Dresden Files Storm Front Ch2

This chapter, we’re introduced to Harry’s long-suffering sort of partner. Karrin Murphy is the police officer who has to deal with weird stuff, like mysterious killings and Harry.

Karrin and I are a study in contrasts. Where I am tall and lean, she’s short and stocky. Where I have dark hair and dark eyes, she’s got Shirley Temple blond locks and baby blues. Where my features are all lean and angular, with a hawkish nose and a sharp chin, hers are round and smooth, with the kind of cute nose you’d expect on a cheerleader.

Again with the random cheerleader thing. And while this at least avoids the issue of just making everyone around him supermodels, since at least she has “stocky” going for her, everything is otherwise very conventionally attractive.

she wore a long coat that covered her pantsuit. Murphy never wore dresses, though I suspected she’d have muscular, well-shaped legs, like a gymnast.

Gymnasts are thin little sticks of eating disorders. It’s far more likely a stocky muscular person would have thick legs, since that means more muscle. Also, keep never wearing dresses around this creep.

She was built for function, and had a pair of trophies in her office from aikido tournaments to prove it. Her hair was cut at shoulder length and whipped out wildly in the spring wind. She wasn’t wearing earrings, and her makeup was of sufficient quality and quantity that it was tough to tell she had on any at all.

And here we’re reminded that although looking like you’re wearing makeup is gross, you’d damn well better wear it. We’re told everything about her is practical and functional, but she still has to carefully put on makeup because wearing makeup is a function of women.

She looked more like a favorite aunt or a cheerful mother than a hard-bitten homicide detective.

And this is extremely odd, because she obviously does not look cheerful right now. We’re told she’s muscular and practical and wearing virtually unnoticeable makeup, therefore she doesn’t look like a detective, so it sounds like what he actually means is “she was a girl, so she looked like an aunt or a mother, because those are things girls are”.

She glanced at my eyes for a half second and then away, quickly. I had to give her credit. It was more than most people did. It wasn’t really dangerous unless you did it for several seconds, but I was used to anyone who knew I was a wizard making it a point not to glance at my face.

We’ll get the exact details on why soon, but it’s going to be terrible. There’s a lot of tension in this book due to the author couldn’t decide if he wanted to write a story where magic was known but most people had nothing to do with it or if no one knew about magic and most people couldn’t even be convinced. As it is, we get a lot of people not believing in wizards at all but also knowing not to make eye contact with him.

For some reason, she then complains about him wearing a duster jacket, despite those being practical and even more so for someone who has to walk a lot, because “It belongs on the set of El Dorado.” apparently, because she is a ninety year old man whose associations for long black leather jacket is “western” and not “Matrix”.

She snorted, an indelicate sound from so small a woman

And that’s going to be her character! We’re told that okay technically she is an empowered woman and shit, but she’s also a tiny blonde thing and everything she does that is not tiny blonde thing will lead to Harry talking about how omg how shocking this is. Now it’s time to get into the real misogyny of the books.

and spun on her heel to walk toward the hotel’s front doors.
I caught up and walked a little ahead of her.
She sped her pace. So did I. We raced one another toward the front door, with increasing speed, through the puddles left over from last night’s rain.
My legs were longer; I got there first. I opened the door for her and gallantly gestured for her to go in.

Haha, mild teasing. Nothing wrong here.

It was an old contest of ours.

Still looking good.

Maybe my values are outdated

And here we go.

but I come from an old school of thought. I think that men ought to treat women like something other than just shorter, weaker men with breasts.

As I said, the fact Murphy is theoretically a talented martial artist means nothing, because she’s a cute short woman. All women are weaker than all men.

And you know – if you actually are shorter and weaker than the person next to you, then there’s really nothing wrong with a person treating you like a person who is shorter and weaker. Tall people help short people reach things, strong people help weak people lift things, we’re all good. It’s not like the fact a person is shorter should have any impact on the person part.

Try and convict me if I’m a bad person for thinking so.

And this will be the book. He is so persecuted by the fact he insists on treating women “special” where “special” is “I told you to stop treating me this way, I don’t like it, stop it, why aren’t you listening to me, I said stop.”

I enjoy treating a woman like a lady, opening doors for her, paying for shared meals, giving flowers-all that sort of thing.
It irritates the hell out of Murphy, who had to fight and claw and play dirty with the hairiest men in Chicago to get as far as she has. She glared up at me while I stood there holding open the door

See?

He enjoys behaving this way, even if – especially if – the “ladies” do not like being treated like this. But the fact they don’t appreciate what he does for his own enjoyment is proof that he’s unfairly persecuted by the world, because he’s being so nice to them.

but there was a reassurance about the glare, a relaxation. She took an odd sort of comfort in our ritual, annoying as she usually found it. How bad was it up on the seventh floor, anyway?

Elsewhere, someone actually claimed their relationship is always just friendly teasing that she’s okay with – despite the fact he’s specifying that this time is unique for her finding anything pleasant about it and it’s a sign of how fucked up what she just saw that she finds this bullshit comfortable just for being predictable, gore-free bullshit.

Although last chapter he said he was going to take the stairs down from his office because elevators stall around him and also he’s paranoid something invisible might attack given he’s the only wizard on payroll, now they ride an elevator up. I’m not sure his technology issues will ever meaningfully impact the plot.

I had a good sense of Murphy, an instinctual grasp for her moods and patterns of thought-something I develop whenever I’m around someone for any length of time. Whether it’s a natural talent or a supernatural one I don’t know.
My instincts told me that Murphy was tense, stretched as tight as piano wire. She kept it off her face, but there was something about the set of her shoulders and neck, the stiffness of her back, that made me aware of it.
Or maybe I was just projecting it onto her.

Supposedly, this book was written partly to fuck with the poor soul trying to run his writing class, and that makes it hard to interpret things sometimes. He already pointed out Murphy is acting weird earlier, so he knows she’s tensed and upset. What’s up with him now telling us all about how special noticing the obvious makes him, and then suddenly saying maybe none of it’s even true?

Blood smells a certain way, a kind of sticky, almost metallic odor

Why do people always say “almost metallic”? It’s the literal metal in the blood that’s giving it the “metallic” aspect.

I sliced up a heart and ate it recently and believe me, it didn’t taste almost anything. It tasted like flesh jammed full of iron.

(Also, if we’re talking about the dead bodies sort of blood, it should be noteworthy that somehow, there’s blood without all the other smells that usually go in hand with it, like the fact corpses shit themselves.)

past a couple of uniform cops, who recognized me and waved me past without asking to see the little laminated card the city had given me. Granted, even in a big-city department like Chicago P.D., they didn’t exactly call in a horde of consultants (I went down in the paperwork as a psychic consultant, I think), but still. Unprofessional of the boys in blue.

Speaking of literal things, Harry will literally complain about anything. If they’d asked for his ID, he’d have bitched that he only sees them every other week and he’s only being escorted in by a fellow police officer and how dare they not recognize him.

Anyway, the place is all thick rugs, rich velvet and expensive, expensive leather, because this is a high class sexy hooker death, not one of those less sexy motel ones.

A pair of black-satin panties, a tiny triangle with lace coming off the points, lay there, one strap snapped as though the thong had simply been torn off. Kinky.

Right, Grampa, torn underwear is the height of kink. You are truly hip to what the young people are doing today. Have some more wheat bran.

There’s an expensive stereo so he pokes it and it plays a bit before getting caught in a loop.

Like I said, I have this effect on machinery. It has something to do with being a wizard, with working with magical forces. The more delicate and modern the machine is, the more likely it is that something will go wrong if I get close enough to it. I can kill a copier at fifty paces.

I’m not sure why a stereo (1980s) playing a CD (1980s) is so much less delicate and modern than a copier (1960s). Regardless, we continue to not see this having any plot-significant effect. If the whole thing burst into flames, that’d have been interesting – it’d show his impact can be destructive generally, rather than its current level of poke thing and it may or may not work, and in this case, it’d be specifically fucking up part of the evidence, which would show why the police were ambivalent about having him around.

Another detective, Charmichael, shows up to not suck Harry’s dick, so he makes fun of the guy for missing the torn thong, despite it being totally possible the police did see it and just hadn’t touched it yet because brand new crime scene (we will later learn the people in charge of that are waiting outside for Harry to finish), but of course he’s impressed by Harry because yes, they totally missed that, wow Harry best detective.

He was short and overweight and balding, with beady, bloodshot eyes and a weak chin. His jacket was rumpled, and there were food stains on his tie, all of which served to conceal a razor intellect.

People have, honest to god, claimed Harry’s descriptions of women aren’t bad because he talks about men in the same way, and something something bisexual something precious queer baby. I sincerely hope this means the descriptions are completely different three books in and not that a killing spree is required.

They were on the bed; she was astride him, body leaned back, back bowed like a dancer’s, the curves of her breasts making a lovely outline. He stretched beneath her, a lean and powerfully built man, arms reaching out and grasping at the satin sheets, gathering them in his fists. Had it been an erotic photograph, it would have made a striking tableau.
Except that the lovers’ rib cages on the upper left side of their torsos had expanded outward, through their skin, the ribs jabbing out like ragged, snapped knives. Arterial blood had sprayed out of their bodies, all the way to the mirror on the ceiling, along with pulped, gelatinous masses of flesh that had to be what remained of their hearts. Standing over them, I could see into the upper cavity of the bodies, I noted the now greyish lining around the motionless left lungs and the edges of the ribs, which apparently were forced outward and snapped by some force within.
It definitely cut down on the erotic potential.

So, putting aside absolutely everything else for a moment – this raises the question of how the story is being told, because there’s vanishingly few situations it makes sense to lead with “let me tell you about her amazing boobies, also her heart was torn from her chest”. The only one I can come up with is that he’s telling this story to someone well after the fact and deliberately trying to shock them (as the author is obviously trying to be shocking to the reader) and even that still comes off as him being pretty disturbed. And the final line is really unneeded, plus saying it only “cut down” the erotic part leaves the uncomfortable sense he’s saying it’s still decent wank material, just not as hot as it could be if they weren’t mutilated corpses.

Everything else – they are corpses, there is no way they’d stay in position without wires. For that matter, while death would’ve been practically instantaneous, it wouldn’t have frozen them in place and they’d have flailed a bit if only from the death throes. And presumably whatever force has turned them into an exhibit also kept the shit in place.

Last chapter I said I didn’t buy that Murphy was having a freakout over this, and I stand by that. It’s bizarre, but it’s not exactly dismembered five year old here. It’s not even the particularly unpleasant organ cavity that’s been torn open, and it’s an (impossibly) instantaneous death as well. Harry also won’t remark on any expressions on their faces even while talking about the eye colors, so I don’t think they even look pained. It’s bloody, and it’s also probably weird as hell how the bodies stayed in position like this, but seriously, adults and not even any proper viscera.

But because this is supposed to be hardcore, it’s time for the delicate balance of the main character being super badass but also insanely grossed out to show the reader how super disturbing the author’s writing is. So he manages to examine the bodies, crack a joke, then snap under the pressure and run out to vomit his guts out. I read the earlier Anita Blake books and this honestly reads like a scene from there with some pronoun changes.

We then get what I actually think is some good worldbuilding:

And someone had used magic to do it. They had used magic to wreak harm on another, violating the First Law. The White Council was going to go into collective apoplexy. This hadn’t been the act of a malign spirit or a malicious entity, or the attack of one of the many creatures of the Nevernever, like vampires or trolls. This had been the premeditated, deliberate act of a sorcerer, a wizard, a human being able to tap into the fundamental energies of creation and life itself.
It was worse than murder. It was twisted, wretched perversion, as though someone had bludgeoned another person to death with a Botticelli, turned something of beauty to an act of utter destruction.
If you’ve never touched it, it’s hard to explain. Magic is created by life, and most of all by the awareness, intelligence, emotions of a human being. To end such a life with the same magic that was born from it was hideous, almost incestuous somehow.

The idea you can’t kill with magic is obviously a plot thing, but I quite like the idea that wizards are just irrationally squicked by the idea of using magic like this, because let’s face it, it makes no damn sense that it’s fine for magic creatures to kill people but wrong for humans using magic to kill people, plus if it’s just about respecting life as the source of magic there’d be a no-killing taboo in general. But as an irrational thing, it gives us a bit of wizards having a different perspective than regular humans and pushes the idea interacting with magic has more of a mystical, religious component than just being an extra tool.

The White Council is going to be Giant Plothole in a few seconds, by the way.

So anyway, time for more of Harry being super detective.

“All right, Harry,” Murphy said. “Let’s have it. What do you see happening here?”
I took a moment to collect my thoughts before answering. “They came in. They had some champagne. They danced for a while, made out, over there by the stereo. Then went into the bedroom. They were in there for less than an hour. It hit them when they were getting to the high point.”
“Less than an hour,” Carmichael said. “How do you figure?”
“CD was only an hour and ten long. Figure a few minutes for dancing and drinking, and then they’re in the room. Was the CD playing when they found them?”
“No,” Murphy said.
“Then it hadn’t been set on a loop. I figure they wanted music, just to make things perfect, given the room and all.”

This is the opposite of what I like about the no-killing-magic squick. Harry isn’t working as a private detective who by the way happens to have magic but as a wizard whose magic happens to give him a way to investigate that other people lack, yet the author gives him a full set of private detective abilities anyway, which he somehow perfected between learning to be the best magician around because he’s an enormous sue.

And if Harry couldn’t do exactly what a regular detective does but relied on divination and such, so he couldn’t immediately answer questions like this and in fact often totally missed obvious aspects of the crime scene, that might explain why guys like Carmichael didn’t think much of him. Here, he’s apparently on a level playing field/actually better at this than Carmichael, which should impress the guy rather than make him think Harry’s a fraud.

Anyway, he then starts running down the magic side of the case. He says evocation is the sort you usually do your explosions and fireballs with, but it requires line of sight, and he also points out that in that case you can just use a gun. For distance, though, thaumaturgy would work. Thaumaturgy is basically voodoo.

Now it’s time to confirm the misogyny is authorial and not simply Harry.

Whenever you do something with it, it comes from inside of you. Wizards have to focus on what they’re trying to do, visualize it, believe in it, to make it work. You can’t make something happen that isn’t a part of you, inside. The killer could have murdered them both and made it look like an accident, but she did it this way. To get it done this way, she would have had to want them dead for very personal reasons, to be willing to reach inside them like that. Revenge, maybe. Maybe you’re looking for a lover or a spouse.
“Also because of when they died-in the middle of sex. It wasn’t a coincidence.
Emotions are a kind of channel for magic, a path that can be used to get to you. She picked a time when they’d be together and be charged up with lust. She got samples to use as a focus, and she planned it out in advance. You don’t do that to strangers.”
“Crap,” Carmichael said, but this time it was more of an absentminded curse than anything directed at me.
Murphy glared at me. “You keep saying ‘she,’ ” she challenged me. “Why the hell do you think that?”
I gestured toward the room. “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.”

No, it doesn’t matter that the mastermind is a guy, because the plot ends up about how he could possibly be powering a spell like this.

(That isn’t really a spoiler. Act can probably explain better than I can, but noir will have people saying that obviously the killer is X where X is going to turn out to be totally different. You can always rule out whatever the first explanation is.)

What matters is that the way the setting itself works, because Harry is the one who’s supposed to know, is that women are inherently eviller than men. They hate more and they hate better.

Now, to confirm the author doesn’t understand what sexism is, just that it’s something women keep accusing him of:

“But a man could have done it,” Murphy said.
“Well,” I hedged.
“Christ, you are a chauvinist pig, Dresden. Is it something that only a woman could have done?”
“Well. No. I don’t think so.”

Murphy isn’t saying he’s a chauvinist for the incredibly sexist thing he actually just said. She’s just saying he’s a chauvinist for assuming it definitely was a woman when it’s only extremely likely rather than certain. The problem isn’t that he believes women are objectively different, because obviously women are vicious monsters who can explode hearts by wanting it, Murphy totally gets that part. The issue is only that he’s trying to act on this fact, because of course feminists know women and men are different but insist on women being treated the same despite this obvious fact, probably because of their irrational female emotions or something.

“I haven’t really worked through the specifics of what I’d need to do to make somebody’s heart explode, Murph. As soon as I have occasion to I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“When will you be able to tell me something?” Murphy asked.
“I don’t know.” I held up a hand, forestalling her next comment. “I can’t put a timer on this stuff, Murph. It just can’t be done. I don’t even know if I can do it at all, much less how long it will take.”

And this is where we dive headlong into what was hinted in the first chapter – Harry won’t explain jack shit, to the point of misleading or outright lying, then bitches to the reader about how unfair it is people don’t just know to do exactly what he wants.

His initial statement seems like it was the most honest – that he’s being sarcastic about how he doesn’t want anything to do with this. But the conversation proceeds as if he said, “I’ve never needed to know this before because I’m not a murderer, but I’ll look into it now and see what I can find out.” We’re going to find out shortly that he is not going to and in fact doesn’t dare investigate, which means he’s deliberately lying here. And more, he’s not even brushing them off…

“At fifty bucks an hour, it better not be too long,” Carmichael growled. Murphy glanced at him. She didn’t exactly agree with him, but she didn’t exactly slap him down, either.

No, he’s committing to doing it and getting paid for the attempt, despite the fact he knows he won’t be doing anything of the sort. How horribly unfair it is Carmichael thinks he’s a fraud. And the fact Carmichael immediately assumes he’ll get paid for a while and never produce anything useful to the investigation, when he’s a long-term consultant, suggests that he’s done this shit before. The author’s presumably just writing Carmichael as Antagonistic Cop #34, but the fact is, we know Harry really does know about magic, and we know Harry is regularly consulted about magic cases. He should’ve proved himself ages ago. Carmichael’s behavior makes perfect sense, however, if you look at how Harry has given them a bare minimum outline of the magic involved (hasn’t even bothered to mention it violates taboo) and then said a bunch of stuff that actually were lies. If Harry normally produced the goods after billing them for hours of work, why would Carmichael’s first thought be that this would end with the cops having nothing to show for it?

“Dammit,” Carmichael said. He shot me a cold glance (but didn’t quite look at my eyes)

This is the point you can tell the eye thing is a full on disaster of an idea. He’s a skeptic, but he’s still not only aware of what supposedly happens upon eye contact but also believes it. All he has to do is lock eyes and it’d trigger an obvious supernatural effect, confirming if Harry is magic (bonus – he’d probably be able to tell Harry is planning to not do the work even though he is magic).

I don’t think there’s any way to make this work – the fact is, you can’t combine a masquerade-style urban fantasy with the idea wizards have an uncontrollable always-on supernatural effect, it’s just too damn obvious – but it’d have certainly been a lot better if the result was that Harry never made eye contact with anyone, rather than that he stares all he feels like and other people sheepishly avoid his eyes. It’d have been anyone thing making wizards weird, and could make Harry himself unsettling because he’d be giving odd signals with the hulking cranky guy combined with keeping his eyes looking at the floor most of the time. (Working to avoid eye contact would also be a sign of consideration for others, so it’d be a sorely needed chance to show that he’s an actual nice guy rather than the endless Nice Guying bullshit.) As it is, this all just cries of alpha male MRA stuff about how true men are dominant assholes who all lesser males cower in front of. Harry is so goddamn hardcore no one else can even look at him, and he constantly challenges them to do it.

Anyway. Our sexy exploded hooker was, as we already knew, the expensive, classy kind.

Bianca kept a flock of beautiful, charming, and witty women, pandering them to the richest men in the area for hundreds of dollars an hour. Bianca sold the kind of female company that most men only see on television and the movies. I also knew that she was a vampiress of considerable influence in the Nevernever.

I don’t believe it’ll ever be explained why a bloodsucking monster is apparently the only one capable of running an ethical escort service, probably because the author doesn’t give a fuck about the subject and just wants hot prostitutes that are happy to suck dick (in a classy way). Incidentally, I hope “vampiress” doesn’t grate on your nerves, because Harry will be scrupulous about informing us that he’s specifically talking about the fuckable sort of vampire any time it comes up.

Harry goes on to explain the Nevernever: he tried to explain it and Murphy didn’t understand, whatever. He apparently did an exceptionally shit job of that explanation, because Murphy now asks if Bianca’s connection means vampires and he says no vampire has this level of power outside the Nevernever, which seems like it should be covered in basic info about the place. Also, apparently vampires can also be sorcerers (despite magic = life) but it doesn’t change their outside Nevernever power level (so what’s the point of even being one?).

“Could she be at odds with a human sorcerer?” Murphy asked me.
“Possible. But it doesn’t sound like her. She isn’t that stupid.” What I didn’t tell Murphy was that the White Council made sure that vampires who trifled with mortal practitioners never lived to brag about it. I don’t talk to regular people about the White Council.

She didn’t ask for the specifics of your ruling body. All you had to do was say no, vampires don’t live long if they fuck with living sorcerers, so unless it turns out Bianca has just caught a tragic case of fireballs, she wasn’t in a dispute with a sorcerer. Instead you lied and said it was possible. “That would be stupid” makes it sound like it’s a typical situation where the big fish don’t tangle with the other big fish because it’s more trouble than it’s worth for both of them, so you then misled her and by extension the rest of the police on the situation further.

This is where the White Council becomes a plot hole. They’re in charge of keeping this stuff under control. From how he talks about them, they should already know and be dealing with this problem, and if they’re not full-on omniscient, then he should call them up and say that hey guys, some idiot just blew two people’s hearts out, I figure it was a witch because women, you know? Anyway it’s your problem now, call me back when you’re exploded whoever it was and I’ll pass that on to the police.

Anyway, the guy’s name is Tommy Tomm, because. Because. He works as a bodyguard for the not-mob ruler, Johnny Macone, who I understand from fanfic is a wonderful individual who deeply respects things like demisexuality and bunself pronouns and coercing Harry into a sexual relationship for his own good. Other people complain about this, but in fairness, the book seems like it’s trying to bait readers with this:

“Gentleman” Johnny Marcone had been the thug to emerge on top of the pile after the Vargassi family had dissolved into internal strife. The police department saw Marcone as a mixed blessing, after years of merciless struggle and bloody exchanges with the Vargassis. Gentleman Johnny tolerated no excesses in his organization, and he didn’t like freelancers operating in his city. Muggers, bank robbers, and drug dealers who were not a part of his organization somehow always seemed to get ratted out and turned in, or else simply went missing and weren’t heard from again.
Marcone was a civilizing influence on crime-and where he operated, it was more of a problem in terms of scale than ever before. An extremely shrewd businessman, he had a battery of lawyers working for him that kept him fenced in from the law behind a barricade of depositions and papers and tape recordings. The cops never said it, but sometimes it seemed like they were almost reluctant to chase him. Marcone was better than the alternative-anarchy in the underworld.

Thank god we have this nice man to murder competing drug dealers! And the only minor downside is that there are now vastly more drug dealers pushing their product overall.

This is not saying he is literally our savior come again, but for a story setup where everyone is terrible and/or incompetent, that’s pretty much what it amounts to.

Murphy then says that the rest of her department think she’s insane or know magic is real and are in even heavier denial as a result, a situation undoubtedly not helped by the fact Harry has avoided telling her most of the useful info here and, most damningly, didn’t do anything to suggest this is a special case. He doesn’t even blink at all the lying he’s done here.

“How about you?”
“Me?” Murphy smiled, a curving of her lips that was a vibrantly feminine expression, making her look entirely too pretty to be such a hardass.

This fucking book.

“The world’s falling apart at the seams, Harry. I guess I just think people are pretty arrogant to believe we’ve learned everything there is to know in the past century or so. What the hell. I can buy that we’re just now starting to see the things around us in the dark again. It appeals to the cynic in me.”

This suggests the proper noir story would’ve been following Murphy with Harry as one of the obligatory shitty contacts who acts like he’s being helpful but is actually concealing way more than he tells.

Speaking of, Murphy did at least manage to work out that he’s bullshitting about working out how to explode hearts.

“Look, Murph,” I said. “There’s some things you just don’t do.”
“Sometimes I don’t want to get into the head of the slime I go after, either. But you do what needs to be done to finish the job. I know what you mean, Harry.”
“No,” I said, shortly. “You don’t know.” And she didn’t. She didn’t know about my past, or the White Council, or the Doom of Damocles hanging over my head. Most days, I could pretend I didn’t know about it, either.
All the Council needed now was an excuse, just an excuse, to find me guilty of violating one of the Seven Laws of Magic, and the Doom would drop. If I started putting together a recipe for a murder spell, and they found out about it, that might be all the excuse they needed.
“Murph,” I told her. “I can’t try figuring this spell out. I can’t go putting together the things I’d need to do it. You just don’t understand.”

Note what he very carefully avoided saying, which is “There is a law against me figuring this out.” He’s just repeated don’t and can’t a bunch of times. The excuse is presumably meant to be the same one as earlier about how he can’t talk about fight club, except yet again, she’s not asking about the club. In the event she even works out there might be a club, “There is a law against me figuring this out and also discussing the laws is against the law,” pretty much covers it.

Murphy then yells at him and threatens to cut off his sweet, sweet taxpayer money, so Harry, being a smart alpha male, decides that he should rationalize working on the spell instead of just fucking explaining that he isn’t saying research is unpleasant, he’s saying that if he does he’ll be lucky if he gets as nice a death as those folk in the other room. This is because the author can’t plot for shit and relies on characters doing things while they explain it makes no sense to do this. I have no idea if this is one of the things that improves, but I got partway through the next book and it definitely hasn’t by then.

Murphy set the hook a second later. She looked up at my eyes for a daring second before she turned away, her face tired and honest and proud. “I need to know everything you can tell me, Harry. Please.”
Classic lady in distress. For one of those liberated, professional women, she knew exactly how to jerk my old-fashioned chains around.

This is one of those warning signs to pay attention to.

Harry here is refusing any responsibility for his own feelings. The only reason for Murphy to behave as what seems to me like an ordinary person saying this is important is to attack him through his dick feelings dick. He can’t help but see her as a damsel in distress, so never mind that what nothing in her words or behavior fits with that, or the chapter opened telling us that she’s used to dealing with other sexist cops who would react to any weakness like sharks smelling blood, he must feel this way because she is deliberately making herself look like one one! Harry would feel bad about saying no AND THAT MEANS SHE IS DELIBERATELY MANIPULATING HIM WITH HER FEMININE WILES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Going by what he says shows this, I don’t think there’s anything anyone could say he wouldn’t treat this way, but that’s not going to stop him from blaming the other person.

Add a dash of sex, and this is where you get the idea what a woman was wearing is so important to rape cases. The fact a man feels sexual interest toward a woman means the woman has chosen to force him to feel that way, so how can you say it was unprovoked? She made him want to have sex with her first!

I gritted my teeth. “Fine,” I said. “Fine. I’ll start on it tonight.” Hoo boy.

It’s so unfair how women say they want to be treated equally but then ask you to do things and you feel you can’t say no because you treat women differently than men.

The reason this is particularly unpleasant is because it breeds resentment. You can see it in his very actions here – he’s angry he feels like he has to do this, and he’s blaming her for doing it to him. In his mind, he’s filing it in a surely gigantic box labeled “forced to help someone when I didn’t want to” and stewing over the unfairness, while all the sane people around him have no idea that he was only doing what appeared to be the job he was paid good money to do because he felt they forced him and he thinks they owe him for it.

When we walked out, the uniform cops were still lazing around in the hall outside. Carmichael was nowhere to be seen. The guys from forensics were there, standing around impatiently, waiting for us to come out.

So…the people whose job it is to guard are standing there guarding, which is lazy.

Harry then realizes he’s late for his appointment and rushes off, only to be intercepted halfway there by a fancy car, and a thug gets out.

Two more men, both of them as tall as me and a good deal heavier, were slowing down from their own jog. They had apparently been following me, and they looked annoyed. One was limping slightly, and the other wore a buzz cut that had been spiked up straight with some kind of styling gel. I felt like I was in high school again, surrounded by bullying members of the football team.

Once again, Harry is enormous in his own right. Possibly he was less so as a teenager, but from what I’ve gleaned of his tragic backstory highschool should overlap with him knowing doom magic so even still, this just seems hard to swallow.

On the other hand, I’m happy the author has finally thought to draw a football player comparison after all the cheerleader talk. I’m just disappointed it required a situation where the football player comparison is vaguely appropriate.

They want him to get in the car.

“I like to walk. It’s good for my heart.”
“You don’t get in the car, it isn’t going to be good for your legs,” the man growled.

Hee. It’s funny because he’s a mobster and I don’t like Harry.

A voice came from inside the car. “Mister Hendricks, please. Be more polite. Mister Dresden, would you join me for a moment? I’d hoped to give you a lift back to your office, but your abrupt exit made it somewhat problematic. Perhaps you will allow me to convey you the rest of the way.”

That’s right, it’s sexy completely heterosexually awesome mobster time now.

101 Comments

  1. antialiasis says:
    Ugh, this chapter was even more awful on the women front than I remembered.

    And I’ve read most of the series and Harry’s descriptions of men never read remotely like he’s bisexual. I would assume it’s just fangirls seeing what they want to see.




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    1. Farla says:
      But his relationship with Nicest Mobster is obviously going to lead to fucking and being Nicest Mobster’s new wife, therefore he must be bi. Fanfic is very clear on this point.



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    2. illhousen says:
      Maybe fans mistook him for Constantine from Hellblazer. Happens all the time.



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      1. Well to be fair to the fans, the author mistakes him as Constantine from Hellblazer except without all the interesting bits which make the author incredibly uncomfortable and challenge his manly manliness.



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        1. illhousen says:
          He has a trench coat, what more do you need?



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  2. sliz225 says:
    “I sliced up a heart and ate it recently and believe me, it didn’t taste almost anything’.”
    I kind of loved how you just dropped that in there, no explanation necessary. ‘Yep, so occasionally I just chop hearts and eat them. No biggie. That’s just what I do on my days off.’
    I really loathe the ‘she made me do it by asking politely’ bullshit.



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    1. Farla says:
      That’s just what I do on my days off.

      That’s literally what happened. I had a raw heart, as one does, and the hour needed to shred it. Incidentally, the veins are the most delicious part. They turned into a sort of jelly.




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  3. mcbender says:
    I’m almost afraid to ask, Farla – did this heart you dismembered and ate happen to belong to a young writer of Pokemon fanfic? ;)



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    1. Farla says:
      Funny you say that. It was apparently a calf’s heart, which happen to strongly resemble human ones, so I spent the time cutting it into tiny pieces thinking that for all I knew, someone had snuck a human heart in instead.

      It was pretty yummy.




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      1. mcbender says:
        This vegetarian is pretty squicked out, admittedly, but to each their own :P

        (I just couldn’t resist making that joke earlier…)




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  4. EdH says:
    Oof. Didn’t comment in chapter 1, might as well now. I got the first 3 books just starting college because I heard they were urban fantasy noir (something I still want to write). I recall feeling annoyed at Harry, and when I showed my cousin the first book for a second opinion, she laughed nervously. Now I get why. Thank you for your hard work, that was enlightening.



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  5. illhousen says:
    Ah yes, that chapter. Even back when I didn’t pay attention to gender issues, the line about how women hate better than men seemed just plain weird to me. I mean, really, what.

    Do women get +2 to Magic, which means they technically have stronger emotions because magic tied to them in fluff or something?

    Also, Harry meets with the not-mob boss already. A bit early for noir, as I recall. The protagonist usually meets someone like that later, when it’s time to get beaten.




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    1. Roarke says:
      It’s not the only case I’ve seen where “woman’s emotions > man’s emotions, therefore woman’s magic > man’s magic,” but the only other one I can think of was a harem manga, just to show how much weight the idea should have.
      edit: Not even a *good* harem manga.



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      1. illhousen says:
        Good harem manga is a myth!



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        1. Roarke says:
          Harem manga itself is kind of a misnomer anyway. Wasn’t the original point of harems that you sleep with the women in the harem? Harem protagonists don’t sleep with fuckin’ any of them, except maybe one in the last chapter. It leaves me with this terribly sad impression of what Japanese wish-fulfillment is like.



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          1. Farla says:
            Hm. Maybe it’s sort of the inverse of slash fic, where part of it is the female writers wanting sexy men without other women getting in the way. The point of a harem manga isn’t for the main character to have sex with lots of hot women, because fuck that guy he’s competition why should he get laid, the point is that a lot of hot, horny (virgin) women with incredibly low standards exist ready for you the reader, to sweep in and collect them for your own harem.

            I know fanfic sue harems function completely differently than any published harems I’ve seen, which suggests harem manga isn’t written assuming the main guy is people’s self-insert.




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            1. Roarke says:
              Well, that idea has its own pitfalls. I’ve read harem manga for a rather long time, and they have this disturbing tendency to give *reasons* why such incredibly hot girls are virgin and available. These reasons tend to be either a.) Crippling psychological issues or b.) Crippling social isolation.

              Take one of the better examples: Rin Tohsaka. In many disturbing ways, Shirou is Rin’s first friend. Like, no joke, he’s the first person she can be 100% open towards, in any route. The closest she comes to friendship is the archery club captain, who she still has to distance herself from.

              So like, the implication that the haremettes are supposed to be for the reader just fills me with this sense of disgust. Like “here are the only women who would be compatible with you. Women with such crippling issues that they can’t be a part of normal society.”




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              1. Farla says:
                Like “here are the only women who would be compatible with you. Women with such crippling issues that they can’t be a part of normal society.”

                Uh…actually, that fits really well with what I’ve seen of imageboard quests. They like their cute but insecure waifus.




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              2. Roarke says:
                I just… don’t know why I expected any better, really.



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          2. illhousen says:
            As I understand, a lot of harem anime and manga started as adaptations of VN where the protagonist did sleep with one or more love interests. The sex is then cut to make it network-friendly.

            Later it evolved into its own genre, though. I am not sure about the appeal, and sometimes the harem shenanigans snuff a promising story.




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        2. SpoonyViking says:
          “Love Hina”.



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      2. SpoonyViking says:
        Real-world beliefs also had that concept. The Norse even had a stigma associated with specific types of spellcasting, which were considered “unmanly”. There are examples of male practitioners, both historical and literary, but in the literature, most of them were villainous, or at least self-serving.



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        1. Roarke says:
          Okay, first of all, any record of a practitioner of magic in the real world is literary, not historical. I don’t care if they were a real person with a documented effect on the world. They didn’t use magic to do it, so the part of them that concerns their use of magic is literary.

          That said, I suppose I’m not at all surprised that cultural mythologies drew stark lines between male and female magics. I’m not really talking about “certain types of casting” being “considered ‘unmanly'” though. That’s a result of people’s philosophies and ideals concerning manliness, not an inherent part of the magic system itself.

          If being really manly made your spells stronger, that would be relevant to what I was trying to say. Like spells being directly fueled by your testosterone, or how much physical strength you could bring to bear affecting the strength of your telekinesis.

          What you’re saying is more like the idea that the use of poison is associated with women more than men. It’s not like men can’t use poison just as effectively as women, it’s just that other men look down on them for not sticking metal in their enemies face-to-face.




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          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Not at all! Sorry if I wasn’t clear, but it’s not just a case of female sorcerers being more prevalent or accepted, they also were usually stronger than male sorcerers. There were even some folk legends that male sorcerers, to obtain their power in the first place, had to engage in womanly acts – that is, either anal sex as the passive partner, or being turned into women for a day every week.

            “I don’t care if they were a real person with a documented effect on the
            world. They didn’t use magic to do it, so the part of them that
            concerns their use of magic is literary.”

            That may be, but, scholarly speaking, we still have to differentiate between historical magicians and literary magicians. :-)

            Second, just to play Devil’s Advocate: they didn’t use magic that we can verify. Plenty of real-world religions to this day believe in otherworldly beings (basically, spirits): Shinto, Umbanda, Candomblé, Santería, etc. Science can’t (and shouldn’t) take those spirits into account because we can’t verify their existence in a scientific manner, but can you say with any certainty they don’t exist?




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            1. illhousen says:
              You are this close to cite “historical accuracy” as an excuse for this stuff. Which is bad as FATAL lies that way.

              The thing about historical believes about magic and how magic is portrayed in fantasy is that they don’t need to be the same.

              It’s a good idea to study real believes when constructing your system, but nothing forces you to accept any single element as a given.

              Or, in other words, it doesn’t matter if there was a believe about women being more emotional and those better mages, it’s Butcher’s choice to make it true in his work. Nothing was stopping him from keeping outdated believes as outdated believes instead of making them a fact.

              “Science can’t (and shouldn’t) take those spirits into account because we
              can’t verify their existence in a scientific manner, but can you say
              with any certainty they don’t exist?”

              There is a teapot on the other side of the sun. It’s trajectory is synchronized with Earth, so we can never detect it as the sun prevents observations.

              Can you prove I am bullshitting you?

              Do you care?




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              Reply
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                First: no, I’m not. I am not offering an explanation for why Butcher decided to write things this way (I don’t even mention him in my first post), I just provided an additional example of the “women are better at magic than men” trope, since the only one Roarke could remember is from a manga.

                Second: no, I don’t care to prove you are bullshitting me. I also don’t care for your tone. I don’t know what your problem is, and frankly, I don’t care (again); I have no interest in engaging in any more conversation with you.




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              2. illhousen says:
                “First: no, I’m not. I am not offering an explanation for why Butcher
                decided to write things this way (I don’t even mention him in my first
                post), I just provided an additional example of the “women are better at
                magic than men” trope, since the only one Roarke could remember is from
                a manga.”

                Sorry for the assumption then.

                There are various cultures that believed that magic was for women. Though it typically was about gods’ favors or inherent nature rather than about emotions specifically.

                “Second: no, I don’t care to prove you are bullshitting me. I also don’t
                care for your tone. I don’t know what your problem is, and frankly, I
                don’t care (again); I have no interest in engaging in any more
                conversation with you.”

                Fair enough. I am just really annoyed at people using Devil’s Proof unironically.




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              3. SpoonyViking says:
                In the interest of keeping things civil, I would suggest that in the future, you shouldn’t put actual religious beliefs on the same level as a teapot on the other side of the Sun. :-)



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              4. illhousen says:
                I don’t see a difference, especially since we are talking about long dead believes instead of the stuff that actually influence the society now.

                Both theoretical spirits and the teapot don’t affect the world in any way that can be reliably detected, therefore they can be ignored.




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              5. SpoonyViking says:
                We aren’t talking about “long-dead believers”, actually. Like I said, plenty of real-world religions still hold those beliefs in the modern day. And while you may not hold the same beliefs – nor do I think you should; heck, I don’t -, I do think they deserve the same respect you’d give any other fellow human being.



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              6. illhousen says:
                Believes don’t deserve a respect I would show to a human being since they aren’t human.

                Believers I can respect as long as their believe don’t lead them to making awful decisions like trusting faith healers.

                The problem with modern believes in magic is that it is often used to scam people.

                I also have some problems with organized religion, though I think that is a topic exceeding the boundaries of this thread.

                Let’s agree to drop it.




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              7. SpoonyViking says:
                Sorry, I thought you meant “believers”, not “beliefs”.
                And consider it dropped.



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              8. Farla says:
                Like I said, plenty of real-world religions still hold those beliefs in the modern day.

                People who defend their beliefs as requiring faith and being by definition unprovable probably shouldn’t be brought up in a discussion of if magic has any actual impact, because they’ve made it clear they are not talking about their beliefs doing that.




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              9. Roarke says:
                SpoonyViking did basically the same thing in the Chapter One post, huh? I don’t know how you and illhousen did not already disabuse him of the idea, because his argument was basically 99% off-topic there, too.



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              10. SpoonyViking says:
                Buddy, learn how to read. In the Chapter One post, I was talking in the context of how it is possible to construct a fictional setting where magic has always existed without necessarily changing the world on a fundamental level. In the response to illhousen Farla quoted, I was talking about how one shouldn’t just mock religious beliefs. Two entirely different things.



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              11. SpoonyViking says:
                Er… Except I wasn’t using that as an argument as to whether magic has any actual impact, only that illhousen shouldn’t mock real-world religious beliefs. Entirely different contexts.



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              12. SpoonyViking says:
                That said, I’d like to apologize. I did find your tone offensive, but I reacted more strongly than I should have. Sorry. :-)



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              13. illhousen says:
                No offense taken, and I do apologize for my tone as well.



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            2. SpoonyViking says:
              Actually, let me revise my first statement a bit: it’s not “if” I wasn’t clear, I wasn’t clear, period. Sorry. :-)



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              Reply
            3. Roarke says:
              “There were even some folk legends that male sorcerers, to obtain their power in the first place, had to engage in womanly acts – that is, either anal sex as the passive partner, or being turned into women for a day every week.”

              It’s not enough for female sorcerers to be stronger within the system; reasoning must be provided that correlates to Dresden’s. Again, the Norse belief is based on people’s perceptions of what ‘womanly’ and ‘manly’ things are, way back in the day when gender roles were even more strictly defined than they were now. The English don’t really see anything wrong with dressing up as women, but a lot of Americans will scream “fag” at anyone who does it. In this case, women seem to just be awarded greater magic somehow. From the example, it seems like the Norse did Nasu’s thing over a thousand years earlier: just get some semen pumped into you and boom! Instant magical energy.

              “Science can’t (and shouldn’t) take those spirits into account because we can’t verify their existence in a scientific manner, but can you say with any certainty they don’t exist?”

              Burden of proof. To my mind, it’s not up to scientists to prove that spirits don’t exist; it’s up to mediums to prove that they do. I can, with 100% certainty, say that there is absolutely no such thing as magic or spirits. I’ll respect anyone else’s beliefs, so I don’t go around saying “God doesn’t exist you suck hahaha,” but I will, just in this case, tell you that magic doesn’t exist until proven otherwise. I don’t care if people have historically believed otherwise. Historically, people have been utter dipshits.




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              Reply
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                “Again, the Norse belief is based on people’s perceptions of what
                ‘womanly’ and ‘manly’ things are,(…)”

                No. There is a social element, of course (although, interestingly enough, Odin himself practiced womanly magic), but they believed women were inherently better at shamanistic magic.
                This isn’t nearly the same as what Nasu does, it’s not a direct correlation between bodily fluids and magical energy.




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              2. Roarke says:
                Arright, but the point I was originally making is this: Dresden argues that women are better at magic because they specifically have some trait that they exceed men in, specifically harboring negative emotions like hate. Nothing that you’ve said about the Norse is the same. Sounds like the Norse gave women better magic because women. Because they believed magic was “unmanly” and the real way to kill folk is by putting a spear through their guts. It had nothing to do with the women themselves having some kind of special capacity or difference.

                Also sex=magic is an incredibly old idea and I’m just joking about Nasu. We’ll see later in UBW/HF that it’s not just semen=might=right.




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              3. SpoonyViking says:
                “Sounds like the Norse gave women better magic because women.”

                Not necessarily. Rune magic was closely associated with men, and noblemen, at that. And many berserkers in the stories display shamanistic powers akin to those held by female sorcerers, and yet, they suffer no social stigma from that.
                But yes, Butcher is specifically ascribing stronger black magic to women because women have a surplus of a negative trait. It’s even more mysoginistic (especially considering the different socio-historical contexts) than anything the Norse did in that regard.

                That said, I wasn’t offering a point of comparison to Butcher’s work, I was providing an additional example of the “women are better magicians” trope, since you could only remember a harem manga. :-)

                “Also sex=magic is an incredibly old idea[…]”

                Oh, I know. But the way Nasu uses the concept reminds me specifically of certain philosophies and beliefs, like tantrism, not the general concept of “the coupling of Man and Woman reflects the coupling of Heaven and Earth, of God and Goddess” that can be seen in many shamanistic beliefs.




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              4. Roarke says:
                “That said, I wasn’t offering a point of comparison to Butcher’s work, I was providing an additional example of the “women are better magicians” trope, since you could only remember a harem manga. :-)”

                Let me quote myself: “woman’s emotions > man’s emotions, therefore woman’s magic > man’s magic,”

                This is what I have been talking about the entire time. The Norse thing isn’t unrelated, but it is not specific to what illhousen and I originally discussed. It is my fault if I didn’t make the specificity of it clear, but this is why I have been disagreeing with you. The Nordic beliefs were not using this specific idea; Dresden and the harem manga were.

                And I might as well mention your other posts concerning real-world mythologies and the like: It doesn’t matter even if Odin is hiding in a teapot behind the sun. If he can be discussed in the same breath as fiction without throwing Gungnir down to shut me up, he’s fiction.




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              5. SpoonyViking says:
                “It doesn’t matter even if Odin is hiding in a teapot behind the sun.
                If he can be discussed in the same breath as fiction without throwing
                Gungnir down to shut me up, he’s fiction.”

                Do you want to educate people so that they don’t vote on politicians because of religious reasons? Or so that they don’t hate homosexuals and others because it’s against their beliefs? And so on and so forth?

                You don’t accomplish that by shouting louder than them that their God doesn’t exist. You do it by understanding how these ideas were formed in the first place, and why they are being perpetuated even now; only then can you deconstruct them.

                Basically, before you can educate people, you need to educate yourself.




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            4. Farla says:
              Second, just to play Devil’s Advocate: they didn’t use magic that we can verify.

              You seem to be getting stuck on this, so let me explain: that’s totally irrelevant, because if you’re talking about magic that’s so inconsequential it can’t ever be verified, you’re not talking about historical beliefs on magic (which were that it could accomplish things) or fictional magic (which can accomplish things). You’re talking about something that by definition is utterly meaningless, because you’d get more bang for your buck telling people to swallow a pebble and watching the placebo effect, which can easily be measured by science, do its job.

              Who the fuck cares if there’s some real magic in the world if “real magic” less ability to cure the flu than telling someone you did magic to cure their flu?




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              Reply
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                I’m not talking “inconsequential”, I’m talking “unverifiable”.

                If a person gets better from a disease because the evil spirit that was haunting her was banished by the witch-doctor, that’s not inconsequential, but it is unverifiable.




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              2. actonthat says:
                I think there’s a lot of talking past each other going on here, so it may be best for everyone to disengage, at least for a little bit.

                edit: Though obviously if you want to keep going, be my guest, you won’t get in trouble or anything.




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              3. SpoonyViking says:
                Nah, you’re right. This started out as what should have been a fun discussion about Urban Fantasy worldbuilding, instead it veered off-course. I’ll just chalk it up to a failure in communication on my part. :-)



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              4. Farla says:
                No, it’s totally verifiable. Do people who get sick and go to the witch-doctor get better more than people who get sick and don’t go to the witch-doctor?

                Yes? Great! Now science knows “going to the witch-doctor” works better than not. Next study checks placebo effect: do people going to an actual witch-doctor do better than a fake witch-doctor? If yes, then witch-doctors are veritably curing sick people. Science has the math to prove it.

                The next study attempts to nail down exactly what the witch-doctor is doing that’s curing people. What happens if you remove some elements, does the cure rate change? Oooh, let’s try hooking the sick people up to machine and seeing what happens – do the cancer cells spontaneously stop dividing? Does the viral load suddenly drop? Does it turn out the immune system was somehow not reacting to the disease and after the chanting it suddenly starts working?

                If it’s “unverifiable” it’s got to be inconsequential, because the only way something can’t be verified is if it has so little impact on the outcome it’s indistinguishable from random chance.




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              5. illhousen says:
                It isn’t, actually.

                1) Get a bunch of sick people.
                2) Divide them into four groups.
                3) Don’t treat the first group at all.
                4) Treat the second with normal medicine.
                5) Let witch-doctors treat the third one.
                6) Get a bunch of fake witch-doctors “treat” the last one.
                7) Compare results.

                You’d need to be careful about the sample size and such, but done right it will show if witch-doctors can really cure disease or not.




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        2. Farla says:
          Real-world beliefs also had that concept.

          Real world beliefs of misogynist historical societies were often misogynist, yes. When a writer takes misogynist beliefs misogynists thought were fact and says that they are fact, he’s doing the exact same thing they did.




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          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Again, not offering those as a point of comparison to Butcher’s work, only as another example of a trope.



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    2. Farla says:
      Do women get +2 to Magic, which means they technically have stronger emotions because magic tied to them in fluff or something?

      This is sort of where you can see just how sexist it is – there’s a lot of basically sexist assumptions that, if taken as fact and then extrapolated logically, would lead to women getting some cool stuff too. But no, we can’t say it’s a witch because this spell is a doozy and women have more raw power, it’s a witch because the one thing women are better at is hate.

      Then he clarifies that women are so defined by specifically hatred that witches are all nastier than wizards. Not more emotional, just more into tricking kids into ovens.

      (And part of this is probably that saying women get +2 to spells would mean Harry Sueden wasn’t the bestest wizard ever, because he must be the bestest wizard ever.)




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      1. illhousen says:
        I am trying to figure out if this setup is better or worse than that one AD&D homebrew I’ve seen that gave women +1 to Charisma and Wisdom but -1 to Strength and Intellect.



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        1. Farla says:
          I suspect the house rules here are women get +5 to spells with the [EVIL] tag and -5 to everything but CHA.

          Going by this book, which contains a whopping zero female magic users and a ruling council that appears to be entirely male, men are significantly better at magic.




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          1. illhousen says:
            I feel you’ll just love the female wizard from Harry’s past once she is introduced.



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        2. Roarke says:
          Arcanum gives women -1 to Strength and +1 to Constitution. I guess it sort of implies that women aren’t weaker, just built to handle different sorts of physical stress. Which I guess is almost okay?



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          1. illhousen says:
            I am generally against giving stat modifiers based on gender in RPGs unless we are talking about a fictional race where men and women are really different (which can be botched so hard for other reasons).

            You are playing as an outliner anyway, so what’s the point of including modifiers designed to make you closer to an average?




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          2. Farla says:
            That actually seems based on available data, which is a plus (as is keeping it away from mental stats at all), but it still seems unwise because it means people can’t play whatever gender they want without risking a penalty, and if in the meta game constitution turns out to be more important, people will bitch until men get something better and if strength is more important people will just never play female characters.

            Also, I’d worry that the end result would be people making the masculine classes need high strength and the feminine classes need high constitution.




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  6. Roarke says:
    Don’t worry about it, Farla. This is Fate!Harry. UBW!Harry will be much more- oh. Nevermind.

    “Note what he very carefully avoided saying, which is “There is a law against me figuring this out.” He’s just repeated don’t and can’t a bunch of times.”

    This is another one of those masquerade-things that Butcher probably would have been much better off without. From what I could tell in this post, Harry hasn’t kept a single meaningful secret, just a bunch of tired little ones. The only thing that even looks important is that “Doom of Damocles” that he’s under, which I’m guessing is some kind of wizard-probation.

    Like, if there’s enough mundane acknowledgement of magic, then even before delving into the capabilities of magic, it makes sense to find out how their society is structured. It shouldn’t even come up on a case-by-case basis. Murphy should have a little cheat sheet with the Seven Laws on them, saying what wizards are not allowed to do by wizard law. Like you said, this half-assed masquerade only bogs things down. A real masquerade is a great source of character conflict, and no masquerade allows for interesting exploration of how magic would affect daily life, making for challenging worldbuilding and unique environments. Instead we have Harry Dresden, Wizard, and a killer who rips the hearts out of hookers while leaving their breasts intact – which should have clued Harry into the killer’s gender and probable sexual orientation fuckin’ instantly. I can see the lines in his faux-noir head:
    “Only a man would have left those breasts alone. A woman would have torn them up out of envy. Murder is one thing, but damn, those breasts are like the perfect scoops of vanilla ice cream you only seemed to have as a child.”




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    1. Farla says:
      Don’t worry about it, Farla. This is Fate!Harry. UBW!Harry will be much more- oh. Nevermind.

      Change that to Pre-BookX!Harry and Post-BookX!Harry and it’s actually exactly what fans say!

      Murphy should have a little cheat sheet with the Seven Laws on them, saying what wizards are not allowed to do by wizard law.

      At this point I’m left to assume “don’t tell anyone anything about wizard law” is one of the seven laws. If you went more into the idea of magic being fundamentally different than logic and technology, you could end up with magic societies having all sorts of insane rules including that you can’t tell someone you can’t tell someone. And the result of that would be that all wizards had to deal with people by telling them a lie that ran parallel to the particular truth of that one situation to explain, with the result that to outsiders, two wizards would say two completely different things and when the puzzle was solved the actual situation would be a third related thing, and also neither of the rules they gave could ever be generalized to any similar event, and as far as any outsider can tell, there’s no unifying rules about magic at all.

      The big problem is that yet again, it’d be more interesting to be following Murphy trying to work out what the fuck is actually going on than the person telling the lies but informing the reader what the actual situation is.




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      1. Roarke says:
        But why should Murphy try to work out what’s going on when she can just pout until Dresden caves? Which if I recall from the quote above she had to do for like literally a second before he was like “fuck, lady in distress, better spring into action.”



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        1. Farla says:
          I’m not sure but it might have been just saying please. In that case she can just phrase everything politely and he’ll be dictating her the complete wizarding history before long.



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          1. Roarke says:
            It didn’t sound like it was because “please” was said, but because it was a woman saying it. Dresden didn’t go “damn, manners, my only weakness!” he was like “damn, women, my only weakness!”



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            1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
              Dresden had already put her in a position where she had to ASK him to actually perform the consulting work that he is hired to do, rather than just hanging about making cryptic hints and sniggering because people don’t know what he hasn’t told them.

              Dresden should be making himself as helpful as he safely can because it’s in his contract that he do the job, rather than needing to satisfy himself that the representative of the agency hiring him is “in distress” and needs rescuing.




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      2. illhousen says:
        It is an interesting idea.

        I’ve seen sometimes stuff like “thinking about bad thing make it stronger/brings its attention upon you”. It would be cool if merely explaining dark magic perpetuated it.




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        1. Farla says:
          I read this cool thing called the Book of Tigers which included a monster that turned invisible the more you knew about it. The only possible response to it was to never even hint it existed, because then new victims get a couple turns to try to fight it off.



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  7. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    Miss Manners would say that Dresden’s values are outdated and he’s a worse person for making such a big a point of opening that door for Murphy.

    He and Murphy are doing business. Business calls for business manners. Junior opens door for senior; person not-carrying things opens doors for person carrying things. If Dresden wants to insist on strong gender role-play on dates and only date women who enjoy that, that’s on him. Bringing date manners to work is rude and is a way of getting Murphy off-balance by making her gender more important than her job function. (“You may think you’re a detective, but to me, you’re a WOMAN first.”)




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    1. Roarke says:
      Harry and Shirou would probably enjoy having tea together one of these days, since that’s exactly how Shirou warps his Master/Servant relationship with Saber. Also they’d bond over the whole magic thing I guess.



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      1. Farla says:
        I feel like Shirou would call him a jerk after about five minutes. Shirou seems like he’s misogynist out of stupidity, not malice.



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    2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      Isn’t it just disgustingly rude (at best) to do something to someone if they’ve made it clear they don’t want you to? Like if I told someone I didn’t want to shake hands because I was a pianist or artist or whatever, and they grabbed my hand and shook it anyway because that’s “polite”, I’d be pretty hacked off.



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      1. Farla says:
        But see, he knows that what he’s doing is objectively more polite, because he feels it is and he’s a rational man rather than an irrational woman so feelings = fact. One day, Murphy will spontaneously realize she was being an idiot and be glad he so politely ignored her feelings on the matter to treat her the way he thought was right.



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        1. illhousen says:
          Are you planning on doing or at least reading the whole series? You’ll love Changes, trust me.



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          1. Farla says:
            I’d like to, but I’m not sure I will just given how much trouble I have even finishing trilogies here.



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        2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
          Yes, and one day the pianist/artist will learn that potentially serious damage to the tools of their trade is just a side effect of living in a polite society where no one makes allowances for what anyone else actually wants. They will become much happier once they accept this.

          So really, Harry is a shining beacon of light whose behaviour we should emulate.




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      2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
        Yup, as a general rule, Dresden is also violating her personal preferences, for his own gratification, which is rude.

        It’s a normal feature of my week to say politely to strangers, “thank you so much for offering, but I’d rather not” over courtesies (like giving up a bus seat) that would be genuinely helpful to smaller, older, or less healthy women, or to ones carrying babies or large amounts of packages, or to ones wearing spikier heels. I’m not at all troubled that they offer — there are days when I’m the person who’s less healthy or carrying packages, plus I make the same offer to men in those conditions — but I would be pissed if they insisted after I’d politely said no.




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  8. Xander77 says:
    Reasons why book three really improves on what came before it – Harry gets someone to bounce off of who isn’t Murphy. This skips the semi-quasi-pseudo masquerade “oh I’ll never tell, tee-hee” bullshit, AND allows him to be protective of others for genuinely chivalrous reasons, rather than “she girl, me strong wizard man”.

    “Murphy isn’t saying he’s a chauvinist for the incredibly sexist thing he actually just said. She’s just saying he’s a chauvinist for assuming it definitely was a woman when it’s only extremely likely rather than certain. The problem isn’t that he believes women are objectively different, because obviously women are vicious monsters who can explode hearts by wanting it, Murphy totally gets that part. ”
    You’re reaching juuuuuuuust a bit.




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    1. SpoonyViking says:
      “You’re reaching juuuuuuuust a bit.”

      At first, I thought so, too, but then I realized: shouldn’t Murphy (being a woman and all) have challenged Harry on his mysoginistic belief that women are better at hating than men? By not doing so, isn’t it as if she agrees with him?




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      1. Farla says:
        Exactly. It’d be bad if it was just Murphy letting the statement go unchallenged, but you could fanwank it as Murphy just not caring to argue yet again with his bullshit and planning to quietly ignore his WOMEN ARE EVIL SHREWS WHO DESTROY MEN’S HEARTS!!!!! suggestion. Unfortunately, it’s immediately followed by the author showing Murphy does call him out for anything sexist, which means she can’t have felt the previous part was.



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        1. Xander77 says:
          Harry voices a stupid opinion and Murphy doesn’t call out every aspect of how stupid it is = obvious authorial intent of misogyny.

          Harry is actually demonstratably wrong and full of shit within the novels context = who cares.

          Hmm.




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          1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
            “Authorial intent of misogyny?” That’s not how it works. Farla was not saying that Mr Butcher wakes up in the morning and thinks “Hey, you know what? I think I’ll go write something with misogynistic implications! That will show those she-women what I think of them. Awh, yeah, sexism is the best!”

            I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just phrased that badly, but seriously, misogyny is not something people intend to do; it’s something they actually believe.




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          2. Farla says:
            It’s funny you see it that way when my point was that the author is clearly trying to have his sexism called out by Murphy objecting, and the problem is he has her object to the non-sexist part and shows he doesn’t understand what sexism is or why women keep bringing it up.



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          3. SpoonyViking says:
            Soxy and Farla already covered the same arguments I’d have made, except for one: saying women are just plain nastier than men is more than just a stupid opinion, it’s downright offensive. I’d put it on the same level as saying men are naturally prone to being rapists. For Murphy to not call Harry out on something like that, well, it’s at least strange.



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            1. K says:
              “I’d put it on the same level as saying men are naturally prone to being rapists.”

              *looks over at Cold Days* Ha. Ha haha ha. Heh.

              Oh boy. Yeah, I just- we’ll- we’ll get to that when we get to that, but- yeah.




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  9. SpoonyViking says:
    “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 reads just like something from an Agatha Christie novel. Of course, Agatha Christie was born in 1890 and died during the seventies, and even then she managed to be quite progressive in certain aspects (class issues, exarcebated patriotism, etc.). It’s sad that a 20th/21st-century author parrots that same rhetoric without any discernible irony.




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    1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      Heh, I was just rereading After The Funeral and was so amused/confused by never-makes-a-mistake Poirot randomly announcing that women are incapable of kindness. “Though they can sometimes be tender.” Christie, what are you on about? To me it’s a level of sexism so absurd it’s like saying all women are secretly eels or something.



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  10. actonthat says:
    [ou don’t know.” And she didn’t. She didn’t know about my past, or the White Council, or the Doom of Damocles hanging over my head. Most days, I could pretend I didn’t know about it, either.]

    SWORD. It’s the SWORD of Damocles! GAH. Cursory research! CURSORY FUCKING RESEARCH.

    It’s also a really ironic (mis)use of that reference, as the moral of that story is essentially, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and all Harry has done is bitch and moan about having to help people and there being a governing body there to keep him in check at all.




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    1. illhousen says:
      I like the Paperwork of Damocles better.

      You see, Damocles could cut his finger on a paper. And the wound could get infected and cause him to die.

      In theory.

      Such is the heavy burden of a ruler.




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    2. GeniusLemur says:
      You expect Butcher to do research? Look at his characterization and worldbuilding! Does that look like someone who’d actually activate a neuron, let alone crack open a book?



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      1. K says:
        “You expect Butcher to do research? Look at his characterization and worldbuilding! Does that look like someone who’d actually activate a neuron, let alone crack open a book?”

        If you guys ever get to Codex Alera (only four books, though they are long), Butcher’s failure to research is gonna become even more apparent. But that’s neither here nor there, unless somebody wants to do a discussion post. Sorry.

        But yeah, it’s- it’s so bad.




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    3. Farla says:
      I actually can’t tell if it’s a regular fuckup or if he knows but he thinks his name is just so much cleverer (it also does involve a literal sword and otherwise has nothing in common but the fact it can happen at any time for little reason).



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  11. Socordya says:
    I sliced up a heart and ate it recently and believe me, it didn’t taste almost anything. It tasted like flesh jammed full of iron.
    So sad all the good jokes have already been done before I got there.

    How could anyone think the “soulgaze” is a good idea???




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  12. Anon says:
    By the number of comments, which I haven’t read yet, I suspect the trolls are out in force. I just wanted to say your analysis is thoughtful and enjoyable. So keep it up.

    I admit–I read the Dresden Files s for longer than I should have, mostly because I enjoyed the sexist talking skull sidekick. I sometimes wonder if this makes me a terrible person. At least I stopped after Harry slut-shamed his teenage apprentice in book *muttermutter*.

    People say the sexism gets better, but it’s always there, just less painfully obvious.




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    1. Roarke says:
      “No luck catching them trolls, then?”
      “It’s just the one troll, actually.”



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    2. Farla says:
      I think it’s just that this is a new genre. People have already said most of what can be said about YA in general, but they have lots yet to say about urban fantasy noir.



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  13. Hadithi says:
    Hey, Farla! You mentioned in this review about this story being sort of a way to prove how much better he was that his writing teacher, and you’re sort of right. The quote is this:

    The first several books I wrote were nothing but swords and horses. I had been discussing things with my writing teacher every semester and I had written several very mediocre books. At some point she had told me “You know, Jim, you’re always going on about how much you enjoy these Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton and how much you like Buffy, why aren’t you writing something similar to that because that would seem to be a much better use of your interests to serve your writing?” I said “No, I’m a fantasy writer” and I’d done that for a long time. Finally, one semester, I had been arguing with her on several different points on writing craft and so on, and I finally decided that this semester I’m going to do just exactly everything she tells me to and I’m going to show her how wrong she is about all these different things because I had my English Literature degree so I knew better than she did. Just because she had 30 or 40 novels under her belt, that didn’t mean she knew anything. So kind of to prove her wrong, I set out to fill out all the little worksheets she had in her class, and proceed according to things she had suggested for new writers to do and I was going to show her what terrible unimaginative pablum was the result… and I wrote the first book of The Dresden Files. I wrote it to prove how much my writing teacher didn’t know and learned a valuable lesson about humility as a result.

    She read the first three chapters of the very first book and she looked up at me and said “You did it. This will sell.” I said “What?”

    This is about a guy who likes fantasy being told by his teacher to write something that’ll sell. So he says “Fuck you, you know so much? I’ll make a paint-by-numbers book and see what you think.” This is what came about, this is what he turned in. This book is about as formulaic as you can get.

    And the worse part about it all? He caved. He agreed and he sold it. This is literally what selling out is. He ignored everything he liked to write, everything he thought was interesting and creative, and just made something he knew would sell.




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    1. Farla says:
      And the worse part about it all? He caved. He agreed and he sold it. This is literally what selling out is. He ignored everything he liked to write, everything he thought was interesting and creative, and just made something he knew would sell.

      Well, let’s not mourn any loss there – from the sounds of it, he was always interested in what would sell, he just thought the dumb lady teaching writing who’d sold dozens of books didn’t know what she was talking about and books about sword dudes on horses was the way to go. There’s no sign those books were particularly creative, especially given the fantasy elements in this are perhaps the weakest point.




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  14. CrazyEd says:
    So, a few days ago, I commented a few chapters ahead about how Jim Butcher’s writing is so bad it is impacting other writing because I keep thinking how what Butcher wrote can be tangentially connected to other things so that other thing must be bad as well. And now, yesterday, I was writing a relationship that was actually the sort of friendly (mutual) teasing relationship that Dresden Files fans like to claim was going on in Murphy’s introduction scene. And, yep, Butcher has definitely broken me.

    Is the way to do such a relationship actually as simple as not depicting the characters as being truly bothered by it, or does something more have to be done? Because, in text, everything I write seems a lot more mean-spirited and spiteful than I want it to, even if the other character’s response is to laugh and fire back with their own joke.

    (For bonus points, the thing I was writing involves a character who has a lot of the same physical description as Murphy’s in this chapter; except when people are surprised she’s strong, it’s because she could probably lift the back axle of her husband’s F-150 off the ground despite it having both a crew cab and long bed- which google tells me has a 5,639 pound curb weight- and her missing 75% of her left arm. Not because she looks like she could’ve been a cheerleader in high school.)

    Also, to make this post, I had to scroll past comment chains involving the heating of hearts and genesis of harem anime. Y’all were weird back before I showed up.




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    1. illhousen says:

      Well, aside from reaction, an important thing to keep in mind would be power balance.

      A huge problem with Harry and Murphy as they’re written is that most jokes are made at the expense of Murphy, with Harry being mostly undamaged by their “banter.” There is also this feeling that he needs Murphy far less than she needs him: he’s the gatekeeper of knowledge, the only one she can turn to who can actually do something about the occult underground, and he even manages to make his agreement to do a job for Murphy sound like he’s making a favor to her.

      Banter generally comes across much better when both parties give as good as they get and when they are portrayed and perceive themselves as equal. Cop partners, members of the same superhero team, school friends, whatever, the important thing is that there is no dependency or superiority in relationships.

      Another important factor is consistent characterization. Banter is all well and good, but there probably would be subjects nobody jokes about because one character or the other is sensitive about them. So if you have characters joking about something in one chapter, and in another a character has a nervous breakdown about the same issue, that would obviously cause problems to the narrative.

      It’s also a good idea to balance banter with moments of seriousness and sincerity: nobody banters all day every day, sometimes characters should drop it and speak plainly about issues that matter to them, and during those moments there is a good opportunity to show how they care about each other and what they truly think.




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      1. CrazyEd says:
        Hm, that’s good advice in general, and I think I’ve got that all covered with the scene in question. The two are childhoodish friends and neighbours (for about five-ish years by the time of this scene) in a moment of total levity. The guy knows a little more about magic than the girl (he’s more of a skill-type and she’s more power-type), but her actual effective magical ability is stronger (because she’s a power-type), but the scene had absolutely nothing to do with their respective knowledge of magic and if the girl has a question she can just go to their mentor. The guy has infinitesimally more access to said mentor, yes, but only because she’s his mother and they live together.

        I think I’ve been writing the guy as giving more but the girl as giving better, so I’m not sure if they’re exactly portrayed as equals as such (though that is my intent), but they perceive themselves as such. Of course, there are areas where they are definitely unequal (he can cook better than she can, but she can effortlessly school him in basketball, off the top of my head) and they treat those as such, but overall I’d say it all balances out pretty well.

        I recently overhauled the backstory of their relationship to better support the way I wanted them to interact, so I can’t say much about the serious/banter suggestion, but I definitely plan on doing so (especially since part of the overhaul was increasing the length of time they knew each other). The guy definitely tends towards being the serious sort (minus with a few exceptions, such as the girl), though, so I don’t expect this will be a problem. If he makes a joke about something that she later has a nervous breakdown over (or vice-versa), that is 100% a mistake on my part.

        I think maybe when I’m done writing this, I’ll do something short and unrelated but more serious, though. Just to be 100% certain I’ve got that aspect covered.




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