Please enjoy some helpful advice for some of the best-known heroes and heroines of science fiction and fantasy, courtesy of Baru Cormorant, the brilliant protagonist of Seth Dickinson’s Masquerade series—The Traitor Baru Cormorant and its upcoming sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant. No stranger to sinister villainy and evil empires, Baru is more than capable of helping out everyone from humble hobbits to vengeance-driven superheroes with her unique brand of no-nonsense pragmatism…
I’m tired of farm life. I want to join the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. What can I do?
I hate tyranny as much as you. But we need to be pragmatic. Most revolutions fail.
I suggest you fix up your uncle’s finances, study hard, and apply to the Academy. Don’t waste time trying to become a star pilot—much too risky. Get a job as an interrogator. (Do you have weird intuition or influence on the weak-minded? Could help.)
Once you’re established as Chief Rebel-hunter, try to capture one of their leaders. Offer to release her as a triple agent. She’ll feed you expendable Rebel cells. You’ll protect her.
You should be able to parley your success into political power. Once you have a loyal fleet, you can restore freedom to the galaxy!
Don’t worry about this ‘Force’ myth. It’s bait for rubes. (If you find out otherwise, write immediately.)
I’m worried the humans are getting ready to displace my tribe. How can I stop them?
Wow—HUGE ADMIRER. Listen: you already know what to do. Just befriend one of the human Avatars. Pretend you’re fascinated by his way of life. Learn everything you can about acting human.
Then bait him to your World Tree and use your nerve bridge to put your mind into his human body!
I know it’ll be hard for you to live in a tiny, frail human shell, given how graceful and athletic you are. But if we’re going to save our people, we have to wear useful masks.
There’s an organism loose on my ship. I’m starting to think that Weyland-Yutani cares about capturing that thing more than it cares about us. What do I do?
Do you think you’re the only ship on a mission like this? The Company is the real threat.
Bait that organism into a shuttle. (If it’s your crew as bait, or the cat…) Launch the shuttle into space. Memorize the trajectory, and don’t tell ANYONE.
Once you’re home, demand a position on the Weyland-Yutani board in exchange for the shuttle. And if the Company suggests setting up a colony on LV-426, you can in send in the Marines to nuke the site from orbit!
Take good care of your daughter. And tell her everything. It’s better that she know.
I’m a huge fan of the way you manipulate financial systems and the lives of millions to achieve your goals. I’m a billionaire looking to use (mostly) human technology to improve the world in, uh, pseudo-legal ways. I need a new accountant to keep track of all my money. Interested?
While I admire your aims, I’m unsatisfied with your methods—and with your results. You insist on putting yourself directly in harm’s way instead of managing risk by using talented subordinates. And your fraternization with your employees leaves you vulnerable to infiltration, blackmail, and emotional compromise. Imagine how you would feel if you’d lost your secretary!
Armor isn’t for fighting, Tony. Armor is for running away from fights, so you can get back to your plans.
If I may be blunt, I think you’re driven as much by your insecurities, vanity, and terror of losing power as you are by a desire to help the world. I can only conclude that one of your allies or companions is responsible for holding your company together while you play knight.
Please put me in touch with them.
I’ve recently started studying wizardry at a British school. No one can tell me exactly how the Dark Lord was defeated — but I do have access to the only survivor of his last attack. Isn’t anyone afraid He’ll return?
Hermione, I’m glad someone is thinking about these things. It’s clear from your classes that you’ll be a star student. I have reason to believe that professors at your school are easily compromised…perhaps you can get access to magical resources? I must confess great interest in the possibilities of polyjuice, Portkeys, apparition and all the rest…
Once you have assets, you’ll need to arrange a test protocol for this Boy Who Lived. Monsters! Magical accidents! Clues, crushes, and conspiracies to test his reactions! It’s vital that you learn how he survived, and what countermeasures defeated the Dark Lord. We must be scientific!
Can you infiltrate the boy’s friends? Perhaps leverage the poor Weasley boy with a stipend? I’m not very good at this part. But if you can get close, I’m sure you’ll be able to coax Potter through a set of experiments. Think of each year as a chance to learn more about the Dark Lord and his downfall.
I suppose you could just tell Harry what you’re doing. But that seems like an unnecessary risk.
I would like to try on your school’s hat.
I’ve come into possession of the One Ring. I need to get it to Mordor. What’s the best way?
That’s tough. Middle-earth is good at speeches but awful at logistics. So you’ll need to rally the national economies of Gondor and Rohan to support a huge invasion force. (Please don’t try eagles. Never count on the incompetence of your enemy’s air defense.)
I understand the Ring comes with psychological risks. It’s best to use it sparingly, in shifts. Wield it as necessary to gain intelligence and unite your followers. Your Fellowship members can support each other.
But you have to ask yourself, Frodo: do I trust my allies? Isn’t it my responsibility to prepare for betrayal, and to betray first, if necessary to protect the mission?
Think on it. Let me know how it goes. Please score Galadriel’s address for my correspondence.
I recently inherited the title of Abhorsen. I can raise and command the Dead with bells. I’m supposed to kill the Dead as they rise, but I want to do more. Should I risk using Free Magic and necromancy to learn the secrets of the cosmos?
Are you single???
My parents are dead. I want to use my billions to punch crime. Good plan?
You’re an idiot.
Originally published August 2015.
Seth Dickinson is the author of The Traitor Baru Cormorant—released as The Traitor in the UK—an epic geopolitical fantasy about one woman’s mission to fix her world by learning how to rule it. Read an excerpt from the novel here on Tor.com. Seth is a lapsed student of social neuroscience and a lore writer for Bungie’s mythic megahit Destiny.