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Jim Butcher Interview Links

Jim Butcher Interview Links published on 3 Comments on Jim Butcher Interview Links

This is a new kind of post for us. As you may know, a part of The Butcher Block’s goal is to 1) compile and transcribe interviews with Jim Butcher, and 2) earn our own interview with the author. Here is the so-called “table of contents” for that goal, starting with the most recent and continuing on further back.

FALL 2015

This one does not have new Dresden information, but since a lot of us are aspiring writers, this is writing advice gold:

October 12, 2015 Author Stories Podcast with Hank Garner

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Interviews from The Aeronaut’s Windlass Tour:

Several of these interviews contain a lot of information about The Aeronaut’s Windlass (as they should). We look forward to someday analyzing the crap out of the Cinder Spires, but we will have to wait until several more are published. If you have not yet read it, you are in for a treat. In almost every interview, he mentions how much fun he had writing it, and it shows. It’s breathless, breath-taking, fun, and generally any positive adjective you can think of.

October 02, 2015 The Aeronaut’s Windlass Tour – Petaluma
Interview and Transcript

October 02, 2015 The Aeronaut’s Windlass Tour – Google
Google Interview and Transcript

October 01, 2015 The Aeronaut’s Windlass Tour – Skokie
Interview and Transcript

September 22, 2015 Reddit AMA
Reddit AMA – Dresden Information

September 21, 2015 DRAGON*CON!
Interview and Transcript!

SPRING 2015

April 12, 2015 Easter*Con
Interview and Transcript

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Does The Butcher Block have a chance at scoring our very own interview?

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The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall published on 7 Comments on The Curious Case of Monica Sells and Linda Randall

I have mentioned this before in my Why-I-Love-Dresden post. Whenever I recommend the series to anyone, whether they are close family members, people who have friended me on facebook, or people I meet on the street, I always mention one thing: The first two and a half books are not representative of the writing in the rest of the series. Fool Moon is especially hard to get through, but it is so worth it. So, so worth it.

Two problems in Storm Front (which is still a very engaging and fun read) are the arcs of the characters Monica Sells and Linda Randall. There is nothing wrong with them in description or deed. The characters in and of themselves make sense. The problem? They’re cliché.

When Harry is initially brain-storming with Murphy and Carmichael as to who could possibly do this, he is pretty confident that the person involved would be a witch:

“’Yes. The killer knew the victims. And I’m thinking it was a woman.’…’Because you can’t do something that bad without a whole lot of hate,’ I said. ‘Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This feels like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.'”

This supposition is later discarded, caught up as Harry is in discovering that Victor Sells very much wants to kill him for getting in his way, for investigating him. The set-up in Storm Front thus remains no different than in a lot of crime fiction: a victim comes to the hero, a mystery is introduced, there is an alternate mystery that turns out to be connected to the first, etc. It’s a formula, and it’s one that works. So why don’t I quite believe that Monica Sells is exactly as she appears to be: a damsel in distress, a total victim of her husband’s quest for power?

For one, Butcher eats clichés for breakfast. The story of how Storm Front came to be is a story oft-repeated:

“ In 1996 he enrolled in a writing class where he was encouraged to write a novel similar to the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton, rather than the more traditional high fantasy that had been his focus in the past, as Butcher had previously stated that he enjoyed the Anita Blake series. Despite initial resistance, he wrote the first book that semester, closely following the instructions of his teacher, author Deborah Chester: ‘When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.’ ”.

After that first chapter was written, he envisioned the entire series (well, the big huge plot points, anyway). Butcher has always maintained – always – that he likes to subvert tropes, and make clichés his bitch.

For another, if one follows the story with a suspicious eye pointed at Monica Sells, it reads like Monica is setting Harry Dresden up to take the fall for her husband. She gets Harry involved in the background to a major SI investigation. She gives him just enough information to get him to suspicious places at suspicious times, she dangles her own distress like a carrot, and chivalrous Harry Dresden is none the wiser.

But what about the soulgaze? Harry saw that she was mama bear protecting her children. If Monica was setting Harry up for a fall, and hoping he’d take out her husband while doing it, that technically counts as protecting her kids from being known children of a warlock, of a legal mess, or undue scrutiny. I think when Harry found innocence, it was nothing more than a mask. My bet is that Monica Sells will show up again, and some of the aspects of Harry’s first case up against the series-wide threat will be made clear.

Linda Randall is another case entirely.

The White Court is introduced—spectacularly so—in Grave Peril. Thomas Raith attends the utterly important masquerade, and though we don’t yet know he and Harry are brothers, his scenes pop from the page. The White Court is an entirely different breed of vampire than the Reds and the Blacks—they feed off strong emotions. They are inhumanly beautiful, physically powerful beings that can also manipulate pretty much anyone they want to into doing pretty much anything they want. I have a theory that the White King was responsible for a lot of the earlier events in the series, like Sells being taught magic, the FBI guys getting the wolf belts, etc. But that is for another essay, now we are focusing specifically on certain oddities in a character from Storm Front: Linda Randall. One of my favorite moments in the series comes from Blood Rites, and in it one of Harry’s favorite enemies is introduced:

“The newcomer was the real thing. She was grace. Beauty. Art. As such, she was not so easily quantified.
She would have been tall, even without the heeled faux-Victorian boots of Italian leather. Her hair was so dark that its highlights were nearly blue, a torrent of glossy curls held partially in check with a pair of milky ivory combs. She had eyes of dark grey with hints of violet twilight at their centers. Her clothes were all effortless style: natural fabrics, black skirt and jacket embroidered with abstract dark crimson roses with a white blouse.
Thinking back later, I couldn’t clearly remember her facial features or her body, beyond a notion that they were superb. Her looks were almost extraneous. They weren’t any more important to her appeal than a glass was to wine. It was at its best when invisible and showing the spirit contained within. Beyond mere physical presence, I could sense the nature of the woman—strength of will, intelligence, blended with a sardonic wit and edged with a lazy, sensuous hunger.”

Lara Raith (married name Lara Romany) is one of Harry’s favorite enemies. In fact, he reveals to Thomas that when he was deciding on how to kill himself, it crossed his mind that he could do worse than allowing Lara to eat him all up. He may not trust her, he may not like her, he may regard her as one of the scariest beings he has ever come across, but he (and we, the readers) can’t deny the attraction he feels whenever he is in her presence. She is beauty, grace, and dangerous sexuality all in one.

Compare this description to Linda Randall, another dark-haired, grey-eyed beauty to whom Dresden was drawn to intensely.

“It buzzed down, and a woman in her mid-twenties arched an eyebrow at me. She had beautiful eyes the color of rain clouds, a little too much eye shadow, and brilliant scarlet lipstick on her cupid’s-bow lips. Her hair was a medium brown, drawn back into a tight braid that made her cheeks look almost sharp, severe, except for her forelocks, which hung down close to her eyes in insolent disarray. She had a predatory look to her, harsh, sharp. She wore a crisp white shirt, grey slacks, and held a lit cigarette in one hand.[…] She was nervous. Nervous enough to be shaking, and now I could see what she was up to. She was wearing the alley-cat mask, appealing to my glands instead of my brain, and trying to distract me with it, trying to keep me from finding something out.”

We’ve got a working theory here at the Wampus that one of the main Big Bads of the series (and, in fact, the cause of Harry’s first few cases) is the White King. We will delve into that next week, but for now we will just say that it’s possible Monica Sells was influenced by the White King in the attempt to neutralize Dresden, and that Linda Randall was a plant from the White Court who met a bad, bad end.

Was Monica Sells totally level with Harry in Storm Front?

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Any chance Linda Randall is either a plant from the White Court, or actually part of the White Court?

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Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist

Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist published on 8 Comments on Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Antagonist

fallen murphy

Part I (of MANY)

Judging by the various threads, comments, and pot-stirring in the Jim Butcher Appreciation Society, the topic of Karrin Murphy is a polarizing one. Some express mild shock and genuine bafflement when it’s suggested that Murphy is not the paragon she appears to be from Summer Knight to Changes. But a reread of Storm Front and Fool Moon reminds us that while she’s never been the boss fight, she was an antagonist more surely than Donald Morgan. Hear me out. An antagonist is someone who “actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something”. In this case, Murphy actively opposes and is hostile to Harry Dresden. An old, old interview with Jim Butcher that was published back when Death Masks just came out and Furies of Calderon was still Shepherdboy’s Fury, reveals his motivation in creating the characters of John Marcone and Karrin Murphy:

“I needed someone to provide both threat and distraction for Harry in Storm Front, for example, and got two characters who could do those jobs. John Marcone got to show up as the negative criminal element of the story, the human face of lawlessness and crime. Karrin Murphy is his opposite in number, representative of the law, society, and order. Neither one of them seems to do much for Harry that doesn’t make his day worse and worse, nine times out of ten, but no one’s perfect.”

Murphy is hostile to Harry from the beginning. While Dresden is a police consultant that Murphy has worked with time and again, she treats him more like a confidential informant: he is expected to drop everything and serve her: ““Dresden, I’ve sort of got a pair of corpses with no leads and no suspects, and a killer walking around loose. Your appointment can wait.” Murphy shows no real professional courtesy toward Dresden. She treats him like a confidential informant—someone who is useful to her, someone she can dominate, and someone who is just like every other criminal she comes across, except that she’s using him to gain access to other criminals.

This behavior does not change in Fool Moon.

Murphy forgets halfway through the books that she’s hired Dresden to seek information on her cases, and then suspects him of being the perpetrator. While this is more spectacularly done in Fool Moon, the pattern is also evident in Storm Front. Murphy orders Dresden to the scene of the crime, orders him to figure out how two people were murdered by magic (ignoring the fact Dresden told her he couldn’t), then—when he reveals he’s been doing exactly as she told him to, but with methods she disapproves of—she threatens to arrest him. Then, when Dresden’s fighting for his life and hers against a scorpion that came to life because Murphy wouldn’t listen, she shackles him to her. This reveals the prideful, arrogant, and often stupidly focused mentality of the main cop character in the Dresden Files. Dresden was owed an apology at the end of Storm Front, but Murphy conveniently forgot what a stubborn fool she was attempting to arrest him while they were under attack by a magically constructed scorpion.

Fool Moon is even worse. She shows up at the beginning just in time to pick up a scrap of paper she would later use to incriminate Harry Dresden in the death of his first “apprentice” (though Kim Delaney was not nearly as strong as Molly Carpenter has proven to be, nor was it an official apprenticeship; Harry was more of a mentor). There had been a death, and it was not until they were driving to it that it is revealed to be outside of her jurisdiction. The FBI shows up to intimidate and threaten, and after Agent Benn has taken out her gun and fired at Murphy, Murphy goes along with the lie that it had been an accident. Murphy upholds the law as long as a fellow law enforcement official is not the one breaking it.

Her greetings to Harry are, in general, angry and impatient: “About time, Dresden. Get up here.”

Murphy manipulates Harry into helping her: “After that, it’ll be simple for them to get some charges going on me for complicity or obstruction. And they’ll probably try to get to you, too. Harry, we’ve got to catch the killer, or killers. Or I’m history.” There is no logical reason for Dresden to be indicted for the events of Storm Front, nor would an investigation turn up incriminating evidence against a licensed investigator doing his job. Both times, Murphy dragged Harry into the case; both times she bullied and harassed him into the job—usually by threatening arrest—and both times she built a case against him (including a paperwork trail) at the same time he was helping her.

Murphy does not see a happy ending for a romance between them. Several times in the series, Murphy threatens Dresden that a romance would not end well for him. The first of these occasions happens in Storm Front, and sets the tone of their friendship.

And here we venture forth into speculation. Chapter Two of Storm Front introduces the reader to Murphy (in the flesh, as it were). They meet outside the Madison and head together to the grisly crime scene, and Dresden has a niggling doubt about her: “My shadow and Murphy’s fell on the floor, and almost looked as though they were sprawled there. There was something about it that bothered me, a nagging little instinct that I blew off as a case of nerves.” Butcher has used shadows for very interesting things later on in the series – for one, Nicodemus Archleone can listen in on almost any conversation he wants to by using his Denarian, Anduriel (whose name, coincidentally, I’m sure, means “shadow of Uriel”). Later on in Storm Front, Dresden mentions that the mark He Who Walks Behind has on him “could still be seen upon me by those who knew how, by using the Third Sight, stretching out behind me like a long and horribly shaped shadow.” Whatever it is that caused that moment of doubt has not been made clear. Yet.

There is also the fact that some of Murphy’s backstory contradicts itself. In “Restoration of Faith”, set no more than four years prior to the events of Storm Front, Murphy is a young beat cop. In Storm Front, she is a lieutenant and department head “who had to fight and claw and play dirty with the hairiest men in Chicago to get as far as she has.” Making lieutenant and becoming a department head in less than three years is not only highly unlikely given the amount of time one has to stay at one rank before one can test for a higher rank, but is a meteoric rise that could hardly have been hampered by institutionalized sexism. There are several possibilities for this: 1) Butcher neglected his research in this one area, 2) Murphy is a plant from someone who can pull strings (like government spooks) at a city level, 3) Murphy isn’t human, and can enforce her will and remake her little corner of reality, etc.

In closing, at the 2011 Boston signing, Butcher mentioned this: “I know that a lot of the folks that are generally perceived as bad guys aren’t necessarily, there are several who are currently perceived as good guys who aren’t necessarily, and we’ll continue to have those fall out over the next several books.” Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is the prime candidate for the betrayal that will hurt Harry all the way to his core. I’ve got an idea of who will eventually unmask her and why, but that will have to wait for another day.

Do you think it's possible that Murphy will turn out to have been Harry's adversary all along?

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The talented Andrea Gonzales is responsible for the lovely photograph. She can be found at various spots on the web, including here.

The views expressed in this post don’t necessarily reflect the views of the people in the photograph, but they did give their permission.

Molly’s Nifty Trick

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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

TA-DA!

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.

Did Jim Butcher sit down and figure out the mathematics in Bombshells as Andy Hammond describes in his guest article, Molly's Nifty Trick?

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This wonderfully nerdy guest post was brought to you by Andy Hammond!

The Duck Quacks

The Duck Quacks published on 4 Comments on The Duck Quacks

Theory 1: Molly/ Mab
Part 1

Quote
“You should not presume wizard. I adore Freedom. Anyone who doesn’t have it wants it”


WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE FOR MOLLY AND MAB

This all started with the headaches. Harry has them, we all know this. There have been a few suggestions as to why; Lash coming back, permanent brain damage at the end of WN, perhaps he has strained his magic too much, but then I realized we know at least one cause for this headaches; he has them in SF, when Mab messed with his head while she borrowed his blasting rod, and reprogrammed his head to forget he had ever had it. While discussing this, I wondered well then, if she caused that headache, what else could have happened during the books that she could have taken or messed with?

Which gives us, in discrete mathematics, our starting point?

STATEMENT: Mab caused the headaches.

I am not saying this is the truth, I am stating it as the point of argument. In discrete math, you start with an assumption, then build on it one point at a time, as a test to determine if the original point is true. (For all rational numbers N, if N is F(N) is true, then F( N+1) is true; if you then can reverse it from the final conclusion, the theory is true ; this is called the principles of incursion and reduction.)

So, following this point, what other headaches could have been caused by Mab? It was He Whom Walks who first noted that in the book Turn Coat, that little Chicago was not mentioned. Which is strange, as Harry was desperate to find Thomas; and in every other book, Harry mentions it in every other book, and it had been repaired form it’s damage taken in WN as it was used in SF. Furthermore, when Harry does refer to the table, it is covered by a heavy tarp; which are the same words he used to describe his missing memories of the blasting rods on SF, page 312. And we know Mab caused those headaches, it describes the headaches, right on that very page.

Additional point, Namshiel’s missing coin. We have been assuming That either Marcone, Hendricks, or Gard took it. But Marcones says he did not, Hendricks has shown no signs of it, and Gard was driving. But what if there were other people on the island, undetectable to mortal eyes? Mab cannot interfere directly in mortal affairs, but she can claim anything Harry owns or has rights to. His “life, his fortune, his future”; once he defeated Namshiel was defeated his coin by right of battle was Harry’s and Mab could step in and claim it. ( I will admit this one may be stretching things, but it’s just a side idea.)

STATEMENT: Mab fixed little Chicago in Proven Guilty. “even if there HAD been a threshold, it wouldn’t have done diddly to stop any number of supernatural baddies. The fetches in PG hammered down the /Carpenters’/ front door, and that’s a threshold like the rock of firkin’ Gibraltar. The loup-garou sneered at such things. A threshold wouldn’t slow down a Denarian for a moment, nor would it stop ghouls, ogres, or any number of largely physical (as opposed to manifested spiritual) beings. And even if the skinwalker had been something summoned from the Nevernever into a manifested physical body, the toad demon was one of those too, and IT stomped through Harry’s pathetic threshold in the very first book”

-Jim Butcher

Which leaves questions of how Mab got past the wards, Past Bob- something I consider a point in her favor actually; of all the suspects she could mess with Bob the easiest; and most importantly, how could she have predicted this chain of events?

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