2012 transcripts from audio/video WoJ sources

Jim has been very gracious in making himself available to his fan base, not only by interacting with us here and on other websites but by doing many interviews, con pannels, and Q&A sessions.

Quite a few of these have been recorded in audio or video format and posted on the internet, and an overall list of everything I know about is posted in the sticky above.  Several forum members have voluntiered their time to transcribe these for those that have trouble with audio recordings (some of our fellow forum members can not hear), and also for ease of reference for when we discuss what Jim has said about his works.

This is a continuous project.  At the moment (I am writing this shortly before the Ghost Story release) more than half of these audio and video recordings have been transcribed, but we could always use help with finishing those left, and Jim being so interactive with his fan base, is always generating new ones.  So if you would like to contribute to this endeavor, please visit This Topic where I have tried to make a list of the ones that need doing, and where you can post your work when you are done, if you chose to help out with this project.

This page is where I am putting the transcripts from 2012

SciFi Saturday Night podcast

By the way, it may be quicker to read these transcripts rather than viewing/listening, but if you have the time I highly recommend you view/listen as well as read.  They say some large (IMO usually arbitrary) percentage of communication is actually contained in the tone of a voice and such, and in these cases, I’d say that a percentage of the fun is distilled out when you only enjoy these in text rather than viewing/listening.

So I was slightly hyper at work today and felt like doing this, so I transcribed the interesting portions of this podcast (http://www.scifisaturdaynight.com/?p=6597). Starting at minute 34 or so. Lightly edited to remove fillers and misc talk. There were several people asking questions, I did the best I could but I’m sure I missed some comments. –dagaetch

warning: MAJOR Ghost Story spoilers, and some first chapter spoilers for Cold Days.

Jim Butcher is one of the guys who we’ve wanted on the show for an awfully long time, and we finally figured out a way to get him. We lied. We lied, we cheated, we stole. We’re holding a puppy hostage right now. *laughter* We absolutely are.
That’d get it done, yeah.

So Jim has a new book coming out, and the name of that book is…
Cold Days. It’s the next book in The Dresden Files.

Now one of the things that we’ve talked about a number of times on the show is TV shows that were dropped and killed long before they should have been. And Dresden Files keeps coming up in that, because I don’t think one of us isn’t a fan of that show. What happened?
Oh, uh, I don’t know, I was just the author they didn’t tell me anything. *Why would they?* Yeah exactly. I think I have a different perspective on it than most people, because for me, I look at the show and go well, it did get canceled after a season, but on the other hand, it got canceled before they could really screw up anything horribly either.

This is true, they didn’t screw up anything /horribly/. There we go.
Yeah, I try and think of that cup as half full. But I think there were a number of different things going on, I think there was probably a lot to do with office politics, is what really decided the fate of the show, but that’s just my guess, I have a conspiracy theory with pictures and bits of colored yarn stretching across the room.

I can’t see that actor in any other roles now. Every time I see him in something else, I’m like Ooh, Dresden! // She does, this is not an exaggeration.
You know that the final two choice for those actors came down to Blackthorne and Jayne from Firefly.

AWW // Oh My Gosh // Wow
They would have made him a much tankier bulldogier version of Harry Dresden if they’d gone with him, but they decided not too.

They made a good choice! // Aren’t you glad they didn’t? // Yeah, I think they made a great choice given the // Yeah, no offense to him, I like him I just don’t see that working
It would have been interesting to see. Again, I’ve got a perspective that’s different from everybody else’s, so…

Now Jim, I have to ask. You’ve seen your books put on to TV now, but you’ve also had your books turned into comics books. Not everybodys had a chance to do that. How did you enjoy seeing your books kind of translated, because I know in both ways, it’s going to lose some of the details of many of the stories or surroundings or so forth. What is your take on that?
Are you kidding? It was awesome! I mean, there were all these people that only exist in my head, and it was the same way when I got to visit the set of the show, you know, there was Murphy, there was Dresden, and there was Butters, only everyone else who was there could see them too. So it was sort of unique! And the comic books were much the same way. When I finally started getting to pick up the comic book art, getting to look at these characters, and I feel so bad for our first artist, who was Ardian Syaf, who has since gone on, I think he is doing Batman or something right now. I had to keep grabbing it, “No no, you gotta make the character more like this, here, make it look like somewhere between Fox Mulder and the guy that starred in the sci-fi series Invisible Man.

Oh yeah!

Right, yeah, he played a great character, and I really loved that show because their goal on that show was to have in the opening teaser section, to have it end with him saying “Oh crap”, and to have it end with him being in such complete trouble. It was such a great device, I try to do that to my own characters whenever possible. But getting to see it made into the comic was really neat, learning to write comics was a lot harder than I thought it would be, they had to keep telling me things like “Hey Jim, you’ve got these characters exchanging dialogue…uh huh, yeah…there’s like three paragraphs of dialogue here man, if we write all the dialogue, there’s no place left for the art.” I’m like, oh, yeah, I guess that’s true. Okay, we’ll cut it down then. “Thank you Jim.”

Taking that show, don’t tell maxim to the extreme, huh?

Well you have to focus on very different things. The two different mediums, or even the medium between comics and text and television, have completely different focuses on what you have to spend your effort on doing. And the really horrible part is, *voide drops* you’ve got to work with somebody else to make it happen. And they don’t always just do whatever you tell them to do, and as a control freak guy, working with The Dresden Files, it’s like “Oh wait a minute, other people have thoughts about how this should work, I wonder if I should pay any attention to them.”

Yeah, my internal voice goes “nah”, and then my in internal common sense, who really sounds a lot like my wife, goes “you know, maybe you’re not as smart as you think you are.” Right, maybe I should listen to other people and see what they have to say. But when you’re a writer, everything you do is yourself, it does not cost me extra to blow up the city of Chicago if I want to do that, as the author that’s great. But when you’re going over the comic books, it’s like oh wait, you’ve got all these other concerns that you have to be concerned with, and these other people who are creative that you have to work with, and they want to do creative things too! I’m sitting here saying “how dare they want to be creative with my stuff…oh wait a minute, they’re artists, I guess maybe they do..” So yeah, it’s been a good experience, I have not had any problems, I mean any time I’ve gone “hey wait a minute it really needs to be different”, for the comics they’ve been like “oh yeah totally we’ll fix it!” and when there’s an issue, I try and look at it as an opportunity to do something really cool, rather than a problem, and that seems to have worked out fairly well so far.

Another cool incarnation of the whole Dresden Files was a series of audio books, that were voiced by James Marsters. *squees in background* You promised you weren’t going to squee! Cut it out, dammit. // I’m squeeing about that, I’m sorry.

One of the big references to Marsters reading my books that I really love  is the girl who says “I know, I just plugged those books in and it’s hours and hours of James giving me oral pleasure.” *laughter* It’s like, alright then.

Now that’s a review you can put on the back of a…// I’m really going to go in the other room now. // Well with that in mind, tell us about Cold Days!

I want to stick with this one for a little bit, because when you first heard him do it, how did you feel? Was that the voice you heard in your head?
Are you kidding? Spike from Buffy was reading my stuff!! That was right after the third book came out, I think, when they got James Marsters to read the first one, and I think we were in Season 4 of Buffy at that time, and they had just gone to college. So the agent calls up and says “We think you might have an audio deal” and I say “Yay!” and a while later they call back and say “How would you feel about James Marsters reading it?” I’m like OMG! How would I feel?!? Yes, do that. Get him before he goes away.

Wow. And he’s actually signed to do all of them? Is that the deal?
I don’t think there’s like an ongoing contract for him, I think that that’s being handled by the publisher at this point and like I said, I’m just the writer, they don’t tell me anything. *laughter* They want to get James to do it, the biggest problem usually is finding room in schedules for things to happen. That’s why he wasn’t able to do one book, there were some sort of issues that came up in his life and they had to get it done by a certain time, there wasn’t time to delay any more, so they had to find somebody else to read it.

Well I know what we’re getting the…for Christmas. // Please! Please!! // And you can always fall back on Gilbert Gottfried, you know. 
Yes that’s right. [does Gottfried impersonation] Stars and stones! *laughter*

Okay, we’re pulling that out and using it as a sound effect from now on. *Jim laughs* That one goes with a colon (?) in the record book. // Evidently, yes it does. So tell us about Cold Days!
Uh, let’s see, when we last left Harry Dresden, he was dead, and he had gone through…the entire last back he was rampaging around Chicago as a ghost of himself, and doing ghost stuff, which was all kinds of fun, but on the other hand he couldn’t really affect the physical world. By the time he gets to the end of it, you realize that while his spirit was out, his body was being kept alive by Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, which if we ever get another Bichon Frisé, I’m gonna name her Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, because it’s such a great name.

BTW, little late, but for our listeners, spoiler alert. // Oh come on, it’s been out for a while, if they haven’t read it yet…

But that he was being kept alive by the Queen of Air and Darkness, and Demonreach, the genius loci of a mysterious island in the middle of Lake Michigan. So, as we begin, it’s not long after that, it’s him waking up in bed elsewhere having recovered from essentially being in a coma for a year or a little more. From there on, he gets into physical therapy in order to recover, because you have to do that if you want to get out of it, and Mab has really unique ideas about physical therapy in that she just tries to kill him every day!! And that’s how she’s helping him. She’s being the good guy here. And in any case…yes, exactly, she’s trying to help him out. But as it turns out, a few books out, he had to make a deal in order to save his daughters life, so he agreed to become the Winter Knight for Queen Mab, and figured he would get out of it by pulling a slick suicide, and that didn’t work out, and Mab now gets him recovered and back into shape, and then kind of sends him out on the first mission for her, which is to kill an immortal, so he’s gotta go get that done. He finds out as he’s going that there’s a huge problem with the island and it’s going to explode, so he’s got to get that done, and then there’s the whole issues of, he’s been gone for a while and he’s showing back up in a Chicago that is a very different place for his absence. Murphy’s no longer a police officer, as a result of her supporting him [Dresden] she wound up losing her job a while back, and she’s sort of made a devils bargain with Marcone, the ganglord Johnny Marcone, who is becoming a more and more powerful influence on Chicago. And he’s gotta go up and meet with his friends and his gang, his apprentice who has kind of turned into a psychotic killer Batman on the sideline, while Dresden’s been sidelined, Molly’s the one whose had to fill in his shoes, and she doesn’t have his ‘umph’ just in terms of pure muscle, so she’s been making up for it by being really scary. She’s become a scary person, and now Dresden is starting to have to deal with the fallout, the extended consequences of his choices that he’s made earlier. You know, one of the themes of The Dresden Files is that you can’t get away from the consequences of the choices you make, and a bunch of them are coming to smack Harry right in the face on this one. I had a ball writing it, it was fun.

When I read your books, there are some authors, you can feel like oh wow they put a lot of time into this, a lot of effort, trying to send me a message. With your stuff, I always feel, he’s having a blast!
Yeah, that’s pretty much how it works. I would like to think I was wise enough to teach somebody something, but at the end of the day, I am a moron like everybody else. I want to write and have fun, and tell a good story that people enjoy, and that they stay up late reading and go into work the next day feeling horrible {ed: for every single book…bastard…} because they’ve done that, that makes me happy.

So does that mean there’s no end in sight for the Dresden series? Please say there isn’t.

Oh no, there’s definitely an end for the Dresden series, it was never intended to be an ongoing open ended thing. The original plan was to write about 20ish of the case books like we’ve seen so far, with then a big old apocalyptic trilogy at the end to kind of capstone the thing. The first movie I remember seeing was Star Wars, and who doesn’t love apocalyptic trilogies?

Apparently Disney.
Wow, yeah, we’re going back to that, it’s like this giant black hole in space. No nerds can get together and talk about it without circling back to it at some point.

Now the rumor is that Disney has offered you $4 billion for The Dresden Files, and the Codex, and just, are you going to sell out and have Harry Dresden going after the Punisher?

From that question, I take it sir, that you did not see the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. *mad laughter* All I’m saying is, there are some memes out that that describe it pretty well and you can go look up Harry Dresden/Sorcerer’s Apprentice memes and find it. It does seem somewhat similar.

You know Jim, one of the things that I really like about your writing that transferred really nicely into the TV scripts was that internal dialogue that almost has a 1940’s noir feel to it. I mean, in the very first paragraph of your new book, he says “Man, being mostly dead is hard on a guy.” And you can hear the saxophone in the background, the smoky room, the whole thing, it’s a Sam Spade kind of vibe to it. // Is that a question? // *laughter* // Shut up all of you, it wasn’t meant to be a question!
Yeah, it’s not something that I try and make like an overriding theme or anything like that, I never really wanted The Dresden Files to be a “oh look, I’m doing Sam Spade with magic.” It was sort of the same general structure, but I’m not a writer, not like a Chandler, who can really pull that stuff out so well. And while they’ve been an influence on my writing, it hasn’t been my goal to kind of be like them. But I did want to use some of the same tools and toys that they had to play with.

It’s like almost a beat, or a tempo. Occasionally, you just drop in there and you just…as a reader, I sit there and I go “Wow..that was nice.” You know? The right phrase turns the right way, and you just kind of stare at it for a couple seconds and really admire the way it was put together. 
That’s alright with me if that happens! I don’t know if I ever really try for that, but if it’s working, great!

Don’t pontificate so frequently. // Hey! 

Hey Jim, during sound check, you made an interesting comment. You mentioned that you stopped reading a lot of various authors about the same time you started writing your own novels. Is there anyone that you’re still reading right now?

Oh yeah, but it’s kind of, the range of the folks that you can read and enjoy sort of drops a lot once you get into where you’re doing it all the time as your job. Because if it’s not somebody that I can read and sort of forget all the professional stuff that’s in my head while I’m reading them, I can’t really enjoy it. You know, if I’m reading somebody and I go along like “well this person’s gonna do that later, and this is happening here, and he really missed an opportunity to do something really cool right here” then it’s not fun, it’s just sort of research. But if I’m going and reading and I’m just enjoying it, swept up in the story, that’s where I really want to be. I do that Robert B. Parkers work, the late Robert B. Parker, damnit. I know! People gotta go along and die on you. [we’ve had this conversation before with many…yes we have, actually] I read right now, Lois Bujold is one of the people I can just reread her stuff over and over, I just love it. And this is always one of those lists that I think of somebody later that I should have said.

(talk about Goodreads list)

Let’s see, Brandon Sanderson, I think The Way of Kings is one of the best books I’ve ever read, it’s a excellent novel. Scalzi is awesome. [OMG yes, his book Redshirts just blew me the hell away] It was! For something that was supposed to be so goofy, there’s all these bits in it that are just heart rending. It’s like “Scalzi! Quit it!” [He ended that book four different times!] Yes. And I just want to shake him because it’s like dude, you are not writing science fiction, you’re talking about deep existential philosophy here. And you’re doing it with Star Trek redshirts! *laughter*

And making it work. That’s the killer part. I sat there, and every time I got to an ending, I went “wait, there’s more book. How can this be the ending?” And he did another twist. And another. That to me was one of the really most well crafted endings of a science fiction book ever. // Except you’re thinking “okay, Frodo’s back in the Shire, end this thing already.
Let’s see, Pat Rothfuss, of course, Pat’s just such a nice guy in person, I’m really glad that I love his work. There’s a new writer that I really enjoy, Benedict Jacka. I think he’s got three books in his first series out right now and he does a lot of very cool things with his protagonist that I really enjoyed. But anyway, just off the top of my head, there’s a bunch.

Jim, I know that the cast on the TV show just worked so well, and we all have talked about how much we really loved the show, but if you had a chance to actually say do a movie version, I know this is a cheesy question, but are there certain people that you would really, whether they’re past or current people….dream cast! [etc]
This is the only way to play dream cast, you do it like that. Let’s see, I would go with a 1977ish Harrison Ford for Harry Dresden, and I would go with Return of the Jedi Carrie Fisher for Murphy.

How about for Murphy we go with Twiggy {ed. Lesley Lawson} from the Blues Brothers? 

We could, although I could also see Gabriel from Xena. She would be dead perfect in that role. And then I’d do Patrick what’s-his-name from Lost Boys. Jason Patric, for Thomas, Harry’s brother. I don’t know who I’d go with as Mouse, we’d have to cast Mouse. Oh for the cat, we could get the cat from Cats Eye, the one that fought the little troll?

You know who you should get to play Mouse? Wishbone. [dead silence for a few seconds] // Thank you…for remembering that movie.
It was one of those ones that yeah, I watched and was probably a background influence somewhere. Everytime I think I’ve come up with something original and really cool, like “Ah this is great creative work you’ve done here Jim”, I’ll go and watch some old cartoon on Boomerang or something like that and I’ll realize “Oh wait a minute, your wizard sidekick assistant there, he’s that skull from the opening of Scooby-Doo. And that’s pretty much it.

You can only drop an anvil on someone so many times. // You know, I really like the guy they got to do Bob for the TV show. 
I know! They kind of compressed Bob and Ebenezer into one person for that, is really what they did. I was really kind of upset about that at first, although I guess the option was to have a puppet skull talking like the cat in Sabrina. But Terrence sold it. And he is such a great guy in person, he really is.

Now what about when things are different, you were talking about it a minute ago, that someone else is going to do my work, thats great, I get a bigger audience, I get an extra paycheck, those are all nice things, OH they’re gonna mess with my stuff. Has there ever been a time when you were like “No, don’t do that at all, I’m completely against that.”
Yeah, on the TV show, and they didn’t much care. It was, here’s the set of the show, this is a quick story which I haven’t told a lot. We’re on the set of the show, and they’re filming a scene where Harry kills Justin DuMorne in the show, his old apprentice. And, the guy whose actually in charge of the show, we’re filming in Toronto, the guy whose in charge of the show is back in LA, he rewrites the scene you’re going to shoot the next day and sends it, except he doesn’t send it until it’s about 10pm LA time which means it’s 1am in Toronto, and by the time they read it and realize they’re going to have to change tomorrow around, it’s 2am and they’re calling people to get them out of bed and so on, to say “Sorry Terrence, I know you haven’t seen your family in 6 weeks and you were flying back to NY tomorrow to see them but we need you on the set at 4am, and I know it’s 2am now but sorry. And this kind of action was happening a lot. And the scene that had been rewritten, it had been rewritten so that Dresden doesn’t kill Justin, he kills him on accident. It’s an accident. And I’m sitting there with the producer and the director, and Paul Blackthorne comes over, and we’re all reading this scene that’s been rewritten, and Blackthorne says “Are they f-in serious?” And the director’s like “This is an accident?” And the producers like “What are they thinking?” And they’re like Jim what do you think, and I said “Gosh guys, there must have been a problem with the fax, because I can’t read that part of my script.” And they all kind of stopped and looked at each other and went…”You know what? I can’t really make mine out too well either!” And so they went and filmed it, and it was something that if you were looking at it in the reviews at the end of the day, it would look like it was according to the script, but what came out in the show is this kind of ambigious “No I really did mean you to be dead sort of situation.” So I was kind of pleased with that, that was neat.

It’s like anarchy rage for a moment. // It’s one of the only defining moments for that character. It’s kind of important!
And I’m afraid I might have a tiny authority issue or two.

Just a little one? That’s okay! We’re good with that.

I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a mercenary, I just write that to pay the bills.

It’s really good that you’re not really passionate about it, because if you were…

I’d get worked up over every little thing, wouldn’t I? *laughter*

That would just fuck with you something awful. // Now that Cold Days is about to come out, what’s next?
Right now, I’m working on the first book of…well not right now, I’m doing an interview right now, but…[talk] After I get done here, I’ll go back upstairs and I’ll keep working on the first book of a steampunk series that I’m working on.

*squees* That was not mine! // Congratulations, you’ve been squee’d by the entire female cast. 
So I’m working on the steampunk right now, and right now the series is called The Cinder Spires and the first book is called The Aeronauts Windlass, because it’s steampunk’y and we need to use words like windlass and aeronaut. There’s gotta be goggles! Cause that’s steampunk. And you’ve gotta have hats, and you have to have weskits and you have to be able to say “I beg your pardon sir!” and things like that.

Throw in a codpiece just for the hell of it. 
But that’s not steampunky!

Well it is if you use a real cod, but other than that…
Oh okay. But yeah, we’re having a lot of fun with the series. We’ve got aeronauts and airships and people live in these enormous stone spires and there’s talking cats and crystals and swords and all kinds of fun things. And I’m having a lot of fun writing it, and the beta readers who are reading it are flipping out about it, they really liked it.

I can hear it in your voice. It’s like, omg! You thorougly enjoy your job!

You kind of have to, or your not doing it right! This is one of those things where I could just start churning stuff out, but I don’t want to do that. I want to write stuff that makes me happy and that I have a good time with, and that I can write. Because when I’m doing that, that’s when the funny comes out, when I’m having a good time, and I like making people laugh. I think for the reader to have a good time, to a certain degree, the writers gotta be having a good time as well or you just won’t be able to sell it.

You know what my biggest disappointment in the Dresden Files was? Catching up. I love reading these series where I’m like 13 books behind because I’m like “Yes! It’s going to take me at least a month to finish 13 books.”
I know how you feel!

And now it’s an intermnibale wait for the next ones to come out, so write faster, please. *laughter*

Everyone keeps saying that!

Just crank up the speed dial there.
Okay, let me go get some more Red Bull.

Perfect. We’ll send you a case, not a problem.
Sleep is for the weak!

Cold Days is due out November 27th. You can get it at Amazon, at your local bookstore, shop your local bookstores if you want, we’ll set up links for it. Jim Butcher, Cold Days. Thank you very much sir.

Thank you guys.

The below isn’t a transcript, but forum poster Tarion culled through the 2012 AMA for questions Jim answered and that work will be archived here.

2012 Jim Butcher Reddit Q&A

Prezombie: If Dracula was written to weaken the black court, could Twilight have been an attempt to create contempt for the white court?
Jim: The real question would be /who/ did it? The White Court manipulated Stoker to a specific end. Who would have done the same thing for the Whites? And, more importantly, did they actually do the White Court a favor. There’s a generation of preteen girls growing up predisposed toward sparkly, tragically Anne Ricean vampires who simply long to be accepted and understood.
Stephanie Meyer is like a wingman-in-abstentia for the entire White Court!

Sarks: Is Maggie Jr. known as Maggie Dresden or Maggie Carpenter? Or maybe Maggie Rodreguez (I butchered that spelling, didn’t I)?
Jim: 1) Harry doesn’t know yet, being a big old chicken in that particular department, but he’ll find out.
Sarks: In Storm Front, the 3Eye user in the police station noticed a stain on Harry’s soul. Was this from his encounter with HWWB before his fight with his mentor, or is it due to his power over Outsiders?
Sarks: What did the Gatekeeper do to Demonreach to make it hold a grudge?
Jim: 2) He focused the tank. Oh, wait, no, it’s a little more complicated than just a positive-negative situation, and while I don’t go into the specifics, yet, you get all the pieces you need in Cold Days.
Sarks: You have said that the Gatekeeper took down the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. Is that Gatekeeper the same one we have currently? If yes, is he really that old, or was it time travel?
Jim: 3) He’s really that old. And we’re all time travelers. We just happen to be on the slow boat.
Sarks: What can you tell us about the Gatekeeper, regarding duties (Outsiders, but is there anything else?) and how the position is filled.
Jim: 4) I can tell you to read Cold Days. You pretty much get his entire job description about halfway in. :)
Sarks: And finally, anything you can tell us about the steampunk series you have in the works? Maybe an ETA? Also, if you need some more beta readers for it, I’d be happy to help.
Jim: 5) It’s called “The Cinder Spires” right now. It’s kinda League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. There are goggles and airships and steam power and bizarre crystal technology and talking cats, who are horrid little bullies. I hope to finish the first novel by year’s end, but it isn’t under contract as yet, so there’s no ETA on publishing.
Sarks: Edit: One last little question, that reading other questions below made me think of. How did Mac get his pub declared neutral ground?
Jim: 6) He filled out the proper paperwork, as cited under the Unseelie Accords. Which is about as involved as a mid-level quest that leads into epic weaponry quests, so it’s kind of a story in itself. I mean, /Mab/ designed it. The summary of it is: It’s a giant pain in the ass, but anyone can theoretically do it if they have the mildest of supernatural contacts and are determined enough.

domino7: 1) About Cowl. Does he wear that hood because he KNOWS he’d be recognized without it, or does he just think they’re terribly comfortable, and in the future everyone would be wearing them? Were we to see him without it, would the readers recognize him? Would Harry? Or is he just the guy who runs the omelet station at Edinburgh, and nobody pays him any attention?
Jim: 1) Seriously? You just want me to answer that? :) Dude, have you seen the way I torture readers with that stuff? I will say, however, that the longer you’ve been around the wizardy world, the more paranoid you are about giving away information. /Any/ information. Your identity is a /huge/ and valuable piece of information to any wizardly foes, and if you’re smart and you anticipate going up against them, you make damned sure you don’t just give it away.
domino7: 2) How do you feel when people keep talking about Justin/Kemmler/Others as being not REALLY dead even after you’ve said that they’re dead? Flattered that they think you’re twisty and devious? Annoyed that they don’t take a hint?
Jim: 2) Oh, man, /I/ wouldn’t trust me, if I was reading me. I tell giant, complicated, long-term LIES for a living, man. People pay me to manipulate their emotions–to make them laugh and cry, to cheer for the good guys and to hate the bad guys. What kind of person /does/ that for a living? I’ll tell you what kind: the shifty, devious, untrustworthy kind. Don’t believe a word I say. And they’re Dead.
But there are levels of Dead, obviously. So was Harry.
domino7: 3) Is there a qualitative difference between Death Curses and regular magic? Not just using someone’s lifeforce to supercharge a spell, but to do something intrinsically different. Would it be hypothetically possible for someone to stockpile magical energy to cast a huge spell and fake a Death Curse, like drawing blood to spray an otherwise fatal amount around a crime scene?
Jim: 3) Definitely a qualitative difference. I mean, we rate nukes in terms of “how many thousand tons of TNT is this equal to?” but let me see you try to deploy 80,000 tons of TNT as a weapon. If you could, the destruction would be the same, in theory, but the nuke has a quality all its own that makes it stand out. A death curse is the same thing. A really powerful practitioner (any member of the Council) could probably simulate a death curse with enough time and forethought, but there would be traces that an investigator could find, afterward. “Hey, why are there tire tracks worn into this road? Because someone was using it to haul 80,000 tons of TNT to the site of the explosion, and you can’t do that without a LOT of trucks.”
domino7: 4) Short of rewriting reality entirely, is it possible for a supernatural creature to become human? Or, barring changelingism/vampirism, vice versa?
Jim: 4) Case by case basis on that one. Some it might be, most definitely not.
domino7: 5) Is Hendricks intentionally acting stupid, or is his perceived dimness[1] entirely Harry only seeing what he expects to see, and ignoring anything that doesn’t fit into his preconceived notions?
Jim: 5) The entire Dresden Files universe is filtered through Harry’s perceptions. What do you think? (See what I did there? Now we’re filtering it through Harry’s perceptions /and/ your perceptions. Or at least, that’s MY perception.)

Dilettante: What do you consider your biggest spiritual or philosophical influences? Are you a member of a particular faith? Do you hold to a set of beliefs, are you just generally spiritual, or are you just that good at writing characters who are?
Jim: 1) Does it matter? Should it? Why should what I personally believe have any bearing on my writing, at least with regards to how it is read? It shouldn’t. It’s irrelevant. And personal. But I will say this much: I learned a lot from Stan Lee.
Dilettante: If you had the opportunity to work on any existing IP, which would it be and why? Think of Brandon Sanderson, who got the chance to finish the Wheel of Time series, or of Joss Whedon, who got to direct The Avengers. Copyright, money and death are no issues – what would you be thrilled to write?
Jim: 2) Hah, work on an existing IP? I think Sanderson was the next best thing to crazy to take up The Wheel of Time. It doesn’t matter what he writes, there are going to be fanatic readers who are /furious/ at him. That’s just the simple truth. I loved his answer when I asked him why he did it, though: it amounted to “I loved the story and wanted it to be done right, and I knew that I would.” That’s intensely cool, right there. That’s rock star. When the game’s on the line, winners want the ball.
I’ve had a little experience in working with someone else’s IP, and I’m not in a hurry to repeat it. But if I had to… hmm. Episode VII, I think. That would be worth putting things on the line for.
Dilettante:  If we like The Dresden Files (and come on, who doesn’t?) what other authors should we try? I ask this purely because, for some selfish reason, you refuse to write 90 hours a day for my personal gratification.
Jim: 3) I do, I’m a bastard that way. Let me see. I really like Lily Saintcrow’s Kismet books. Benedict Jacka writes some really smart, quick wizardy novels. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books are epic-level real-world private eye books, and well worth checking out.

badowntown: Is mouse a Foo dog or a Temple dog? My understanding is that Foo dogs are Tibetan celestial beings, and Temple dogs are Foo dogs crossed with mortal canines (possibly multiple generations removed).
You, at one point, referred to mouse as a Temple dog, but Ancient Mai at one point in Turn Coat exclaims something like “That is a Foo Dog. Where did you get it!?”. Could you clarify?
Jim: You’re splitting hairs, here. They’re the same thing (for every practical purpose). A Foo Dog is a celestial being which chooses to give up its divinity (and immortality) to serve and protect in the mortal world. Part of being mortal is having offspring, who share in their progenitor’s power.

zebrake2010: When the skinwalker asked Harry who gifted him the life fire, Harry responded, “Doubt you know him. He’ve taken you out.”[1] Were you foreshadowing that we will get to see Uriel[2] in actual combat at some point? (And if you weren’t foreshadowing, well, will we get to see Uriel in combat anyway?[3] )
Jim: 1) A being like Uriel doesn’t really do battle in the sense of contested violence. He just sort of thinks about annihilating galaxies and it happens. His battles are much more complicated than that, and involve things like choosing seven words very carefully, and handing off a few sparks of energy to the right person in the right place at the right time.
zebrake2010: Could you share something of how you write Uriel[4] ? You capture him really well.
Jim: 2) I just do what I do man. I don’t think about it all that much. :) You write every character the same way: you get into his perspective, look around, and try to figure out what it makes sense for him to do and say.
zebrake2010: I love the stories of Merlin, and your portrayal of Merlin as a title and role, not just one person, seems perfect[5] . How did you develop this idea?
Jim: 3) Well, in point of fact, there /was/ a specific Merlin in the Dresden Files universe. He was a critical figure, back in the day, so much so that when he disappeared, his shoes /had/ to be filled. So the title of ‘Merlin’ was created. Every new Merlin considers himself Merlin’s heir, so to speak, and most of them think that they’re doing what Merlin would have done based upon everything they know about him. Not many of them are right. :)
zebrake2010: Tavi’s an awesome guy. I wish I knew him in the flesh! What were the most significant influences you enjoyed as you developed his character?
Jim: Alera 1) I wrote Tavi to be the polar opposite of Dresden. Not powerful, but deucedly clever, not gifted above and beyond most people but /below/ them. I wanted to get as far away from Harry as I could. Historical influences for him include Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus.
zebrake2010: Did you have a particular influence for the character of Gaius?[6] I thought you captured him perfectly – flawed, heroic, and devoted to his country – even to his sacrifice.[7]
Jim: 2) A slew of reasonably good Roman Emperors and Erwin Rommel–a brilliant and honorable commander who ultimately found the course of his life subject to the drives and ambitions of some truly dark powers, and who wound up giving his life to challenge them and to protect his own family.

stilleto929: There have been 3 times that Nicodemus has told Dresden that time is running out. In Death Masks, after capturing Harry, Nicodemus says, “Your history indicates that you are too dangerous to leave alive, I’m afraid – and I am on a schedule.” Then in Small Favor, in the aquarium, Nicodemus says, “…tempus fugit. For all of us.” Then again in Small Favor, in the boat, Nicodemus says, “Dresden, I truly regret this necessity, but time is growing short. I must act…” WHY would an effectively-immortal person be so worried about time?!? The first instance can be explained by having a plane to catch, but the others seem…unusual. Is Nicodemus’s concern about time significant? I.e. showing to the reader that he believes something BIG will happen soon, and he has to be ready? Or is this just a conversational ploy to move the plot along? Would appreciate any info you could give us about this issue. Thanks in advance! – Stiletto (Celia)
Jim: The clock is ticking, and the clued people know it. /Especially/ to someone a couple of thousand years old, it really feels like we’ve already hit the two minute warning.

Marathonbrewer: Will Mouse continue to operate at Foo dog level now that he’s guarding Maggie? When he faced down Lea in Mexico she said that he was far from his place of power, but he replied that he cheated by living with a wizard. Does that mean he needs to live with a full-fledged wizard or just someone with wizard talent? Obviously he’d still be a giant killing machine with a snarky personality, but I worry that he might try to bite off more than he can chew if he loses the Superdog status.
Jim: Here’s something I’m not sure will ever make the books: Mouse draws the fundaments of his power from a house’s threshold. /Weaker/ at the /Carpenter’s/? Ye gods and little fishes, he went from Thing to Hulk when he moved in to protect Maggie. But, having grown up with a wizard who regards conventions as things to mourn as they are shattered into little pieces, and to speak nicely about in retrospect, he’s learned to use other kinds of power, too.

Zifna: I’ve noticed the Dresden Files books tend to incorporate a fair amount of recap in the first few chapters: I’m a wizard, here’s how magic works, Blue Beetle is a somehow-mobile decomposing trash heap, etc.
This made perfect sense to me for the first few books, but as the series has lengthened it’s seemed like more and more of an interesting choice. Do you (or your editors, if it’s their idea) actually intend for people to be able to pick up the series several books in? Do you think regular readers need the refreshers? I’ve noticed it’s toned down a bit in the most recent installments.
Jim: The biggest audience gain /always/ comes from people who pick up the book, read it, and like it. So the books are written to be at least intelligible to a brand new reader (except maybe for Ghost Story). I’m trying to be better about dropping in the landmarks for orientation a little less overtly, but it’s always a balancing act: how do I make the newbies get what’s happening without boring the long-term readers?
If anyone ever figures it out, drop me a line. My own answers have been muddled. :)

Prezombie: I would like to hear about if There’s any basis behind the theory that The Dresden Files is representative of The Fool’s Journey. There’s been little to no mention of the tarot at all, but the connections are eeriely strong across the board. [Note: There’s a lot of depth here – http://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/13iexg/hi_im_jim_butcher_im_the_guy_who_takes_credit_for/c74ifn9?context=3)
Jim: Do you have an English Degree? This is the kind of thing I would really have grooved on as an English major. But believe me, writing a book is already a complex enough endeavor without using a skeleton that arcane. I mean, maybe I could do it, but I’m pretty sure I’d sound like a pretentious twit when I’m trying to just write this character.

Fatimus_Prime: 1: Harry continually runs into situations where he’s got to make decisions whose ramifications lie in moral and ethical gray areas, and it seems to me that many of the decisions he makes in these situations exist in a kind of ethical purgatory, unable to be condemned or praised because of the precise and focused conditions under which he was forced to make the decision. Is your intention in this to bring attention to the ethics of the situation, or just the idea that such a situation could exist? Or are you just trying to tell a good story?
Jim: 1) I’m just telling a story, man. I have no idea if some of the things Dresden has done are right or wrong. But life is like that. People get caught in strange places and have to choose between options that aren’t good and evil: they’re hideous or unthinkable. Good and evil is clean and simple. Not always easy, but simple. Harry makes /that/ choice routinely when he runs into it. Those aren’t the choices that really trip us up, in the long run. It’s those horrible ones that haunt you, after. As Harry is finding out.
I think I had a philosophy class that had some ethics in it, once. Mostly, I’m just telling the story.
Fatimus_Prime: 2: it’s common knowledge that you LARP in the boffer-weapon sense. However, I’ve seen a number of corollaries in The Dresden Files with the White Wolf “World of Darkness.” Is this just a coincidence or do you play/have you played White Wolf games, either Tabletop or LARP?
Jim: 2) Never had the pleasure of playing WoD, as a LARP, and only a little as a MUSH, but the WoD can be ably modeled on the Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire or the British Empire… People, ultimately, are people. Groups tend to have similar dynamics within a relatively few broad archetypes, especially when it comes to pure power-relations, dynasties, and revolutions. When we look at groups of monsters, we design them to be like people because we can’t help it–that’s who we are. So really, it doesn’t matter who you read, or what world-setting gets developed, you’re inevitably going to be able to draw parallels.
I have an English Lit degree. It’s pretty much what we did.
Fatimus_Prime: I’m friends with Lenny, the lead designer of the Dresden Files RPG. I’m aware of some sporadic contact between you and Black Hat games, but have you played the game at all? If so, how well do you think he/they captured the essence of the Dresden-verse?
Jim: 3) I love the DFRPG. Seriously, I went into reading the final product pretty sure I was going to hate it, and I just couldn’t. They’d worked too hard and done too damned fine a job, and even /my/ impossible standards were met.
Unfortunately, I think I’m the one person in the world who /can’t/ play the Dresden Files RPG. I mean, think about it. Do you wanna GM me? Really? I mean, I’m a bit of a powergamer anyway, so I can imagine the argument ending in, “It /IS/ that way, and I’ll write it that way in the next BOOK if you MAKE ME!”
And as for GMing a game of the DFRPG myself? Engh. Too much like work. :)
(Which should probably tell me something about how lucky I am to do what I do. :) )

sapph42: People (including me) have asked you at signings, but there seems to be a jumble. Can you confirm that ‘the parasite’ is Lash[1] , and remains a distinct entity from ‘the shadow’, which is Lasciel[2] ?
Jim: 1) No comment. That will be in the next book, and if I tell you now I’m afraid no one would want to read it. :)
sapph42: Could the Summer Court bestow the Mantle of the Summer Knight (is that capitalization all correct?) on someone who held the Mantle of the Winter Knight? What would holding both Mantles do to a person? If it is possible, and is not fatal, how would such a person resolve their conflicting obligations? Would they still have obligations if they lived, but no longer held the Mantle(s)?
Jim: 2) That’s a fascinating question. I think they /could/, but it would do horrible things to the head of the person who got it. Reuniting two things that were meant to be divided just cannot be good for the person standing around when it happens…
sapph42: When Dresden killed Aurora, her power flowed to the nearest vessel of Summer, which happened to be the presumably mortal Lily (the Summer Knight). If Dresden killed Maeve, would he become a Winter Lord, or are there rules in place mandating gender?
Jim: 3) There are rules in places of course. (On the other hand, Harry’s the kind of guy that says, “That’s what my captain keeps telling me.”) But the real rule in play here would be a much simpler one: you can’t fill a cup that is already full. You need an empty one. Or a really big one that isn’t topped off.
sapph42: You’ve talked about beings who were on similar (or greater) power levels as Mab – Titania (obviously), Drakul, and Ferrovax to name a few. However, I believe that list was generated before Changes. Where does Odin fall on that list? Hypothetically (assuming they exist), where would entities such as Zeus or Quetzalcoatl fall?
Jim: 4) Your question presupposes a linear hierarchy–which isn’t surprising, since the series has come from Harry’s viewpoint, and Harry is a straight-lines kind of thinker. Power is a much more nebulous thing than that, and something that is problematic to quantify. I think a reasonably simple argument could be made that Molly is a /much/ more powerful wizard than Dresden, for example. And in many situations, she probably is. Dresden tends to think in terms of “who would win this slugfest” when he’s dealing with the supernatural world because, well, of all the slugfests.
Odin isn’t gonna slugfest with you. He /could/. But that isn’t the Allfather’s style. Odin saw you coming last year, and he made his countermoves to what you’re doing right now a week and a half ago. For guys like him, fights are what happen when you /fail/ to win with /real/ power–knowledge and forethought.
Of course, sometimes everyone’s knowledge and forethought cancels each other’s actions out, and then it’s time to get all Monday Night Nitro. No one in the Dresden Files universe is really sure how that would shake out. But everyone on that level knows that they might be about to find out.
sapph42: You’ve mentioned that many – if not all – of the old pantheons actually exist. Does this mean the Greek Titans exist? Chronos, Gaia, and such. If Gaia exists, would that make the entire planet a slumbering genius loci? How powerful would someone have to be to claim it as Sanctum? Is that what God did?
Jim: 5) I said that they were real in that world. Whether or not they actually /exist/ is a different story. The Titans got their asses handed to them by Zeus and company, and were imprisoned, destroyed, or consigned to oblivion. How do you imprison a Titan? Funny you should ask…
sapph42: The supernatural world seems heavily built on ideas of mutual obligation. Harry has gained quite a bit from Demonreach since the Sanctum Invocation. And of course in Changes, Demonreach helps save his life. Mab refers to Harry as Demonreach’s custodian. So how much does Harry owe Demonreach, and how much it is going to hurt paying it back?
Jim: 6) Wow, the timing here. Funny you should ask THAT, too… Cold Days, answers. :)

Dudesan: You’ve stated that the many gods of old, defunct religions have lost most of their power to The White God, due to lack of worshipers. What does this mean for the Hindu pantheon, with just south of a billion living worshipers? Might we meet an avatar of Vishnu or Shiva in a later book?
Jim: 1) Highly possible, though Harry hasn’t really spent much time in that part of the world. It depends upon how familiar and comfortable I am with the belief system. Historical religions and ones I’m familiar with are easier to treat fairly than something that real people sincerely believe in but which I have relatively little exposure to.
Dudesan: Do The Dresden Files and The Codex Alera share the same metacosmology? Were the many migrations (such as the ancestors of the Alerans, the Marat, and the Canim) through the Nevernever? Should we worry about a Vord invasion of Earth? Bob mentioned that many worlds thought to be fictional do exist in some sense- I think his example is that “Spider-man is real… somewhere out there. What, you think this is the only world?”
Jim: 2) What kind of insane person would design a universe like that? Next you’re going to come up with some kind of theory about how a single extended family bloodline runs through all of these obviously unrelated story universes, and how all of my central heroes actually belong to one family.
Psssh. No one’s going to buy that.
Dudesan: What we’ve seen of the cosmology of The Dresden Files seems very Earth-centric. Is that because everything really does revolve around the Earth[1] , or because we’re seeing only a tiny slice of a much bigger picture? Are there other planets in real-space inhabited by extraterrestrial sentient beings? If so, do they have their own analogues of wizards, fairies, gods, etc? Are supernatural things influenced by their belief as it is by those of humans? If so, to what extent do these “spheres of influence” overlap?
Jim: 3) Everything revolves around /this/ earth, in the Dresden stories. But not necessarily around all (or even a majority of) the other earths that exist in the continuum of possibility created by free will. Other, parallel realities have other worlds playing a more central role, and some of them have earth in a nice quiet backwater, peaceful, relatively conflict free, and boring.
Dudesan: Could you please give us some more detail about the half-dozen or so races which were wiped out in the early days of the legions, and which Amara listed off as if from history class?
Jim: 4) Not really. I know what they look like in a badly-animated-prologue sort of way, and generally what happened, but I haven’t had to write them yet, so I haven’t had to go into much creative depth. The early history of Alera is pretty hideous anyway. Once the Romans got there, they basically had to turn themselves into a Baby Factory Death Cult to survive. Hideous stuff to contemplate. I don’t like going there.
Dudesan: You’ve described Santa Claus as being the Winter King. What does that title mean? Do Winter and Summer each have a trinity of Father/King/Prince, like they do with Mother/Queen/Lady? Is the King necessarily the consort of the Queen? If so, will we be seeing Oberon at some point?
Jim: 5) The Faerie realms just aren’t that structured. It’s more accurate to say that he is /a/ Winter King. Or even more accurately, that he is a free Wyld Fae who is of a power level that is on par with Mab’s and happens to neighbor her sphere of influence, and finds it simpler to show up to family dinners during the holidays and make polite than to start staking out boundaries and establishing treaties.
Oberon… well, the guy kind of wound up between Mab and Titania in one of those romantic triangle things, back around Shakespeare’s day. He didn’t make it.
Dudesan: Related to #1- In the short story Backup, you introduced the oblivion war and the Venatori, who undermine the supernatural beings by making humanity forget about them[2] . They once hoped to try that trick against the fairies, but the narrator of that story remarked that it was judged to be unfeasible. What are the limits of this strategy? Is memory-erasing magic useful to it (or does it have to be “legitimate” forgetting?), and if so, would some enormous blanket memory-erasing ritual similar in principle to the heart-ripping spell at the climax of Changes[3] be a superweapon in this fight? Could this theoretically be attempted against Lucifer or even The Almighty?
Jim: 6) It’s got to be genuine forgetfulness. And for all we know, there’s already been a Lucifer and an Almighty that’s been forgotten. I mean, how would we know, eh? Though I think you could never really truly banish everything. As long as there’s an irrational thought or someone wondering, “Who made this place?” Thank God, so to speak. A world of pure rationality would be desperately dull. And I’d probably have to write English papers.
Dudesan: The same story seemed to imply that entities could gain or lose power retroactively, in a wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey sort of way. For example, The Almighty is the Creator of the Universe, but He hasn’t always been the Creator of the Universe[4] . Is there anything to this assumption, and if so, might we see it explored in greater detail later?
Jim: 7) You’re assigning limits where there aren’t any. In the Dresden Files universe, what changes really isn’t the actual beings. It’s our understanding of who and what they are.
Dudesan: I’ve read Backup, Even Hand, and Aftermath, and I’m aware that you have a Molly story planned. Are you working on/planning on any other stories narrated by non-Harry characters? If so, whom?
Jim8) Not at this point. The short stories were just taking too much damned time out of my writing schedule–often eating up a month of work-time. I think I’m going to be more or less done with the non-Harry stuff at this point. In the future, I have a couple of possible spinoffs in mind, but they’ll be their own stories and only be as connected to the Dresden Files as it makes sense for them to be.
Dudesan: How much influence did you have on the writing of the Dresden Files FATE RPG? How canonical can we assume the information in those books to be? There’s a lot of information in there which, while it would be useful for a DM to know, I don’t think Harry would be very eager to tell Billy about.
Jim: 9) They’re pretty darned close, I think. But canon is for religions, formal schools of thought, and steampunk airships that need something to shoot at other steampunk airships. My stories aren’t those things. They’re stories. They’re supposed to be fun, and to make you think, and casting them in stasis for the sake of having stasis is sort of the opposite of that.
Dudesan: How familiar are you with TvTropes?
Jim: 10) I am somewhat flattered by how many Crowning Moments of Awesome I am credited with, and find it imperative to consider how to top the previous ones. :)

ginnerben: Throughout Changes (and Ghost Story, to a lesser extent) you systematically destroy most of Harry’s connections to Chicago. He loses his house, his car and his office. He graduates his apprentice. His “pets” get re-homed. At this point, he has friends and family in Chicago, but he’s not needed there (Or at least, not more so than having a world-class wizard is needed anywhere, with the darker turn of the world after the return of the Fomor). Is this a deliberate shift to a more international (/inter-dimensional, bearing in mind the beginning of Cold Days), less tied-down Harry, or is it just the only way you can actually change anything for a character who’s so resistant to change?
Jim: 1) Heh. Everything Harry lost in Chicago in “Changes” was a /thing/. It was the building he lived in. The furniture he sat on. The office he sort of had considered giving up because it was so expensive anyway. The metal and leather and plastic he drove around in. The two really key things he lost were: 1) Susan and 2) his freedom. And not because of any deal he made with Mab or anybody else.
Kids are huge. Suddenly there’s this person in the world who is going to be reaping the consequences of your decisions, for good or for ill. Suddenly it’s not just /you/ you’re looking out for any more. It’s not just /your/ life you might be screwing up. That changes your perspective. It can make you stronger and truer, or it can make you bitter and desperate. Some people react to that by becoming something more than they ever thought they could be–and some turn into something despicable. Kids are a fire, man, something that burns unnecessary things away and changes whatever is left. How you see yourself, how you look at the world, the future, your choices. Everything.
But we’ll get into that at the proper time and in the proper way. :)
ginnerben: Also, was Shagnasty[2] a throwaway bad guy, or are we likely to see more of him?
Jim: Shagnasty will definitely be back at some point.
ginnerben: Ghost Story: Eternal Silence is controlled by Demonreach. Is this because the stone for the statue was quarried at Demonreach, and it’s still part of the island for the purposes of Intellectus after the stone has been removed?[3]
Jim: WRT Eternal Silence–Oh, what an awesome idea! That would have been /cool/. That’s way better than “Mab was holding the phone for him,” which was what I had.

midashand: Will Harry ever work towards a more permanent solution that would allow actual communication between himself and Mouse, or will Mouse be stuck at the woof, whine, grunt level of communication again?
Jim: What’s so cool about being able to /talk/? I mean, for anything real, how is that so awesome for communication?
People have a really high opinion of themselves, as a whole, I think. Talking must be awesome because we’re the only ones who do it! Bah. Communication is like power. It’s hard to quantify, there are a lot of different kinds of it, and less complicated does not necessarily mean inferior. Mouse can communicate everything he really wants to, and it’s not as if he can’t understand every word Harry says. It’s getting the dummy to occasionally understand /Mouse/ that is the challenge, and he can handle that one with yes and no, mostly.

Prezombie: What unsolved mysteries, fictional or real, continue to intrigue you?
Jim: Are you kidding? All of them!
Questions with no answers are inherently interesting. If they have monsters or mysteries or weird occurrences around them, too? Golden.
Right now, I’m into the Squatch. You’ve seen that show, right? Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet? It seems like a really optimistic name to me, as if someone had done a medical show called “Curing Cancer.” Anyway, the Bigfoot Field Research Organization is a group of people actually researching what they believe are these undiscovered primates living in rural North America, and elsewhere, largely undetected.
Is Bigfoot real? I have no idea. For my purposes it really doesn’t matter. The people who are out looking for him are fascinating. Either they’re freaking visionaries or freaking lunatics, and there isn’t much ground in between. What makes people do that? Every lick of common sense and the vast weight of modern science says that they’re probably chasing unicorns. But yet, there they are. Why would someone do that? What pushes them to it?
As for Bigfoot’s existence, I think the possibility is awesome. Maybe it’s real. I sat down to figure out how the Dresden Files bigfoot could match up with all the real world bigfoot lore, and I wound up making them into, more or less, a parallel culture with the native americans, who also had a bunch of magic they could do. But thinking back on it, really the only thing Bigfoot needs to be able to exist in our current world is sufficient intelligence. Maybe they’re as smart or smarter than we are. I mean, ask some vietnam vets how stealthy the viet cong could be on their home territory. Maybe they just stay out of our way, roll their eyes at our stupidity, and occasionally ask one another how nominally-intelligent beings could /live/ like we do. Who knows. :)
But the BFRO has a Class A sighting of a squatch within twenty miles of my nerd farm, which has miles of undisturbed trees, shallow lakes full of fish, a long creek, acres of pecan trees and several hundred yards of blackberry thickets, and loads of deer: perfect Squatchiness. Soon as I get done with this book tour, I might go squatchin’ myself. :)

Sword and Laser Ep. 16

Veronica Belmont: We are very excited to have Mr. Jim Butcher here with us today. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jim: Sure. How are you doing?

Veronica: Excellent. Thank you for asking. So we wanted to know first of all what can you tell us about what you’re working on currently?

Jim: Currently I have just finished up the most recent of the Dresden Files books, “Cold Days.” And right now, I am working on the first book of my steampunk series, which I’m about halfway through right now, a little bit less.

Veronica: So that’s kind of a genre you haven’t really gone into before. How has that been?

Jim: Lots and lots of fun. I’m having a really great time putting everything together. Not just to tell a good story, but I also kind of want to embrace- I want people to be able to say “finally I have somebody I can cosplay steampunky that they like.” So I think of all these cool things that are available to get at conventions and so on. So I’m kind of writing this for the people who love that sort of play. So fare the folks- the beta readers- who’ve read what I’ve done so far are all like “okay, I get to cosplay this one””No, I get to cosplay him.” So it’s been a lot of fun. But you get to write all these painfully precise dialogue scenes and so on. It’s kind of a quasi-Victorian setting. And I’m having a really good time with that.

Tom Merritt: It seems like a lot of folks are getting drawn into steampunk. We’ve had Cherrie Priest on recently, Gail Carriger. It’s a really fun world to inhabit, huh?

Jim: It’s a great genre. And I’m getting to put this together in a way that’s very unique to anything I’ve done before. But yeah, we’ve got airships and pirates and captains and monsters and horrible things. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Tom: I can’t wait. I think a lot of people have found out about you through “The Dresden Files” TV show who may not have found out other ways. What do you say to people who are coming to your books for the first time saying, “I’ve liked Harry Dresden, I’ve met him on the screen, but I haven’t read about him yet”?

Jim: First of all, I’d say there’s actually no hat. The hat’s on the covers, okay. We get that. But the actual character, not so much. But in general, I think one of my favourite descriptions of the series is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe.” I think that’s fair. Really, Harry Dresden, he’s a PI, he’s a wizard in Chicago. The books kind of embrace a much larger world than the TV show really got to explore and play with. The TV show was limited to the few episodes they did for season one. And I think they were planning on expanding it, but they didn’t get the chance to. So really, the books kind of take place in a much larger world with many more concerns. And Dresden’s a much smaller piece of the overall story.

Tom: Perfect way to satisfy your need for more Dresden.

Jim: Well, theoretically, yeah. There’s some comic books and stuff, too. But really, I kind of like the books. I’m a little biased.

Veronica: So how do you think coming from a role-playing background has affected your worldbuilding? I mean I know that’s a large part of what you do for fun and we’ve talked to a lot of different authors that have been on the show in the past who also come from that kind of background.

Jim: Oh, it’s done a lot of things for me. One of the things that I have done several times is that I run game sessions here at home with my own gaming group that is set in a world that I’m building for a story. And the main thing that it really does is the great thing about having players in a game is that they never do anything right. They never do what you expect them to do. It’s like no, you’re not supposed to stampede a herd of pigs through the duel in the emperor’s garden. That’s not how it works. But as they do that though, when you’re being the GM for them, you’re kind of telling that story. Like I kind of frantically feel like I’m building sets and laying out the floor about two feet in front of them as charge forward. So there’s a lot of creative energy in that. It does a whole lot for me to help me get more things established than would have been there otherwise.

Tom: Now we’ve mentioned, as Veronica did, that a lot of writers come from a role-playing background or use role-playing or are just role-players. But not every role-playing game player becomes a writer. How did you end up becoming a writer?

Jim: At some point, I was reading a book and I was dissatisfied with the way it went. And I said to myself “I could do that” and sat down to start doing it. I couldn’t, not at the time. But nine years later, I started being able to. And that was when I eventually wrote the first book of The Dresden Files, it took me like nine years. I didn’t realise how much work there was involved in actually writing a novel and putting everything together like that but as it turns out, it’s a job. But a really, really good job with totally awesome problems.

Tom: Did it change your opinion of that book that spurred you along? You’re like “maybe that book isn’t as easy as I thought it to write.”

Jim: Oh, no, because I’m obstinate. But it did though- it gave me a much greater appreciation for the sort of challenges authors have to face. And so now I wouldn’t be the kind of the “well, I could do that thing” now, I’d just be like, hmm, I might have done that a little differently, but that’s cool.

Veronica: So we have a few questions from our audience members. And this first one comes from Daran, who asks, “Are there any non sci-fi/fantasy series that influenced the Dresden Files? For some reason the series has always reminded me of “The Rockford Files”, am I crazy?

Jim: You are not crazy. Although “The Rockford Files” influence is going to be somewhat limited on account of I only vaguely remember watching “The Rockford Files” when I was little. So if there’s influence from “The Rockford Files,” it’s kind of subliminal. As far as other series go, I think Robert Parker’s Spenser books have probably been the biggest influence on the Dresden Files. The late Robert B. Parker- dammit, he went and died. I loved his work. He’s really probably the single largest non-science-fiction/fantasy influence on my work. I really have enjoyed his stuff.

Tom: Joshua wanted to know, “in the Dresden universe, an ongoing theme is that most mortals do not believe in magic. One of the few exceptions is the Chicago Special Investigations unit. Are there other governmental groups out there who are clued in? As an example FBI, KGB, NYPD, et cetera. Do they have their own versions of Special Investigations, and if so, would we ever see them in the course of the novels?”

Jim: It was Joshua, you said, right?

Tom: Yes, Joshua asked that question, correct.

Jim: Joshua, if you go back, a detail that a lot of readers have forgotten is the end of Fool Moon where Susan Rodriguez, the reporter, actually got on videotape the werewolf and the big closing fight scene at the end. And then the videotape disappeared and most people kind of forget that the videotape just sort of disappeared. They just sort of put it down to oh, that’s random background stuff. It’s not random background stuff. Somebody made it disappear, and yes, there are people like that that exist and the difference is that most of them assume that anybody involved with the supernatural is the bad guy, they don’t make contact. Not only is Dresden the exception because he’s reaching across the aisle, so to speak to work with Murphy, but Murphy’s the exception because she’s reaching out to work with Dresden. There’s something more going on there but the only side of the story we get to see is Harry’s side of the story.

Veronica: And that actually brings us to our next question, which mentions Murphy. Rich says “both the Dresden and Alera books have some very strong- more accurately, badass- women characters in Murphy and Kitai”. Am I saying that right? I’ve read the books but I’ve never actually heard it said out loud.

Jim: Yes, Kitai, absolutely.

Veronica: Kitai? Awesome.

“to name the two most obvious. Are you intentionally trying to support or promote stronger women characters in fiction? Or do they just happen to be character whom you feel have the right fit for your stories?”

Jim: No, it’s not something I’m intentionally doing. It’s just that that’s who I write. I like to joke a lot of times that all my female characters are based on my wife, Shannon, who was an engineer. And then she decided that engineering was no longer a challenge, so she took up romance writing. She writes romance now. But yeah, there have been a lot of strong female figures in my life and I just kind of write it the way I see it. And if you’re somebody who is a woman, and you’re a cop, and you’re, “oh, by the way, it’s not enough that I’m a woman and a cop, let’s go mess with the supernatural too,” you’re not a milksop. You can’t be that as that person so I couldn’t write her that way.

Tom: So you heard it here, James Butcher on “Sword and Laser” admitted that his wife is supernatural.

Jim: Yeah, because all the villainous female characters are based on her, too.

Tom: James says “I’ve always admired the Dresden Files’ willingness to stick to it’s own rules for how magic and the supernatural operate. However, have you ever found any of your rules overly constraining or developed a rule early on you wished you hadn’t later?”

Jim: I don’t think of those things as constraints. When I run into something where I want to have something happen and then somebody will point out to me “hey, Jim, because of this facet of magic, it doesn’t work like that, you’ve already established that” and I’ll go “oh!” and then I’ll go “okay, how can I use this to make it cooler rather than how is this a problem?” Really I think that’s one the common traits of a lot of people who have done well is they don’t look at those things as problems they look at them as an opportunity to make something cooler happen, and that’s the way you have to think of it. You have to think of it as a challenge to your creativity, you have to think of it as not something that’s gotten in your way but something you’re going to be able to step on to make the jump even higher as you go over it. So that’s always been my feeling, that I’ve never really felt that the rules have held me back, the rules are there to help things be better and that’s what I use them for.

Veronica: Now one question that we got from a lot of people, actually, and this one in particular comes from Daniel- “do you have an overarching story in mind for Dresden or does it just kind of come to you book to book?”

Jim: Oh, there’s definitely an overarching story in mind. From the get go- the Dresden Files started off as a class project in college and when I was laying out the structure for the entire thing that I wanted, I went to my professional writing teacher and said, “hey, I’m thinking I should write a series about 20 books long, you think that would be okay?” And I was too dumb to know that that was never going to sell to anybody and she kind of looked at me with this sort of very bland smile and was like, “yeah, I think if you could do 20 book series, you’ll be doing fine.” So that was sort of the way that turned out. But yeah, the plan was for all along, I’ve got a definite beginning and end that I want to go, I believe that stories should have a beginning and a middle and an end, and then they’re over. And then you do the next story. But we’re talking about 20’ish of the case books like we’ve seen so far, and then a big old apocalyptic trilogy at the end because who doesn’t love big apocalyptic trilogies? And I saw Star Wars at a formative age.

Tom: Excellent.

How far along are we then with Cold Days, which is the next Dresden book, coming out soon?

Jim: Cold Days is the 14th book of the series and we’re more or less on schedule to what I wanted to do. I’m still not stuck exactly to the original outline that I had written, partly because I thought of cooler things to do and partly because as it turns out, I didn’t really account for Dresden’s relationships or the romantic aspects of his life. Because I figured I’d just kind of let that grow on it’s own and it turns out that the people you fall in love with have some minor effect on the rest of your life, I hadn’t really accounted for that when I got started.

Tom: I guess that’s true.

And finally our last listener question- Mike wanted to know, “if you could do a full book about one of Dresden’s friends or allies, who would you pick?”

Jim: Full book about a friend or ally- I might go with Thomas, his brother, which is a spoiler if you’ve just started the series, sorry. But he makes an interesting character and he’s got his own story going in the background that I know. But really, I’ve got some ideas for spin-offs that I might do someday, if I have gambling debts or something. But actually, I would probably set it with somebody else in a different part of the world and be able to explore more of the world than we can see from just where Harry’s standing.

Veronica: Well, it already seems like you have quite a few books in store already. It’s not like you need any more projects at this point.

Jim: I know. I’m going to be dead before I get to write all these stories, it’s not fair, I need a longer lifespan, somebody should get on that.

Tom: Yeah, someone help extend Jim Butcher’s life, please. We want to hear how this ends up.

Veronica: Absolutely. And our final question is from me, actually. Can you impart any writer’s wisdom on us or other people out there who are just getting started in writing? We’re both wrapping up with NaNoWriMo, I know a lot of other people out there are as well, what advice can you give to us?

Jim: Write every day. Even if you only write a little bit, even if you only write a sentence or a word. Because if you’ve written a word, you’re at least one word closer to the end of the book than you were at the beginning of the day, and that’s progress. Writing is really- it’s about momentum, so get that momentum, set your time aside every day, even if it’s only a little bit of time, and stay on it.

Tom: Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Jim. We really appreciate you taking the time.

Jim: Thank you very much for having me.