Meet the Bookburners! Four Authors Talk Fighting Demons
So, here’s the deal. Bookburners is a piece of serial fiction about demon hunters — and it just wrapped up its first season. It’s published by Serial Box in weekly episodes (in both e-format and audio). With the whole first season done, that primes the series for binge reading via SerialBox.com, their app, or an e-retailer of your choice.
Thing is, while I am a sucker for serial fiction, I’m extra-suckery for serial fiction written by several of my favorite people. Like, for real. Mur Lafferty? Max Gladstone?! Margaret Dunlap?!? And Brian Francis Slattery, who, admittedly, I don’t really know? But if he hangs out with these three, then it is safe to assume he is similarly made of the same awesome meteor-forged metal.
They wanted to pop by and do a guest post, and the idea for said guest post was too good to pass up — four authors offering up their take on what would happen if they personally had to do the job of “demon-hunter.” Thus it is time to meet the Bookburners – the real ones, at least. Max Gladstone (Three Parts Dead and the Craft Sequence), Mur Lafferty (The Shambling Guide to New York City and the I Should be Writing podcast), Margaret Dunlap (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Middleman), and Brian Francis Slattery (Spaceman Blues and Liberation).
Max is our fearless leader, strategy is his game and he’s good for swinging a 2×4 to knock off a zombie’s head. I’ve seen it.
Brian, him I don’t trust. If you read the very weird shit he writes, you know that he’s got to have some inside knowledge. Dude writes scary-ass demons so well because he drinks with scary-ass demons on Tuesday nights down at the Wild Wings (Monday night is Ladies’ Night, Tuesday is Demons’ Night. Although some demons who identify as ladies do visit both nights.)
Margaret is our quartermaster, she keeps all of the weapons cleaned, sharpened, and ready to go. She always knows who has what weapon, and who put a scratch on the silver sword. * But don’t touch her gun. She can drop a vampire at 100 yards with a wooden bullet, and was the cause of last year’s Halloween Eve riot down at the Wild Wings. You see, this face-eating demon, who is also fond of mild wings, got her order switched with Margaret’s super hot wings. That lady was very offended that Margaret had eaten half of her basket of wings without batting an eye. Demon tried to eat her face. Margaret wasn’t having any of it. That was a big clean up night at the Wild Wings.
Then there’s me. I’d be considered the fool, the Zeppo, the Xander, the bait. I am the one who is an ethics test for new recruits; when doing their first field test of running away from demons, I have to fall down and hurt my leg. If they come back for me, they pass. If they don’t, they fail, and I get eaten. Luckily we’ve only recruited ethical people so far, but new Season 2 writer for the team, Andrea Phillips, nearly failed when she paused to consider before she turned around and helped me up. I also moonlight as a bartender down at the Wild Wings and manage to get my team discounts when they come in on Ladies’ Night and Demons’ Night.
* I said I was sorry!
Okay, first of all, I don’t know who decided it was a good idea to put together a demon-hunting team made up entirely of writers, but if you’re looking for someone who is secretly trying to sell out humanity to the forces of evil, magic, and hot wings, that’s where I’d look for suspects first. When I signed up for this gig, we were just trying to revolutionize serial fiction on the internet. That’s what they told me anyway.
Of course Max is our fearless leader. Partially, this is because he is the tallest, and it turns out that all of those studies that say tall people tend to get ahead in life are actually on to something. Plus, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We had already put in him in charge of the writing team, and it saved us having to work out the hierarchy again to just go with that when fighting demons got added to the mission brief. Since none of us have died yet (I totally had a bead on that demon if Andrea hadn’t come back for you, Mur!), I’d say he’s doing a pretty awesome job.
Mur is our chief intelligence officer. She wrote a series of guidebooks for supernatural creatures. She knows where they go, how they take their coffee, how spicy they like their hot wings. She can *blend.* Not that this makes us question her loyalty. The guidebooks are obviously a clever double-blind. Make the monsters think that you’re on their side, tell them where they can gather, and then use that information to keep an eye on them. She’s playing a very deep game.
(That’s why I won’t accept her apology for scratching the silver sword. Because I know she didn’t do it. I’m not sure why she’s taking the fall for Max. Maybe he put her up to it, maybe this way he’ll owe her a favor later on. But it was obviously Max. I mean, he fences. Who else in this crowd would even pick up a sword?)
And then there’s Brian. Brian knows how to live off the grid, chops wood, and has a stockpile of olive oil cans in his kitchen. Sure, he says it’s because he “cooks Italian” a lot. Riiiiiight. Personally, I’m not sure what’s up with Brain, I’m just glad that he’s on our side. At least, I’m pretty sure he is. I do know one thing for sure: I wouldn’t want to cross a man who knows how to transform an accordion into a guitar.
What do I do around this joint? Oh, you know, a little of this, a little of that. Whatever needs doing. I was worried the demon fighting was really going to cut in on the writing time, but it turns out I just watch less HGTV. So, if that’s all you needed to know, would you mind passing the hot wings?
First, if I’m the leader, we’re all in deep trouble. Which we might be! But under my leadership we’re definitely going to give the demons a bit of an easier time. In point of fact I’m probably more like the tip of the phalanx. Let’s charge into the problem! Tackle the big thing with the thorns and the seven eyestalks head-on, even though the head is where all the teeth are. Never tell me the odds!
(Actually, please do tell me the odds. Odds are helpful for decision-making and not getting eaten.)
I figure it’s Margaret actually keeping the team together—quartermastering, sure, but also coordinating from behind the lines. She’s the one who knows the demons’ weak spots, while the rest of us bash in and flail about. “Let’s try silver!” says I. “Guys, silver doesn’t—“ “Too late, trying it anyway.” *roars, crashing of trees, people tossed through walls* “That didn’t work at all.” “I TOLD you,” says Margaret. “Just cut off the head, it’ll be fine.”
Of course, cutting off the head is easier said than done. ‘Coz the head, to repeat, is where all the teeth are.
Mur’s team ninja. It’s the humor that disarms—she’s all calm and collected on the surface, nothing weird here, no problem whatsoever, got a great joke or three—and then the knife slides in. She’s most likely to take out the critter in the end. Making it look easy, all the way along.
Brian’s the one who will doom us all. He’s great for dealing with demons—maybe even too great. Because if you summon a bigger demon to eat the demon you’re currently fighting, then you’re stuck with the new, even more enormous demon hanging around. And then where are you?
In deep trouble.
Which, to be fair, is where we started off. So it’s probably all for the best.
Brian Francis Slattery
Maybe this is giving in to the consensus, but I agree with Mur and Margaret that Max is our leader. How can he not be? If you saw him at our meetings, you would agree, too. I also agree with Max, Margaret, and Mur that Margaret and Mur are the real brains of the operation, in addition to being the most effective, funny, and organized. And they are all being a little too modest. Against the three of them, few demons stand much of a chance.
But I guess I’m wondering why we’re fighting the demons in the first place. I know it’s our assignment and all, but haven’t we all read I Am Legend? I’m serious. I know the demons are horrible for us. Terrible things happen when they’re around. But what if we’re even more horrible for them than they are for us? What if the unholy power they unleash in our world, which boils people’s brains and destroys cities, is nothing compared to the havoc we wreak on them? For all we know, every time a human summons a demon from its realm, a toxic, gelatinous substance is left behind where the demon was standing, and that toxin spreads and infects everything it touches, so that no other demons—not to mention the nine-legged food they eat, or the spiraled castles they live in, or the very purple soil they walk on—is safe. For all we know, we have caused their ancient metropolises, once so vast they looked like mountain ranges from a distance, to melt into piles of poisonous slag. Their continents are slipping into the orange oceans that surround them, and the demons are crowded on the few spots of dry land left, begging for some power even higher than they are to intervene, even as the earth softens beneath their feet. We have ruined an entire plane of existence, and all become we’re lonely, or bored, or greedy, or we want revenge, or some other small human concern. Who are the demons now, you know?
So Max is right: Maybe it’s better to just be where we started off in the first place. Pass the wings. Extra spicy.
* * *
Magic is real, and hungry — trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. Freshly awake to just what dangers are lurking, she joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad: Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.