….
I am Alma Alexander and my greatest joy, my greatest passion, comes in building my own worlds. I have written and published well over two million words, most about places which never existed before I imagined them into being.
I was born in a town on the banks of the Danube in a country which no longer exists. When I was ten, I left the country of my birth, never to live there again. I have lived in five countries on four continents and now spend a good deal of my time in the realm of Cyberspace.
More than a score of my books are in print, including my YA series, Worldweavers, which Voya has recommended for those suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal, and The Were Chronicles, which creates a whole new shifter universe. One of my novels, The Secrets of Jin-shei, has been published in 13 languages and has touched readers around the world. Just recently, for example, a young woman talked excitedly about it in a video on her blog. I think she liked it, but since it was in Portuguese.…?
I was born on the fifth day of July six years before man walked on the moon, and I am married to a man who wooed me over the Internet and lured me to America. I am owned by two cats.
In the Dresdenverse short story “Bombshells,” the only story told in first-person POV by Harry’s apprentice Molly Carpenter, she describes a way to incorporate math (!) into her version of the first spell she learned from him- the tracking spell- and uses it to estimate the distance to her target (Thomas Raith, using a few of his hairs) without having to actually go all the way there. This occurred to me as pretty significant because it’s not something Harry ever showed her how to do (or even figured out for himself) and it’s a vivid demonstration of Molly’s own strengths and intelligence.
Here’s how she did it.
The basic idea is that if the target of your tracking spell is close to you, and you’re moving, it will appear to shift a lot relative to your position. If it’s really far away, it won’t appear to move much at all when you move- it stays pretty much the same direction from you. Compare looking at faraway things as you drive past them to the things right at the side of the road that whoosh by your window. You may have even used some form of this trick in video games like Call of Duty, Skyrim, Arkham City, or anything else that lets you see a pinned location relative to which way you’re facing. For many years (before electronics got decently sophisticated) airplane pilots used bearing changes and a mechanical calculator to fudge estimates of their distance from radio navigation aids.
Jim Butcher didn’t stick an actual equation into the story, and rightly so, because it would have dragged the pace down to nothing and alienated the readership. But for those of us who are obsessive nerds who enjoy that level of detail, it’s surprisingly easy math to do. Despite the implication that Molly’s technique would involve high-school-level trigonometry, you can do it in your head, using only an ordinary magnetic compass and a tracking spell (or its equivalent).
Step 1: Go ahead and put that blood or hair or whatever in your mouth and follow the tingle of your lips (like Molly does) or dangle it from a string or a chain (like Harry Does, if you don’t relish the idea of putting such things in your mouth) and determine the direction of your target. Use the compass to determine the exact number of degrees that is relative to magnetic north. For now, let’s say that the target happens to be directly (0°) north of us.
Step 2: Turn so you’re facing perpendicular to the way the tracking spell points, so the target is directly to your right or to your left. For example, with our hair donor directly north of us, we’d need to face directly east or west. Now, walk a reasonable distance to measure (Molly uses the convenient unit known as a “Molly-pace”) keeping the target exactly off your shoulder. Make sure to go at least far enough to register a slight change in the direction you’re facing according to the compass.
Step 3: Measure the change in your compass bearing. Continuing our example, let’s say we started with our target directly north of us, and walked fifteen paces west. Checking the tracking spell against the compass, our target is now four degrees east (004°) of dead north, and we’re not facing directly west anymore- we’re facing four degrees north of that (274°). We’re now ready to plug in some numbers. Do not fear trigonometry- that’s not what we’re doing. Instead, do this:
Step 4: (Molly-paces x 60) ÷ degrees changed = Molly-paces to the target
To finish our example, we took fifteen paces to travel four degrees. Fifteen times sixty is nine hundred. Divide that by four degrees, and we’ve got a result of two hundred and twenty-five paces to the target… however far that is. If you’re not as tall as Molly, your results may vary.
I’m certain that the math nerds in the crowd started mumbling about cosines and reached for their scientific calculators before this last step. The reason this trick works, however, is not because it’s a 30-60-90 triangle, nor because it approximates an isosceles triangle. What we’ve done is approximate an arc-length of a circle.
As we already know, a circle (a) contains 360 degrees, and (b) has a constant ratio between its circumference and diameter, known as pi, or 3.1415926blahblahblah, which, for the sake of rough simplicity, we will approximate as 3. What Molly’s trying to figure out is the distance (in Molly-paces) from the center of the circle (the target) to the perimeter, a portion of which she’s just paced off. That distance (the radius ) is half of the diameter, so we’re going to use (in rough simplicity, 6) as the total number of Molly-paces it would take to walk around the entire circle, and then solve for
Since we know how much of the circle we’ve walked around (“degrees changed” out of 360), we also know what portion of the circumference we’ve paced off (“Molly-paces” out of 6). Since these are equal portions, all we need to do is simplify:
degrees changed = Molly-paces 360 6r
degrees changed * 6r = Molly-paces * 360
degrees changed * r = Molly-paces * 60
r = Molly-paces * 60/degrees changed
It’s not terrifically precise, but it doesn’t have to be. It was close enough for Molly to locate Thomas in Svartalheim, and now you’re just that much cooler (and/or more dorky) for knowing it. Now, for your homework, go find Mouse. Ten paces off your shoulder gives you two degrees of bearing change.