From The Writers' Room Featuring Bookburners

Max Gladstone on writing Bookburners S2E13: “The End of the Day”

BB_SII_Ep_13_ebook_600x960_REVHere we are! The end of the second season of Bookburners.

With the Network thwarted and Christina off the table, and Liam’s past put to rest at least temporarily, Team Three’s left to deal with the consequences of their actions.  And Asanti stands alone in front of a high tribunal.  There are no monsters here, except the ones we make ourselves.

Monsters play a weird role in stories: they stand in for our issues, they challenge our heroes, but they also give us space to explore our problems from a new perspective, from which they don’t seem nearly so intractable.  It’s hard to work out tangled personal conflicts and political issues in everyday life—it’s impossible by definition, really, since part of what makes everyday life everyday is that we don’t work these things out.  We hesitate, unclear how to go.  Sometimes even speaking our mind feels like risking death.  Much easier to attack some clear nearby problem instead, and all the better if that problem’s one we cannot ignore, some enormous existential threat.  “We’ll all die if we don’t stop this monster!”  That kind of a threat forces people into action—that’s what I mean by monsters giving us space to try new solutions, to overcome old obstinacy.  But when the threat’s passed, we’re left to live with the chocies we’ve made to survive.

So here’s Asanti, on the stand.  She and Menchú and Liam and Sal and Grace have come together over the course of this season, as friends and colleagues, but the season’s also revealed the depths of their disagreement about what magic is, and how it can be managed.  And Asanti won’t step down, or apologize for her convictions.  She thinks she’s done the right thing, by trying to use magic, by taking a more active role.  No matter what the Society believes, without her work, Belfast would be a sea of tentacles right now.  And as Menchú pulls for her to compromise, she’s forced to decide whether she rates their friendship over the long term survival of the world.

This was a hard episode to write, but a good one, too. The men and women of Team Three specialize in action, all last ditch plans and clever schemes.  In a way, this season has been all about trying to grow up—the risks and responsibilities inherent in trying to use magic for themselves. Team Three’s greatest challenge this season couldn’t be a monster to fight, or a conspiracy to unmask.  Instead, they have to face their own weaknesses, and decide how much they’re willing to risk for one another, and how they can survive, as friends, as people, and as moral actors.

It’s been a good, hard run.  We’ll see you next season.

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