Jim Butcher Talks 20 Years of Harry Dresden

Believe it or not, it’s been two whole decades since Jim Butcher introduced Harry Dresden to the world with Storm Front, book one of The Dresden Files. Since then, the series has grown to 16 books and counting, with the latest installment, Peace Talks, released last week and #17, Battle Ground, arriving in September. To mark the series’ 20th anniversary, the author sat down (virtually) for a panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2020. As interviewed by filmmaker Priscilla Spencer, who directed the last two volumes’ lavish book trailer, Butcher talked the greatest fan-moment (and the weirdest), rapid-fire favorites, spin-offs, adaptations, writing soundtracks, fan-responses, crack theories, and much more. Check out the highlights!

To kick things off, Spencer asked Butcher to pinpoint his best experience with the fan-base in these past 20 years, and the author picked his first big panel at Dragon-Con. “I’d only gone to maybe a dozen conventions in my career at that point, and nobody knew who the hell I was,” he reminisced. Prior to that fateful event, no one would show up to his solo panels or readings, and he expected the same thing to happen at Dragon-Con, where he’d once again been given a solo panel. But then something magical happened:

“I said ‘Well, no one’s going to be there, but at least I should be on time, that’s professional.’ So I’m on the way down–it’s in one of the basement halls–and I get down to the bottom of the escalator, and the hallway is just packed full of people. Just full. And I’m almost late, because it takes a lot longer to get around Dragon-Con than everywhere else, and I’m like ‘Oh great, not only am I going to be humiliated, but I’m going to look like an amateur as well!’ And then I realize after a second that everybody in the hallway is staring at me. Like 300 people, just all staring at me. And I don’t know what’s going on, so I’m like, ‘What? Is there something on my face?’ And somebody says, ‘Are you Jim Butcher?’ And I’m like, ‘Do I owe you money?’ And they’re like, ‘No, we’re here to see you!’ I said, ‘What?!’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re all here to see you! The room’s mostly full, we’re just the spill-over here in the hallway.’ And I’m like, ‘And you had nothing better to do?’ Was sort of my first reaction. But that was the first time, and they were nice to me. And they laughed at my jokes, and stuff like that, and it was the first time that had ever happened.

As for the weirdest fan-moment, Butcher quipped that it was him marrying a fan: “You’ve pretty much won your fandom when you’ve done that,” he said, “when you’ve married the author you’re a fan of.”

Moving on, the discussion turned to more favorites: Fan-reactions to scenes (“tough to say,” but probably to “various sex-scenes or almost sex-scenes, especially the almost sex-scenes”), scenes (“when Harry first meets Maggie”), adaptations he didn’t personally script (the roleplaying game), preferred style of a hypothetical Dresden Files video-game (Fallout), and best part of writing Welcome to the Jungle (learning the very different job of a writer in a graphic novel).

Other (un-spoiler-y) news tid-bits and highlights:

  • He’s currently working on mysterious, unnamed “other stuff” that’s separate from both the YA spin-off about Maggie at SMAGT and the one centered around Goodman Grey.
  • Peace Talks and Battle Ground came out of Butcher’s original goal of trying to “build a better mouse-trap,” where he would write 2/3s of a novel and take off in a completely new direction right before an exciting climax. When his editor was less than enthused with the result (something that would have ended up being a “$50 hardback”) they decided the solution was “two books that are a little bit leaner, but much stronger,” that had to be released back-to-back due to Peace Talks‘ cliff-hanger.
  • His writing soundtrack for the two books alternated between “5 hours of Viking death-metal compilations” and the discography of Conan the Barbarian composer Basil Poledouris (for the epic scenes).
  • He was pleasantly surprised by the strong fan-responses to both Lasciel and Marcone.
  • He bookmarked a certain “Best of Dresden Files Crack Theory” video on the day of the panel and planned to watch it after. (Place your bets in the comments.)
  • When it comes to future adaptations, Butcher doesn’t mind any changes to Harry’s appearance (“I kind of wrote a generic appearance for him anyways”), but he does care about Harry’s behavior. As for traits considered “inviolate,” he says “Harry’s never gonna hurt a kid or an animal.”
  • Right now he’s re-reading Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber as well as the works of Robert Parker. (“Pretty much always Robert Parker…there’s actually one book that Parker’s written that I haven’t read, and I will not read it, because as long as I haven’t read it, there’s always one more Parker book to read.”)

Skip forward to 24:42 for the juicy fan-questions and deep dives into lore (and beware of spoilers).

The next Dresden Files book, Battle Ground comes out September 29. Here’s the official synopsis:

Harry has faced terrible odds before. He has a long history of fighting enemies above his weight class. The Red Court of vampires. The fallen angels of the Order of the Blackened Denarius. The Outsiders.

But this time it’s different. A being more powerful and dangerous on an order of magnitude beyond what the world has seen in a millennium is coming. And she’s bringing an army. The Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and has come to subjugate humanity, obliterating any who stand in her way.

Harry’s mission is simple but impossible: Save the city by killing a Titan. And the attempt will change Harry’s life, Chicago, and the mortal world forever.

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