My Favorite Bit: Brian Francis Slattery talks about BOOKBURNERS SEASON THREE
Brian Francis Slattery is joining us today to talk about the serial, Bookburners Season Three. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The world as we know it is under siege. The Bookburners are stretched thin trying to control an influx of magic—and they don’t have much support from the Vatican. Can they overcome their history and band together to protect humanity from an increasing magical threat? Or will it destroy them, like it has destroyed everything else in its path?
What’s Brian’s favorite bit?
BRIAN FRANCIS SLATTERY
My favorite bit about Season Three of Bookburners isn’t a particular moment (though there are many moments I love) or a particular character (I love them all), but an idea that ended up driving the arc of the whole season, from episode to episode.
In this season, we broke something we couldn’t fix.
Bookburners, written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, Andrea Phillips, and me, is about a team — Sal, a detective; Menchú, a priest; Grace, a fierce fighter; Liam, a tech guy; and Asanti, an archivist — who work for a secret society trying to save the world from being taken over by magic. They go on adventures all over the world battling monsters, solving puzzles, finding magic and locking it down.
Without giving all kinds of things away, in the previous two seasons, among the adventures we explored the flaws and the tensions within our characters and within the secret society, stretching things out pretty far sometimes. Our characters didn’t always like each other, or who they were working for. The society they were working for didn’t always like them. Our team members sometimes questioned the usefulness of the mission. Characters changed. But somewhere in there was the assumption that the Big Things would return more or less to the way they were. The basic premise would stay intact.
Not this season.
We decided early on in hashing out the story for Season Three that Something Magic Would Happen that would be irreversible. The people on our team would at last face something that they couldn’t contain and conceal afterward. As we finished with the basic arc of the story, and then outlined individual episodes, and then wrote them, figuring out on a human scale what the effects of that Something Magic That Happens might be, we discovered that our simple initial decision created a thousand little ripples throughout the story. It meant that our characters at last said and did things they couldn’t take back. Some of the tensions among them, and between them and the society belonged to, stretched until they broke.
And for me, that meant Sal, Menchú, Grace, Liam, and Asanti all got to be as true to themselves as they had ever been. As a team, they learned what was driving them apart—and what was holding them together. It was a thrill to write, and not only because I got to return to Central America in my mind, a place that left an indelible impression on me that I tried my best to do right by when it came time to represent it. It was also because we could let our characters cut loose. So this season has not just my favorite bit, but most of my favorite stuff in it in Bookburners so far. It’s stuff that you could say we’ve been building toward since the beginning, a few years ago, when we were first getting to know Sal and company, and learning what they could do.
Plus, we got to transform an entire city into a completely different place. Forever.
In early September, us writers are getting together to figure out what happens next year. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of collaborating with Max, Margaret, Andrea, and Mur from the start, but I’m looking forward to this season even more than the past three. We know our characters so much better than we used to, and have quite a rich past to draw on. But in a lot of ways it feels completely new, as our characters move into an unstable future, for themselves and for the world. I can’t wait to see what happens.
Brian Francis Slattery is the author of Spaceman Blues, Liberation, Lost Everything, and The Family Hightower. Lost Everything won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2012. He’s the arts and culture editor for the New Haven Independent, and editor for the New Haven Review, and a freelance editor for a few not-so-secret public policy think tanks. Bookburners, which he wrote with Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, and Mur Lafferty, is available from Serial Box. Find more at www.serialbox.com.