Dresden Files Grave Peril Ch38

Last time, Bianca had finally said to just shoot him. But of course we’re only even allowed that much genre-savvyness because shooting is futile.

Now, we’ve established Bianca is a wizard, Harry. So why wouldn’t she have wizarded these bullets? She’s gone through a great deal of effort to get men with guns to kill you and all it’s accomplished is putting bulletholes in her house and rebound hitting one of her babies. Also, one of the guns explodes in the guy’s hand and again, her supposed motivation for all of this is her intense attachment to a human underling.

“Get out of my way,” I said. “Let us out. No one else has to get hurt.”

Seems Harry has once again managed to forget about human suffering. Sure, seeing those bodies made him swear to for real this time stop overlooking evil, but that was thirty entire seconds ago.

Bianca notes that he’s killed Kyle and Kelly, and adds She was quite mad in any case. Not all of them make the transition well.” because that’s it, bitches be crazy who needs more explanation! She was visibly ill but bitches, just so crazy amiright you guys? Going mad totally makes you break out in spots.

Harry reiterates his demand. Bianca asks if not, and Harry tries to blast her and it doesn’t work.

I just stared at her for a moment. I knew that she’d known some tricks, maybe a veil or two, a glamour or two, maybe how to whip up a fascination. But that kind of straightforward deflection wasn’t something just anyone could do.

Yes, Harry is boggling at the idea the vampire trained by another vampire in magic that we had an entire conversation about how she could do magic is capable of doing magic, because he just assumed she’d be complete shit at it.

And probably for similar reasons, the fact she can block his blows does not, apparently, translate into thinking she can attack him, and instead she says, We seem to be at something of a standoff.

But even assuming that her ability to block an attack, which honestly is actually more than we’ve ever seen from Harry, does not mean she’s any good at fighting back with magic… he’s outnumbered and poisoned. There is no such thing as a standoff at this point.

1) Harry leaves immediately, maybe lives.
2) Harry is killed immediately, definitely dies.
3) Harry hangs around for a while longer, definitely dies.

A standoff is no longer a standoff. Anything that isn’t Harry already in an emergency room means she wins.

Instead, she feels she needs to add something to change the situation and she claps to call in a new person.

a medium-sized man, dark of hair and coloring, brawny through the chest and shoulders. He wore a tailored suit of dark grey in an immaculate cut. He made me think of native South Americans, with a sturdy jaw and broad, strong features.

I think “Made me think” is a really shitty dodge. If you’re offended, OMG HE’S TOTALLY NOT THAT RACE HE JUST REMINDED HARRY OF THAT WOW MAYBE YOU’RE THE RACIST FOR THINKING THAT??? but if you’re complaining about there being too many white people HE’S TOTALLY THAT RACE GOD MAYBE YOU’RE THE RACIST FOR NOT NOTICING????

Also, are Red vamps South American now? Because a big point was made that Bianca’s was the deepest into America, which barely made sense assuming European vampires and it being the most western vampire nest. Is it supposed to be the most northern vampire nest? That at least gives us a bigger area for the vampires to control while being proud of Chicago being so far west is deeply pathetic but there’s the problem that these guys really do not seem like American-native vampires. And they’re going to go on to describe her as titled a “baroness” which again, does not exactly scream South American.

Well, however little it fits with the lore, it does continue to reinforce how completely right I am that these guys are in fact werebats, given South America is where you find the blooddrinkers. Maybe while the Spanish are genociding their way across the continent, the werebats flee back across the ocean to try to take over the conquerors, then later that colony reestablishes ties with the surviving original werebats but brings over a lot of the structure they established in Europe?

Hm, but there’s the problem that, and this is only emphasized if you look at vampirism as infection, it wouldn’t be easiest for the werebats to return to South America and then move north. If their birthplace is South America, that’s where people know how to deal with them, and even shattered by the Spanish, some memories are better than the none they’d encounter if they started on the North American coast and moved west with the settlers. But maybe Black controlled the upper continent before this so the fact the settlers didn’t know about them didn’t matter, the vampires there were able to keep them at bay when they tried to establish new territory without an existing stronghold.

Okay, that’s what happened. Black is native to Europe, so Red starts infesting the place because people aren’t familiar with them there the way they are Black, but as they do so Black is rapidly colonizing North America with the settlers. Possibly there’s something else going on in South America that’s nasty enough Black can’t or just doesn’t want to try colonizing. But maybe Black is better at handling sea travel? I mean, vampires-can’t-cross-running-water but there’s a lot about how your traditional movie vampires can travel in their coffins, and if they can put themselves in a box of dirt and hibernate for several months while Red has to feed the whole time, even just one Red vampire to a ship would be difficult while you could literally ship boatloads of Black ones across disguised as ballast. So they manage to infest the new colonies and by the time things in South America stabilize, have locked up North America and are pushing into Mexico. Red reinforcements join up with the surviving South America ones and hold Black back, then start to slowly edge upward.

The real question now is why Red wasn’t already in North America. Lower population density, maybe? Bianca alone seemed very much an urban creature, and we just saw evidence that feeding her current pack is not particularly sustainable. In that case Red might have gotten partway into North America but as the plagues rolled through they starved – plus I see no reason why werebats would have disease immunity themselves the way straight corpses like Black would. There could also have been some North American creature with a similar niche or just some reason to be antagonist toward the Reds that was wiped out in the process of colonists wiping out humans. (It could just be that White was here, started to get overwhelmed by Black, then won by harnessing human media, which is probably the better idea given how we know nothing about anything so adding in fresh things is a bad choice, but I really like the ominous feel of there having been something that was scary enough that the vampires stayed away and how since we don’t know what it was we can’t be sure it’s really gone.)

Right, anyway. His name is Don Paolo Ortega, and he’s here as a Red representative. Harry complains about Bianca breaking the rules, he says she has totally not.

none of the Accords. Nor has she violated the laws of hospitality, nor her own given word.”

Naturally we are still in the dark about what the rules are.

It’s that this point Harry decides to make me regret all my attempts to make him look a little less stupid by saying he was presumably overly familiar with fae law:

“Oh come on,” I said. “She’s broken the spirit of all of them!”

why
the
fuck
do
you
think
he
cares
why
the
fuck
do
you
think
anyone
would
care

He explains that legally, Harry’s been attacking, murdering, and breaking shit left and right, plus he’s currently in the process of doing all that more. He then needs to slowly explain to Harry that the point is he’s serving as a witness. Harry still doesn’t fucking get it, of course, but Bianca, knowing what she’s dealing with, jumps in to say that she’s going to use the fact he attacked her to start a vampire/wizard war.

Harry, who has antagonized vampires every goddamn chance he got, tells us that oh no war with vampires is very serious and terrible! Then why the fuck did you antagonize them every goddamn chance you got?

We do at least get a smidgin of lore, namely it’s been “millennia” since the last fight which is not in living memory despite how long wizards live.

Thing is…technically, two is millennia, but even if it’s only that, this would still mean the wizard/vampire ceasefire predates Jesus. And I really don’t buy human organizations being that stable (and this isn’t even a regular organization but a forced coalition of anyone born anywhere with the right amount of power), or that you can have people like Jesus running around without messing with this sort of delicate asshole balance. Really, unless the thing that sets Harry apart is that he has emotions at all, I absolutely can’t believe no wizard has gotten upset at vampires and done something stupid this entire time. Plus, this was all set up by Bianca getting incredibly mad over something that was barely Harry’s fault, and given she’s freshly promoted and currently getting an enthusiastic thumbs up from the Red Court representative for it, we can’t say she’s anomalous either.

That means this sort of thing has happened a lot without the heads actually declaring war. There’s some other way they sweep this under the rug so that officially, vampires and wizards just don’t interact.

Now, given the vampire side is gleefully encouraging the conflict currently but Bianca was terrified originally, I’m thinking that it’s generally a matter of one side letting the other kill their people. Possibly all the time spent antagonizing Harry is enough that the WC will just say fuck it it’s his fault for repeatedly attacking her, possibly the shift is because Bianca did research and found out that half the WC already wanted him dead so he wasn’t really under their protection. Either way, the war thing would just be a threat they’d use to make the WC deal with Harry if they can’t take him down themselves.

The only other option I can think of is that a much deeper shift in power has happened in the past few decades and the Reds were gearing up for war this whole time. Maybe regular vampires like Bianca didn’t know about it but when she goes to them saying she was assaulted by a wizard, they figure they’ll use this as their excuse. Seeing what human media accidentally did to Black should be making the rest of the vampires pretty anxious about their lack of control over humans, and we’ve also spent the last few decades focusing on vampires as hot and not that evil and barely anything to do with bats, which sounds like Red propaganda. And going on my theory that wizards area also impacted by fluctuations in magic but it largely manifests in those born rather than just boosting everyone equally…

“Millennia” means both organizations have been around a while but all we know is that humans, or even human-ish wizards, don’t live quite that long, nothing about the lifespan of vampires. And if wizards are living pretty long and maintaining a ceasefire with vampires, it seems unlikely vampires are getting killed left and right – plus, given the vampires are the ones who eat people, build power bases, and enjoy elaborate revenge schemes over near-coincidental slights, it seems like you’d need far more stability on the vampire side than the human side if you want any agreements to hold. Ergo, vampires have older people and better knowledge transmission. They’re also much more tightly tied to the ebb and flow of magic. In other words, they’d notice it first, be able to track it better, and have the best chance of keeping those findings intact through the ages.

The vampires have figured out that there’s a lag period while the new superwizards grow up while they can grow their numbers extremely rapidly. Wizards need to be taught, the established powers don’t like the upstarts or realize they need the newcomers, and they’re limited by human reproductive speed. Baby vampires appear to be powerhouses from the get-go and you can make them fast. Now is the time to wipe out the old guard and break the back of the WC, leaving only individual wizards who may be powerful in their own right but can be bargained with or captured. Plus Harry will not shut up about how he’s got (half of a) education compared to the guys he’s going against. Without the WC there to educate some wizards, none of the new superbabies will have that. Indeed, going by what we’ve seen, without an education the wizards seem to self-destruct within months, so even if Harry’s insistence that they want a pet wizard is mistaken and wizards are actually pretty uncontrollable, making it so wizards are just something you have to wait a season to go away is still pretty good.

Unfortunately…this means that either way, Harry’s upset is more sueish fake whining. Either he can’t cause a war or he wasn’t the real cause of it.

“Well. Since he isn’t running off to tattle right this second, I can only assume that you’re about to offer me a deal.”

Look, if the fact he’s dying of poisoning wasn’t going to matter, he should’ve just chugged two gallons of holy water to explain why no one ate him. Also acceptable would be that Bianca chose not to kill him because making Susan do it was always her plan.

Harry even goes on to remind us that he’s dizzy and aching as the poisoning kills him and that he’s got limited time etc. And yet that’s apparently some secret only he knows because it appears to be factoring into neither vampire’s calculations.

Bianca then is ridiculously nice. She’ll forgive him for it all. All the vampires he killed at the party, and all the damage he did to her home, and the part where those two things got her legal attention she had to deal with, and how he just burned to death two more vampires.

That’s so kind.”

It actually super is!

I mean, yes, we can argue that all the stuff that happened at the party happened because she provoked him, but counterpoint, she honestly had a perfectly good reason to want that sword destroyed anyway. That it’d upset Harry was just a bonus. And also, the sword does seem to exist just to hurt nonhumans. There’s really been no sign it’s a “good” artifact, just a useful one if you’re in the monster-hunting business. I think it’s unfair to think monsters are unreasonable for destroying weapons that kill them, and weapons that torture them to death? Maybe the fault lies in the people making swords that kill you through slow agonizing burning instead of just a clean cut.

And after all, Harry was only there to invade the privacy of people who were relying on her to enforce guest-right and then hunt one of them down, possibly not immediately at the party itself but probably at the party itself given it’s Harry. It’s not like he was there in good faith.

And this is all happening because Harry entered her territory in the first place and freaked her out, leading to her attacking him, leading to him tearing her skin off, leading to her accidentally killing someone she cared about. Again, it’s not reasonable of her to really blame him for all that, but we know she honestly does feel he’s the one at fault, and she’s now willing to forgive his murder of her precious person.

She adds that he can even have all his stuff, including Justine.

Unharmed and free of future malice. All accounts will be called even.”

See? Assuming vampires don’t lie, and I have no reason why this would be a rule but it appears to be what we’re rolling with, she is sincerely willing to call this off now.

I mean, that’s not very compatible with the fact she just told everyone to shoot him first, but nothing in these books is really compatible with anything else, even things that happened five minutes ago. Also I guess you could say the bullets were just to make him use his shield charm so he spends MP there and has less left for fireballs, which would honestly make a lot of sense – it’d even explain why she left the shield charm right there. She was just trying to set up a stalemate long enough to talk to him without him exploding any more of her house.

Bianca ran her hands over Susan’s hair. “This one will stay with me. You stole away someone dear to me, Mister Dresden. And I am going to take away someone dear to you. After that, all will be equal.”

Again, not really compatible with her doing stuff like leaving Susan to eat Harry and then die of poisoning, but then, this is a book where her plan involved Michael happening to drop a sword and Harry grabbing it right when his godmom showed up for her to bait him into swinging at her followed by Lea grabbing the sword before Michael could stop her and this happening just in time for Lea to hand it over at the party so it could be regifted to Mavra. It also required that Harry would attempt to summon-punch the ghost enough to work out someone else was feeding it power right and do so immediately before the party, then decide to go to the party to find out who it was so he’d see Mavra get the sword.

If we’re supposed to believe that, I think her assuming Harry would have no problem keeping Susan from poisoning herself on his stupid blood is quite reasonable. Maybe the real reason Lydia’s been bopping around in the plot is Bianca’s able to get a bit precog by drinking small amounts of the girl’s blood, because god knows there’s no other way the plot could’ve worked.

In conclusion – this is actually a very good resolution! Harry is put in a position where the accord that’s best is the one that’s worst for him personally. Aggroing the entire Red Court and getting wizards killed is bad, wizards retaliating against the Red Court will presumably play out like his mini-war did and lead to them spawning piles more babies who spawn bonus piles of regular corpses, and Susan is now a vampire who’s probably best off right now among her own kind who’ll do stuff like feed her and keep her out of the sun and understand what she’s going through.

Obviously Harry wants to “save” her, but he doesn’t know where to begin and she already almost ate him after just going a few hours without food. There is no way she lasts long enough for Harry’s extensive hospitalization, let alone however long he’ll spend researching after that, and if Harry was bright enough to think to throw her a blood pack or two instead of just telling her to keep pretending she’s a human and suppressing everything, he’d have brought it up. The only chance he has of saving her is to part ways with her now and try to come back later.

Bianca even allows for that, which is stupid because it undercuts what would honestly be a great revenge plan about how her person is gone forever so as far as you’re concerned this person is gone forever: If you prefer to remain with her, I’m sure a place could be made for you here. After suitable assurances of your loyalty, of course.”

This is the usual sue problem. Stuff is just revolving around him and it doesn’t matter what other people’s actual motivations are. This seems completely antithetical to what Bianca wants, and I don’t think someone who went to such lengths to get revenge would be putting that aside for the practical fact a pet wizard would be useful. It also doesn’t seem like the sort of thing the WC would accept, which should mean it’s really just a sign they’re still angling for starting a war, but in that case her tit-for-tat option shouldn’t be on the table because that’s completely the sort of thing the WC would accept so why give Harry an option you don’t want him to take? Bianca should just say she’s going to murder Susan unless Harry joins her if that’s the goal.

And just…she hates him. Why would she give him multiple options? Regardless of what’s going on, she’d know which she wants to happen and she’d demand he agree to that.

But he’s a sue, so it doesn’t matter Bianca has no reason for it, we get Bianca listing off a whole bunch of options so he’ll get to say none of the above.

Harry then repeats his magic words.

“She is already half mine.”

“So? I still love her.”

“She isn’t even fully human any longer, Dresden. It won’t be long before she is as a sister to me.”

Bianca, you just fucking said, If you prefer to remain with her, I’m sure a place could be made for you here. remember? If you say that he can leave her with you or stay with you both, and he replies that he loves her, then he’s picked that option. If you’re going to argue with him about it, why did you offer it?

See? No one else has actual feelings in this conversation. It’s Harry and his shadowpuppets acting out a drama for his benefit. If Bianca had replied saying oh ho ho, so you choose to swear yourself to me to stay with her, and he said no fuck off, he wouldn’t have gotten to argue that he still loves Susan.

(And yes, saying that he loves his obviously a vampire girlfriend who’s currently kneeling mindwammied at Bianca’s feet does indeed mean that just saying “I love her” covered the fact that she’s a vampire who’s already half Bianca’s just fine, so the conversation isn’t just OOC, it’s OOC without even a point to it.)

Harry asserts that yeah, he’s going to get lots of people killed.

“For the sake of one soul. For one loved one. For one life.” I called power into my blasting rod, and its tip glowed incandescent white. “The way I see it, there’s nothing else worth fighting a war for.”

Harry actually makes a pretty good point. Truly, the only thing really worth fighting a war for is if you only care about one person. If you cared about people in general, it really wouldn’t be worth it, would it?

Although the vampires are still bats, Harry invokes inverse-ninja-law and the descriptions are now that Bianca split apart her skin like some gruesome caterpillar and The vampires came for me, across the floor, along the walls, scuttling like roaches or spiders because they’re basically all just easily squished vermin.

Harry sends lots of magic flying and kills a whole lot of mooks but he’s definitely in trouble and can’t keep this up despite all evidence to the contrary. Honestly, he could just pull the whole place down and leave them scurrying for cover.

But anyway, so he’s going to do a different thing. He scratches a circle in the dust, and I guess no one sees this as something to disrupt despite it just being a dust circle, and he does a magic.

I focused, and reached beneath me.
And I found them. I found the dead, the victims, the ones who had been taken. Not just the few piled below, like so much trash to be discarded. I found others. Dozens of others. Scores. Hundreds. Bones hidden away, never marked, never remembered. Restless shades, trapped in the earth, too weak to act, to take vengeance, to seek peace. Maybe on another night, or in another place, I couldn’t have done it. But the way had been prepared for me, by Bianca and her people. They’d thought to weaken the border between life and death, to use the dead as a weapon against me.

This is actually deeply unclear. It opens talking like Bianca’s just been burying tons of her victims, but we end with Harry claiming she did this on purpose which would fit with the idea they actually went out grave-robbing, but the bones go back to the turn of the century yet all seem to blame the current vampires.

Also… the lost ones. The seduced, the betrayed, the homeless, the helpless. All the people the vampires had preyed on, through the years, all the dead I could reach.

I saw newsboys from the roaring twenties, and greaser street punks from the fifties. I saw delivery people and homeless transients and lost children rise up, deadly in their fury.

So something people talk about these days is about how fantasy is literalized metaphor and such.

I think in recent years there’s been a big push against this. I stumbled across someone on FFN expressing a strong like of Ash-but-different stories who seemed like a smart, thoughtful person, and asked them what the difference is between that and an OC story, and they explained that an actual OC would have characterization and personality but Ash could be just a placeholder to explain the world through. And this made sense, but at the same time, it’s alien to me to think about explaining things like how religion works in the pokemon world without that having any connection to people. But it made me think of the isekai stories and how those also seem only interested in expositing how the world works but not relating that to anything – that manga linked of the girl reincarnated as a lowly spider who patiently solves each challenge with videogame logic and repetitive practice actually seems to be verging on getting kicked out of the club by being too emotional when you compare it to others of its genre, like the one where a guy gets reincarnated as a lowly slime who’s actually superpowered and can solve all his problems effortlessly. There’s also another girl-is-a-spider story but there she’s super overpowered and can accomplish everything she feels like. I’m not sure I’ve quite worked out the markers, but a lot of the rationalist/Spacebattles/smarter!Character stuff has the same feel to it, where everything feels like disconnected parts that aren’t really interacting with each other. It’s not even a puzzle-solving approach, because I actually like puzzle-solving – it’s like a story revolving around puzzle-solving solving literalism minus the puzzles.

Anyway, I feel like, for once, the author is ahead of his time instead of an old man mumbling about how back in the day women were women, because Harry’s spent the entire book rejecting the idea anything the vampires do has any connection to humans or human society.

The traditional European vampire is a disruptive creature. It’s plague, which can take anyone, and this is mirrored in how vampires are often officially created by taboo-breaking acts. One story has a kid cursed by his mother sicken, die, and turn into a vampire for decades until they dig up the body and carry the elderly woman over to rescind her curse.

Count Dracula is about disparity and stagnation. The vampire is the wealthy and blue-blooded using that power to abuse those below them. Vampires prey on maidens because the lord can rape your daughter. Vampires tear out their victim’s throats because the lord can set his hounds on you. Vampires drink your blood because the lord can bleed his lands dry. A wealthy man may not literally be able to tear you limb from limb with his bare hands, but money can accomplish the same thing.

And these days, why do vampires feed on the homeless? Because vampires are society, picking and choosing who to protect and who’s better off dead. Sure, literally homeless people are the easiest to target because they’re more vulnerable, but metaphorically they’re vulnerable because they’re targetted. Because no one cares if they die, they die.

But this is a story where Harry knows homeless people are going missing and doesn’t care yet denies any culpability and acts offended that these inhuman monsters killed them. There is no message or theme. The author thought for a split second about who would be a good group to kill without being distracting by mattering, nodded, and agreed that yeah, homeless people, plus maybe some druggie slut children to add a tiny bit of pathos because they’re hot.

They howled their names and the names of their murderers, the names of their loved ones, and their vengeance shook that grand old house like a thunderstorm, like an earthquake.

Harry doesn’t actually hear any names in particular. Their assertation of their own personhood is then further dismissed by Harry going on to refer to them as a mass and like “humanity itself” as a whole but without any specifics. People who go on about loving humanity in the general sense don’t really love humans. He also refers to them as “it” when talking about the individual forms.

Ghosts attack vampires for a while, Bianca tries to get away with Susan, when Bianca’s about to go down she tries to kill Susan but Harry uses yet more magic to summon Rachel right in the path and then Rachel finishes off Bianca and Harry passes out to wake up in a hospital. Seriously, it’s not a cliffhanger, all he ever does is wake up in a hospital to find out everything’s been solved.

26 Comments

  1. Act says:

    Do none of the events in these books make any goddamn sense or am I insane? I never have issues following let’s reads, but then I try to read this and it’s like mad libs. Nothing anyone says or does follows from anything else they say or do. 

    1. Roarke says:

      I wish I could tell you the books’ events flowed better without the long pauses for Farla to explain why it’s wrong or how it could all be better, but… no, as a matter of fact, they don’t. The plots of these books are like someone playing a Bethesda game, getting the first quest, putting it off to explore nodes around the map, accidentally sequence breaking into the end boss, then somehow getting put back on the map without any of the plot resolution.

      1
    2. Farla says:

      I’d actually argue that if you manage to claw off the haze of Harry’s viewpoint, it actually flows relatively cleanly, it’s just incoherent because Harry doesn’t give a shit about a single thing.

      It’s still a garbage plot because the plan seems to hinge on multiple coincidences happening at exactly the right time, but from Bianca’s point of view:

      1) Look for allies, ideally magic-users. Fight fire with fire, right? Black Court is desperate and weak as a group but still very powerful as individuals. And Kravos is another wizard with a massive grudge. Also turns out Harry has a fae debt, so let’s try to use that.

      2) Okay, so I use my magic and my new buddy’s magic to start fucking shit up in general. Ghosts will start running rampant, then Kravos will become a superghost and start after Harry. And I inform Lea this is all going down, so if/when Harry’s lured into the Nevernever to try to deal with this, she pounces.

      3) Invite Harry to my vampire party full of vampires. If the other things aren’t enough, and they probably won’t be since wizards are bullshit, that’s the best place to attack.

      4) Wave a kid in front of Harry to make sure he actually shows up to the party. I mean, what sort of horrible person would ignore that?

      5) Somehow plan on Kravos and Lea getting that sword away from the paladin so I can make sure Harry attacks me at the party first and the law’s on my side.

      6a) Kill Harry when he shows up.

      6b) Take out one of Harry’s buddies at the party, forcing him to return and get killed.

      1. Roarke says:

        6b) Also seemed to hinge on having Harry bring more than the legally allotted number of guests, which they could tell he would do because ????

        1. AlphabetSoup says:
          That wasn’t required; it was just a lucky break for the RCVs. All they needed to justify a war was for Dresden (or his entourage; legally their actions were his responsibility) to start the fight, which they knew they could ensure by threatening to kill an innocent. Susan showing up gave them another way to pick a fight but get Dresden to make the first move; however, they didn’t depend on that happening.
          1. Roarke says:

            The problem is it seemed like their plan wasn’t completed just by picking a fight at the party; they needed Harry to come back to the mansion after, and a helpless hostage to dangle before him while Bianca tried to make terms, even just as a show for her witness, this Ortega dude.

            If Ortega had been at the party and Bianca had tried this tactic then, I would understand the point.

  2. Roarke says:

    I think I would love a story that actually ended the way this one could have, with Harry taking the deal that is personally unpalatable but objectively the best for anyone else. I dunno, I just have a weakness for that specific bittersweet ending, where the protagonist resolves the major conflict but can’t reach personal closure. The third Chalion book was great for that.

    So many problems in stories come from the Author- Protagonist-Centered Morality. Humanity and the world at large in DF shouldn’t even have made it this far if folks like Harry can be uberwizards. Like Farla said, wizards should be self-destructing or getting themselves destroyed almost every time a new generation of babywizards approaches maturity. Still, it’s kind of funny for the book to actually admit that Harry would gleefully choose one over everyone because he doesn’t actually care about anyone but himself and the women he likes to ogle.

    But he’s a sue, so it doesn’t matter Bianca has no reason for it, we get Bianca listing off a whole bunch of options so he’ll get to say none of the above.

    He’s a sue and needs more temptation for him to heroically rebuff. Butcher’s got a real kink based on self-righteously denying temptation and patting himself on the back for it, especially when that temptation is coming from starving underaged drug addicts or half-naked definitely legal vampire carry-ons. Or cougar godmoms.

    1. Farla says:

       I dunno, I just have a weakness for that specific bittersweet ending, where the protagonist resolves the major conflict but can’t reach personal closure.

      And it wouldn’t even have to be a permanent loss! If you remove the half-vampire thing that was only invented for the sake of this in the first place, then it’d just mean Harry starts looking for a way to unvampire his girlfriend instead of unhalfvampire his girlfriend.

      1. Roarke says:

        Or even just accepting he now has a vampire girlfriend and looking into getting a real freezer so he can store bloodpacks.

  3. AlphabetSoup says:
    A few notes in no particular order:

    Yes, Red Court vampires originate in (and are based in) South America and Mexico; one of their major bases is Chichen Itza. Bianca is unusual in that she’s the furthest north the Red Court has spread. There’s a couple Red Court enclaves in the southern United States, but the vast majority of their territory is south of the border.

    The oldest Red Court members are from the indigenous tribes of Central America, South America, and Mexico. Later members include Conquistadors and other immigrants to the region. And of course the newest members can include just about anyone the Red Court infects.

    The various options Bianca gives Harry are given with her knowing Harry won’t take them; she only says them so that Ortega can report later that Bianca made a supposedly good-faith effort to avert the conflict. If Bianca just blasts Harry then the wizards can argue it was at least partially her fault, and might be able to get the other supernatural factions to support them in the war. If it’s obviously Harry (who is a White Council member and thus represents them) acting unreasonably, then it becomes harder for other factions to support the wizards. Which is why Bianca gives Harry a ludicrously generous offer–she forgives everything he did and lets him go, in exchange for him leaving behind someone who is already a Red Court Infected–so that when Harry turns it down Ortega can go to all the other species and magical factions and point out that, according to their laws and customs, it was the White Council guy that was clearly in the wrong, and the White Council that should be opposed. After all, Ortega can argue, if Harry was willing to do such horrible things to a Red Court vampire despite the vampire going above and beyond to find a peaceful resolution, who’s to say other White Council members might not do such things to members of the other factions no matter how conciliatory those factions are–especially if nobody calls the White Council to account?

    (As for Bianca’s knowledge, given that her gift to him was a gravestone reading ‘he died doing the right thing,’ it’s a safe bet that she’s anticipating him to… well, to die doing the right thing. To damn the torpedos and go down in a blaze of glory fighting for one person because it’s the right thing to do, rather than running away and abandoning her.)

    1. Farla says:

      The various options Bianca gives Harry are given with her knowing Harry won’t take them; she only says them so that Ortega can report later that Bianca made a supposedly good-faith effort to avert the conflict. If Bianca just blasts Harry then the wizards can argue it was at least partially her fault

      Harry (acting as a representitive of the whole of the WC no less!) attacked her at her own party and killed god knows how many of her babies, and is currently standing there because he broke back into her house and then killed more of her babies while trying to make off with her property! Why would anyone worry about people thinking Harry wasn’t completely at fault? At this point the wizards should be hoping she just kills him because the reparations she should be able to demand for this must be well more than just a single person’s death.

      But more to the point, if this was her intended play she wouldn’t have repeatedly tried to kill him first.

      1. AlphabetSoup says:
        Publicly giving Harry a chance to deescalate, back down, and walk away–and having it on the record that the White Council guy refused to do so but instead just kept attacking the Red Court even after being warned that war could result–could still be of use from the diplomatic perspective. Now if other factions say something like, “look, we don’t want to get involved, we don’t want this fight, can’t you guys just talk this out?” The Red Court can say that they already tried talking it out but the White Council guy wouldn’t hear reason and insisted on a fight. And that could spur the other factions to join the RCV side. After all, if the White Council as represented by Dresden doesn’t want anything concrete (Bianca gave them everything they could ask for and Dresden turned her down) but just wants to kill monsters, who’s to say that–if the RCVs lose–the White Council won’t turn around and decide some other faction has monsters in it?
        1. Farla says:

          Why should the other groups care about backing them up if they’re this pathetically forgiving? It’s clear you can completely fuck up vampires in the most public way possible, repeatedly, breaking juyst about every law governing interactions between factions, and still get away consequence-free. For that matter, it’s clear that supporting any vampire is a sucker’s game because if anything happens to the vampire the rest of the vampires will still be all “oh, we’ll forgive you if you just promise not to do it another five times, pretty please?”

  4. illhousen says:

    Also, are Red vamps South American now?

    Yes. In extended lore, everything below USA border is their territory, and they rule semi-openly, which definitely has no unfortunate implications whatsoever.

    The connection is supposed to be to Aztecs, by the way.

    Harry, who has antagonized vampires every goddamn chance he got, tells us that oh no war with vampires is very serious and terrible! Then why the fuck did you antagonize them every goddamn chance you got?

    It should also be noted that in the first book vampires were presented as weak and not daring to do much against wizards because they’d be crushed. Though, granted, this particular soft retcon I don’t mind.

    And I really don’t buy human organizations being that stable (and this isn’t even a regular organization but a forced coalition of anyone born anywhere with the right amount of power), or that you can have people like Jesus running around without messing with this sort of delicate asshole balance.

    Also, the White Council was established by Merlin, so Middle Ages. It’s not old enough to have ever been in war with vampires if “millennia” have passed.

    (Also, once again, Unknown Armies is just flat superior in its world-building, with the oldest occult organization that’s still relevant dating back to 1930s.)

    Red propaganda

    There is a joke about cultural vampirism in here somewhere.

    Indeed, going by what we’ve seen, without an education the wizards seem to self-destruct within months, so even if Harry’s insistence that they want a pet wizard is mistaken and wizards are actually pretty uncontrollable, making it so wizards are just something you have to wait a season to go away is still pretty good.

    Actually, this setup means that vampires would be the ones who can provide education to wizards since they seem to know compatible magic, giving them another lever to control the remaining wizards. (I mean, there are other beings who can probably teach you magic, like fairies, but they seem distant and someone you’d need to know how to contact on your own, while vampires are right there, with eyes everywhere.)

    “So? I still love her.”

    “She isn’t even fully human any longer, Dresden. It won’t be long before she is as a sister to me.”

    This is not italized.

    called power into my blasting rod, and its tip glowed incandescent white.

    Eww, don’t spill it.

    (It will never not be funny how phallic his implements are.)

    I focused, and reached beneath me.

    So, the question is, why couldn’t he do it before, from his cell? Just flood the house with ghosts before making your escape, it would have been easier than improvising a spell now.

    I’m not sure I’ve quite worked out the markers, but a lot of the rationalist/Spacebattles/smarter!Character stuff has the same feel to it, where everything feels like disconnected parts that aren’t really interacting with each other. It’s not even a puzzle-solving approach, because I actually like puzzle-solving – it’s like a story revolving around puzzle-solving solving literalism minus the puzzles.

    Ah, yes, I know what you’re talking about (I would also add Gamer fics to the list since they seem to share the basic paradigm). I’ve seen a lot of works like that, and I’ve noted that they value literal level of the story highly above literary one. They focus almost solely on logistics of world-building, on clever (or, often, “clever”) applications of powers given to characters, etc., and spend very little if any time thinking about what it all means and why it would matter to the reader.

    Mother of Learning is a distilled example of such type of writing, with its strengths (such as they are) and flaws (numerous) being directly traceable to the writing paradigm. If you want to figure out how such works tick and what attracts people to them, it’s probably an ideal case study.

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    1. Farla says:

      Yes. In extended lore, everything below USA border is their territory, and they rule semi-openly, which definitely has no unfortunate implications whatsoever.

      The connection is supposed to be to Aztecs, by the way.

      Oh goddammit. It makes no sense that the Aztecs would say blood drinking belongs to the taboo sun-fearing monsters.

      And not only is the USA only a few hundred years old, but that wasn’t even the border for most of it! Did the vampires just politely walk away once the borders were redrawn?

       I’ve seen a lot of works like that, and I’ve noted that they value literal level of the story highly above literary one.

      The thing is, I would have said I’m fine with just worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding. I can’t figure out what exactly the distinction is – maybe it’s that it’s not just the main character but everyone doesn’t seem to interact with it?

      Mother of Learning is a distilled example of such type of writing, with its strengths (such as they are) and flaws (numerous) being directly traceable to the writing paradigm. If you want to figure out how such works tick and what attracts people to them, it’s probably an ideal case study.

      The combination of finding this stuff intensely boring and them all being ridiculously wordy doesn’t work out well. I care barely make out what the repeated elements are, let alone what I’m supposed to be getting out of those.

      1. illhousen says:

        I think your comment cuts off.

        I can’t figure out what exactly the distinction is – maybe it’s that it’s not just the main character but everyone doesn’t seem to interact with it?

        Hm, yes, there is that. HPMOR, which popularized the phenomenon in Western geek circles to some extent, definitely has that in spades, what with it having exactly two characters capable of actually utilizing setting elements around them.

        Part of it is that I feel that world-building in such stories is built exclusively around protagonists figuring out how to exploit it, giving it an artificial look. “Puzzles without puzzles” is a good comparison: it’s like an old point-and-click game where the actions you need to take to progress are divorced from the logic of the world as a whole.

        Going back to Mother of Learning, one of the striking things about it (especially for the kind of story it tries to be) is that the main city the story takes place in has no feel. We learn a lot about high politics and the workings of magic and all that jazz but very little about architecture, style of clothing, the look of people, their everyday lives, etc.

        I’m reminded about your review of Boogiepop Phantom and how it brough its city to life, weaving the themes of suffocating past and a promise of a brighter future into its visuals, and things like that are completely absent from rationalist fiction.

        1. Farla says:

          Going back to Mother of Learning, one of the striking things about it (especially for the kind of story it tries to be) is that the main city the story takes place in has no feel.

          But is that a bug or feature?

          I can definitely see things I hate about this style of fic, but not the distinction between “this is a mistake that should be addressed” and “this is exactly what the audience wants out of this fic, and the thing that would fix it for me is loathed with equal strength by them”. There’s plenty of stuff that’s popular but flawed, where people would be happy if there was an even better version of it around, but this genre in particular is just so alien in what the aim is.

          1. illhousen says:

            Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. I often compare rationalist fiction to Van Dine’s rules because they’re kind laser-focused on treating a mystery novel primary as a logical puzzle, a battle of wits between the writer and the readers, and so include rules like “no character pieces” and “no love interests.” He recommends doing the bare minimum to give the work verisimilitude but not go beyond that, concentrating on building the mystery instead and providing the tools to solve it.

            When fans of rat!fiction talk about it, I see a lot of praise along the lines of “it’s greatly foreshadowed!” and “if you pay attention, you could figure it out yourself!” so I see a lot of similarity in focus.

            That could mean that such fans perceive everything not relevant to the puzzle aspects of the plot as a distraction.

            On the other hand, a lot of them exist in a sort of bubble of fanfiction and badly translated light novels where the lack of prominent themes, mood settings and general descriptions are common, so it’s hard to tell what is taste and what is the lack of experience with other types of literature.

            1. Farla says:

              That could mean that such fans perceive everything not relevant to the puzzle aspects of the plot as a distraction.

              It’s pretty stereotypical, but I do wonder if an issue is that they can’t make sense of puzzles that involve personal motivations? Or maybe “can’t” is the wrong word – aren’t good at and would rather pretend it doesn’t exist than work at it? Because it seems like even if you personally believe you’re completely rational, the very need to assert that means you understand others aren’t, so emotions are still a factor. And the stories do involve some element of emotions but it’s largely worshipful obedience. And some of the comments I’ve gotten on my own stories have suggested that there’s a decent chunk of fanfic readers who really struggle with noticing unannounced emotion.

              On the other hand, a lot of them exist in a sort of bubble of fanfiction and badly translated light novels where the lack of prominent themes, mood settings and general descriptions are common, so it’s hard to tell what is taste and what is the lack of experience with other types of literature.

              Yeah, that’s the other thing. Looking through the subsubsubgenre of monster reincarnation, at least of the batch I clicked on, I can’t see how anyone would predict the plots beyond the fact it’s extremely repetitive – or, put another way, all the predictions are litarary and not puzzle-based, I know everything about how it’ll go down but the specific mechanism.

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            2. illhousen says:

              It’s pretty stereotypical, but I do wonder if an issue is that they can’t make sense of puzzles that involve personal motivations?

              That is a factor. A stock critique of ratfic is that the characters in it are emotionless robots, which I actually don’t think is entirely fair. It’s more that their emotions are made known to us through telling us about their emotions, while body language and other subtle tells are absent, which creates a dissonance in people used to look for them.

              HPMOR is particularly educational here since it presents manipulation in a very mechanistic way. Do X to get result Y. It’s borderline obsessed with the idea of people being akin to machines that follow predictable scripts that can be manipulated through codified, predictable actions that work in all circumstances.

              Like, I can’t imagine a fast-talking confidence trickster existing in this world because manipulating other people there is all about pushing clearly marked levers in preordained order.

              A particularly blatant example of it is when someone asks Harry to promise to not sign anything in upcoming negotiations, he promises, then signs anyway and thinks to himself, “Ah, but I didn’t sign it with a quill, as he told in what was clearly a turn of a phrase,” and apparently expected it to be sufficient deflection of a broken promise.

              Anyway, at least some fans do seem to appreciate this approach to writing emotions.

              The big problem here is that such things could be a reflection of a writer’s personality, or it could be a sign of an amateur writing, and it’s hard to tell which is which.

              Like, Mother of Learning clearly wants to have character arcs and dramatic moments and all that cool shit, it clearly has evolution of the main character planned out, but it’s written in a consistent dry detached monotone, which to me greatly undermines it, and I can’t actually tell whether it was deliberate (I rather doubt it, but I’ve seen arguments to that effect), reflecting of author’s personal struggles or just a failure to communicate the ideas due to inexperience.

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            3. Farla says:

              A stock critique of ratfic is that the characters in it are emotionless robots, which I actually don’t think is entirely fair

              I know! They’re very emotional robots.

              I clicked on a random fic where some poor sailor is trying to make smalltalk and…

              “So why Kanto?” The burly sailor dressed in matching white trousers and shirt asked leaning on the railing while looking out to the ocean. His Poliwrath now resting in its pokeball after being soundly defeated.

              John turned to face the sailor with confusion etched on his face. The teenager was standing at 6’0″ with short blonde hair and an angular face which was currently scrunched up, so you could barely see his green eyes. He was wearing practical blue shoes with tight grey trousers and blue t-shirt. On the ground was a grey overcoat which completed his look. Resting on his belt was a full team of six pokeballs.

              “I mean, you could of chose any league and conference to tackle head on. I’m just curious is all. You clearly have the fire power to make your mark wherever you go.” The sailor finished, elaborating on his initial statement.

              “First and foremost, my teacher did a lot of his training in the northern part of the region and I wanted to pay homage.” John started, calculating what to say next. First impressions were important after all. “I plan on visiting the area of course.” He continued with a smile on his face. “With all the training my team and I have done we haven’t truly set out on our own before and I felt like I needed something, anything really to cling on to. It was either Kanto or Sinnoh and since Kanto is warmer…”

              “Other than that.” He continued. “It’s got a rich history, the first league to be founded amongst other things and a surplus of strong trainers to meet and defeat.” He finished with a smirk.

              The sailor nodded in approvement, understanding the young man’s motives and respecting his drive. He didn’t doubt his ability that was for sure.

              Every human interaction is about winning, without even understanding what the game being played is.

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            4. illhousen says:

              Yeah. The whole rationalism philosophy is advertised as “systematic winning.” Coupled with glaring blind spots concerning human nature, the end result is deeply unsurprising.

              (Also, poor sailor. He doesn’t deserve it.)

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  5. nmga says:
    Farla,i don’t give you are giving harry summoning  the ghosts to attack the vampires gravitas enough, You seee,due to corrupt systems and manipulation the vampires have been murdering peole for centuries. And know,those people’s spirits are rising upfor revenge,causing destruction and destroying the bastion of eveil that is Bianca’s house. It is one of the awesomested things in the book an you only mentioned it in passing :(
    1. Farla says:

      I discuss it at length in how the metaphor is botched. As to Harry himself, no, not impressed by  Harry profiting off people he let die without a second thought.

      1. nmga says:
        i don’t really think it’s a metaphor,it’s very literally the good guys destroying the bad. it’s not really a  allegory or simile or metaphor.
        1. illhousen says:

          We’ve just had a lengthy discussion about how fantastical elements are used to talk about real issues and kinda lose meaning when you don’t do it.

          Ghosts fighting vampires is just words on paper. They could be entertaining in a pulp kind of way, but ultimately they’re shallow. It’s what they represent in relation to the real world that matters.

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