The hour began without ceremony on Friday in the Hyatt Regency VI-VII as Jim Butcher simply walked out onto the stage without waiting for the moderator to introduce him. This laid-back, almost impish style carried through the panel as Butcher answered questions from the audience. Several questions touched on material for upcoming books in the Dresden Files series, and when the audience got a little too close to something that might happen in a future book, Butcher was all too happy to bounce in his chair and chant, “I’m not gonna tell you! I’m not gonna tell you!”
One audience member asked about the rhythm of a book, and Butcher replied that he thinks of a book like a rollercoaster. The first two-thirds of a book is the chain that tugs you up the first big incline until something happens to send you downhill. Then there are all the loop-the-loops and twisters until the final big twist at the end.
Harry Dresden is a wizard in every sense of the word. He casts spells, speaks with spirits and other supernatural beings, crosses into the realm of faerie, and hunts for monsters who seek to hurt innocent (and sometimes not-so innocent) people. He lives and works as a special private eye in the bustling metropolis of Chicago, Illinois. I say special, because it’s not often you see ads for a “Wizard for Hire” in the yellow pages.
Several of the questions focused on the character of Harry Dresden, including what characters Dresden would want to hang out with and how exactly a wizard watches movies or television when, according to Butcher, the very presence of a wizard will cause nearly all modern human technology to fail. Butcher said that the real question about who Dresden would like to hang out with is more about who would like to hang out with Dresden. There’s a certain “chaos radius” around Dresden and if you’re too close to him, you will get pulled into it. Butcher had very specific answers about how Dresden manages to see movies and television shows. For movies, Dresden goes to a drive-in theater. Even though all of the speakers in the immediate vicinity of his car would immediately cease to function, there’s enough ambient noise for him to watch the film. As for television, Dresden sits in a park across from a television store and watches the closed captioning on the shows through binoculars.
One of the questions posed to Butcher was, “What would your evil doppelganger, Bim Jutcher, say to Harry Dresden?” With his sly smile, impish grin, and raised eye brow, he calmly queried, “How do you know I am not the evil one?” Thunderous applause and laughter broke out. These reporters did note, however, the question was never really answered. (Were we witnessing the evil one? Makes one wonder.)
The subject of Mouse, Harry’s huge dog and sidekick, was brought up several times. Mouse seems to possess an extremely high level of intelligence, able to formulate complex plans and understand instructions. He is a capable fighter and fast runner, and will occasionally emit a nimbus of pale light while in combat. His bark has the ability to break people out of an enchanted sleep and spur them to action. He also seems to possess an endurance and healing ability far beyond mortal dogs; a few hours after being hit by a car, he is able to fight a White Court vampire and his henchman. In Butcher’s book Changes, the reader gets to experience Mouse talk… actually talk. Fans expressed their desire to see more of this.
The mechanics of wizards disrupting technology was also the answer to a few other questions. One question was about whether Dresden will ever encounter extraterrestrials. Butcher noted that extraterrestrials are fairies having fun. He went on to imagine that if a wizard can mess up human technology, what would one do to alien tech? “Crashed alien ships? Wizards.”
This hour went by so quickly. When the moderator signaled the end of the panel, the “awwww” echoed through the room, but was replaced with a standing ovation and applause. Having Jim Butcher come and speak at the con is really a magical experience.