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"The Soul's Journey: Art, Magic and Reality"
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Storm Front (Dresden Files #1)by Jim Butcher, RoC pb Apr 2000
White Night (Dresden Files #9) by Jim Butcher, RoC HC April 07
The Dresden Files, Sci Fi channel Series based on Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels.
Exclusive Interview with Jim Butcher – his natal chart info.
07/07/07 would have marked the 100th Birthday of Robert A. Heinlein had he survived. If all goes as planned that week, I should be at the Robert Heinlein Centennial celebration in Kansas City (his birthplace), speaking of what I learned talking with him and reading his books.
I grew up on books by E. E. Smith, Hal Clement, Isaac Asimov, etc. These men were champion world builders, the Gene Roddenberries of their time. They formed the SF field as "the Literature of Ideas." But in their day, you dared not tell a High School English teacher that what they wrote was Great Art (even though I did, it was and is.)
In the Bantam paperback, STAR TREK LIVES! (1975) I dared to call Star Trek great art, important art that would change the world. Even then, it sounded ridiculous.
What did Roddenberry have that his predecessors didn’t? The "vision" is the same - unlimited. The philosophy is similar – Man will prevail. The story is the exploration of the galaxy not the New World (Leather Stocking Tales) or the Old West (Lone Ranger). Star Trek was sold as Wagon Train To The Stars (Wagon Train being a famous, long-running TV show.) ST wasn’t original.
Other than the TV platform, Roddenberry didn’t have anything his predecessors didn’t – except a largely female audience. In the early 1970’s, women fanfic writers added Relationship driven plots to Roddenberry’s well built World. The combination was spiritually explosive.
Great Worldbuilding by itself doesn’t propagate into a Group Mind. Great Relationships don’t propagate (Trash Romances). By themselves, each fictional element can be popular and enjoyable, but result in only "read and toss" paperbacks, or TV shows you wouldn’t buy on DVD.
Yet Worldbuilding and Relationship are essential ingredients in Art. Art is the "selective recreation of reality." A Magician’s perception of Reality can guide that selectivity to create Art that speaks to and for the Group Mind.
As noted in the June ’07 column, the human ability to Time Bind, to hypothesize about what is not, (i.e. fantasize) puts us at the top of the food chain. The Power of the magician allows the vision of what "is not" to become what "is." Thus the primary and most important training of a magician must include the ability to hypothesize selectively, to recreate Reality selectively, so Power will do no harm.
Therefore, the study of how fiction happens – i.e. the writer’s craft – is essential to mastering magic in any form.
So I have an example here of a novel series I’ve been reviewing for you (Mar. 04; Sept 06; Dec 06) that has become a TV Series, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
Getting a novel series made into a TV Series is always the result of a long chain of improbable events. When the student of the Occult sees such a long chain of circumstances materialize something of value – well, we know what "coincidence" really means.
So after reading White Night, (#9 in the series but I hadn’t read the first 3 novels!) I was delighted to get an invitation from Jim Butcher’s publicist to interview him. Then I read Storm Front (#1 in the Series) and in the middle of that saw the Dresden Files episode based on one of the plot-threads in Storm Front.
By then I had a thousand questions. I had one hour with him. I asked five questions and learned enough to discuss the hatching of a TV Series from a novel series for the next few columns. But first the astrology!
What have Robert A. Heinlein, George Lucas and Jim Butcher got in common?
According to astrodatabank.com, George Lucas was born 5:40 AM, May 14,1944 in Modesto, Calif. Run the chart yourself. Years ago, I had studied Lucas’ chart in connection with Star Wars and found many wisps of Luke Skywalker’s spiritual journey in Lucas’ karma, but not his life. I’d seen this before. Success for a fiction writer often comes with a story rooted deep in the natal chart.
Like Heinlein, Jim Butcher hasn’t made it to the database yet, but I asked and he told me he (like Heinlein) was born in Kansas City, MO. But Butcher was born at 9:17 PM, Oct. 26, 1971.
This gives Butcher 25 Gem 26 rising, 02 Pis 30 MC, Sun at 03 Sc 00 in the 5th, Moon at 01 AQ 09 in the 8th – while Lucas has his South Node at 01 AQ 04 and Moon at 11 AQ 18. Both have Pluto in their 4th House.
Storm Front, the first Dresden Files novel was first published in April 2000. Butcher tells the story in ConNotations April/May issue (casfs.org/ConNotations/ ).
Dresden Files was first conceptualized, years prior to publication, in response to a writing class given by Debbie Chester ( deborahchester.com ) where she pointed to Butcher’s admiration for Buffy and Anita Blake, then challenged him to create a similar universe but do the usual pre-drafting structural work on character, worldbuilding, and plot – the boring part of writing he had been skipping.
He did the sketching and outlining just to show her how badly it would turn out – and years later sold Storm Front after meeting Laurrel K. Hamilton while networking at a writer’s convention which he attended because he took a friend’s advice that he needed to network (something he had refused to do).
Butcher interviewed Hamilton to report to a fan List. Turned out Hamilton also likes Buffy and Babylon 5 so they had plenty to discuss. Butcher connected with an agent while going out to lunch with Hamilton and a group.
It was a classic series of improbable events driven by the first explosive and somewhat uncontrolled burst of Intention targeted action and followed up by taking the suggestion (Hermit card) to try something he’d resisted - networking. His Intention was not to get a TV show made from Dresden, but just to write. He overshot the mark.
Dresden, Butcher points out in the novels, has vast native power and not much control. During his appearance at the Poison Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ Butcher told several stories of his years studying Karate with a descendent of a real Samurai family, indicating that he, too, acquired power before control, a fact that did not please his instructor.
I asked several questions about Dresden Files’ long story-arc of Lashiel, the demon trapped in an old Coin. The arc apparently ends in White Night. Previously, Dresden blasted and buried the coin leaving only a Shadow of the demon flashburned into his own psyche. This is like what Ron Moore is doing in Battlestar Galactica where a Cylon woman haunts Baltar. Also we saw it in Farscape. Butcher uses a demon whose Hellfire Power Dresden can access.
Hellfire is Black Magic, an addiction Dresden can’t afford since the High Council will execute him if he dabbles in the Black. Still, sometimes it’s the only way to save lives – so Dresden uses the Black to accomplish White objectives. After all, he’s only using a Shadow of the actual Demon.
In the previous novels, Butcher has painted Dresden into a really dark corner with his increasingly facile use of the demon’s power. Meanwhile, point by point, Butcher has unfolded the laws of magic in his universe. That led me to expect a very Qabalistic resolution of the Demon haunting problem, but that wasn’t Butcher’s plan.
White Night ends with a resolution of the problem of the Demon shadowing Dresden. I pointed out to him during this interview that the ending of White Night really wasn’t a fulfillment of the Worldbuilding he had done. And I asked what principle of magic he used to solve the problem.
He answered not by referring to the principles of magic built into his world, but by referring to a writing principle. He went to the basic-traits list of the character sketch for Harry Dresden.
One precious gift that has emerged as central is Harry’s gift for empowering others. He lives a daily struggle to master control of his own Power – and though he hasn’t succeeded, he has become strong, and a catalyst of strength.
In fact, the Dresden Files series is about Power, (Butcher’s Pluto in the 4th House at 0 Libra 46, trine the Moon in 8 and trine Saturn in 12) its danger, use and abuse.
Butcher explains that Lashiel’s Shadow has the potential for Darkness but Harry is used to handling Dark Power. By refusing to give in to Lashiel’s attempt to seduce him with Power, and change him, Dresden reversed the force back upon her and she changed instead.
I pointed out this is the classic White Magic defense, and Butcher agreed, pointing out that the technique is practiced in Akido. I asked if he had studied Akido and he responded that he studied Karate – that Akido is hard.
Butcher didn’t know, as of this interview, if there would be a second season of The Dresden Files – or a DVD. But he plans 20 casebooks of Dresden’s adventures ending with an apocalyptic trilogy – being a Star Wars fan from The Beginning. Deeper insights next month and more books.
To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.
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