From The Writers' Room Featuring Bookburners

Max Gladstone on writing Bookburners S3E1: “Bubbles of Earth”

Here we go again—but different.

I love how Bookburners changes from season to season. Each season so far we have almost done the reset-to-normal trick procedural shows since time immemorial made famous—some amount of equilibrium regained, the band reunited, the fundamental engine still our progression forward from case to case. Our characters—and our readers!—look forward to the normal progress of an episode in a way that, I think, feels very human. People like to do what they know.

But each season brings a slow disintegration of what’s normal. Sal pushes through season one to get her brother back, to save the Perry she knows. But, while she steals his soul back from the Hand, and saves the day (and the Society) in the process, the Perry who returns is not, quite, the Perry who left—he’s close, but he has an angel in his head, and memories he can’t understand or control. And that’s small potatoes compared to the changes Sal has undergone while Perry’s out. When he left, she was a more or less mundane police officer; when he comes back, she’s an agent of something that could be pretty accurately described as an ancient Vatican conspiracy.

Season Two showed just how far our heroes—Menchú especially—would go to protect their status quo. After dragging Belfast back from the edge of magical catastrophe, the Society wanted to imprison Archivist Asanti indefinitely, a move Asanti hoped would tear it apart from the inside, and leading to the world learning the truth about magic before it was too late. Menchú stepped in to save his friend, in the hope things could continue as before. To do that, he helped elect Cardinal Fox, the anti-magic traditionalist—forcing Asanti to take steps of her own.

So, as we open Season Three, our heroes are once again dealing with aftermath. I tried to write Bubbles of Earth to reflect that: the story tries to play out as a normal Bookburners episode, but with new constraints, and with everyone’s storylines shifted just slightly left of center. How long can Sal, Grace, Liam, Menchú, and Asanti keep up the facade? And what will happen when the masks come off?

Welcome to Season Three.

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