Dresden Files Storm Front Ch9 Part 1

Friday night, I went to see Bianca, the vampiress.

I really wasn’t kidding.

Harry sleeps til three, when Murphy calls him about the work he’s supposedly doing for her.

“Nothing yet,” I said. Then I lied to her, a little. “I was up most of the night working, but nothing to show yet.”

For someone who’s a terrible liar, he sure does do it constantly.

She answered me with a swear word. “That’s not good enough, Harry. I need answers, and I need them yesterday.”
“I’ll get to it as quick as I can.”
“Get to it faster,” she snarled.

Harry uses his super people skills to inform us that this means the police commissioner is pushing her and in fact the guy loves to harass her and try to get her fired. His chivalry fails to activate over this, because it’s a fellow man rather than a door. In fact, Harry doesn’t feel the slightest guilt about lying about working on it.

Time to change the subject, before she pinned me down and smelled me lying. I had no intention of doing the forbidden research if I could find a way out of doing it. “No luck with Bianca?”
Another swear word. “That bitch won’t talk to us.

It’s really weird how this is doing the prudish “a swear word” when it’s fine writing out “bitch”. Possibly that one doesn’t count, because we really need that one to talk about vampiresses and the women who told the author to leave them alone.

Just smiles and nods and blows smoke, makes small talk, and crosses her legs. You should have seen Carmichael drooling.”
“Well. Tough to blame him, maybe. I hear she’s cute.

You just can’t blame men for anything.

Murphy then orders him not go get involved.

“Lieutenant Murphy,” I drawled. “A little jealous, are we?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. You’re a civilian, Dresden, even if you do have your investigator’s license. If you get your ass laid out in the hospital or the morgue, it’ll be me that suffers for it.”
“Murph, I’m touched.”

This is another one of those contextual things. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, provided they have a joking relationship. They don’t. They have a relationship where one of them disregards the other. He’s twisting it to be innuendo with someone he isn’t even on good terms with.

“I’ll touch your head to a brick wall a few times if you cross me on this, Harry.” Her voice was sharp, vehement.

See? This isn’t a game to her, and she doesn’t want to deal with this bullshit, and he knows it and does it anyway. He then tells her there’s no need to get upset when he totally listens to her and respects her decision on this one.

Whups. A lie.
She’d be all over that like a troll on a billy goat.

And indeed, she trollishly recognizes he’s a piece of lying shit, so he continues to lie by saying the phone line is breaking up. He hangs up, unplugs it, and goes to feed his cat, who apparently drinks Coke with him. By the way, that would kill your cat, don’t do that.

Wizardry is all about thinking ahead, about being prepared. Wizards aren’t really superhuman. We just have a leg up on seeing things more clearly than other people, and being able to use the extra information we have for our benefit. Hell, the word wizard comes from the same root as wise. We know things. We aren’t any stronger or faster than anyone else. We don’t even have all that much more going in the mental department. But we’re god-awful sneaky, and if we get the chance to get set for something, we can do some impressive things.

Harry is so dedicated to lying he’ll even do it to us readers.

It seems like a lot of authors understand that the ability to Batman-prep is impressive, but they don’t understand that requires actually writing Batman prep. Theoretically, this is a detective story, but as we’re already seeing, there’s not much detectiving going on. Neither is he particularly intelligent, except at how to tempt fate. While a noir detective, as we’ve discussed, solves his cases by getting punched a lot, he’s still supposed to be clever – spinning out ideas about what’s going on until finally the last piece falls into place. In contrast, Harry is simply oblivious.

His first guess is the heartsplosion case involves a woman, and then he fails to investigate any witches. It’s unclear if they even exist at this point. He eyeballs the scene and tells us that what happened involved a lot of power, which should suggest someone quite experienced, but doesn’t factor that into his investigation at all. Then he finds out the Council is about to blame him for the murders – and now there’s the possibility this is all a setup to get him. Harry’s said there are people on the Council who want him dead not for the killing of someone with magic, but for how he’s going against the way wizards usually live, and anyone who’s willing to kill a guy for putting his name in the phonebook is not someone who’d be fussed about killing two innocent people with magic.

Then there’s his other job. An inexperienced guy, but one that the Council isn’t aware of if he’s a wizard at all. Is he? Evidence points to him just using the other house to have lots of sex…but, why didn’t the wife check there herself instead of claiming she didn’t know where he was but telling Harry exactly where to find him, and where did he go given he’s still missing? Harry doesn’t concern himself with any of this. The house is currently empty, the fairies saw people banging earlier, nothing more to concern himself with. And definitely no connection here to the first case. I mean, all it involves is a woman being cheated on who knows a little bit about magic, what could that possibly have to do with a woman murdering a prostitute with hate magic?

And really, what else should you expect from someone who reads about a drug that supposed grants the third sight called three-eye despite only wizards even knowing the term third sight and decides eh, probably not magic I should just totally ignore this.

As a wizard, if you’re ready to address a problem, then it’s likely that you’ll be able to come up with something that will let you deal with it. So, I got together all the things I thought I might need: I made sure my cane was polished and ready. I put my silver knife in a sheath that hung just under my left arm. I put the escape potion in its plastic squeeze-bottle into my duster’s pocket. I put on my favorite talisman, a silver pentacle on a silver chain-it had been my mother’s. My father had passed it down to me. And I put a small, folded piece of white cloth into my pocket.

But yeah, this is the author’s best stab at Batman prep – picking up a weapon before a possible fight. The author immediately stops dead to say we shouldn’t expect this kind of thing much.

I had several enchanted items around-or half-enchanted items, anyway. Carrying out a full enchantment is expensive and time-consuming, and I just couldn’t afford to do it very much. We bluecollar wizards just have to sling a few spells out where we can and hope they don’t go stale at the wrong time.

Translation: thinking up a consistent magic system is hard. He just has whatever he has, okay?

Harry explains you can’t carry too many obviously offensive stuff or you’ll just provoke people, despite the fact that you should be able to load up on defensive magic just fine. All Harry really needs is a max shield and max escape potion and he’d be completely safe while having no real ability to harm anybody else.

Not that I was afraid, mind you. I didn’t think Bianca would be willing to cause problems for a mortal wizard. Bianca wouldn’t want to piss off the White Council by messing with me.

This and the bit earlier about how she couldn’t possibly be getting into a magic fight with a mortal wizard suggests that yet again, things are absurdly stacked in Harry’s favor. Not only are fairies not people, but vampires are also second-class citizens. There’s been nothing about wizards not antagonizing vampires, just that any vampire causing trouble will get the full might of the whole wizarding society aimed at their head.

Presumably there’s some degree of balance, or else any given wizard could take over anything of a vampire’s just by starting a fight and bringing in the Council as soon as their victim retaliated, but it can’t be much, because if it was based on who threw the first blow it’d be completely possible for Bianca to be under attack by a mortal wizard, and you’ll recall that was the idea Harry dismissed as impossible.

On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly the White Council’s favorite guy. They might even look the other way if Bianca decided to take me quietly out of the picture.

But that’s irrelevant unless Bianca knows it’s an option. And because bad writing, there is of course no clarification, so we have no idea if this is mildly paranoid or look into medications level paranoid.

I also don’t believe it and think this is more poor-me bullshit. The Council may not like him, but a vampire offing him with no retaliation would just make them look weak. These kinds of setups aren’t about liking some people more than others, though I’m sure there’s speciesism in there somewhere. They’re about power and control and safety in numbers. If a lone vampire wasn’t a threat to a lone wizard, Harry wouldn’t be stocking up on protections just to talk to one. That, in turn, means the wizards destroying vampires is because the wizards are more powerful as a group, and know the best way to remain individually safe is disproportionate retribution. They may high-five upon hearing of Harry’s death, but they’ll also say that the best part is how at least in death he was useful in maintaining the status quo.

(Now, if they ever make a point of formally withdrawing protections from a wizard, that’d be another thing. In that case, you’d actually expect them to start pushing for other nasties to take the rejected wizard out as quickly and painfully as possible, to underline just how important it is for everybody else to maintain their own memberships.)

Bianca runs her business out of a huge old mansion from the early days of the Roaring Twenties.

I don’t believe there’s been any statements of magical creatures having similar issues with modern things yet, so this is just the author liking old stuff because old stuff is so much better than anything you young whippersnappers can do.

There was a gate with an iron fence and a security guard.

Incidentally!

While I’m not sure of fairy foods, I do know why iron.

Iron is the antithesis of nature, gained only by hard labor (and fire). It is civilization you can hold in your hand, and you can then use it to carve away the wild and create new civilization. Iron was life.

Personally, I’d say the later metals would work still better at repelling anything aligned to the wild. Whether or not something like plastic or fiberglass would work is debatable – it depends on if the power is derived from how many steps removed something is from nature, or if it requires the ability to destroy nature. If the latter, then steel should work far better than iron, but you should also get some decent mileage out of plain fire even though it’s a relatively natural thing.

The association of iron = good is so strong that people once regularly staked vampires with iron.

In conclusion, a vampire with an iron fence should make Harry think it’s a vampire who’s on poor terms with the fae. Vampires likely wouldn’t be very fond of the stuff personally, but they’re able to tolerate the stuff far better than fae. And even if vampires are totally immune, it at least shows they aren’t even in contact with the fae. In the latter case, Harry might have some allies.

(Whether or not it’s definitely a sign of anything, of course, depends on what the usual connection between vampires and fae is. If they tend to just avoid each other, than Harry can’t confirm this means anything. But he’s supposedly paranoid, so you think he’d be on edge and noticing this stuff.)

Right as he gets there, his car gives out. Harry takes this in stride and starts chatting with the security guard about how he doesn’t have an appointment but Bianca will totally appreciate him being let in for the chat she didn’t know she wanted to have.

“Suit yourself. I’ll just stay until a tow truck comes by, then, until I can get this thing out of the drive for you.”
He stared at me, his eyes narrowed down to tiny slits with the effort of thinking.
Eventually, the thoughts got to his brain, got processed, and sent back out with a message to “pass the buck.”

Given this was written to be formulaic, I guess it’s inevitable it’d be repetitive, but it’s telling that the things that repeat are things like this – Harry asserting that whatever’s happening proves the other guy is an idiot who couldn’t successfully walk and chew gum.

I listened. Listening isn’t hard to do. No one has practice at it, nowadays, but you can train yourself to pay attention to your senses if you work at it long enough.

I am not sure if this skill ever comes up again.

Bianca, apparently feeling she hasn’t dealt with enough bullshit yet, decides that yes, she would like to talk to him.

“Come on in, Mr. Dresden,” he said. “I can have someone come tow your car, if you like.”
“Super,” I told him. I gave him the name of the wrecker Mike has a deal with and told him to tell the guy that it was Harry’s car again. Fido the Guard dutifully noted this down, writing on a small notebook he drew from a pocket.

It’s also interesting that Harry likes to focus his ire and insults on people who are doing their jobs, oftentimes for him.

The guard then checks him for weapons. Harry effortlessly lies about the escape potion, and ultimately only gets the cane and knife, both obvious.

First, he’d overlooked the clean white handkerchief in my pocket. Second, he’d passed me on with my pentacle still upon my neck. He probably figured that since it wasn’t a crucifix or a cross, that I couldn’t use it to keep Bianca away from me.
Which wasn’t true. Vampires (and other such creatures) don’t respond to symbols as such. They respond to the power that accompanies an act of faith. I couldn’t ward off a vampire mosquito with my faith in the Almighty-He and I have just never seemed to connect. But the pentacle was a symbol of magic itself, and I had plenty of faith in that.
And, of course, Fido had overlooked my getaway potion. Bianca really ought to trust her guards with more awareness of the supernatural and what sort of things to look for.

Yup, Harry just pointed out the plot hole. If Bianca is warded off by faith, she should be warded off by sincere Wicca, which means she should’ve added pentacles to the no-entrance list on that basis alone. More likely, she’d just demand all necklaces removed, especially anything with a symbol. Mysterious liquid should be banned on similar principles – even if wizard potions are pretty rare, holy water presumably works just fine in the hands of a believer. There’s no point in having people frisked if she doesn’t tell anyone what she wants removed.

My best guess for making this workable is that Bianca doesn’t usually ban things like crosses from her house, and the guy is acting on his own initiative based on knowing enough about Harry to know he’s a dangerous asshole.

The house itself was elegant, very roomy, with the high ceilings and the broad floors that they just don’t make anymore.

Aside from the author’s continual insistence that everything was better back in my (imagined) day, by gum, there’s the fact that no actually, roomy and high ceilings are far more common now than in the past because we can actually heat our damn houses these days.

Harry waits for a half hour before Bianca shows up. Bear in mind, still no statement yet about vampire sleeping habits. We just know they’re different from mythological vampires to some degree. We don’t know if she’s been up for hours and just fucking with him or if he got there right as she was crawling from the coffin.

She came into the room like a candle burning with a cold, clear flame. Her hair was a burnished shade of auburn that was too dark to cast back any ruddy highlights, but did anyway. Her eyes were dark, clear, her complexion flawlessly smooth and elegantly graced with cosmetics.

Makeup is shaping up to be a requirement of existence in the Dresden universe.

her three-hundred-dollar shoes were a study in high-heeled torture devices.

There’s two possible things he’s saying here.

1) He’s picturing her stepping all over him. This is, sadly enough, the nicer option.
2) The author has dressed the supposedly strong female character in painful clothing for male appreciation, and Harry has followed up by exclaiming that yes boy does he like watching women suffer for beauty.

I rose when she entered the room. “Madame Bianca,” I replied, nodding to her. “We meet at last. Hearsay neglected to mention how lovely you are.”
She laughed, lips shaping the sounds, head falling back just enough to show a flash of pale throat. “A gentleman, they said. I see that they were correct. It is a charmingly passe thing to be a gentleman in this country.”
“You and I are of another world,” I said.
She approached me and extended her hand, a motion oozing feminine grace. I bowed over her hand briefly, taking it and brushing my lips against the back of her glove.
“Do you really think I’m beautiful, Mister Dresden?” she asked me.
“As lovely as a star, Madame.”
“Polite and a pretty one, too,” she murmured. Her eyes flickered over me, from head to toe, but even she avoided meeting gazes with me, whether from a desire to avoid inadvertently directing her power at me, or being on the receiving end of mine, I couldn’t tell. She continued into the room, and stopped beside one of the comfortable chairs. As a matter of course, I stepped around the table, and drew out the chair for her, seating her. She crossed her legs, in that dress, in those shoes, and made it look good. I blinked for just a moment, then returned to my own seat.

You might think that maybe the fact the only woman who fits his script is head prostitute and also evil might be a sign that his script has some issues. But no.

What makes this worse is she’s actually terrified of him, so nothing she says or does here can be taken as sincere. Odds are, she’s only acting like this because she heard he likes it, and she’s hoping that by playing up the gentleman and lady thing he’ll be less inclined to brutalize her.

See, cutting no lines here, this is what comes next:

“So, Mister Dresden. What brings you to my humble house? Care for an evening of entertainment? I quite assure you that you will never have another experience like it.” She placed her hands in her lap, smiling at me.
I smiled at her, and put one hand into my pocket, onto the white handkerchief. “No, thank you. I came to talk.”
Her lips parted in a silent, ah. “I see. About what, if I might ask?”
“About Jennifer Stanton. And her murder.”
I had all of a second’s warning. Bianca’s eyes narrowed, then widened, like those of a cat about to spring. Then she was coming at me over the table, faster than a breath, her arms extended toward my throat.

Let’s end now on this good note. We’ll do the other half of the chapter next time.

47 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    “There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, provided they have a joking relationship. They don’t.”
    This was one of my big issues with this series. I think Butcher was going for the heavily sarcastic, just short of hostile dialogue that noir and especially PI radio shows deliver by the truckload. But Butcher’s a crappy writer, and goes overboard, resulting in dialogue between two people (or a person and an air spirit) that authentically loathe each other. And therefore it’s not energetic or clever or character-building or even genre-appropriate, it’s just unpleasant.

    And the thing is, the real loathing makes a lot more sense in terms of the story and characters as they’re presented. Harry loathes everybody because that fits with his disdainful, egotistical, edging towards psychopathic personality, and Murphy, Bob, et al loathe Harry because, hey, who wouldn’t?




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    1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      I don’t think Harry comes off as loathing Murphy. He seems to think she’s adorable like a frustrated puppy, (that skeevy “you’re so cute when you’re angry” attitude) and that his constant condescending passive-aggressiveness is harmless banter that she’s just too uptight to enjoy properly but secretly likes deep down. I do think you’re right about Murphy’s loathing illustrating Harry’s personality, though; his interactions with her reek of him being convinced he’s charming her because he lacks the empathy required to notice she just straight up hates him



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      1. GeniusLemur says:
        The mutual loathing is mostly his interaction with Bob. With Murphy, I agree, Harry is more disdainful, scornful, and annoying.



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    2. Farla says:
      I think another part is he refuses to consider that acting like this isn’t objectively good. Noir detectives are not supposed to be particularly healthy individuals, but Harry’s endless alpha male shit gets treated as valid.



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      1. actonthat says:
        This is actually a point I should have brought up in my rant but didn’t and kind of regret it.

        The noir detective is not supposed to be a good person. You are not supposed to fangirl for them. They are supposed to have a moral code, yes, but in a world of shitty people, it’s supposed to be a morally grey if not black one. (Hammett’s Op is a good example of this.) If he wanted people to cheer for his detective, he should have written Golden Age stuff, not noir. Again, he’s playing the trope straight without realizing why it was done.




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  2. Roarke says:
    “Murphy then orders him not go get involved.”

    huh

    “Now, if they ever make a point of formally withdrawing protections from a wizard, that’d be another thing. In that case, you’d actually expect them to start pushing for other nasties to take the rejected wizard out as quickly and painfully as possible, to underline just how important it is for everybody else to maintain their own memberships.”

    That would be an interesting area of politics, yeah. A lot of Masquerade-type stories have that kind of thing – the central governing body withdraws protection from someone, usually accompanied by putting an official hit out on them. What’s most striking about that are the real world analogues for it: gangs and espionage agencies.

    It’s been stated in the posts and comments for other chapters that leaving a gang is very hard, because you accumulate enemies that being in the gang protects you from. It’s sort of the same deal with spies: if you displease your bosses too much, they cut you off and make sure to share your information with their rival agencies (who, like the White Council vs. Nevernever Vampires, are superficially cordial), because now that they don’t want you working for them, they make sure everyone knows your actions aren’t sanctioned.




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    1. Farla says:
      You know, I actually have no idea if they’re on semi-decent terms or not.

      If the relationship is good, Harry should’ve been excommunicated and then devoured by a vampire swarm seconds later. But if they’re on bad terms, then there might be the sense that even though they hate Harry, they hate vampires managing to kill any wizard more, and then if Harry does manage to become hated more, by that point there’s a chance the vampires won’t all attack him because some feel anyone the wizards hate that much might be worth leaving to keep annoying them.




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      1. Roarke says:
        Well, if Harry’s narration is right (hang on, it gets better), then the White Council is full of old dudes who just want to maintain the status quo. If you have an enemy, the best status quo is amiable enmity. That’s what I’m thinking of as the basis for superficial cordiality, since it seems to be supported by how ruthlessly they enforce wizarding law.



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  3. illhousen says:
    You know, it would be cool if Bianca was in cahoots with the faction of the Council that wants Harry dead. I mean, she should want Harry dead, too: presumably he’s meddling in her affairs when they catch police’s attention, and, given the whole “harm a wizard and the White Council will crush you” thing she had to tip-toe around Harry now.

    Killing him is just so convenient, especially if she has a guarantee the investigation would be led away from her.

    Also, Harry just generally needs more people wanting to kill him.

    And Morgan should be the protagonist. Then he can investigate the murders and sudden disappearance of Harry, while dealing with the Council interfering and seemingly preventing him from doing his job. When he finds Harry, Harry would be either dead or reveal in a twist that he’s actually innocent this time around.




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    1. Farla says:
      Morgan would be great! He starts off after Harry, knowing only Harry has the power to do something like this and also Harry’s just generally radiating dark magic assholery. But then a vampire tears him apart…and the heartsplosions happen again. Harry’s protestations of innocence were true. Why was he talking to Bianca that fateful day? What did he know and why did they kill him? And can Morgan stop the real killer before more lives are lost?



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      1. illhousen says:
        And he is pressured from all sides:

        The White Council doesn’t want him to investigate heartsplosions anymore and pushes for him to kill Bianca in retaliation for killing a wizard. And there is something strange about how they said to kill her without talking. Consorting with proclaimed enemies of the Council is against the laws, yes, but that emphasis…

        Bianca knows the danger of Damocles Paperwork is upon her, and she isn’t the one to sit idly. Morgan knows she’s planning a preemptive strike against him.

        His best bet for finding information, a local “bartender” and actually an information broker of the supernatural world, doesn’t speak.

        Meanwhile, a notorious criminal Marcone warns Morgan that he wants no intervention in the case: he will avenge his lover personally.




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  4. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    Yet more signs that Mister is a Sue-Cat… not just the coke-drinking, but that he not only allowed Dresden to concentrate on potion-making on the other side of a closed door (closed door! oh noes!) but then allowed Dresden to sleep until mid-afternoon without demanding out, food, or the opportunity to share the news of the day.

    Was Butcher raised in the 1970s? That “houses aren’t made like that today” rhetoric screams 1960s-1970s tract home with 8-foot ceilings and was the rallying cry of late-Boomers/early-Gen-Xers headed back to the city to fix up decaying Victorian mansions. (I’ve also — yup — definitely toured low-ceiling worker cottages of the 19th century. Mingy little houses!) Houses for the last 20 years or so have gone back to 10-foot ceilings. (Added: Dresden’s basement abode wouldn’t necessarily have had a ton of head room.)




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    1. Roarke says:
      Mister has the ultimate Sue-Cat trait, yeah. He doesn’t exist when his owner isn’t thinking about him.



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      1. GeniusLemur says:
        Is Mister ever mentioned again? Given Butcher’s style and skills, I’m thinking there’s a good chance he’d spend all the time talking about Mister, then drop the whole subject and never mention him again. It’s an error I see in my writer’s group a lot: go out of your way to exposit all this irrelevant backstory, then never mention it again.



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        1. Farla says:
          Oh no, we’ll keep hearing about Mister the basically a small dog cat. He’ll keep not being particularly catlike.



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          1. GeniusLemur says:
            So dodged one fail, then caught the second right in the gut?



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          2. actonthat says:
            I don’t understand logically how people do this. Like, we have this whole cultural meme that goes, “LOL cats and dogs are so different,” but people still write them as the same. I’ve barely ever been around cats, but I know enough of my dogs to know they are nothing like cats outside of being quadripedal carbon-based organisms.



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            1. Farla says:
              I think it’s that he wanted Harry to have a pet but didn’t want to lock Harry in to things like regular walkies and such, so it has to be a more independent cat.

              He would’ve been better served saying Harry’d been adopted by a stray dog who ran around doing his own thing but hung out at Harry’s house sometimes. But the other cultural meme is that dogs are love and devotion and slobbery kisses, so the author probably can’t imagine a more feral dog that would fit with Harry’s loner screwup rep.

              (And okay, stray dogs are increasingly rare these days but if you’re saying there’s trolls and fairies killing kids and no one notices, a slightly less on the ball Animal Control would fit in just fine.)




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              Reply
              1. illhousen says:
                He does get a dog in one of the later books. A super dog.



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    2. Farla says:
      Was Butcher raised in the 1970s?

      He was born October 26, 1971.




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  5. sliz225 says:
    You tell a man’s a real classy gent when he makes comments on your appearance the moment you meet.



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    1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
      Depending what’s supposed to be the purpose of the visit, Dresden’s script does rather read as anything from “wants to get laid for free” to “snake oil salesman” to “serial killer.”



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  6. the thousand lakes says:
    I know it’s a small detail in a heaving sea of stupid, but this whole “third sight” business bugs me. Surely Butcher would know that the entire purpose of third eye symbolism (trepanning, new-age psychic, illuminati, whatever) is SECOND sight, right? Regular sight, regular world, second sight, spiritual world? I mean, he can’t possibly think people have two sights already because they generally have two eyes. You don’t even have to do research to figure that one out, just wink and check to see if any fairies appear. WTF, is what I’m saying.



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    1. Farla says:
      It’s quite possible he doesn’t even know second sight has any meaning and thinks he’s being original because all those other guys just copy each other by reusing the same term.



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      1. the thousand lakes says:
        This saddens me. Drugs that give you wizard vision are a great urban fantasy idea. Shame about the execution.



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  7. WhitleyBirks says:
    “Her voice was sharp, vehement.” I think the hands-down creepiest thing about this (and storylines like it) is that the author has no problem clearly indentifying, remembering, and transcribing obvious markers of fear/annoyance/disinterest/frustration. They can clearly see the woman getting visibly upset and remember it well enough to create similar (and similarly obvious) situations in fiction. But…what, just don’t identify the obvious annoyance as obvious annoyance?

    It gets hard to make claims of “women are so mysterious” when you can write all the markers of a woman practically screaming “fuck you.”




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    1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
      Yes, they just don’t see the obvious annoyance as obvious annoyance. Not because they don’t see the signs, as you’ve noticed, they recall them pretty spot on writing about them. It’s because society teaches men pretty straight up that they never have to take a women’s feelings seriously. Like, men say “women never come out and just say what they’re feeling/ what they want,” but really it’s just that if a women says “you hurt my feelings badly,” a man is totally allowed to dismiss her as hysterical, irrational, overreacting, making a big deal out of nothing, overly-dramatic, or trying to start a fight: responses that either say “You’re wrong to feel that way” or “You don’t actually feel that way at all, you liar.” So women become afraid to say they’re upset, and men, who are for the most part completely capable of noticing women are upset, do notice and something like this happens:

      “What’s the matter?”
      “Nothing, I’m fine.”
      “No, you’re upset about something, what is it?”
      “Um, well, I kinda felt like your ex was quite rude to me.”
      “No, they weren’t. What are you talking about? Why do you always have to try and start shit; what’s wrong with you?”

      It’s pretty toxic, but it gets worse with the above. “That lady has told me to stop doing the things I am doing to her and is giving off clear signs of anger, but that means nothing. I am the man, so I decide how ladies feel about what I do to them, and I have decided that she secretly likes it! Why can’t ladies just be honest and direct about what they want, instead of pretending to be angry for no reason? Besides, even if she really truly doesn’t actually like it, she totally would if she’d just relax! Women are being completely unreasonable when they don’t like things that I enjoy!”

      Butcher writes these scenes like this knowing that Murphy either secretly deepdown likes Harry’s harassment or that her annoyance is wrong and doesn’t matter, because those are the only two options a lot of men genuinely believe in when it comes to a woman having an emotional response they don’t like.

      Hmm, I had more thoughts about this than I thought I did. Bleak, terrifying thoughts.




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      1. Roarke says:
        On the flipside of this phenomenon you’ve described, there is that population of men who are convinced that a woman being flirty is no real indication that she’s interested, because she’s just giving the same lip service she’d give to any creepy guy hitting on her. She’s more likely to get with a douchebag who completely disregards her feelings and just makes a move on her. Pratchett (who is like my favorite author and seems to have an analogy/metaphor for everything) calls this the Jerk Effect, where only the jerk who doesn’t care about the woman’s opinion actually asks her out on a date. It sounds pretty Nice Guy Apologist, but, well, I think it’s a thing.

        In reality there are guys who can’t pick up signs from women who are interested in them, because some guys just aren’t used to being desired, and women aren’t always taught to be direct about that kind of thing.




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        1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
          It isn’t really a flipside, though. Women know that if they are direct about their sexual desires men will call them whores, so that’s just another negative consequence to being straightforward.

          Like, I do agree that it’s a thing that most people are afraid of being rejected, so they’ll avoid a situation where rejection seems likely, whereas people who don’t fear rejection don’t care. And those people can be creeps who have become so used to rejection they don’t care anymore. I don’t think it’s being a nice guy apologist unless you start going on about how the women in that situation are stupid and shallow for not going out with the guys who are too intimidated to show interest in them.

          It’s just the “If a women has feelings you don’t like she’s either lying or wrong” thing tends to be completely separate from the “This attractive person seems to be flirting with me possibly but what if I say something and they’re not oh god of course they would never be flirting with me I’m repellent,” thing. After all, most men aren’t going to dislike a women being attracted to them, so why would she be lying or wrong? If she said, “Hey, I think you’re attractive,” they wouldn’t go “No, you don’t. Do you even think before you say crap like that? Seriously, what’s your problem?”

          It’s human insecurity meeting the way women are taught that making the first move is for boys and so if you do it you aren’t really a lady. Like, I’m not trying to claim that all men can read all women’s feelings perfectly and just choose to interpret the resulting text as whatever suits them, because that’s obviously wrong, but I think the social insecurity is much more even-sided than the whole “your feelings are a mental illness which it is my right to ignore” thing.

          Like if some super-hot dude was hitting on a women who didn’t think of herself as attractive, there is basically no way she would be thinking: “Awh, yeah, got this in the bag, soon as he stops complimenting me I’m gonna ask him out to dinner,” especially since she would have almost no social context for a hot guy with an unattractive women, whereas hot women with unattractive men is practically the Hollywood ideal in movies and out of them. That the jerk effect isn’t something that happens to men and women is only because men are expected to ask women out.




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          1. Roarke says:
            I should never write comments before bed that I can’t defend before going to work in the morning. But here I go.

            It isn’t really a flipside, though. Women know that if they are direct about their sexual desires men will call them whores, so that’s just another negative consequence to being straightforward.

            It was indeed my mistake to say anything about “flipsides” in regards to this. The way in which they’re related amounts to “whether or not two people understand each other’s intentions depends on the people involved.”

            Still, you bring up an interesting point, which is something I’ve noticed as a recurring complaint on this blog. If a woman acts in a way that society doesn’t consider acceptable for women to act, she’s ostracized. But if she does act the way women are taught to act, then men walk all over her. You know, if a woman knows that her options are “do what society wants and be casually mistreated” or “do what I want and be casually mistreated,” I hope she can at least be satisfied with making her own choice on the issue.

            It’s human insecurity meeting the way women are taught that making the first move is for boys and so if you do it you aren’t really a lady.

            Well, hopefully that will change in a generation or two. I’ve got several friends who like making the first move, and I’m pretty sure they’d all testify that choosing your partners, casual or otherwise, is a lot better. Like, I can’t see guys not being happy that women are suddenly taking an active role in romance, except for the alphas who were used to women waiting to be led meekly by the hand to bed. Well, there will probably always be girls like that.

            [Anecdote deleted because reasons].

            Where was I? Right. You can’t let yourself do nothing just because both paths have suffering on them. The fact that both choices have a downside doesn’t make them anywhere near equal.




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            1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
              See, though, the thing which I probably didn’t make clear enough above is that a lot of women don’t believe they have a choice. It isn’t so much they think “Oh no, I’ll be called a whore,” as it is they subconsciously feel “Oh no, women don’t make the first move, so if I do that I won’t be a proper women anymore.” The reason gender roles are so powerful is that, for better or for worse, a lot of people are really attached to being the gender they are, so if they are told that their gender is contingent upon certain behaviour they will do their damnedest to observe that and feel insecure about any behaviour that doesn’t comply. A lot of women who wait to be asked out aren’t consciously weighing up between societal disapproval vs not getting what they want, they’re being the best women they know how to be.

              I do agree it’s getting better, especially since the internet makes it easier for people to learn that your gender isn’t actually defined by arbitrary standards you have to live up to. But a lot of people still have a rigid view of gender. So a women who has never been taught to question the standards imposed upon her by society is simply never even going to think she could ask a guy out, or stand up for her own opinions over her boyfriend’s, or that she has the right to be angry about some things. And a guy living under these standards isn’t going to question why he’s not supposed to cry, or why he’s never even considered growing his hair long, or why he’s supposed to make the first move.
              People learn this stuff young and often live it their whole lives and teach it to their children. Rejecting it is definitely the better option but a lot of people never learn that it even is one. Besides, if you’ve lived your whole life struggling desperately to meet standards that are frankly unnatural (considering how traditional gender roles and presentation take a lot of work and self-censorship) and then someone comes along and says “Hey, chill, all that work was for nothing, men are men if they feel that they are men, women are women if they feel like women, or hey, be neither, be both, whatever, it doesn’t matter, it never mattered, there aren’t any real rules and we’re all so much more free than we thought,” odds are you’re going to get really fucking defensive. You aren’t going to think “Oh sweet, now I can totally ask out that hot boy I see at the supermarket,” you’re going to start yelling about how that time your parents punished your little brother for wearing nail polish was absolutely necessary for his mental health and that people who argue against rigid gender roles are evil liars who are trying to ruin everything.

              So yeah, it isn’t as simple as “I have two choices and both of them are kinda awful, but one is significantly less awful.”




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              1. Roarke says:
                I’m aware that it’s not that simple, but as long as you were being simplistic, I was willing to go with it. I fucking was that little brother with the nail polish. I was born in a country where men are certain that their women exist for their sake, and I thank my mother every day for leaving before that could root itself into me. Even after I moved to a fairly permissive part of the States, I’d been called gay by people who earnestly believed it because I was willing to treat women with deference (not ‘chivalry’, deference). I’ve been told by women that I’d have it easier if I was gay, that I wouldn’t be worried about being friends with women but not trying to have sex with them, which flew against everything my older male relatives drilled into me. I’d have it easier because I’d be between genders, accepted in the world of women if I wanted that, and accepted in the world of men since I could pass for straight.

                I know what it is to fight that. I know how hard it is. But ultimately it really does come down to that choice. If some people have to be educated, if some people need to be taught that it’s there, and they need to be shown, then it’s up to the people who know it’s there.

                And that’s the thing. They do fight it. The people who have been indoctrinated believe it. Like many kinds of abuse, it gets passed down by those who internalize it. Some of them will never get it, but some will.

                A lot of women who wait to be asked out aren’t consciously weighing up between societal disapproval vs not getting what they want, they’re being the best women they know how to be.

                And they’ll make sure they don’t say “yes” until they’ve left their gaggle of friends at the bar to be alone somewhere with the guy. And they’ll make sure to never actually say “yes,” but just to not resist when the guy kisses her. Saying “yes” is for sluts. Good women say “no,” and let the guy do what he wants anyway; that’s partly why this stupid “blurred lines” thing is a thing (the other part is that society only pretends to hate rapists). I remember a friend of mine ranting about this once, but I can’t remember the delightful turns of phrase she used, and I’ve probably related it wrong anyway.




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              2. SoxyOutfoxing says:
                Yeah, the whole gender system is basically like those dolls that have smaller dolls inside them, only with evil and suffering rather than cute little dolls. It makes it really hard to talk about anything without simplifying, since there’s so many different layers of fucked up to take into account.



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              3. Roarke says:
                Yeah. You’re always going to hurt someone with it, sadly. Inadvertently or otherwise.



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            2. Farla says:
              If a woman acts in a way that society doesn’t consider acceptable for women to act, she’s ostracized. But if she does act the way women are taught to act, then men walk all over her. You know, if a woman knows that her options are “do what society wants and be casually mistreated” or “do what I want and be casually mistreated,” I hope she can at least be satisfied with making her own choice on the issue.

              Ah, but the stakes are all over the place, from “get casually mistreated less than all the other women, at least” to “murder”.

              It’s not actually clear which option objectively works – women definitely try embracing the role to the point of joining in the abuse of other women, to try to keep from being treated like that, but spending your days saying you’re not offended by increasingly detailed rape jokes and how anyone who is should be raped means losing the chance to stay away from dangerous people yourself. And embracing the role can in fact attract dangerous people.

              But it’s sadly tempting to believe as long as you do what you’re supposed to do, you have some power over what’ll happen.

              (In theory, it’s even possible to use societal roles to a woman’s advantage, assuming that overlaps with what she wants neatly enough. That seems to be getting less and less feasible now, though – it seems like one of the byproducts of feminism has been angry men assuming women acting within the roles they’re supposed to have are faking it to take advantage of men.)




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              1. Roarke says:
                Argh, the whole thing is in italics. Your end bit needs to be waaaaay earlier.

                But yes. Like SoxyOutfoxing has already told me, this is mostly gross simplification on my part, addressing only the basic facts of the matter. I know how bad it can get for women, from social exclusion by their fellow women to straight-up rape/murder. I was more referring to the dating scene absent the presence of predators, but it’s tough because often the dudes who rape or harass women can be chill dudes. Like, I’ll testify to this. It’s really horrible, but the fact is that being a rapist doesn’t preclude a guy from being personable, funny, and cool when he’s not raping someone. Humans are unimaginably dangerous creatures, because we’ve gained intelligence and refined social instincts and habits and stacked them on top of our base natures like a drunkard with Jenga blocks.




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        2. Farla says:
          where only the jerk who doesn’t care about the woman’s opinion actually asks her out on a date. It sounds pretty Nice Guy Apologist, but, well, I think it’s a thing.

          I agree that seems a pretty good description. Not just that, but the jerk who isn’t too obsessed with one women will just keep asking people out until someone bites. So the answer to “why do women date jerks???” is partly “because hundreds of jerks will ask them out until one manages to sound good while doing so.”




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          1. Roarke says:
            Yeah, but I messed it up. The Jerk Syndrome was, as I reread, apparently only for like, ridiculous top-tier women whose very image burns lesser men, like a vampire faced with a sunlight hanky. Only the alphas can face that beauty with impunity and grunt out their sexual interest in a vaguely vocal manner.



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      2. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
        That inner monolog is probably a literal transcription of how one of my ex-bfs used to think. Certainly, I’d end up asking: “Why are you casting me as a mysterious bitch when I just TOLD YOU what I would like and you DID THE OPPOSITE while claiming you were doing what I wanted?”



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        1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
          It’s sort of like a form of gaslighting where the person playing the tricks genuinely believes the person they’re abusing is insane. It’s pretty terrifying. But yeah, it’s easy to believe a person is being mysterious if you decide that everything is they’re saying is lies for no reason.

          Sorry you ever had to put up with that. :(




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          1. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
            Thank you! In this specific case, it was more infuriating than terrifying, but I think that’s because anger is my default emotion. I actually used the term “gaslighting” at the time, so I’m affirmed by seeing it here.



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            1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
              Yeah, I tend to get angry too, which is good and useful, I’ve found. But I have a couple of friends who are vulnerable to that kind of thing (interestingly neither of them are capable defending themselves physically either; they both admit they’d just let people beat them up) and so I worry.

              Yay rage!




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    2. Farla says:
      To go and tangent, it’s more noticable with men writing women badly but it actually pops up all over – sometimes people are much better at observing behavior than they are actually understanding it. I know that part of my frustration with Harry Potter was I sometimes felt the detailed behavior and the official narrative statement of what it meant didn’t line up.



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      1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
        God, with the Harry Potter thing, in the fifth book I read Luna as having a crush on Ron, and in the sixth one she says something that suggests she got over it, but the narrative never points it out and Harry never speculates about it. I cannot think of any other character dynamic that JK does that subtly, so it leaves me completely unsure if it’s actually there or not. Especially since someone having a crush on a guy and then getting over it when she realises he’s a jerk would probably be the most realistic thing JK ever wrote about teenage love. Unless, you know, she didn’t.



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        1. illhousen says:
          Oh, come on. I know that chest monsters are usually removed with surgery nowdays, but it is possible wizards still think allowing them to make their own exit point is more healthy.



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          1. SoxyOutfoxing says:
            Heh, I just have no faith in JK’s ability as a writer, particularly when it comes to teenagers and romance. And I can’t really see Luna using the chest monster metaphor, even if she is supposed to be weirder than Harry.



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            1. illhousen says:
              I jest, of course. Indeed, the romance is one of the weakest parts of the books, and it’s saying something.

              I mean, chest monsters are no joking matter. Thousands of people die due to them every year, and that Rowling used it in a positive light was very inconsiderate.




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