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Literature / Newshound

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Newshound is an ongoing Urban Fantasy Web Serial Novel, started in 2017 by M.T. Bade (aka GreenWolf) and updating fortnightly. Set in an Alternate History where werewolves, faeries, vampires, and magic have always been public knowledge, the story takes place in modern day Phoenix, Arizona. It follows the daily life of narrator Heather Stone, a werewolf and a journalist for the Sonoran Reporter, as she investigates what could be the biggest story of her career, all while dealing with the problems inherent to being a lycanthrope living in a big city.

Described by the author as something of a cross between All the President's Men and Kitty Norville, and like the latter it spends a great deal of time examining werewolf psychology. Heather's first-person narration, in addition to providing ample snark about the people and events around her, also offers a close-up look at the uniquely dysfunctional mind of someone who is equal parts human and wolf. Duality is a major theme of the story – much of the personal conflict stems from Heather's struggle to balance the conflicting demands of her human and lupine identities, and the overarching plot is driven by the problems created by the intersection of the paranormal and modern society.

Heather's narration is primarily addressed to an in-universe audience, so many of the more Mundane Fantastic elements of the setting are glossed over or given only cursory examination. Because of this, the author also does a series of Word of God posts, providing a more detailed look at the world and worldbuilding of the setting. These posts are mostly background fluff, but contain such details as Theodore Roosevelt being a werewolf, or the United States allying with the Soviet Union in a Second Korean War.

Newshound contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: Or the worldbuilding notes, as the case may be. The author has dozens of pages of notes about the setting and characters. Sections of these notes are occasionally edited for readability and spoilers, and then published as supplemental material, providing reams of background fluff that would normally be glossed over in-story.
  • Alternate History: Done very subtly. Heather's narration will occasionally reference background events, like the accession of Yugoslavia to the EU, that make it clear that history unfolded very differently in her world. Word of God posts about the setting cover this more explicitly, going into great detail about the various divergences from the real life timeline. Highlights include the continued existence of the Soviet Unionnote , Theodore Roosevelt being reelected in 1912note , and the inclusion of five additional states within the USnote .
  • Alternate Identity Amnesia: Heather's recollection of her time as a wolf is fuzzy at best, leaving her to piece together what she did the night before based on physical evidence and whatever flashes of memory she can extract from her lupine half.
  • Animals Hate Her: Dogs, and likely all canines, hate Heather, since lycanthropes fall into a canine uncanny valley of smelling wolfish but looking human.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Played with when it comes to werewolf packs. The internal hierarchy of a pack more often comes down to psychology and posturing than actual fights of dominance; the alpha of the pack is the person who commands the most respect, and that isn't necessarily the best fighter.
  • The Bartender: Heather's best-friend, Katrina Williams, works as a bartender at the Silver Bullet, an ironically named Good-Guy Bar which serves as a hub for Phoenix's shapeshifter community.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Theodore Roosevelt was secretly a werewolf. After his death, the revelation of this fact was used by his successor to push through an expansion of parahuman rights.
  • Big Eater: Heather, and by extension all therianthropes, needs to consume a lot of calories to fuel her shapeshifting.
  • Brick Joke: In Part 1, Katrina asks Heather whether it's a "vodka chased by tequila kind of early", only for Heather to order a beer. In Part 5, Heather orders a Long Island Iced Tea, a mixed drink made with vodka and tequila, commenting that it was "that kind of early".
  • Double Consciousness: Heather always refers to her lupine instincts in the third person, treating them as a separate entity whom she has to share a body and mental space with. The influence these instincts exert while in human form are the source of a great deal of internal conflict.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Newshound is a common slang term for a newspaper reporter, but it's also a literal pun about Heather, a werewolf journalist.
  • Enemy Mine: Back in the 1960s, Richard Nixon pulled one of these with the Soviet Union against China, which eventually lead to an outright alliance between the US and the USSR.
  • Enemy Within: Heather certainly thinks of her lupine instincts this way, although they seem to be a mixture of this and Double Consciousness.
  • Fantastic Racism: Low-key discrimination against parahumans appears to be relatively common, ranging from casual lycanphobia borne of ignorancenote  to outright hatred and calls for deathnote .
  • First-Person Smartass: Heather, naturally. While her narration tends to be more straight forward than most examples of this trope, she still inserts plenty of snarky observations into her descriptions of events.
  • Framing Device: According to Word of God, the series is intended to be Heather's memoirs, which often leads to some of the stranger (to us) Mundane Fantastic elements of the setting being glossed over, since the in-universe audience is already familiar with them. To address this, the author also makes occasional out-of-universe posts filled with notes about the setting, providing more details about the alternate history and paranormal elements.
  • Friend on the Force: One of Heather's primary contacts within the FBI is her twin brother Jonathan, who works out of the Bureau's LA field office. He mainly serves as an intermediary between Heather and other FBI sources, and as a way to cut through administrative red tape.
  • Good-Guy Bar: The Silver Bullet functions as one of these. The owner, a werepanther named Desmond Ward, opened it with the explicit purpose of creating a safe space for Phoenix's shapeshifters. The Phoenix pack regularly use it as meeting place because of this, essentially making it their de facto headquarters.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Federal Aviation Security appears to be an alternate history version of the TSA, with a similar level of competency (or lack thereof).
  • Government Conspiracy: As of Part 5, Heather appears to have stumbled onto one involving abuse of the no fly list.
  • Healing Factor: Werewolves and other shapeshifters have this as a Required Secondary Power. According to Heather, it's strong enough that she could probably survive most gunshot wounds.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Heather occasionally takes this attitude towards her lycanthropy, mostly when her lupine instincts get especially pushy.
  • Innate Night Vision: Heather relies on her wolf form's significantly better night vision, which persists in her human form to a degree due to morphic resonance, to navigate in a forest at night.
  • Innocent Bigot: Kurt Holmes is casually lycanphobic and prone to stereotyping, but only out of ignorance. Heather rarely bothers to correct him, instead playing his ignorance to her own advantage.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Most of the Sonoran Reporter's staff, to one degree or another, with Heather being the most prominent.
  • Ironic Name: The bar that serves as the de facto headquarters of the Phoenix pack is called the Silver Bullet. For additional irony, one of the bartenders is a werewolf named Katrina Williams, whom most of the characters, including Heather, just call Kat.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: This is the running conceit of the setting. Despite the Alternate History and The Unmasqued World, modern day Phoenix is almost entirely unchanged from real life.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: While Heather's wolf instincts are always present to some degree, they completely take over when she shifts into a wolf. This is emphasized by the complete and total lack of narration for any of her time in wolf form, since, after she shifts back, her human mind has only vague recollections of what happened.
  • Morphic Resonance: Actually called such in-universe. Heather explains that shapeshifters retain some degree of their animal traits in human form, and vice versa.
  • Muggle Best Friend: Rico Durante is this to Heather, acting as a confidant for her outside the pack.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Inherent to the setting. Things like werewolves, faeries, vampires, and wizards are viewed as normal and accepted as part of how the world works. Much of the conflict derives from the intersection of these fantastical elements with modern society and politics.
  • My Instincts Are Showing: Most of Heather's personal problems stem from the influence exerted by her lupine instincts, which gets harder and harder to ignore the longer she goes without shifting.
  • Nice Guy: Rico Durante, who serves as a foil to Heather's brooding cynicism.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Mexico.
    Rico: [Listing various things Heather has done without adequate planning.] That entire shitshow in Mexico.
    Heather: Mexico wasn't my fault.
    Rico: Ehh. Agree to disagree.
  • The Nose Knows: Werewolves have an incredibly good sense of smell, even in human form; Heather is able to smell water hardness. This is what tips her off to Katrina's new girlfriend, since she can smell the presence of the werepanther in Katrina's apartment.
  • Off the Record: Naturally comes up frequently when Heather talks to potential sources. The very first time this happens, Heather's narration includes an aside about the distinction between this and the related "on background".
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with John Byrd and Jonathan Stone, both of whom are werewolves.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: Has an entire worldbuilding post dedicated to it. It remains to be seen what variety President Joseph Kidd will turn out to be.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Therianthropes, or werecreaturesnote , are parahuman shapeshifters who can transform between a human and animal form (mostly) at will. They have a powerful accelerated Healing Factor, a hyperactive metabolism which is resistant to most drugs and toxins, and extremely good senses in human form. They also have a set of animal instincts which persist between forms, acting as a sort-of backseat driver in human form and taking control in animal form. Going too long without shifting results in a buildup of mental pressure from these instincts, which can cause physical discomfort and eventually result in an unplanned shift. Shifting is incredibly painful, does not include clothing, and appears to conserve mass. Shifting back from animal to human usually occurs while sleeping, although at least one character is able to do so while awake. In addition to werewolves, there are also werepanthers and weredingoes, with many more types implied to exist.
    • No mention has been made yet of whether therianthropy is infectious or not, although it does seem to be hereditary, given that Heather's family are all werewolves.
  • Painful Transformation: Extremely. As Heather puts it, there's no graceful way to go from plantigrade biped to digitigrade quadraped in the space of a few seconds.
  • Parental Abandonment: Heather is on the outs with her parents, for reasons unknown, and this is apparently a sore spot for her. When her brother asks if she's talked to their dad, she hangs up on him.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: Tony Reyes is just under five and a half feet tall, and commands the absolute loyalty and complete respect of 30 or so werewolves.
  • Post-Modern Magik: There's a subreddit for werewolves and werewolf problems. Several of them, actually. Heather uses them to gather information about therianthropes being targeted by the no fly list.
  • Properly Paranoid: In addition to her natural cynicism, Heather is jumpy and suspicious due to the influence of her wolf instincts, which don't quite know how to cope with life in an urban environment. As an investigative journalist, this occasionally proves useful for her.
    Katrina: You're paranoid, you know that?
    Heather: I prefer the term cautiously pessimistic.
  • Real-Place Background: Phoenix, obviously. The author, being a Phoenix resident, has actually tweeted photos of some of the places Heather visits in-story.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tony Reyes, alpha of the Phoenix werewolf pack, takes his role as the pack's protector seriously. When two members of the pack get stranded at an airport, he personally pays for their bus tickets.
    • Kurt Holmes, Heather's editor, to some extent. Despite being a casual lycanphobe prone to stereotyping, he is incredibly accommodating of his reporters, due to being a former beat reporter himself.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Shapeshifting ruins clothing, so most werewolves strip down before shifting. As a result, lycanthropes tend to be accustomed to nudity, at least around each other.
  • Shown Their Work: As evidenced by the extremely detailed wordlbuilding notes he occasionally publishes, Bade has done a lot of research on various areas of history. This is even the admitted motivation behind the worldbuilding posts, since most of these details would never be mentioned in Heather's narration.
  • Transformation Horror: Heather glosses over the most gruesome details of her transformations, but it's clear from what details she does provide that shapeshifting is not fun. It's bad enough that she closes her eyes so she doesn't have to see herself (or her packmates) shift.
    I didn't even have time to scream as my bones shattered.
  • The Unmasqued World: The background alternate history plays off of this, since things like werewolves and faeries have always existed in-story and shaped history in some subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Heather, to some extent. While her narration is perfectly accurate, there are conspicuous gaps where her wolf takes over, and some major fantastical elements get glossed over due to being mundane for the setting.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Werewolves (and other werecreatures) have this, being able to shift from human to animal form at will.