Dresden Files Storm Front Ch8

Last time, Morgan, the most ethical guy we’ve seen so far.

By the time I got home, it was after two o’clock in the morning. The clock in the Beetle didn’t work (of course), but I made a pretty good guess from the position of the stars and the moon.

So wear a watch!

The first international watch precision contest took place in 1876, during the International Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (the winning four top watches, which outclassed all competitors, had been randomly selected out of the mass production line), on display was also the first fully automatic screw making machine. By 1900, with these advances, the accuracy of quality watches, properly adjusted, topped out at a few seconds per day.

Admittedly, you’ll be facing about a hundred+ dollars to get a decent one, but this should be like maintaining a 1940s car, just one of the costs of doing business as a wizard.

I didn’t think sleep was likely, so I decided to do a little alchemy to help me unwind.
I’ve often wished that I had some suave and socially acceptable hobby that I could fall back on in times like this. You know, play the violin (or was it the viola?) like Sherlock Holmes, or maybe twiddle away on the pipe organ like the Disney version of Captain Nemo. But I don’t. I’m sort of the arcane equivalent of a classic computer geek. I do magic, in one form or another, and that’s pretty much it.

We’ll see in a second that he’s a classic computer geek in the sense someone who likes typing on a computer is.

I live in a basement apartment beneath a big, roomy old house that has been divided up into lots of different apartments. The basement and the subbasement below it are both mine, which is sort of neat. I’m the only tenant living on two floors, and my rent is cheaper than all the people who have whole windows.

I find it really hard to believe. Maybe things work very differently in Chicago, but usually rent is primarily based on space and only secondarily how livable that space is. We’ll also see shortly that Harry is one hell of a problem tenant, which should’ve gotten his rent raised.

The house is full of creaks and sighs and settling boards, and time and lives have worn their impressions into the wood and the brick. I can hear all the sounds, all the character of the place, above and around me all through the night. It’s an old place, but it sings in the darkness and is, in its own quirky little way, alive.

Like with the no killing with magic, I wish there was more done with this. Instead of having wizard sight that flicks on and off, maybe wizards could just percieve things differently all the time. The older an object was, the more “real” it feels. A hundred year old house is brightly colored, while they have trouble even noticing a plastic spork.

Imagine Harry acting a bit like this anything plastic. Could also be a funny connection to his money issues if he subconsciously perceives most of the stuff people hand him as not that real. If you paid him in bills from 1900, he’d suddenly register the cost of things, but if it’s printed in 1970? It might as well be Monopoly money. (In fact, if you found an old enough set, you could probably troll wizards by paying them in the fake bills and watching them try to use those in stores. The precursor of Monopoly was invented in 1902.)

Mister is an enormous grey cat. I mean, enormous. There are dogs smaller than Mister. He weighs in at just over thirty pounds, and there isn’t an undue amount of fat on his frame.

Please remember to neuter your cats. I know it seems cruel to remove their balls. I know some of you have serious issues and are trying to live vicariously through your pet’s active sex life. (Harry will go on to mention his cat having a hot date. No. That is not a thing.) But they’ll be happier and they won’t inevitably die. Tomcats are not long-lived animals. Not only are they going to be getting into dangerous situations and regularly getting hurt, but the testosterone flooding their bodies is also reducing their ability to heal from those injuries. And I don’t mean slightly here – the gaping head wound on this one big tom finally healed right up after he was fixed. There’s also FIV, which, much like HIV, is incurable. While the amount in the population will vary depending on area, my personal experience has been 0% of regular stay cats have it and 100% of full grown tomcats have it.

Neuter your cats.

I think maybe his father was a wildcat or a lynx or something.

The reason you don’t see thirty pound cats often these days is other people are responsible. With the magic of testosterone, many cats reach this weight.

Your cat is not a special snowflake with special genes. Cut his balls off.

Harry did, however, go through the proper procedure for getting a cat, which is to find it on the street and take it home.

with his tail torn off by a dog or a car-I was never sure which

Harry seems unaware of the many things that harm kittens, such as other cats, rats, raccoons, foxes, coyotes… He does know his cat hates both of those things, but it’s a tomcat, they’re just really aggressive and territorial. Even unfixed female cats can get hyper aggressive and try to murder dogs. Back in the days before people understood neutering, one of my mother’s childhood cats got particularly homicidal when pregnant. One time a dog was walking by their yard and she went berserk, hurling herself at the fence to try to kill it.

Mister had recovered his dignity over the next few months, and shortly came to believe that he was the apartment’s tenant, and I was someone he barely tolerated to share the space with him.

Please god let this joke die already.

It’s not just that it’s a cliche, it’s not even an accurate version of it! Cats are many things, but barely allowing their owner’s existence? No. The jokes about cats are how demanding they are from their owner. Cats are basically furry babies. They cry when they want anything and sometimes they just want to sit on you for a few hours and they don’t care if their tiny needle claws hurt. This reads like someone’s heard of cats and heard people joking about it, and is trying to write his own cat joke from that. Cats are aloof and people joke about being owned by them, so cat joke = cats believe they own the apartment and want it all to themselves.

He sauntered over to me and rammed one shoulder playfully against my knee. I wavered, recovered my balance, and unlocked the door.

This is going to be a running joke. Look, I’ve been rammed by thirty-pound cats, and no. The reason people trip over cats is because the cats get in the way while you’re walking. The heavier a cat, the more difficult this becomes. If you’re standing, it shouldn’t be a problem, and if you’re standing expecting the cat to ram into you and you still nearly fall, you are very very drunk.

My apartment is a studio, one not-too-large room with a kitchenette in the corner and a fireplace to one side. There’s a door that leads to the other room, my bedroom and bathroom, and then there’s the hinged door in the floor that goes down to the subbasement, where I keep my lab. I’ve got things pretty heavily textured-there are multiple carpets on the floor, tapestries on the walls, a collection of knickknacks and oddities on every available surface, my staff and my sword cane in the corner, and several bulging bookshelves which I really will organize one day.

The money issue is really, really annoying me.

Carpets and tapestries are both costly things, and triply so when you can’t, say, use a computer to find a cheap bulk price. Even just the rods to hold them up cost a lot. Plus if he’s doing this for insulation reasons, which I’m assuming he is unless he’s downright insane, he wants the thick heavy version, which is way, way more expensive than the wall scrolls of cotton cheap stuff. A wise wizard would definitely want to blanket his place with embroidered giant blankets, but where exactly is the money for this coming from? We opened with the claim Harry is out of money and can’t pay his rent. Now we’re told he’s covered everywhere but the ceiling in fabric AND has all sorts of random junk AND tons of books. Also a sword cane, which are not cheap things, and getting one actually usable in a fight is going to cost still more.

(Another thing that’d have helped counterbalance the sexism would be Harry knowing how to sew because he makes his own quilts. His job obviously has a ton of downtime sitting around in his office. It’d also flesh out his character better to say that he’s been making the stuff that surrounds him.)

But somehow he has the money to buy all this stuff when also he’s heating his place solely by charcoal, and lighting it by lamp or even candle because the electric lights (1800) don’t work much of the time.

If I may digress a moment.

I saw this great display on different lighting through the ages, and it showed how innovations in lamp technology were a huge deal because candles are horrible as light sources so to generate enough light to not ruin your eyesight, you needed to burn whole stacks of them, which gets incredibly expensive. The development of polished metal and glass to focus candlelight was extraordinarily important as a technological development and this asshole just ignores that to use freestanding candles instead of even putting one inside a mirrored lantern for movable and far brighter light. That’s like step one of lamp technology!

This is sort of like why I can’t watch the Sleepy Hollow show, despite it being less hideously awful than a lot of the other options on television. We learn about the American colonies as a bunch of people with strong feelings about religion, misguided work ethics and occasionally fucking up enough they needed to engage in widespread cannibalism. And while that last one is obviously an entertaining moment in our history, there was so much else going on!

Let’s just take the inventions here. He has a kerosene heater under the impression that’s safer than a gas heater, despite the fact even modern ultra-safe kerosene heaters are dangerous and he must need to use something positively ancient given he can’t even play nice with light bulbs. Sadly, googling didn’t provide me with a good historical overview of kerosene heater development, and yes, I am seriously sad about that, but it does have a bit on the lamps. See, the original kerosene lamps, known by the very fitting name of “dead flame”, had the minor design flaw that if they fell over or broke, the oil and fire got everywhere and burned the place down. Then, decades later, someone figured out how to not make them do that (most of the time). In the intervening time, people just had a lot more fires. Also, sometimes they just exploded! And people tried to fix that too, eventually. But people used them anyway, because candles are horrible horrible illumination sources and also they’ll still burn your house down.

This is all a) super cool b)why there is no way in hell he gets a good deal on rent. When “If” a fire starts, he’s on the bottom, so the fire goes right up, killing everyone else in the building.

Furthermore! You know how the wick of a candle is basically string? That’s a braided wick. Prior to that, candle wicks weren’t consumed by the fire and had to be regularly cut off instead, or else they’d fall over against the candle again and quickly melt it into a puddle. It was invented in the 1800s, which, remember, is sometime after people figured out the basics of lightbulbs. The material candles are made of, paraffin, was late 1800s. If he can’t have lightbulbs, he should be using tallow candles with thick, twisted wicks and a weak light. (And no matches, but I assume magic can at least handle that much.)

In conclusion, if you don’t actually know anything about technology and don’t want to go on about all the interesting things people use if they can’t use 20th century stuff, don’t just say your character is using old technology which is like candles and lamps or whatever. If he had magic lamps that ran on magic because he’s magic, we could skip this whole issue, but supposedly he doesn’t.

I took off my duster and got out my heavy flannel robe before I went down into the lab. That’s why wizards wear robes, I swear to you. It’s just too damned cold in the lab to go without one.

Except robes suck for that.

I like covering myself in a blanket as much as anyone, but there’s a reason we invented fitted clothing, and it’s because it works better. If wizards can’t heat their own houses, they should punch anyone who makes a robes crack right in the face, out of their sheer jealousy the rest of us get bathrobes and they have to wear five pairs of pants just to not die in their sleep.

Also, a duster basically is a better fitted robe. I’ve got a nice trenchcoat I wear all winter. Sometimes I keep it on indoors because I am a member of the reptilians and need to hold on to every scrap of waste heat I get from muscles. If you tried to take it away from me and offered me a robe in exchange, I would bite you.

Plus the looser your clothing, the more likely it’ll catch on fire, and we’ve established his house has open flames every few feet.

Anyway, Harry is heading down to his magic lab.

Shelves over the tables were crowded with empty cages, boxes, Tupperware, jars, cans, containers of all descriptions, a pair of unusual antlers, a couple of fur pelts, several musty old books, a long row of notebooks filled with my own cramped writing, and a bleached white human skull.

Ooh, fur pelts! See, that’s what wizards should be wearing. When in doubt, wearing the skin of dead things is a good way to keep warm. That would be the stereotype, not some flimsy robes.

But what we were supposed to care about (how, when the issue is that it’s cold?!) is the skull. See, the skull is the magic computer.

Oh, I’m sorry, magic computer AI which is so totally different. See, the skull is inhabited by an air spirit (sort of like a faery, but different thanks for clarifying that really helped) and he knows all sorts of spells for Harry, and this is totally different than Harry just googling them on magic internet because reasons.

Also because rape.

“Let me out for a ride, and I’ll tell you how to get out of it.”
That made me wary. “Bob, I let you out once. Remember?”
He nodded dreamily, scraping bone on wood. “The sorority house. I remember.”
I snorted, and started some water to boiling over one of the burners. “You’re supposed to be a spirit of intellect. I don’t understand why you’re obsessed with sex.”
Bob’s voice got defensive. “It’s an academic interest, Harry.”
“Oh yeah? Well maybe I don’t think it’s fair to let your academia go peeping in other people’s houses.”
“Wait a minute. My academia doesn’t just peep-“

I want to be really clear. The spirit does not just go to a sorority house and invisibly watch the girls naked. It does stuff. What stuff is left vague at the moment (we’ll get semi-confirmation by the end) but we can tell already that whatever impact it had, it was significant enough that Harry heard and was horrified to the point he’s never done it again.

If a spirit can “influence” people into having wild sex parties so out of control that Harry fucking Dresden knows it happened, that is not consent. That is horrifying.

“You’re trivializing what getting out for a bit means to me, Harry. You’re insulting my masculinity.”

But that’s not an issue to the author. The problem is the uproar it causes. It’s totally understandable that a spirit that could force sorority girls to have sex would do it, if that spirit was male. Just like all the other things that are totally understandable if you’re male.

The skull then insults Harry’s masculinity and he says he does have a date. Because obviously, that is what is important here.

It was my turn to get defensive. “She likes me,” I said. “Is that such a shock?”
“Harry,” Bob drawled, his eye lights flickering smugly, “what you know about women, I could juggle.”
I stared at Bob for a moment, and realized with a somewhat sinking feeling that the skull was probably right.

In another, much better story, this would be to bridge the gap between the negative sexist trait and the idea that Harry is basically a decent guy. He’s being socialized by a rapist skull he thinks knows better than he does. We’d see that left to his own devices, Harry doesn’t act like an asshole toward women, but horrible shit comes out of his mouth when he repeats what he’s learned from the skull. That’s where stuff like witches being extra evil comes from.

Instead we have Harry enjoy reminding Murphy that he man, she woman all the more because he knows she hates it.

“We’re going to make an escape potion,” I told him. “I don’t want to be all night, so can we get to work? Huh? I can only remember about half the recipe.”

Harry: too dumb to write a recipe down.

The skull tells us that thanks to the magic of plot fiat, magic potions have precisely enough downtime to make two without it taking any extra time, but three potions is too difficult. Therefore, they’ll make two potions! But not two escape potions, even though if you’re in enough trouble to need an escape potion, you’ll probably be in enough trouble to need a bunch.

“A love potion, Harry!

The skull insists or else it won’t tell him how to do the other potion, and Harry, being too fucking dumb to write it down last time, has no choice. Incidentally, Harry first threatens to throw him down a well to be trapped forever, which is to say he threatens to torture the skull if it doesn’t do what he wants, then when the skull calls his bluff:

I gritted my teeth and tried not to smash the skull to little pieces on the floor. I took deep breaths, summoning years of wizardly training and control to not throw a tantrum and break the nice spirit to little pieces.

It takes years of training to get Harry to the point where he can stop just short of smashing everything and killing someone because that person said no to him.

Incidentally, it’s not because this is wrong. It’s because wizards need magic computers, and not only that but in fact this one is the best magic computer Harry’s ever heard of. (Because Harry is a sue who gets everything he needs while the author keeps telling us that no really, it’s so hard being him.)

Could I make the potion by myself? I probably could. But I had the sinking feeling that it might not have precisely the effect I wanted. Potions were a tricky business, and a lot more relied upon precise details than upon intent, like in spells.

We will see in a second that this is a filthy, filthy lie.

Harry then says that, well, maybe he’ll just make the potion and not use it, claiming it’ll denature or something (de-magic?) after a few days. I assume he means “like all potions” here, although he really should say that, because it’s kind of an important limitation and would also go a long way to explaining why he has no potions on hand.

Love potions were about the cheapest things in the world to make, so it wouldn’t cost me too much.

Also somehow he knows this despite not knowing how to make one, as we’ll see in a minute, and furthermore it’ll turn out the potion can only be made by dumping in something expensive because bitches be golddiggers.

And, I thought, if Susan should ask me for some kind of demonstration of magic (as she always did), I could always-No. That would be too much. That would be like admitting I couldn’t get a woman to like me on my own, and it would be unfair, taking advantage of the woman.

No, it would be rape.

When this inevitably happens, for the record, it plays out exactly like it’s rape.

But Harry’s primary objection is just that it’s admitting failure to have to rape a woman, then distantly second, that maaaybe drugging someone to remove their free will and turn them into a fuckdoll might be unfair, somewhat.

Because this is such a light and funny topic, we then get more funny banter as the skull makes him promise to do the potion precisely according to his directions, because apparently sometimes Harry tries to do it his own way and there’s HILARIOUS consequences. Because this whole chapter is comic relief, see? Joke tiemz.

Potions are all made pretty much the same way. First you need a base to form the essential liquid content; then something to engage each of the senses, and then something for the mind and something else for the spirit. Eight ingredients, all in all, and they’re different for each and every potion, and for each person who makes them. Bob had centuries of experience, and he could extrapolate the most successful components for a given person to make into a potion.

And this is what Harry thinks is enough to count as a potions nerd – following the directions of someone else who actually knows how to do it with barely any idea of what that involves.

The escape potion was made in a base of eight ounces of Jolt cola. We added a drop of motor oil, for the smell of it, and cut a bird’s feather into tiny shavings for the tactile value. Three ounces of chocolate-covered espresso beans, ground into powder, went in next. Then a shredded bus ticket I’d never used, for the mind, and a small chain which I broke and then dropped in, for the heart. I unfolded a clean white cloth where I’d had a flickering shadow stored for just such an occasion, and tossed it into the brew, then opened up a glass jar where I kept my mouse scampers and tapped the sound out into the beaker

So like I said, potions do seem like the sort of thing one should be able to work out for themselves. You can see an obvious link and logic behind each ingredient.

But ignoring Harry’s claim that it’s impossible to work this out on his own, as with the fairy trap, I really do like seeing this sort of ritual stuff pop up. Personally, I think the shadow and sound bits are cheating, because I feel urban fantasy should be about stuff that sounds like you could do it yourself, but conversely, I can see how making one or two ingredients impossible adds to the feel you could do it if only you had the last piece.

But it’s time for the other potion now.

“Tequila?” I asked him, skeptically. “Are you sure on that one? I thought the base for a love potion was supposed to be champagne.”
“Champagne, tequila, what’s the difference, so long as it’ll lower her inhibitions?” Bob said.
“Uh. I’m thinking it’s going to get us a, um, sleazier result.”
“Hey!” Bob protested, “Who’s the memory spirit here! Me or you?”
“Who’s got all the experience with women here? Me or you?”
“Harry,” Bob lectured me, “I was seducing shepherdesses when you weren’t a twinkle in your greatgrandcestor’s eyes. I think I know what I’m doing.”
I sighed, too tired to argue with him. “Okay, okay. Sheesh. Tequila.” I got down the bottle, measured eight ounces into the beaker, and glanced up at the skull.
“Right. Now, three ounces of dark chocolate.”
“Chocolate?” I demanded.
“Chicks are into chocolate, Harry.”
I muttered, more interested in finishing than anything else, and measured out the ingredients. I did the same with a drop of perfume (some name-brand imitation that I liked), an ounce of shredded lace, and the last sigh at the bottom of the glass jar. I added some candlelight to the mix, and it took on a rosy golden glow.
“Great,” Bob said. “That’s just right. Okay, now we add the ashes of a passionate love letter.”
I blinked at the skull. “Uh, Bob. I’m fresh out of those.”
Bob snorted. “How did I guess. Look on the shelf behind me.”
I did, and found a pair of romance novels, their covers filled with impossibly delightful flesh. “Hey! Where did you get these?”
“My last trip out,” Bob answered blithely. “Page one seventy-four, the paragraph that starts with, ‘Her milky-white breasts.’ Tear that page out and burn it and add those ashes in.”
I choked. “That will work?”
“Hey, women eat these things up. Trust me.”
“Fine,” I sighed. “This is the spirit ingredient?”
“Uh-huh,” Bob said. He was rocking back and forth on his jawbones in excitement.
“Now, just a teaspoon of powdered diamond, and we’re done.”
I rubbed at my eyes. “Diamond. I don’t have any diamonds, Bob.”
“I figured. You’re cheap, that’s why women don’t like you. Look, just tear up a fifty into real little pieces and put that in there.”
“A fifty-dollar bill?” I demanded.
“Money,” Bob opined, “Very sexy.”

That’s the love potion.

An actual person at the end of the twentieth century wrote that, and then other actual people read it and published it.

Since there’s a lot there, let’s go through and examine a few choice bits.

“Champagne, tequila, what’s the difference, so long as it’ll lower her inhibitions?”
Bob said.
“Uh. I’m thinking it’s going to get us a, um, sleazier result.”

Harry doesn’t argue that the only important part of the liquid is the alcohol to get her too drunk to say no. He just feels like if he’s going to rape someone, he wants it to be like a classy rape, where you slip the roofie into the wine at a candlelit dinner, not raping some tequila-chugging skank in the bar’s bathroom. He has standards, you know.

“Right. Now, three ounces of dark chocolate.”
“Chocolate?” I demanded.
“Chicks are into chocolate, Harry.”

And generalizations. Chicks love that.

“Page one seventy-four, the paragraph that starts with, ‘Her milky-white breasts.’ Tear that page out and burn it and add those ashes in.”

Even a love potion supposedly there for women is defined around the male gaze. The guy who loves romance novels picks out a scene he liked that he remembers as involving breasts, and the justification is this is what women want. Romance novels describe the male character, but we don’t have that page ripped out and added, because the author doesn’t care about those parts of the book. He likes the parts about titties! Also romance novels are stupid and for girls.

“Money,” Bob opined, “Very sexy.”

And this final bit, this is the bit that says she deserves it. All women want is a rich guy and you’re rich, so it doesn’t matter what they say afterwards. They’re probably just trying to extort more money. When the potion works – so what if she’s clearly incapable of consent? The fact it worked proves she’s a gold-digging whore.

So how should it have gone?

Well first off, it shouldn’t.

But if you’re going to do it? Then own what you’re making. It’s a sex potion. You can do it by getting her drunk, by pretending to care about her, or by flat out paying her, it’s all the same in the end, right? The romance novel page of milky breasts? That’s put in to make her behave in the depicted way, ie, to have sex with someone.

I would like to end this by reminding you that this is what the potion will actually do right in this very book when it’s inevitably drunk. Not only is it obvious from the start what the potion will do, but it happens. The author writes it, and he later writes exactly what this whole chapter threatens, and yet not once does he actually understand that this is rape.

But that will be then. We don’t have to deal with it for a while.

We finish by Harry “activating” the potions by just throwing magic at it.

The energy from magic comes from a lot of places. It can come from a special place (usually some spectacular natural site, like Mount St. Helens, or Old Faithful), from a focus of some kind (like Stonehenge is, on a large scale), or from inside of people. The best magic comes from the inside. Sometimes it’s just pure mental effort, raw willpower.
Sometimes it’s emotions and feelings. All of them are viable tinder to be used for the proverbial fire.

I’m not sure to classify this as foreshadowing or plot hole. If wizards know they can get magic from other places for a boost, you’d expect that to be a major factor in wizard society and politics. If wizards can straight up make focuses, you’d expect them to be doing that all over. And…if wizards can use feelings, you’d expect them to be really emotional.

I had a lot of worry to use to fuel the magic, and a lot of annoyance and one hell of a lot of stubbornness. I murmured the requisite quasi-Latin litany over the potions, over and over, feeling a kind of resistance building, just out of the range of the physical senses, but there, nonetheless. I gathered up all my worry and anger and stubbornness and threw them all at the resistance in one big ball, shaping them with the strength and tone of my words.
The magic left me in a sudden wave, like a pitcher abruptly emptied out.

And the idea of wizards specifically using up emotions is one I don’t think has been explored much.

This connects to my bit earlier about how I’d have liked Harry better if we saw his explosion at Morgan to be a departure from his usual behavior. If Harry was better characterized in general, you could show him as having a lot of volatility – he’s often cool and collected only because he channels that stuff into power for his spells. The longer he goes without doing magic, the more energy he has stored up, and the more emotional he becomes. This would serve to further alienate him from normal people, because to most people, this just translates into unpredictability which humans really don’t like in our social interactions. You want to know what makes the burly man suddenly break down in tears over so you can avoid the topic, not play sobbing roulette each time you meet. It’d also let us have the tragic backstory and crippling angst while still having Harry non-crippled by angst much of the time, and even make it more plausible Harry’s emotional IQ is so shitty.

It’d even make this whole sequence less of an asspull if Harry literally couldn’t sleep because he’s scared and upset and this is how he’s learned to handle that (instead of actually learning to handle being scared or upset).

Once the frothing had settled, I leaned over and poured each potion into its own individual sports bottle with a squeeze-top, then labeled the containers with a permanent Magic Marker-very clearly. I don’t take chances in getting potions mixed up anymore, ever since the invisibility/hair tonic incident, from when I was trying to grow out a decent beard.

Speaking of asspulls, Harry’s claimed he just made the potion to please the spirit, but he’s bottling it up anyway, because otherwise it wouldn’t be available for hilarity later.

“You won’t regret this, Harry,” Bob assured me. “That’s the best potion I’ve ever made.”
“I made it, not you,” I growled.

Your skull did all the stuff that involved actual skill, also again, anger issues. Either he didn’t empty all that out or he’s just perpetually on a hair trigger – and that could make sense, because if you’re powered by burning coals of anger, you’ve got incentive to relight those at the first opportunity.


  1. SpoonyViking says:
    …How the Hell does anyone not realize love potions are basically date rape drugs? Even freakin’ J. K. Rowling realized that, even if she glossed over the whole thing!
    1. Roarke says:
      Well, historically rape with men as the perpetrators has generally been tied to violence. It was only when men tried respecting the free will of women that we realized that hey, maybe coercion etc. are bad things too.
      edit: Also (and I may be very wrong) I think that love potions have been historically seen as feminine tools, and men can’t be raped, ever.
      editedit: Ultimately what I’m trying to say is that people are idiots, have always been idiots, and will continue to be idiots for a long time because idiocy has inertia like nothing else in the world.
    2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      I don’t know, that seems grosser to me, in a way. Like, in this case you have the mild hope that if you explained to Butcher why magic rape is still very much rape, he might actually learn something. Whereas JK has this uncomfortable vibe of “Oh, yes, I know it’s rape; that’s why I’m a hundred percent opposed to boys ever doing it!”
      1. illhousen says:
        Rowling’s attitude towards love potions is all over the place, as far as I can tell.

        Merope using it was bad, because Voldemort resulted.
        Ron being poisoned by one was supposed to be funny, as far as I can tell, but also bad because he, like, had his true love already.
        Molly using a love potion is A-OK, though.
        And they are taught and sold openly and legally, which… is not supposed to be bad, I guess?

        By the end of it, I kinda suspect that Rowling just thought one day “hey, love potions is a thing in folklore. How can I use them in my story?”

        And so she came up with a few different uses for them, which clash with each other.

        1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
          Yeah, but you’ll note the possibility of boys using them is literally never discussed, as if it doesn’t exist, even though the boys of Hogwarts are portrayed as being completely aligned with the gender norms of us non-magical people. And if you told a whole high school of non-magical boys that they had free access to a love drug their reaction would not be “Oh well, that’s so clearly for girls we will never discuss or even acknowledge the possibility that some of us boys might like to rape people.” That has ugly implications to me even if it wasn’t calculated and JK did it without thinking, because that implies that her default view of the world is that only girls want love enough to consider eroding the free will of others. And I still think it was calculated, personally, though that’s probably me being unwilling to believe that anyone could miss something so obvious.
          1. illhousen says:
            I actually think it’s “poison for women, violence for men” trope in effect.

            Not that it makes the situation better, of course.

            1. Farla says:
              No, no. That trope requires classifying both ways of killing people as wrong. This is more like claiming poison doesn’t kill.

              What would girls do with a love potion/a helpless member of the opposite sex? Well, obviously they’d just take the boys out on dates and coo over them, because female love is as harmless as it is sexless.

              What would boys do with a love potion/a helpless member of the opposite sex? Fuck them.

              That’s why it’s funny boys get love potions, because obviously no girl would take advantage of them. But no modern story can even pretend the same would be true of a helpless girl.

              (And yes, she should’ve just not included them rather than try for this sort of double standard, but since when have the Harry Potter books been thought out?)

              1. Roarke says:
              2. illhousen says:
                Huh. Yes, I can see that.

                “And yes, she should’ve just not included them rather than try for this
                sort of double standard, but since when have the Harry Potter books been
                thought out?”

                I always found it funny how the fandom manages to come up with more elaborate and interesting explanations and extrapolations of the canon stuff than books themselves ever were.

                I mean, that gum wrapper theory was batshit, but it would actually be somewhat cool to see something in that vein.

                Which is why I am into fanfiction, I guess.

              3. Farla says:
                Well, it is a lot of work to make a universe, and everyone after that gets to take that and build something new on top, so it’s easy to make something better in fanfic.

                But her books just had so, so many holes even still.

          2. SpoonyViking says:
            I think she deliberately wanted to keep away from even implying something like date rape takes place in her perfect wish-fulfillment school.
            1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
              Yeah, and part of her way of doing that was making sure boys were never associated with love potions, and I think that’s super sketchy for a lot of reasons, which is what I’ve been saying this whole time.
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                Hm, I’m not sure “sketchy” is the correct word, but I agree with your general sentiment. I’m just saying I understand why she did so, even the reasons aren’t good enough.
              2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
                Well, I was using sketchy to mean morally repugnant, and the idea that women can’t rape is morally repugnant to me. But yeah, I think other people tend to use it to mean morally dubious, so that was kind of a vocab fluff on my part. :)
        2. SpoonyViking says:
          That’s actually my biggest gripe with the “Harry Potter” books: Rowling wants to have it both ways – magic being all funny and bizarre one moment, and then the exact same magic being played up for horror and dramatic tension -, but she’s just not a good enough writer for that.
          1. illhousen says:
            It is rooted in the crucial problem of the series: HP books actually contain two overlapping narratives.

            One is a fluffy slice-of-life school story with magic working as a fun stand-in for real lessons as well as some background flavor.

            The second is an epic struggle against forces of evil.

            The narratives aren’t combined well, so a lot of elements either fit only one of them or try to fit both with macabre results.

            For example, that is how Slytherin is simultaneously a Rival Sport Team Full Of Jerks and the Bastion Of Evil.

            It kinda worked in earlier books, since they were aimed at kids who could easily believe that bullies tormenting them in school are a part of evil cult, but as series progressed, the dissonance deepened.

            1. SpoonyViking says:
            2. Farla says:
              It’s at least one more, the over the top misery of Roald Dahl. That’s the one that’s causing the most dissonance, because it means sometimes you have ridiculous levels of abuse played for laughs because of how over the top it is, and other times everything’s completely realistic and serious.

              So sometimes you spend your life stuffed under the stairs, and sometimes a kid saying mean things to a friend is THE BIGGEST DEAL IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

              (It’s also the root of 90% of disagreement over who’s a good guy in fandom, because it all depends on which bits of abuse were slapstick and which count.)

              1. SpoonyViking says:
                I think that part is kind of left at the wayside after book 3, though. I mean, in theory, Harry’s family is still being abusive, but he just glosses over it while worrying about how Voldemort is back and everything.
              2. illhousen says:
                Nah, Dursleys just gave way to Umbridge who apparently can torture students, but doesn’t have the power to actually get anyone out of the castle (seriously, who the hell gave the headmasters the power to just keep people they like around? In Dumbledore’s place I would invite all my buddies inside and throw a party every day, and apparently there isn’t anything anyone can do about it).

                Anyway, the problem with Dursleys and the reason why they’ve lost their importance is simply because they outlived their usefulness.

                In the first book they were clearly played a part of wish-fulfillment fantasy by providing contrast to the wonders of the magical world.

                Note how every bad thing they did to Harry is an exaggerated version of stuff many children do: children are required to do simple choirs, Harry does all of the choirs. Children are sometimes grounded or forced to stay in the corner, Harry is locked in a cupboard even when he didn’t do anything bad. Some children are lonely because they are geeky or kinda weird, Harry has no friends and thought to be a troublemaker even though he isn’t.

                And so on and so forth.

                From that perspective, their presence is very understandable: they are a part of a fantasy where a kid leaves boring mundane life of choirs and small troubles in favor of a wonderful adventure.

                The problem is, their story was finished in the first book: Harry was taken away from them, they’ve got their karmic punishment, the end.

                Yet they still stuck around, taking about as much screen time as before. Rowling visibly struggled with finding some purpose for their existence.

                By the fourth book she gave up.

              3. Farla says:
                She struggled with the Dursleys in particular, because it grew ever-harder to view non-magic folk as meaningfully oppressing a wizard kid, but they were hardly the only ones. Ron’s got arachnophobia from the twins turning his teddy bear into a giant spider, and another time they gave him an acid pop that burned all the way through his tongue. We see them doing all sorts of horribly things to Percy the few times the poor kid makes the mistake of being nearby, and during the Umbridge&Slytherin vs Everyone Else sections, they trap a kid in a cabinet and he’s missing for weeks before anyone finds him.

                And as that last one especially underlines with the kid surviving and just being really out of it for a while, all of those things are jokes. But Umbridge making Harry cut shallowly into his hand is serious business, and everyone goes on from this to continue to give a damn about broomstick lacrosse.

                The books have always been a bizarre mashup of contradictory ideas and genres.

              4. Ember says:
                If you’ve ever read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ron has a note in there about the twins murdering a(n adorable-sounding) childhood pet of his. This is also supposed to be funny, but every time I even think of it I get really stressed and need to go cuddle my guinea pig.
              5. Farla says:
                They were monstrous, and probably the element that disturbs me most of all, because most of the slapstick violence came from people intended as villains and the rest was usually between people on an relatively equal level. But the twins are extremely talented, always have a numbers advantage against a single mark, and are portrayed as heroic from start to finish. The only good thing about them is that at least post book 7, there’s only one of the bastards left.

                I got into a big argument once with my mother when she was saying Percy was wrong to ditch his family. Fuck that. I hope Ron made a break for it as soon as he got the chance too.

              6. Falconix says:
                The treatment of Percy was to me the point when I looked at the book and wondered what the hell the author’s morals were.

                So you return to your family’s house after work to tell them you just got promoted, which is a huge weight off your shoulders considering what had happened to your previous boss. Your whole family looks disapproving; I mean, you have long given up on your two younger brothers to treat you with anything but ridicule, and your youngest’s inferiority complex means he’ll just grouse about one more thing overshadowing him… but your kid sister and both your parents should at least pretend to be happy for you, right? But then they say you only got the promotion because the Minister wants you to spy on them. Them! The least secretive family in Wizarding Britain! So you explode, and say some things that you wouldn’t normally say because they’re hurtful but are still true regarding your father’s shortcomings as a provider and a worker, things you’ve probably been realizing the past year, if you didn’t knew them already, from how the rest of the Ministry talk about him behind his back, or how your first job didn’t pay that much less than his.

                And that was when I started looking for LJ comms that criticize the books, because it turns out I wasn’t the only one who got their eyes opened by Book 5.

              7. Farla says:
                Not only that, but why is he supposed to believe them this time when they treated his last job as a joke too? He’s an incredibly hard worker who sincerely cares about his job, even though it’s one of the less glamorous ones, but his family was never proud of him for it. Sorry his job isn’t as important as playing with muggle junk.

                (And if he only got the promotion to spy on them, it’s probably because his dad’s utterly shitty job history has been holding him back this whole time. Nor would spying have been an issue if they didn’t ignore him and keep him out of the loop. Even aside from the insult to his work ethic, they’re the ones assuming he’d pass on all their plans to the Ministry.)

              8. Kirk12 says:
                “The treatment of Percy was to me the point when I looked at the book and wondered what the hell the author’s morals were.”

                Where were you all my life and why are we not married right now.

              9. Kirk12 says:
                Yes, I never liked the twins much, too, especially when they call Dudley a “bullying git” as an excuse for making their father look like a Muggle-hating prankster in front of the Dursleys. You mean like the way you treat your older brother “Percy the Perfect Prefect”?

                I’d be happy to stand up for him against your mother, too. I never liked him being portrayed as a pompous jerk just because he followed the rules and took himself seriously.

                He seemed like a decent person who just took his job as a prefect and later at the Ministry seriously. Yet my aunt calls him pompous, uptight and annoying, and we were for some reason supposed to laugh at the twins bullying him, even though it just made me feel his stiff attitude was more justified.

              10. Farla says:
                I know, he wasn’t even pompous, he was trying to follow the rules and keep other people safe by making them follow rules in a world where not following the rules can mean you explode.

                It’s like the bit about cauldron bottoms. LOLZ who cares the precise thickness god Percy so boring such an asshole why is he talking? It’s only the difference between the thing working and a hole melting in it spraying half-finished potion onto everything and maybe killing everyone!

                He’s not being anal, he identified a horrible safety flaw you ungrateful bastards.

                Plus it’s just so sad how devoted he is to his boss. No one would act like that if they got the slightest attention from their own parents.

              11. Kirk12 says:
                Oh, I know and it’s even worse how little he tries to hold his brothers’ bullying against them.

                Look at the end of the first book when he brags to all the other prefects, “My brother, you know! My youngest brother! Got past McGonagall’s giant chess set!” I mean, can you EVEN imagine Ron or any of his other brothers talking about Percy like that, or even acting like he isn’t a waste-of-space nuisance at all? NO OF COURSE NOT ANYONE IS AN IDIOT EVEN FOR SUGGESTING SUCH A THING. Forget Ron pointlessly belittling Percy for the vital cauldron bottoms report, pointlessly making comments like “Yeah, well, Percy wouldn’t want to work for anyone with a sense of humor, would he? Percy wouldn’t recognize a joke if it danced naked in front of him wearing Dobby’s tea cozy.” Look at Bill pointlessly saying “Do us a favor, Perce, and shut up” when all he was doing was discussing his work.

                His parents, of course, don’t pay enough attention to him to stand up for him, but you didn’t even have to comment about them. The third book flat-out says his girlfriend is the only one willing to listen to him about his ideas on how to keep dangerous 15-time murdering Death Eaters from escaping the law’s custody repeatedly like one just did and making the government look like ineffectual idiots over and over again in the process and ensuring wizards all over the country get no sleep at night worried about said lunatic murderer.

                He also went out of his way to give Harry lengthy and valuable advice about his future career path if he wanted it, of course.

                Hermione at least managed to get along well with him (particularly defending him against Ron randomly saying he would happily throw his whole family in Azkaban if they got in the way of his ambitions), but even she was harsh in picking a fight with him over Winky. Newsflash, Hermione. He doesn’t have anything against your stupid misguided war for House-Elf equality (Ron and the twins did and taunted you for it), he was only trying to defend someone he liked and who you repeatedly insulted because that’s what you do with people you like.

                Honestly, at least he stood up for himself in the case with the cauldron bottoms. “‘You might sneer, Ron,’ he said heatedly, ‘but unless some sort of international law is imposed we might well find the market flooded with flimsy, shallow-bottomed products that seriously endanger-‘

                ‘Yeah, yeah, all right,’ said Ron, and he started off upstairs again. Percy slammed his bedroom door shut.”

                There you go! Attaboy! His finest hour!

                And ARE YOU A GODDESS OMG.

              12. SaveFearow says:
                Alright, more people on Team Percy. It’s always been sad how much he wanted Arthur’s approval and never got it.

                The nicest thing Arthur ever did for Percy happens before the books start, he bought Percy an owl. And Percy KEEPS that owl all through the books, Hermes fares better than poor Hedwig or Crookshanks (unless Hermione’s memory blanked parents took the cat with them?)

                Anyway it’s stupidly uneven that Percy had to do ALL the apologizing for the fight he had with Arthur (that happened off page and we have only Ron and the Twins bias recollection of it.)

                Arthur doesn’t even say “I’m sorry too” or “I love you” or “It’s okay.” Just a sentence to admit that Arthur had some culpability or that he loved his glasses wearing son (no not Harry, the ginger kid with glasses!) But that was too much to hope for, only Fred gave any hint that he accepted Percy’s apology. And then Fred died and fandom blamed Perce for distracting the cool twin.

                Some crappier things that aren’t usually mentioned regarding Percy’s treatment: JK decided on her website that Percy’s birthday is in August. Harry spent an entire summer at the Burrow in GoF where a HUGE DEAL was made over Harry’s July 31st b-day. They didn’t start school until September 1st which is magically always a Monday.

                So Percy turned 18 during that summer vacation and nobody said a single word to him about it or gave the poor kid a present.

                They just kept harping on what a jerk Percy was even though he worked hard all summer, and got his Apparating license first try (and was called a show off for doing it ONCE. Later, Ron will get his Apparating license and show off constantly but that’s cool.) Percy’s summer souvenirs also include a bloody nose trying to prevent a riot/help bystanders at the big Quidditch tourney.

                Oh and he’s such a bad person that he cared when Ron nearly drowned in the lake and temporarily left his judge post to wade in after Ron. (Can Percy even swim? It specifically says he waded in to help Ron. And Ron is the one who always says Percy would sell out his family, cares more about rules than anything etc. etc.)

                Not only is Percy the only character who went in the lake, in February, without any specified magic precaution, he’s NOT given Pepper Up Potion by Madame Pompfrey (Ron, Harry, and all the other participants get some.)

                Would anyone even care if Percy got sick from that? Probably not.

                And through all that Percy, despite not liking Harry much, still thought Harry deserved the best score for that round. Karkaroff is the lone judge who dings Harry on a technicality.

                tldr Percy forever. Arthur never. Live well Percy, may your cauldron bottoms never be too thin and may you never sit through another family dinner where they throw mashed potatoes at you. Take your owl and run, Perce.

              13. Farla says:
                Oh my god the birthday fact is the saddest thing. Maybe that’s part of why Ron has the whole love/hate thing going on, he can see that his parents definitely love Harry more than one of their offspring and if he doesn’t try harder he’ll be next.
              14. SaveFearow says:
                Yeah, that’s why it’s so annoying to hear JK praise Arthur as a good father. He’s a good father figure to Harry. But that’s not the same as being a good Dad to his biological offspring.

                Arthur’s unreliable and can’t remember his own kids birthdays, plays blatant favorites, and undermines Molly’s authority when she tries to discipline the twins. (He was proud that they stole the Ford Anglia not just because they rescued Harry but because that meant his ILLEGAL magic experiment worked.)

                Arthur is lucky Dumbledore or other Phoenix members are always backing him, otherwise he would have been sacked from the Ministry for breaking the very laws he is employed to enforce!

                But the moment when Arthur really lost my support was when he blamed Ginny for getting controlled by Voldemort’s Soul Diary. (She only got hold of the Soul Diary because Arthur punched Lucius at the book store, giving Lucius a motive to plant the Diary in a Weasley kid’s bag.

                And what kind of negligent parent never checks their kid’s luggage before they go off to boarding school for the very first time? He could have helped the kids pack, make sure they got all their school supplies, no sneaking in forbidden material etc.)

                oh well. At least I like Donald Morgan in Dresden Files for actually being a Magic Cop trying to follow magic rules and make sure everyone else obeys magic rules too.

              15. Farla says:
                I think the problem with Arthur, like a lot of it, is he’s a stock character that doesn’t make sense in the modern age. Back before decent birth control, a bunch of kids was just a thing that happened to you while you were trying to live your own life, while in modern time wow, what an asshole having all these kids he doesn’t seem to care much about or do much to provide for.

                Molly, meanwhile, seems to have just wanted a girl, something that also seems more understandable back in the days no one adopted children and people lived to be like fifty so you had to have them right now, but there should’ve been plenty of war orphans the first time around and also wizards live to be hundred of years old no problem so she’d have time to raise the first few kids properly before trying again. Though I guess the idea McGonagall is too old to take over the school for more than five minutes suggests only male wizards live that long.

              16. SaveFearow says:
                That’s another issue to consider. There are surprisingly few adoptions and non traditional families in the HP world. Neville is raised by his Gram, Hagrid was raised by his human Dad. And after the second war, Teddy is cared for by Tonks’ parents (grandparents.)

                (If it wasn’t specified in the epilogue, it was one of JK’s interviews that confirmed Mr. and Mrs. Tonks have custody of their grandson, Harry and other friends visit but have no legal responsibility.)

                Fleur’s family is a mix of Veela and human characters who seem to genuinely love each other but they get very little focus. I cannot recall many mixed race couples that ended up together (Cedric died, Harry broke up with Cho, Ginny broke up with the black boy she dated one semester, Parvati doesn’t marry anyone, etc.)

                Not a very good representation of LGBT couples either since the best known gay couple was Dumbledore and Grindelwald. But Grindlewald was murderous and abusive, and Dumbledore chose celibacy after their romance fizzled.

                Now I want to read an HP story about 2 lesbian witches (why not Parvati Patil and Katie, one of the Gryffindor Quidditch players) adopting a war orphan.

              17. Betty Cross says:
                The Dursleys were maliciously capricious but they were also stupid. Rowling used them for comic relief before she dropped them altogether.
              18. Kirk12 says:
                Yes, and they call Dudley a “bullying git” to justify traumatizing him for life in front of the brother they traumatized for life who does not call them out on this. Just… lol.
            3. Kirk12 says:
              The Slytherin students at Hogwarts weren’t supposed to be anything more than the Rival Sport Team Full Of Jerks until the fourth book, though. I think Malfoy angrily warning the Trio against Voldemort’s wrath in the train car and getting knocked out was meant to signal the abrupt switch.
              1. illhousen says:
                I guess it’s subjective, but I see it differently:

                Hagrid warns Harry that Slytherin is pure evil, and while fans insist that he’s unreliable in exposition, it’s not like there was anything to contradict him at the time (which is why Hagrid was a wrong character to do the exposition: when you introduce fantastic elements, you either want them to be described objectively or set up for either twist or ambiguity – neither of which was coming).

                In the second book it was heavily implied that Tom Riddle was similar to Harry until he was sorted into Slytherin, which marks his descend into darkness (the sixth book retcons it by making him the Littlest Dark Lord, but the series was a train wreck by that point anyway).

                I think Dumbledore openly calls Harry choosing to be in Gryffindor as a sign of his inner goodness, instead of a choice meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

                Then there was a speculation on protagonists’ part that draco was the heir. While untrue, it was supposed to be convincing for the target audience, so we were expected to at least entertain the possibility that a twelve years old kid was plotting a massacre.

              2. Kirk12 says:
                Hagrid was unreliable in exposition because there WAS something to contradict him at the time. He explicitly says this to Harry: “Better Hufflepuff than Slytherin. There’s not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin.”

                Despite the fact that, as we will see 3 years later, he fully believes Sirius to have sold out his best friends to Voldemort (“I COMFORTED THE MURDERIN’ TRAITOR!”) and he also knows Sirius was sorted into Gryffindor.

                This bothers me because it blatantly reveals so much prejudice in Hagrid even before the xenophobia he spews to Harry in the fourth book (“The less you lot ‘ave ter do with these foreigners, the happier yeh’ll be. Yeh can’ trust any of ’em.”) The second book WAS problematic in that it actually transferred that prejudice to Dumbledore, who Rowling would later bend over backwards time again in Goblet of Fire to remind us that “DUMBLEDORE IS THE GREATEST AND HAS NO PREJUDICES LIKE ALL THE
                OTHER LOWLY HUMANS!” (re: “‘Thank you, miss!’ said Dobby, grinning toothily at her. ‘But most wizards don’t want a house-elf who wants paying, miss. “That’s not the point of a house-elf,” they says, and they slammed the door in Dobby’s face! Dobby likes work, but he wants to wear clothes and he wants to be paid, Harry Potter….Dobby likes being free! … And Dobby thinks, and it comes to him, sir! Hogwarts! So Dobby and Winky came to see Professor Dumbledore, sir, and Professor Dumbledore took us on!’
                Dobby beamed very brightly, and happy tears welled in his eyes again.
                ‘And Professor Dumbledore says he will pay Dobby, sir, if Dobby wants paying! And so, Dobby is a free elf, sir, and Dobby gets a Galleon a week and one day off a month!’
                ‘That’s not very much!’ Hermione shouted indignantly from the floor, over Winky’s continued screaming and fist-beating.
                ‘Professor Dumbledore offered Dobby ten Galleons a week, and weekends off,’ said Dobby, suddenly giving a little shiver, as though the prospect of so much leisure and riches were frightening, ‘but Dobby beat him down, miss….Dobby likes freedom, miss, but he isn’t wanting too much, miss, he likes work better.” (p. 378-379)

                “‘Can’t house-elves speak their minds about their masters, then?’ Harry asked.
                ‘Oh no, sir, no,’ said Dobby, looking suddenly serious. ”Tis part of the house-elf’s enslavement, sir. We keeps their secrets and our silence, sir. We upholds the family’s honor, and we never speaks ill of them – though Professor Dumbledore told Dobby he does not insist upon this. Professor Dumbledore said we is free to – to -‘
                Dobby looked suddenly nervous and beckoned Harry closer. Harry bent forward. Dobby whispered, ‘He said we is free to call him a – a barmy old codger if we likes, sir!’
                Dobby gave a frightened sort of giggle.
                ‘But Dobby is not wanting to, Harry Potter,’ he said, talking normally again, and shaking his head so that his ears flapped. ‘Dobby likes Professor Dumbledore very much, sir, and is proud to keep his secrets and our silence for him.'” (p. 380)

                “Fudge sounded embarrassed. ‘Well, I’ll reserve judgment until after I’ve seen the place where he was found, but you say it was just past the Beauxbatons carriage? Dumbledore, you know what that woman is?’
                ‘I consider her to be a very able headmistress – and an excellent dancer,’ said Dumbledore quietly.
                ‘Dumbledore, come!’ said Fudge angrily. ‘Don’t you think you might be prejudiced in her favor because of Hagrid? They don’t all turn out harmless – if, indeed, you can call Hagrid harmless, with that monster fixation he’s got-‘
                ‘I no more suspect Madame Maxime than Hagrid,’ said Dumbledore, just as calmly. ‘I think it possible that it is you who are prejudiced, Cornelius.'”) p. 580

                “‘And there was a third disappearance, one which the Ministry, I regret to say, do not consider of any importance, for it concerns a Muggle. His name was Frank Bryce, he lived in the village where Voldemort’s father grew up, and he has not been seen since last August. You see, I read the Muggle newspapers, unlike most of my Ministry friends.’
                Dumbledore looked very seriously at Harry.” (p. 602)

                “‘You are blinded,’ said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, ‘by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be! Your dementor has just destroyed the last remaining member of a pure-blood family as old as any – and see what that man chose to make of his life! …'” (p. 708)

                But Draco Malfoy being the Heir does have some backing more than his being a Slytherin because the Trio knew his father had been a Death Eater who had managed to worm his way out of punishment after Voldemort’s downfall. Rowling’s main weakness is trying to insist Slytherin is not the bastion of evil…..

                [“ES: Why is Slytherin house still –

                JKR: Still allowed!

                All laugh

                ES: Yes! I mean, it’s such a stigma.

                JKR: But they’re not all bad. They literally are not all bad. [Pause.] Well, the deeper answer, the non-flippant answer, would be that you have to embrace all of a person, you have to take them with their flaws, and everyone’s got them. It’s the same way with the student body. If only they could achieve perfect unity, you would have an absolute unstoppable force, and I suppose it’s that craving for unity and wholeness that means that they keep that quarter of the school that maybe does not encapsulate the most generous and noble qualities, in the hope, in the very Dumbledore-esque hope that they will achieve union, and they will achieve harmony. Harmony is the word.

                ES: Couldn’t —

                JKR: Couldn’t they just shoot them all? NO, Emerson, they really couldn’t!

                All laugh

                ES: Couldn’t they just put them into the other three houses, and maybe it wouldn’t be a perfect fit for all of them, but a close enough fit that they would get by and wouldn’t be in such a negative environment?

                JKR: They could. But you must remember, I have thought about this —

                ES: Even their common room is a gloomy dark room—

                JKR: Well, I don’t know, because I think the Slytherin common room has a spooky beauty.

                ES: It’s gotta be a bad idea to stick all the Death Eaters’ kids together in one place.

                All crack up again

                JKR: But they’re not all — don’t think I don’t take your point, but — we, the reader, and I as the writer, because I’m leading you all there — you are seeing Slytherin house always from the perspective of Death Eaters’ children. They are a small fraction of the total Slytherin population. I’m not saying all the other Slytherins are adorable, but they’re certainly not Draco, they’re certainly not, you know, Crabbe and Goyle. They’re not all like that, that would be too brutal for words, wouldn’t it?”]

                without giving much alternate representation.

              3. illhousen says:
                “Hagrid was unreliable in exposition because there WAS something to contradict him at the time.”

                No, there wasn’t. When I said “at the time”, I meant “in the first book”. Slytherin is a fantastic element, it’s part of a made up magical society, so we don’t have any point of reference for it.

                If the author says that it’s the bastion of evil, than it is (unless she fails horribly to show us it, at which point we are entering the Death of the Author territory).

                It would be one thing if Harry, say, befriended a Slytherin or was sorted there, and it was revealed to be not that bad. Than it would be an in-universe prejudice.

                But Slytherin remains resolutely antagonistic for the most part, with a few token exceptions remaining exceptions.

                Combined with comments from Hagrid, Ron and, most of all, Dumbledore, it really looks like Slytherin is the evil house rather than simply house of jerks.

                As for Sirius, I think it’s just the lack of planning. There are quite a few elements introduced in later books that should have affected the plot of earlier books but haven’t due to not existing at the time of writing.

                A popular example would be Dumbledore’s trip to the Ministry on broom. Which doesn’t make sense when you consider he could simply use the floo network or walk outside of Hogwarts grounds and teleport, or use the Phoenix Express.

                I would guess that Sirius at the time was just a vague idea, a cool godfather doing his own thing somewhere off-screen who will one day appear when the plot needs him.

                His story solidified later, which caused a few holes to appear here and there.

              4. Kirk12 says:
                I would guess otherwise considering Hagrid shows up riding Sirius’ flying motorcycle in the opening of the first book and explains, “Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir. Young Sirius Black lent it to me” and later says, “Yeah, I’ll be takin’ Sirius his bike back.”

                Contrary to Rowling not planning things out, this lines up PERFECTLY with the backstory we get in the third book. No reader had any reason to care about Sirius in the first book, but she makes sure to revisit this brief mention and make it something important when Hagrid rants about this encounter at length in the Three Broomsticks, saying he was probably the last person to see Sirius before he killed Pettigrew and 12 Muggles, adding, “I shoulda known there was somethin’ fishy goin’ on then. He loved that motorbike, what was he givin’ it ter me for? Why wouldn’ he need it anymore?”

                But you’re right from a writing perspective of the first book. The audience barely knows Hagrid at this point, the real Sirius backstory has yet to be revealed, and no one reading has any real reason to disbelieve Hagrid.

              5. Farla says:
                That’s not lining up perfectly, that’s mining past books for something to tie in.

                Honestly, I think that’s a big part of the problem. She was really good at detail and she was really good at bringing up a detail again, which looks almost indistinguishable from intentional foreshadowing. But the difference is nothing was ever set up to take advantage of it. Hagrid mentions nothing at the time about how odd it was to get the motorcycle, not even a hint that he’s in a hurry to return it since Sirius loves the bike so much. (I also doubt Peter being Ron’s rat was always the plan. It isn’t foreshadowed at all, it’s just that Ron has a rat and then later look, the rat is the rat character!) The books were extremely self-contained, which worked very well on a book by book basis but led to more and more problems with the series.

                Similarly, Hagrid isn’t meant to be an unreliable narrator – he isn’t contradicted within the book, he’s contradicted books later when she’s going in a different direction/had enough people ask questions to realize all evil wizards are Slytherin is a bad plot point because it means you know you can trust everybody else.

              6. Kirk12 says:
                There’s no real evidence as to whether Sirius being brought up in the first book was intentional or not. But it’s hard to argue about Pettigrew. His being Ron’s rat came out of nowhere and the only slight hint one could argue we get at it was that in the first book he bites Goyle’s finger, despite otherwise being completely tame and docile. This is a sign towards him being a human with prejudices who was trying to take Ron’s side out of dislike for Malfoy and his goons. But this is a minor point and a rat biting a person is obviously nothing out of the ordinary.

                Also I have never liked that quote from Hagrid, whether it makes sense for him or not, honestly.

              7. illhousen says:
                As Farla said, it’s most likely fishing in the previous books.

                I play TRPGs and heavily rely on improvisation. Which means that from time to time I throw in a random element to advance the plot. An NPC with important information, a conveniently placed location, whatever.

                At the time of their introduction, they are nothing more than plot devices in their purest form. Later, however, I think about where I can take the plot and often get ideas about how to expand those elements and make them a part of a bigger picture.

                Same applies to random details – names, parts of scenery, etc.

                More often than not, it’s just easier to use what is already there rather than establish new elements.

                And while it is hard to say without a clarification from Rowling, I think the same principle applies to Sirius: in the first book he was nothing more than a name and a bike. It is possible that Rowling had some vague idea about his character. Perhaps she envisioned him as an old friend of James who will appear at the time of need and serve as yet another Deus ex Machina to solve the climax of the book. Perhaps she thought about him as just a quirky friend of Hagrid, perhaps something else.

                When the time came to write the third book, she brought Sirius back either because her vague ideas lined up well with the newly created plot, or simply to use a hanging detail from the first book.

              8. Kirk12 says:
                Well, you see, here, it’s obvious I just have a different attitude than you. I try to make the best out of what I have, rather than being dissatisfied about what is there. Rowling’s intentions in writing that specific part are to me simply a half-full or half-empty scenario. Utterly fruitless to speculate on. There’s no real clue as to her intentions, so perhaps it is praise for merely retconning. I don’t see how it matters ultimately. I think it played well overall, so I can give her credit for that.

                I can see how people like me are annoying because I have actually had someone continually go after me for the flaws I picked with Rowling in The Casual Vacancy, even if you’d say I was too easy on her there. So either way I can’t win, but I’m not interested in trying to please people with my opinions at all.

                It amazes me that everyone was so willing to defend Puella Magi Madoka Magica when I brought up a minor point against the series. The writers may be brilliant, but a lot of it has to be everyone just wanting to excuse the works that I love, no matter how hard they are on others. As it is I CAN critique Rowling’s writing and any of the Harry Potter books, certainly.

                And if you think I’m fit for the Mark Reads community, you should know he banned me because I questioned whether it was necessary for him to tell people who like New Moon and Twilight to get off the Internet when there are people who hate the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series as much as he liked them.

              9. illhousen says:
                Hm? No need to justify yourself. You have a different opinion, that’s fine. The discussion would be pretty boring if we just parroted same thoughts at each other.

                I don’t think that the issue was handled particularly well, but if you enjoy it, more power to you.

                It also should be noted that it is perfectly fine to enjoy flawed works as long as you are willing to acknowledge their flaws provided sound reasoning.

                Most works have some flaws, and I would be permanently bored or enraged if I couldn’t look past at least some of them.

                I would say though that Twilight is fractally bad: every part of it is just as bad as a whole. I don’t have problem with people who enjoy it as an abstinence porn, but I honestly can’t fathom people who think it’s something more.

              10. Kirk12 says:
                All works have many flaws, and I would be permanently bored and enraged if I couldn’t look past most of them in the especially redeemable works. I am not putting the Harry Potter books in that category. (This is to be reserved for works like Mad Men.) Sirius’ mention in the first place is subjectively passable foreshadowing at best. Rowling’s inclusion of it in the third book is subjectively passable or egregious retconning.

                I have never read more than the prologue and the first two chapters of Twilight so you’ll have to pass that on to my sister, who says they were written specifically for her. But if they were objectively bad in every department I don’t think it would be possible for them to receive any positive reviews in the first place, let alone have so many people (http://www.thatswhatsheread.net/2009/10/review-twilight-by-stephenie-meyer/) praise them in all sincerity.

              11. illhousen says:
                Well, Twilight is good as an abstinence porn. For some reason, however, people are reluctant to admit they read porn, so we have people praising the books for virtues they lack.

                It doesn’t help that more often than not you need to distance yourself from the text and examine actions and the situation as they would look from different perspectives than narrator’s. If you buy into the narrative, Twilight isn’t that bad, it’s when you start questioning things and demand to be showed rather than told when you hit the minefield.

                As for Harry Potter, it is not altogether terrible and has some nice imagery here and there. That’s about it, as far as I am concerned.

                Truth be told, I prefer to read about gibbering horrors lying in sleep that is like death at the bottom of Azkaban, dreaming soul devouring demons into existing not out of malice but by their nature rather than the actual story.

              12. Farla says:
                There’s no real clue as to her intentions, so perhaps it is praise for merely retconning.

                Oh, I wouldn’t call it retconning. Her books hold up quite well in that regard.

                But look at the difference between, say, Quirrel and Peter.

                Quirrel shows up a lot in the story to remind us he exists, and she makes sure to mention him every time anything bad goes down. Harry consistently mentions the pain in his head around him. Quirrel mumbles to himself weirdly. And Harry’s first guess of Snape falls apart the moment you think about it, because he thinks Snape’s trying to bully Quirrel into giving him the answer but in that case Quirrel could just ratted out Snape for admitting he was planning to do this. All you have to do is look past Harry’s bias and you can tell the scene was Snape trying to get Quirrel to admit his plan.

                Peter is mentioned in passing doing nothing that relates to the fact he’s a human in a rat’s body. He’s ignored in the second book as well. Then in book 3, where it becomes an issue, he starts being mentioned more, we learn about Peter losing the finger, we learn he’s different than the average magical rat, then there’s the whole plotline about thinking the cat ate him.

                She foreshadows really well within a given book. They’re set up as mysteries and she gives you all sorts of clues about what’s happening, but that are only clear in retrospect. In contrast, stuff like “Ron’s rat was Peter all along!” and “Omg, that’s who Sirius was?!” only gets decent foreshadowing in the book it’s introduced in. (Like, Harry doesn’t mention a flying motorcycle to any wizard in book 1 or 2 and get sad looks and subject changes.)

                Then we end the series with “surprise Harry’s invisibility cloak is a Deathly Hallow (regular cloaks suck and that’s probably why no one else uses them) and here’s all this info about the other two Hallows all of a sudden, also they’re really important in a bunch of other ways!” because the seventh book is still written in the style of a self-contained mystery book more than a culmination of a series.

                (I’ll admit I think there may have originally been more inter-book planning and it got screwed up by fandom. The argument Snape was supposed to be a vampire seems reasonably convincing. We learn they exist very early on and yet they never matter at all, but fandom then assumed he would be and she took it out.)

              13. Kirk12 says:
                Yes, I agree about that.

                The point where the supposed “hex” Snape was trying to cast on Harry is defused after Hermione knocks Quirrell over by accident made it pretty obvious, too. I read that back when I was 12 and had had the twist spoiled for me already (by a Sally Forth comic strip that was in the paper a month or so earlier). I was for some reason recapping every chapter to my dad and I kept reiterating the part about Hermione knocking Quirrell over to see if he would make the connection. Eventually he just said, “Well, ouch.”

              14. GeniusLemur says:
                “JKR: They could. But you must remember, I have thought about this —”
                I think it’s pretty clear she hasn’t.
              15. I’ll be honest when it came to Draco in book 2, I (at all of ten or eleven) thought they were being silly. They were just using their active dislike for this character to justify their hope of his being evil. The HP books do get into protagonist centered morality a lot and Slytherin being treated as the “Token Evil/Automatically Evil” house for most of the series is a bit of a wallbanger.
          2. Kirk12 says:
            I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of Rick Riordan’s books, then. Because reading his books honestly made me appreciate Rowling more. The Percy Jackson books are fun but they’re aimed at a much younger demographic of people but Riordan is not nearly as experienced a writer and reading them makes me see how much better Rowling did pull off the divide between “fluffy slice-of-life school story” and “epic struggle against forces of evil”. Also, it helped that Voldemort didn’t actually return until the end of the fourth book.
            1. SpoonyViking says:
              On the contrary, I’m quite fond of them. See, Riordan knows what he wants to write – an adventure about young demigods in the modern day – and he sticks to that, instead of trying to forcibly merge together a wish-fulfillment fantasy and a Good vs. Evil action epic.
              1. Kirk12 says:
                Yes, but I take that to be mostly because he doesn’t know how to write much else except mindless action scenes.

                The main redeeming quality to the books is how well he does write action and how he managed to keep using mythology in creative ways. He also used foreshadowing and grand scheme writing effectively, but I still think Rowling was better at crafting this much like the example with Sirius.

                I also believe Rowling showed remarkable range if you contrast the Harry Potter series and The Casual Vacancy. I am aware this is my opinion, but I would have preferred if you had phrased what you wrote as your opinion.

                The Percy Jackson series is definitely more like the Lord of the Rings, and fellow snark blogger Whitley Birks had an interesting comment about Tolkien’s writing:
                “It took me two tries to get through the Hobbit, then move on to the other three, and while I do agree that they are classics and fascinating, parts of them were still a complete slog to get through. I don’t actually think they’re well written, even for that time. Tolkien was a genius at inventing stuff and making worlds and ideas and grand statements, and that’s the part everyone loves, and that’s fine. That’s the part I love, too. I can like those parts and hate how sloggy it is at the same time.”

              2. SpoonyViking says:
                You’re kind of conflating several different things, so I’ll address them separately.
                The first and, in my opinion, the most important one: I don’t think it’s necessary to add “this is only my opinion” on anything. Unless I’m deliberately trying to invoke authority on anything (something which is extremely complex to do in something as subjective as Literature), feel free to mentally add “that’s what I think, disregard it or not as you see fit” to anything I say. :-)

                Secondly: yes, LotR is a bit “sloggy” at parts (though I strongly disagree “The Hobbit” drags, and I’m actually surprised anyone thinks so). Tolkien’s prose is also written deliberately in the same manner as the medieval classics he was a fan of. Those are two different issues, but taken together, I’m not surprised to see a modern reader not appreciating it as much.

                Thirdly: it’s true, Riordan is limited in his writing. But, like I said, he seems to be aware of it and works well within his limitations.

                Finally, and the second most important issue: why exactly did you bring up Riordan and Tolkien? It seems as if you’re trying to excuse Rowling’s writing by saying “But see, other authors also made mistakes / aren’t as good!”, and that’s just not a good defence at all.
                In my opinion, of course. ;-)

              3. Kirk12 says:
                “The first and, in my opinion, the most important one: I don’t think it’s necessary to add ‘this is only my opinion’ on anything.”

                All right, I will respect that, and I see no point in responding to your thoughts on Whitley’s opinion, either.

                I actually agree with you about Riordan completely there. That’s a good defense. But contrary to you defending him, though, I don’t feel the need to make any defense of anyone’s writing, weak or otherwise. Yet I have been continually hounded and attacked on Amazon.com about FAULTS I picked with Rowling in my Casual Vacancy blog from a genuine Rowling fanboy fanatic.

                I will give my own opinion on writing or not, but I don’t care if people agree and won’t argue specific points extensively.

                Rod Hilton bragged to his fans about me being unable to refute his points on the Harry Potter films as a result of me maturely and politely stating I had no more desire for an extended argument with a stranger over the Internet over the merits of a children’s series about wizards. So naturally you, Farla, and anyone else may do this, if you want.

        3. Farla says:
          Merope’s whole story is a pile of crap, though. The basic story is a stock one without the magic: poor woman is in love with handsome higher-status man, tries to make him love her by offering sex, gets pregnant only to be abandoned. The love potion in Voldemort’s backstory just lets Rowling remove sex as the centerpiece. It still takes place but she’s running around yelling MAGIC MAGIC MAGIC to try to distract everyone from the sex part, even though it’s following the same story beat down to the guy then abandoning the woman in a way that makes no sense with love potions.
    3. antialiasis says:
      I think the popular distinction may lie in the idea that a love potion makes you “really” want it, so you enthusiastically consented at the time, therefore it’s not rape. Just like how if you get kinda drunk and wake up in bed next to some stranger, it was just your own bad judgement at fault!

      Also, people grow up seeing love potions in fiction as children, where their effects mostly involve fawning embarrassingly over somebody you don’t actually like. So love potions kind of get cemented in your mind as something that results in awkward silliness and hilarity, not sexual assault. I mean, I remember the time I first heard somebody say “Love potions are basically date rape drugs” and I went “…oh. OH. Yeah, they are. What the fuck.” It had never occurred to me before because I’d never given any real thought to love potions since I was too young to associate them with sex at all.

      1. Farla says:
        Sadly, this one is basically roofies that leave the person ambulatory.

        I can actually see an argument for the love potion makes you feel you love the other person being something that’s not necessarily rape – among other things, just falling in love shouldn’t make you agree to have sex with them if there’s other reasons you don’t want to. (That said, still altering someone’s behavior to the point you’re doing something unethical.)

        Come to think of it, it might slot in nicely under rape-by-deception. Making someone think they love you by lying about who you are seems a close real world analogy to love potions.

        I think the traditional distinction is that love is a thing inflicted on you at random, possibly by some asshole god, so someone love potioning you isn’t meaningfully different than Cupid deciding it’d be funny to shoot you.

    4. Farla says:
      His issue is less realizing magic counts as rape and more not realizing what rape is.
      1. SpoonyViking says:
        That’s what leaves me baffled. This book was written in, what, the year 2000? It’s not like it was written in a time when the concept of date rape didn’t even exist in the public’s mind.
        1. illhousen says:
          Eh, FATAL was written (or at least reached the public’s eye) around 2003, and the author’s response to the review saying it’s basically a date-rape game was to point out there is no date involved.

          I don’t believe that sexism is immortal, but sometimes it sure as hell looks like that.

          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Hm, true enough. Although I guess FATAL is more “understandable”, considering it’s so profoundly vile it’s either an outright parody, or written in such a manner so deliberately you can’t really accuse the author of being unaware of any issues, he just didn’t care.
            1. illhousen says:
              There was actually an interview with one of the creators recently.

              Long story short, here is everything wrong with them: they call themselves Neutral Evil IRL.

              In other words, FATAL is what it is because they wanted to create edgy mature game, which translates into racism, sexism, rape and, most damning of all, long pointless charts.

              I guess it is true that the issue is different: FATAL goes for shock value at least partly intentionally (though it is worth noting that the rules for rape were written because Byron Hall encountered situations in his AD&D campaigns where they would be relevant) while Dresden Files seems just unaware of issues and why Harry comes across as an awful person.

              Still, I think it is related. Butcher can always point at FATAL and other such things and say that hey, he doesn’t do that, so what’s your problem?

              Basically, that such vile things like FATAL exist and keep catching public attention is a part of what allows people like Butcher to ignore their own issues.

              1. Farla says:
                I think I saw that! As weird as it sounds, it actually made me feel better. I mean, okay, apparently there are real life people who consider themselves neutral evil and worse yet are not currently in prison for the safety of others, but on the other hand, the reason the book is a list of horrible shit is because they were listing shit they thought was horrible. The meticulous baby rape rules are still there, but at least they’re intending to be evil when their characters decide to rape their way through a maternity ward.
        2. I think it’s the way that rape is presented, not to women, but to the majority of men. We see men get their backs up all the time over something as simple as signing a petition to not rape and support stopping rape. Instead of being met with a nod and a “sure, I can support that” these guys turn around and scream “Are you suggesting I’m a rapist? Rape is something bad people do! Do you think I’m a bad person? I’m not signing your stupid petition!” because they see it as a personal strike against them.

          Butcher’s writing seems to fall into this category. He knows rape is bad, but rape is only something bad men do. Harry is a good man. What Harry is doing does not constitute as bad in the author’s mind because to him, this character is a good man who values women. It’s the fundamental disconnect. Women (and a good portion of the rational adult male population) understand that rape is an action done to a person, where as many men see a rapist as something you *are* like a pedophile. So, while they act in ways that are technically rape they don’t understand or see that it is rape because they know they aren’t rapists. (“I didn’t do anything wrong, she was asking for it.”) We see this line of thinking followed through with Susan. She and Harry already have a “pleasant”, banter filled relationship. They flirt with each other. Clearly she wants him, so a love potion is just getting things moving, right? It’s not actually wrong. She gave him all the go signs. (Even though she didn’t actually say go.)

          It’s weird, backward, and utterly messed up.
          It goes back to “protagonist centered morality” and the fact that Harry is given carte blanche within the story. Also, it comes in with society’s long history of putting male needs and desires above a woman’s right to say no. I mean, even the episode in season 2 of Buffy where Xander casts that love spell on Cordelia is played for laughs. It’s just wacky teenage boy hijinks gone wrong instead of a gross violation of the right to consent.

          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Wonderfully explained! Thanks! :-)

            And yeah, I remember that episode. I think the worst part of it is when Cordelia thinks it was so romantic that Xander wanted to cast a love spell on her, and then they’re openly dating by the end.

            Honestly, sometimes I wonder why Whedon is considered a feminist at all.

            1. It was my boyfriend who got me to reconsider Whedon’s feminism. While I liked the rest of the show well enough, Buffy and Xander always irked me. I wasn’t sure what it was until he suggested I watch it from the perspective of “if Buffy was a guy, would this behavior be okay”. There’s a significant portion of her character that is high school male jock chauvinism and bullying dressed up as a teenage girl. Xander is a standard issue Nice GuyTM. Though Buffy paved the way for it, I sort of hold to Charmed being more female friendly.

              This is also ironically where most of the problems in the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy genre come from. These novels seem to be chasing this, Whedon, or both and in the hands of less talented authors (I know) who chase without consideration of the material we get chauvinism and misogyny stew. The female authors are blamed for their internalized misogyny, even though they were/are chasing after products they’ve been told by society are progressive. Ironic, right?

            2. actonthat says:
              Best I can figure, it’s because he actually has female characters who matter. People see that and give him cookies, without ever stopping to consider if that representation is positive or not.

              I got through one episode of Firefly, and between Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, Hooker with a Heart of Gold, women rewarding men with sex, and two instances of injured women motivating men, it was the last episode of Firefly I watched.

              1. Oh god, I hate Firefly.
              2. SpoonyViking says:
                I liked the concept – space cowboys, what’s not to like! – and the “Serenity” movie, but yeah, it’s just too full of “whedonisms” for me to enjoy, even if I disregarded the series’ intrinsic mysoginy.
              3. GeniusLemur says:
                I’ve seen most of the episodes, and I found it forced, uninspired, and by-the-numbers. Still, it could have been passable if it weren’t for the writing, acting, and charisma void at the center named Mal.
              4. SpoonyViking says:
                Too bad his “strong female protagonists” are more like his wank fantasies than anything.
                And yeah, “Firefly” was REALLY terrible regarding the relationship between Malcolm and Inara (the Hooker with a Heart of Gold). So of course the fanboys and fangirls think it was SUCH a romantic relationship!
              5. Farla says:
                I feel bad about all the space hooker business, because I think he really did think it was about legitimizing sex workers and how they’re real people, but nope, Joss, nope.
            3. Farla says:
              Because he’s so, so much better than anybody else. That this still averages at pretty shitty tells you what the rest of television looks like. I didn’t watch much of the original episodes at the time, and when watching the first few seasons with my family recently, I was absolutely horrified by what unrelenting and at times outright murderous scum Xander turned out to be.

              (That said, in defense of the love potion – Xander solely wanted to break up with her afterward. She’s hurt him by saying she never cared about him, so he wanted a chance to do the same. Using something like that for sex is explicitly referred to as rape later on.)

  2. EdH says:
    …My God. I remember laughing at this portion. What have I done? I feel rather ashamed. On the positive though, that’s actually a cool idea for magic making one all super emotion, although what does it mean when a magician is hotheaded I don’t know.
    1. Farla says:
      Eh, it’s written as jokes. Sometimes things can be funny and terrible at the same time.
      1. EdH says:
        Or I suppose in retrospect I really wanted to see it backfire on Harry.
  3. Roarke says:
    I might have to go to the library and pick this book up just to see if it’s really this staggeringly bad. And the worst part is that the book seems to have some very well-written moments. The bit about his house being alive is gorgeous; I’m really envious of the descriptive language.

    “Even a love potion supposedly there for women is defined around the male gaze.”

    This is like those ads that tell men to buy women sexy stuff on the logic that “It’s a gift for her… but it’s also (read: mainly) a gift for you.”

    1. Farla says:
      If you want to really, truly appreciate this book’s glory, download the audiobook.
      1. Roarke says:
        I don’t do audiobooks, as a rule. Maybe I’m a hipster of some sort, but I will probably read books on paper until they are no longer manufactured.
  4. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    Harry needs long underwear. I wore leggings under everything, all January and February, when I lived in Minnesota. And a complex system of shirt layering, depending whether I was going mostly places with modern heating systems or mostly older buildings.

    Since I’ve mentioned a cat — mine is proudly neutered. He just has a thing about Ferals in the yard. The Ferals are also neutered because the neighbors do it. (Yay!)

    1. Roarke says:
      Before I fully processed the last sentence I had a horrifying image of your neighbors hunting down stray cats and de-balling them on the spot.
      1. Farla says:
        That’s not horrifying, that’s utopia. If they ever invent a machine for on the spot deballing, that’s what I’d spend my days doing.
        1. Roarke says:
          F-for cats… right? Just cats. And dogs I guess.
          1. Farla says:
            I promise to only use my deballing machine for the dumb sort of animals who need it due to getting into violent conflicts every night with each other over the hypothetical possibility it’ll help them have sex.

            They’ll be so much happier.

            1. Roarke says:
              I don’t know if I agree with the last bit, but I think society as a whole will get happier, and well, I don’t get many chances to polish off my utilitarianism.
        2. actonthat says:
          There’s a free clinic by me that does neutering for dogs and cats, meaning there is literally no excuse for anyone in the greater Boston area to not have neutered their pets. Unless they like making animals miserable, I guess.
          1. Farla says:
            The last time I looked into that sort of thing, the problem was dates. It’s really hard to imprison a tomcat until a slot opens up.

            (In retrospect we should’ve brought him straight to our regular vet, because he inevitably escaped and when he next appeared he’d split a tooth in half and we had to drop six hundred dollars removing it plus a full priced neutering. Then he disappeared again a week later. Stupid cat.)

        3. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
          If there was a mechanized de-baller, my parents would totally own one, as they also catch and neuter ferals. It often seems as if the already de-balled tell the other neighborhood strays where to show up for regular feedings and relief from troublesome urges.

          I don’t do it because the force of personality of my cat in his (fenced) yard (that he never attempts to leave when he’s allowed out in it — and that has nowhere for birds to hang out) means no ferals come visiting. He can sit happily for long periods, just staring at the fence to make sure nobody invades.

  5. sliz225 says:
    “Your cat is not a special snowflake with special genes. Cut his balls off.”
    See, replace with “cat” with “mary-sue” and “his” with “your,” and you’ve got a standard Farla fanfiction review. :)

    Oh, Jesus, the rape potion. The bit about how it would be like admitting that he couldn’t get a date normally reminded me of a guy who referred to roofies as cheating.
    1. Farla says:
      I think the “cheating” viewpoint comes up so much because no one will ever argue with it. If that’s what it takes? He is so, so right it’s cheating and anyone saying otherwise is probably jealous of how cool he is.
  6. SoxyOutfoxing says:
    It probably says a lot about me that the thing that most got to me here is Harry’s comment about Sherlock Holmes “playing the violin, (or was it the viola?)” Did Butcher himself not remember, or is this supposed to be characterisation? If it’s the latter I can only think it’s some sort of insecure “It isn’t cool to know for sure what instrument Holmes played; that would imply you cared, and Harry is too cool to be a fanboy.”

    (Okay, so my rage is partly because entertainment media is so rife with Sherlock Holmes inaccuracies that I would never recommend reading the canon to anyone the least bit pedantic, as any enjoyment derived is paid for by being constantly annoyed, forever. And yes, now you do all know a great way to troll me. Still, that thoroughly cemented my opinion of Harry as a willfully ignorant chuckleschmuck.)

    Still, I am so glad this book is badly written, so that I never made it far enough into the story to read that love potion scene when I was a teenager. Stuff like that used to confuse and distress me horribly, and then I would think that there had to be something wrong with me because the scene was clearly intended to be funny.

    1. actonthat says:
      [Okay, so my rage is partly because entertainment media is so rife with Sherlock Holmes inaccuracies that I would never recommend reading the canon to anyone the least bit pedantic, as any enjoyment derived is paid for by being constantly annoyed, forever. ]

      I made the mistake of reading the books before it became such a big fad, so now people constantly tell me to watch the show and I have a canon shortout at them. It is indeed awful.

      Though the Guy Rutchie movies weren’t bad. I found them to be quite faithful to the intent of Doyle, if not the letter.

      1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
        Yeah, I read them quite obsessively as a kid. Sigh. At least they’ll never make a fangirl-attracting show about Father Brown.

        I actually quite liked the shout-outs to the original stories in Sherlock, and I could deal with Holmes being way more of a jerk because they always do that. It was the rampant sickly queer-baiting that stopped me watching that. I haven’t seen Elementary or the Guy Ritchie movies, but if I ever find an adaption that lets Irene Adler marry Godfrey Norton I will find a way to hug it.

        1. Katrika says:
          I really do like Elementary, but I also keep it separate in my head from book!Sherlock. It really is quite different, after all!
          1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
            Oh for sure. I don’t care too much about the accuracy of adaptions, especially since most aren’t aiming for accuracy. It’s writers who only have popular knowledge of Holmes making references to him that are wildly wrong that really gets to me. For instance, I’ve seen more than one person say that his drug of choice was opium, and maybe I shouldn’t care exactly which drug Holmes was taking, but I do. I care a lot, darn it.
            1. Roarke says:
              Yeah, sadly that sort of thing is wildly common. Like you’d think writers would have less of an excuse than the average reader, but you’d be wrong because the standards we like to believe exist generally don’t.
            2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
              You are absolutely right to care. It’s a serious difference in characterization. Opium was the Oxycontin and Midol of the era, but cocaine was the Prozac. We’re supposed to conclude that Holmes was self-medicating for something like depression, not that he had migraines or just wanted a euphoric feeling.

              Also, in the era of Wikipedia and Google, there’s just no reason not to fact-check.

    2. Farla says:
      Did Butcher himself not remember, or is this supposed to be characterisation?

      I think it’s safe to assume that Harry generally knows exactly what the author knows except when it has to do with the central mystery. The sort of person self-aware enough to realize his character could make a mistake like that is the sort of person self-aware enough to have googled a few pieces of basic info rather than relying on how he’s pretty sure he remembers.

      1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
        Deep down I know you’re right, but I just want to pretend I live in a world where a writer would research something if they absolutely knew for sure they didn’t know it. Like, I see mistakes that clearly come about from writers assuming they know things, like say the idea of light-bulbs being modern tech, and it’s still lazy as hell but I could see myself making a similar mistake. After all, I think I know the things I think I know. But if you know for sure you don’t actually know why would you not want to?
        1. I guess. If this was that sort of story and Butcher was that sort of author, I can guarantee Harry would probably be a better detective as he might have actually watched a few episodes of Law and Order.
  7. illhousen says:
    “Sometimes I keep it on indoors because I am a member of the reptilians and need to hold on to every scrap of waste heat I get from muscles.”

    I hear you. I hate cold and suffer from it way too easily. Thankfully, my cat makes for a good leg heater.

    “If a spirit can “influence” people into having wild sex parties so out of control that Harry fucking Dresden knows it happened, that is not consent. That is horrifying.”

    To be fair, I don’t mind spirits doing horrible thinks and not thinking of them as horrible. I always imagine spirits following different logic and acting in accordance with their nature. Fire spirits would just consume everything and not think itself a murderer, for example.

    Of course, that doesn’t make those things right. In a better book, Harry’s interactions with Bob would play out close to the deal with the devil: Harry can always gain a lot of knowledge and power… if he’s willing to set the spirit free just for the day. Which he knows will result in bad things, but the temptations is always there. If he just gives in, he would know the spell used to explode hearts and how it can be done. He would know the significance of the dead scorpion and many other things beside.

    “It takes years of training to get Harry to the point where he can stop just short of smashing everything and killing someone because that person said no to him.”

    The funny thing here is that it could have been a literal truth. Harry killed his mentor (and, as he believes, a fellow apprentice) with magic, which is supposed to be corruptive and addictive. It would be cool if he struggled with impulses like that ever since.

    It could even be tied to his sexism. What he really wants is to hurt people, but he knows it’s wrong. The desire, however, is still there, so he seeks out ways to indulge it without getting in trouble with the authorities. Casual sexism just happens to be something harmful that the society deems acceptable.

    His character arc, therefore, would be to realize what he’s doing and take steps to stop it.

    …On the other hand, it would be an oversimplification to say that sexist people just want to harm women, so I don’t know if it’s a good idea. I guess it could work if the emphasise is on the society’s attitude rather than on Harry’s.

    On the love potion: it’s awful, not much else to say.

    Though I am now morbidly curious what the male version would be like.

    Though I guess Harry has no need for it: he already has Fridged Tiger and Naked Sword wrestling for his affections, after all.

    1. guestest ever says:
      “Though I am now morbidly curious what the male version would be like.”
      Beer (base), roast beef, empty condom wrapper, sports match ticket, gun metal shaving, nude ripped guy pic (torn from a porn magazine), explosion footage from shitty 80s action movie and one random mystical mumbojumbo.

      That said, the authorial incompetence is spectacular. Even assuming nobody not straight male ever came anywhere near the book before its publication excuses the rampant sexism (hint: it doesn’t), all the other stuff about inconsistency and lack of easily done research is damning. I even looked up to see just how old this dude was when the book came out, I might’ve felt generous and forgiven a lot of idiocy on a dumb teen writer…
      1. Farla says:
        Ha, that’s the gay love potion, for when you’ve decided to be the scary gay villain of the piece. Everyone knows there’s no need for women to ever make one, because they’re women and that’s all you ever need to get straight men to fuck you. (All other straight men then nod and say it was understandable.)
      2. GeniusLemur says:
        “forgiven a lot of idiocy on a dumb teen writer…”
        That would be the Eragon defense?
    2. Farla says:
      but the temptations is always there

      If by that you mean he totally does that in this very book. Then deliberately ignores the fact the spirit ends up doing the exact same thing it did the last time.

      On the other hand, it would be an oversimplification to say that sexist people just want to harm women, so I don’t know if it’s a good idea.

      While obviously anything’s better than what we’re got, yeah, the idea sexism is intentional malice is a lot of why people were willing to brush off the sexism of this book. Ideally, this very form of sexism would be the one called out as wrong.

      1. illhousen says:
        “If by that you mean he totally does that in this very book. Then deliberately ignores the fact the spirit ends up doing the exact same thing it did the last time.”

        Which is why I said in a better book, where Harry would actually care about the consequences.

        “While obviously anything’s better than what we’re got, yeah, the idea sexism is intentional malice is a lot of why people were willing to brush off the sexism of this book. Ideally, this very form of sexism would be the one called out as wrong.”

        Yeah, I guess a better idea would be to make Harry not a sexist in the first place and just concentrate on murder urges as his flaw.

        1. Roarke says:
          “Yeah, I guess a better idea would be to make Harry not a sexist in the first place and just concentrate on murder urges as his flaw.”


          1. illhousen says:
            Harry: So you say the victims were cut into seventeen pieces each? How curious.
            1. Roarke says:
              “Yes, officer. It was almost as though they fell apart due to something cutting them at spots predetermined at their creation to result in death.”
              “… I see. Well, we’re baffled. We’ll need your help again on this, Harry.”

              “But I dun wannnaa”
              *puppy eyes*
              “… alright.”

    3. GeniusLemur says:
      “I don’t mind spirits doing horrible thinks and not thinking of them as horrible.”
      That could work here if Bob was the slightest bit alien or unworldly. But he’s not. He could be a stereotypical sex-crazed frat boy who just happened to have the key to the potion library, and it would play out almost exactly the same.
    4. the thousand lakes says:
      “He would know the significance of the dead scorpion and many other things besides.” I absolutely love this sentence all by itself. It needs to feature in a Conan-esque pulp adventure novel, in the moment where Our Hero is tempted by the Wicked Sorcerer’s Faustian Bargain, and the first thing Our Hero thinks when offered phenomenal cosmic powers in exchange for his soul/honor/morality is “yeah, and the dead scorpion! So if I offer my blood-oath on the jade steps of the twelve-tongued serpent god, you’ll finally tell me what the hell was up with that thing?”
  8. Socordya says:
    Something tells me next book will be Exalted…
    1. Farla says:
      I think I said somewhere that if you guys vote this book in, we’re finishing up the trilogy.

      Luckily, there’s another Exalted series of a dozen books waiting in the wings to punish further voting.

      1. Oh god, I have the first five Exalted books that I still need to go through. I may end up just reading your sporks. (–> is a terrible, terrible reader)
        1. Farla says:
          They’re not that bad! I’d actually go so far as to call the first book decidedly okay, with a couple really cool scenes. The biggest issue is that it looks like it was published the second it was turned in, because there’s all these word choice issues.
  9. actonthat says:
    [I’ve often wished that I had some suave and socially acceptable hobby that I could fall back on in times like this.]

    “I wish I did other things, but I guess there’s no way to do things that aren’t what I am doing now.”

    As everyone knows, you are born with pre-set hobbies that can never change, ever.

    1. illhousen says:
      Eh, if you claim to have a hobby, GM would probably ask to spend points on related skills. That Mentor 5 Background wasn’t cheap, you know.
        1. illhousen says:
          Well, his Mentor actually does qualify for the fifth rank. Maybe a bit lower on account of him mostly doing his own thing and not actively interfering in Harry’s life.

          Bob is harder to pin down as he shares traits of Mentor, Familiar and Artifact.

          I would probably go through the list of existing artifacts to see if there is anything similar before deciding on his rank.

          Or I guess he could be modeled after Demonic Familiar, stats should be similar enough.

          Of course, Exalted being Exalted, it’s not something a mortal character in what looks like a low-key game should have…

          1. Yeah, I’ve been going through Mage: The Ascension as a base inspiration for a story I’m working on. So, Mentor 5 at character creation sounds pretty wild and impossible in the regular rules (also hilariously imbalanced). The best I could get up to (and keep the stats I wanted) was Mentor 2.

            It does, however, explain why Harry is such a crappy detective. He gave up his skill points for Backgrounds, put everything in Mentor, and left nothing for Streetwise, Intuition, Intimidation, Subterfuge, Enigmas, and Occult.

            That said, Harry as a Mage in Ascension would probably have already been eaten by Paradox.

            1. illhousen says:
              Well, Mentor is supposed to be balanced by the fact it’s basically a carte blanch for GM to fuck you over.

              Mentors’ life expectancy is ‘yesterday’ in most stories, but RPGs take it to a new level with undead mentors who were behind everything and also have plenty of enemies gunning for you…

              OK, so more seriously the counterbalance is supposed to lie in the fact mentors do their own thing and also can cause troubles to the characters by virtue of having enemies or asking for favors. It works case by case, though, as more enemies to fight and favors to fulfill can be a good thing since it’s an additional content.

              Long story short, balancing mentors and various other allies is possible, but it’s easier to incorporate a mentor figure into the plot without bothering with points to begin with.

              1. True. I still hold that Dresden is pretty much the jackass player who took *all* the backgrounds in character creation and didn’t care about a limited point pool.

                I’ll admit, oWoD pretty much spoiled me for most Urban Fantasy novels by providing pretty solid world building and concrete reasons for why Group X doesn’t reveal themselves to the general public. I mean, for the most part, there really is nothing in most novels stopping the bad guys from going all Emperor Palpatine on a bus during Downtown rush hour other than authorial fiat.

              2. illhousen says:
                Check out Unknown Armies if you like M:As. It builds on similar ideas, but takes the setting into a different direction.
              3. I’ll do that! Thanks!
            2. Farla says:
              I don’t know about Mage in particular, but my understanding is that flaws tend to be horribly balanced, so could he have just piled up on those to afford stuff? No money (unfortunately, a GM who doesn’t enforce this), pile of enemies, whatever flaw cutesy sexism is…
              1. I don’t have the rules memorized, but it’s certainly plausible. Mage is very obtuse and it’s character creation system is definitely not the most user friendly in the line. (She says while sitting in a personal library full of nearly all the White Wolf product lines and splat books.)

                I do remember several of the Backgrounds like Allies and Avatar being really expensive in Mage when I was putting a character together. I don’t think you can pile on enough flaws to buy for the level of backgrounds he has but it depends on the GM. He’s got Mentor 5, Allies 1 or 2 (Susan and Murphy), Destiny 3 (at least, but handwaved by GM), Influence 1, Library 2 or 3, possibly Node. His sanctuary is probably the most expensive thing he’s got.

              2. illhousen says:
                Merits/flaws in general are horribly balanced in nearly every game. The main problem here is that they are priced based on abstract usefulness/troubles, which in reality varies between different groups and different adventures.

                Obesity would be a problem for an action hero, but no so much for a detective.

                Then you have “empty” flaws like allergies and certain rare phobias which almost never really make their way into the game because most GMs don’t want to bother.

    2. Roarke says:
      It strikes me as an interest thing. Like, I sometimes wish I liked sports, because everyone in my family likes sports. But I haven’t the smallest scrap of interest in sports, so there are always going to be those dinner conversations where I just focus on my food and walk out early on everyone.
      1. actonthat says:
        Well, I mean, it’s one thing to say, “Everyone seems to like X and I don’t and that kind of sucks sometimes.” It’s another to imply what he is here, which reads as more, “How do people acquire all of these mysterious hobbies?? I wish I knew how to find things I liked.” Perhaps I’m being particularly uncharitable with my reading, though.
        1. Roarke says:
          Well, both of his examples (violin and pipe organ) involve music, which is actually a fairly common thing people wish they could invest time and effort into learning, but don’t (I am guilty of this as well). So you might be a tiny bit uncharitable; I dunno.
          edit: I think maybe the reason it puts you off is because of the emphasis on “suave” and “socially acceptable.” It’s like he just wants the hobby as a status symbol.
  10. Roarke says:
    You know, it’s kind of funny. I got the book today and started reading it, and right in Chapter 1 (and also the blurb on the back) it says that Harry’s Ad says “Harry Dresden- Wizard: Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

    Terribly amusing, that.

    1. Farla says:
      Yup. And now we know that love potions are totally a thing he can do and refuses not out of morals but because he thinks they’re “entertainment” and so providing them for other people is a waste of his keen wizarding powers.
      1. Roarke says:
        No, no, you have it all wrong. Harry’s got a rock-solid sense of morals. He can’t just let people cheat like that. They should get the objects of their affections to like them on their own, like he does. Or would, if he weren’t terribly unlucky with women.
  11. WhitleyBirks says:
    “but there’s a reason we invented fitted clothing, and it’s because it works better.” I’ve found that skirts matched with thick stockings are much warmer than pants alone, and wearing multiple layers of pants/tights/tight-fighting-stuff just restricts blood flow and makes me colder instead of warmer. A robe over some “real” pants might, in fact, be a practical option.

    If I were in a mood to actually write love potions into something, it might be interesting to make one that actually follows the logical conclusion of that moniker: it’ll make someone love you, but it won’t affect their sexual mores or preferences, so you wind up with someone (unwillingly) fawning over you but still thinking “Okay, but I really *don’t* want to have sex.” Still unconscionable, but at least named correctly.

    1. Farla says:
      Well, properly fitted clothing shouldn’t be too tight either. Ideally, each new layer would be larger, like wearing stockings, then regular pants, then baggy pajama pants on top, then a skirt, then a robe.

      And yes, that’d be a far better use of the trope. Somewhat less evil and a thousand times more original.

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