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Message from Poughkeepsie

This is how it happens.

I was driving my car to work, listening to podcasts, as I do every day. Today’s podcast happened to be one I’ve been putting off listening to because it’s lengthy. Over an hour and a half, and calls itself an interview with Jim Butcher. Butcher is, currently1, my favorite living author, creator of the fantastic urban fantasy series The Dresden Files.

The “podcast” turned out to be a recording of a radio show. The interview with Butcher started over an hour in, so I was doing a lot of fast-forwarding over a lot of inane babble.

When I finally got to the interview, only one of the three hosts of the show has read any of his books, but at least that one person is asking intelligent questions that indicate he did, indeed, read the books.

One of the questions was about vampires. In Butcher’s world, there are four “courts” of vampires, roughly divided into “Stoker-esque, Dracula-type” vampires (the Black Court), blood-sucking demon-types (the Red Court), psychic vampires who consume emotion and sexual energy (the White Court), and asian vampires (the Jade Court, which has not yet made an appearance in any of his books).

Now, when I designed my urban fantasy world, I decided up front that I wanted it to have a kind of scientific feel. No ghosts, fairies, demons, angels, gods, etc. And therefore no curses, which means no vampires or werewolves. Mostly, no sexy vampires or sexy werewolves. I’ve had my fill of those.

My one-line description of my series is, “It’s an urban fantasy set in modern Atlanta where magic works, but there are no sexy vampires or sexy werewolves.” People generally say, “Oh, thank God” at that, which seems to indicate to me that other people are getting tired of the whole ‘sexy cursed creature’ trend in fantasy, as well.

So, to re-iterate, my entire premise is based on how vampires and werewolves are simply not allowed. Just so we’re clear on that.

So, I’m listening to Jim talk . . . and my subconscious mind—which is generally free to wander indiscriminately while I’m doing something boring like driving, showering, or eating—looks up at me and grins. “Mutation,” it says, and then goes back to . . . I don’t know, playing jacks with Bigfoot or whatever it is that it does in there.

I, of course, knew immediately what this meant, because we share a brain. But for those of you out there who aren’t me, allow me to elaborate.

The way my magic system works is kind of complex and convoluted and I won’t go fully into it, here (because I might decide to change something later), but basically, you need energy to do work. Each person (animal, even plants) has energy. There are basically three types of magic users to draw on this energy: psionic, magic, and necromancers. Psionics draw on their own life energy, mages draw on their own and others’ life energy (slowly, as it’s naturally given off), and necromancers draw on their own energy, others’ energy, and can absorb the sum total of energy “released at the moment of death” as well.2 There’s a whole bunch of stuff about who can and can’t use what, how they access it, how the three mutations can all exist in the same person and what that means, etc. that I will probably never put in a story, but which I have to know for consistency.

What my subconscious was telling me is that there’s a fourth type who can draw energy forcefully, not all at once, but over a longer period of time than “at the moment of death,” but much higher rate than “as it is given off normally.”3

Yep. Vampires.

My subconscious is subverting the entire premise of my series.

But it does open certain very intriguing plot lines…No! No, no, no!

Talk me down, people. Talk. Me. Down. Before my subconscious whispers something that makes werewolves possible within my system.


  1. And by ‘currently,’ I mean currently in the sense of being my favorite, not currently living. He’s younger than I am. He should be around a while. :)
  2. The astute observers among you will no doubt be wondering what the “catch” is. With that much power out there for the use, what’s to stop magic-using people from taking over? And the answer is that there are serious physical consequences to using any type of magic, and there’s an addictive quality as well.
  3. Which implies, of course, that some people give off more, some less, and others can hoard energy like a battery.

Originally published at WriteWright. You can comment here or there.

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