Looking for Culture on Sci Fi Sundays with The Dresden Files, Battlestar Galactica

So, my initial passion for The Dresden Files has cooled pretty quickly -- that didn't take long. What, three episodes?

My problem is this: I'm not getting a sense of how magic fits into this world of Harry's, where he's a wizard private eye solving supernatural crimes for people who seem relatively unfazed by the idea of a wizard PI. Like it's nothing too unusual, and hiring Harry may be a little bit embarrassing, but no more embarrasing than you and I would find, in our mundane muggle world, hiring, oh, Jim Rockford or Thomas Magnum to find our missing kid brother or whatever. But these same people also seem to live in a culture that takes little notice of magic. The parts aren't fitting together: either the magical world is secret, as in Harry Potter, with the wider world unaware of it, or all things magical are integrated into the larger society. What we're seeing on The Dresden Files is neither. Magic in Dresden's world is arcane and ordinary all at once. Which is impossible. And boring.

For instance: When Harry got thrown in jail in last night's episode, and he tried to magic his way out, the fact that he couldn't do it suggests that perhaps jails have to have some sort of protective wards around them to keep wizards from busting out ... or else that wizards need their own special jails. But that would imply a law enforcement and criminal justice environment that has to deal with the possibility of magic being put to use against it, or unfairly. Harry and the lady cop were hunting a werewolf in this episode, and Harry obtained some evidence by magical means -- would that have been admissible in court? Are courts even dealing with issues like this? Why, or why not?

The Dresden Files has enormous potential, and I'm not ready to give up on it yet. But I think the writers are missing tremendous opportunities to have fun with both fantasy and detective conventions. (Does Harry do divorce cases? Wouldn't a magical marriage require magical means to dissolve it?)

Mostly, I'm sticking with Harry at the moment because it's on before Battlestar Galactica, and it's too late to sit down to Chinese takeout dinner in front of the tube on Sunday night at 10pm, so I have to start earlier, and Harry is there. And as much as I kid BSG, it's hard to imagine it turning me off permanently. Last night's episode was especially good: Helo got his own story, finally -- and hoorah! -- but the element here I really liked, particularly after spending the hour with Harry before wondering just what his world was really like, were the touches about bigotry and racism regarding the Saggitarions or whatever the crazy medicine-averse people were called. People out in space in the future or the past or whenever the heck they are may still be bigots, alas, but at least they've gotten past the concept of "race" as having to do with skin color, and have gotten around to hating people because of the content of their character.


MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com