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Jim Butcher (born October 26, 1971) is a fantasy author, best known for writing The Dresden Files and Codex Alera. His books are notable for their high levels of genre savviness, Rule of Cool, and Shout Outs. He attended a writing course taught by Deborah Chester, and, in the attempt to prove her wrong, followed her instructions to the letter, which resulted in The Dresden Files.

Jim Butcher has also written a Spider-Man novel, entitled Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours, and is currently working on a Steampunk series, The Cinder Spires.

He is now a big enough name that recommendations from him show up on the covers of other writers' novels, and other writers do Shout Outs to him.


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Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Extremely prevalent throughout his work, it'd probably be easier to list the non-action girls. And several of them should be classified with a "not yet" note as they are still adolescent children. Fine examples include:
    • Karin Murphy from The Dresden Files, an otherwise normal human woman that's helped take on vampires, werewolves and fairy queens.
    • Kitai from Codex Alera. Daughter of a "barbarian" chief, she is is a dangerous fighter. She once bit a man's nose off because that was all she could reach when he was detaining her. She joins the hero Tavi in battle many times in the series.
    • The Cinder Spires gives us Gwendolyn Lancaster and Bridget Tagwynn, both sixteen year-old maidens.
      • Gwen shows a fortitude and calm during a bad situation by calmly and intentionally blowing off the head of the enemy's leader.
      • Bridget worked for most of her life moving heavy slabs of meat in her family's vattery. She is probably north of six feet tall and can move those slabs with ease now, resulting in her being adept at close combat.
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  • Actually Pretty Funny: In late 2019, a fan comic affectionately knocking the history of frequent Male Gaze in Butcher's writing was posted to /r/dresdenfiles. When many fans went into an uproar, Butcher himself eventually commented that he thought the comic was genuinely funny and it even made him laugh.
  • Author Appeal:
    • The name "Margaret". The Dresden Files has three Margarets, The Cinder Spires has one (Gwen's second name is Margaret).
    • Similarly, the name "Gwendolyn"; Gwen Lancaster in The Cinder Spires, and Margaret Gwendolyn LeFay in The Dresden Files.
    • Action Girls, in particular those who are either very petite or Amazonian. Try finding a woman between five and six feet in height anywhere in a Jim Butcher novel. Go ahead. We'll wait.
    • Royalty (particularly cases of Royals Who Actually Do Something), medieval-style fighting, and martial arts. Butcher is a huge fan of martial arts in real life, and likes to Show Their Work in his novels through making most of the fights between different characters as realistic as possible.
    • In regards to The Dresden Files, Butcher absolutely loves to add references to Marvel Comics, helped by Butcher being a huge Marvel fan in real life. Just as an example, Harry Dresden at one point claims to follow "the Tao of Peter Parker," and Butcher himself has freely admitted that Harry Dresden's character was originally conceived as "What if Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive wizard instead of a radioactive spider?"
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: He's admitted that he took a sizable pay cut to write Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours for Marvel just because he really wanted to write Spider-Man.
  • Catchphrase: Saying in a slightly nasally tone "I'm not gonna tell you." His answer to questions he doesn't want to answer. It has started getting applause at his Q&A Sessions.
  • Creator Backlash: Heavily downplayed; while he's still proud of having written them, as noted below under Old Shame, Butcher doesn't usually like to talk about the first two books in The Dresden Files - Storm Front and Fool Moon - as he finds them somewhat uncomfortable indicators of how mediocre he used to be as a writer. And the less said about "A Restoration of Faith" (a short story set in the Dresdenverse which Butcher openly considers to be an embarrassing first draft) the better.
  • Creator's Favorite: Butcher has openly stated in AMAs that Harry Dresden is his favorite character to write, as he finds him to be very relatable and has also admitted to seeing him sometimes as an Author Avatar.
  • Creator's Pest: In a 2020 Reddit AMA, Butcher said that High Lady Invidia Aquitaine from Codex Alera was his least favorite character to write, outright describing her as a "terrible combination of self-interest and self-righteousness."
  • Dark Action Girl: He's had plenty of these show up. Lara Raith of the White Court of Vampires and High Lady Invidia Aquitaine are probably the best examples.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The defining trademark that each of his main characters possess.
    • The man himself is no slouch either, with many of his AMAs consisting of him lightheartedly snarking at the commenters' questions just as much as he actually answers their questions.
  • Exact Words: When he was in his early 20s in his writing class where he developed the basic idea of The Dresden Files he presented his first two chapters to his professor. She gave it praise and asked for how the rest of the story goes. She meant just this first book. Butcher came back excitedly the next week with outlines for a twenty book series capped off by a big apocalyptic trio to present to her.
  • Genius Bonus: invoked Butcher absolutely loves to throw in allusions to obscure trivia in his novels. Just two examples include Harry's Shout-Out to Shakespeare in his musing regarding the "primrose path" in Changes and the Awakened Vord Queen's practice of "decimation" against a Roman-descended force in First Lord's Fury.
  • Genre Throwback: Most of Butcher's work is a love-letter to a particular genre he really likes.
    • The Male Gaze-y descriptions of female characters (most of whom are Femme Fatales of some shade or another), popularity of revolvers as the firearm of choice, heavy focus on organized crime (with the associated crime bosses and hired goons that you'd expect), taking place in a Wretched Hive, and Harry Dresden's Private Eye Monologue (among other aspects of the series) are all indicators of The Dresden Files intentionally harkening back to the pulpy detective noir novels of the 1930s and 1940s. The effect is aided in how wizards are all Walking Techbanes who can't use virtually any technology created after World War II without setting it on the fritz, further adding to the series' subtly retro aesthetic and themes. Admittedly, it's worth noting that most of these traits are more predominant in the earlier novels than in the later entries as the series grows its own identity, but even by Battle Ground the majority of these elements are still there moreso than not.
    • Similarly, Codex Alera seems to be largely written as a homage to the High Fantasy literature of the 1980s, with the novel's blurbs even describing Alera as a love-letter to the swords-and-horses fantasy tales Butcher loved to read when growing up. This is probably best showcased in the series intentionally invoking a lot of tried-and-true fantasy tropes of the time (i.e., the protagonist being a secret heir to the throne who has lived in hiding for many years on the frontier of civilization), but putting a unique spin on them (the protagonist is a Badass Normal Guile Hero in a world where Everyone is a Super) to help serve as a reminder for why those tropes have lasted for so long.
    • The only exceptions to this seem to be both Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours and The Cinder Spires (and even the latter is only in this territory since Butcher hasn't yet finished writing the next few novels).
  • Line to God: He has a LiveJournal.
  • Male Gaze: It's visibly apparent in every one of his novels, which has also gotten him accused of objectifying women (mostly in regards in The Dresden Files). To Butcher's credit, though, this issue has become increasingly better handled as he has improved and matured as a writer, and in The Dresden Files in particular, it's often used as an indicator of the protagonist Harry Dresden both being an Unreliable Narrator and having an incredibly dysfunctional childhood causing him to be saddled with lots of hang-ups regarding the fairer sex along with the series partially being a Genre Throwback to the pulpy detective novels of The '30s and The '40s. Notably, short stories in the Dresdenverse where other male characters are the narrator — i.e., John Marcone or Waldo Butters — describe female characters without any lavish descriptions in regards to their physical attractiveness. Amusingly enough, the narration of his female characters in Codex Alera more often than not showcases the Female Gaze in regards to their male love interests.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Quite fond of these. Consider that his two main book series are respectively about a vampire-hunting wizard Film Noir Occult Detective and prehistoric monster-riding Roman Legionaries who can control more elemental forms of Pokémon.
  • Old Shame: The introduction to "A Restoration of Faith" (the first story Butcher ever wrote to be set in The 'Verse of The Dresden Files) is very much full of Self-Deprecation and him mocking how sophomoric the story is and reflective of him having been writing it when he was a first-time college student. Additionally, Butcher has been very dismissive towards the first few novels in the aforementioned series (Storm Front and Fool Moon in particular), and he has openly advised new fans to start reading The Dresden Files with Dead Beat since he feels that it's the best entry point for new people into the books.
  • Purple Prose: His works are often heavily laden in lavish descriptions and detail. Butcher is very much a man with an appreciation and eye for aesthetics, as any of the elaborate descriptions of characters' outfits will convey. Similarly, the descriptions given to Arctis Tor in both Proven Guilty and Cold Days are basically the literary equivalent of Scenery Porn.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The "loser" in such a confrontation in the late 1990s. When on a chat room, he took a challenge that one could take two "bad" ideas and make them into a compelling story. The challenger gave him Pokémon and Lost Roman Legion. After some research and playing with the concepts, he had a good basis for a story and was unsure how posting the idea to the internet in those days would affect his publishing rights and ownership of the idea. So, he explained this to the other guy, who believed he was right because Butcher had nothing. Butcher decided to let the matter drop. The man might've won the argument, but Butcher ultimately got a six-book deal out of it.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: All three of his series so far have included people of royal standing (or near enough to it) willing to get their hands dirty.
    • In Codex Alera being an almighty badass is a literal job requirement for any High Lord or Lady.
    • The Dresden Files has the Faerie Queens, one of whom saved Harry's life. The same series also gives a meta-example with the Knights of the Cross, wielders of divinely powered swords who are apparently always descended from royalty. And during the Wizard-Vampire War, the Red King of the Red Court of Vampires is frequently on the front line or at least close to it.
    • Spirearch Addison Albion of The Cinder Spires puts on a front of absent-mindedness and powerlessness (since he has helped reform Albion's government into more of a constitutional monarchy), but the events of the first novel make it clear this front is a façade and he in fact has a great deal of influence.
  • Rule of Cool: Runs heavily on this.
  • Self-Deprecation: The blurbs on the back of Butcher's own novels describe himself as "a martial arts enthusiast whose resume includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago", and also claims that he "turned to writing as a career because anything else probably would have driven him insane." The blurbs also mockingly describe his writing process as him "trying to record his conversations with his imaginary friends".
    • Similarly, Butcher often likes to mock his own writing ability in interviews and AMAs, with him freely admitting that he usually doesn't see The Dresden Files as much beyond entertaining escapist fantasy (despite other interviews and his own writing implying otherwise).
  • Shown Their Work: Virtually all of Butcher's novels are remarkably well-researched, even if they often go to fantastical extremes. Just two examples include the "Destroying Angel" mushroom prominently featured in Grave Peril being real and the logistics given to the Aleran Legions (who are closely patterned both In-Universe and out-of-universe on the Legions of the Western Roman Empire) being highly detailed and more-or-less accurate in Codex Alera.
  • Signature Style: Jim Butcher really, really likes political intrigue, characters with ulterior motives, complex and out of the ordinary strategies in battle, characters playing Xanatos Speed Chess, unique and unexpected application of magic, sleep deprivation and soldiering on in the face of massive physical trauma. There's also non-human psyches, the idea of most supernatural creatures being like predators and being "less likely to attack if you don't show fear", and the whole idea of creating ice by pulling the heat out of the air or water. Other traits include strong female characters, emotionally intense scenes of all kinds, Mood Whiplash between scenes, and justified Rule of Cool, particularly of the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot and Cool Versus Awesome varieties.
  • Springtime for Hitler: During Butcher's time in college, after his first few attempts at writing High Fantasy fell flat, his teacher suggested that he should write a novel like the Urban Fantasy series he loved so much using her method of novel creation as a useful basis. According to Butcher, he got so fed up with arguing with her over the potential novel's merits that he decided to write the book "as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre-writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be." The end result was Storm Front, the first book in The Dresden Files, and the rest is history.
  • War Is Hell: While the combat in his novels provides many opportunities for the protagonists to do no end of ridiculously awesome things, neither do the books shy away from showing how much mental and physical damage conflict does both to the combatants and the civilians involved. While various candidates for Big Bad may use war for their own ambition, they never actually believe War Is Glorious (and anyone who does espouse that mindset is either seen as an idiot or is deliberately using it to manipulate others) and however cool the battles may be, the books do not for a moment suggest that the awesomeness outweighs the suffering and brutality.
  • Word of God: He pops into fan forums (including on this very site) every once in a while to confirm or joss plot points.

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