“What we call fiction are actually other universes , real places with real people in them. Every writer, every artist, knows that feeling when the images, the words, just flow; when you feel less like creator and more like a conduit, when something is being expressed through you instead of by you. When that happens, you’ve become a channel for the energy of the multiverse.”

-DD Barant Death Blows (St Martin’s, 2010)

Quote – Fiction is Other Universes

Supernatural Superhero Secrets

A Review of D D Barant’s Death Blows (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2010).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Death Blows will be the second of DD Barant’s The Bloodhound Files novels that I will have reviewed. You can check out the review of book one by clicking on DD Barant in the Tags section.

In a world where everyone has supernatural powers, there are no need for comic book superheroes, so why does a man get murdered wearing a Flash costume… the costume of a superheroic figure from our world? Like the world of comic books itself, full of multiple realities, crossovers, dimensions colliding with one another, the comic BOOK itself becomes a vessel for taping into other realities, it becomes a conduit for crossing the dimensional barrier.

Barant’s world, dubbed Thropirelem because it is made up primarily of (lycan)thropes, (vam)pires, and (go)lems is one that recognises the power of the comic book. It is a world of magic that looked at the comic book and saw a medium that combined pictures, words, concepts of multiple worlds, and mass production and realised what this could do. When a comic book cult formed to use the power of the written word and inscribed image to change the face of reality, the population of Thropirelem could see the danger – True Crime Comics could become comics that were foretelling crimes that would soon come true.  As conduits for dangerous magic that could shift the mentality of all of their readers, comics were seen as a danger to society and banned.

So when murders begin happening in Thropirelem that have allusions to comic books, who do they call in but Jace Valchek, a human FBI forensic psychologist from our world who has been brought over to Thropirelem to find a serial killer. She may not have a lot of experience with comics, but she at least comes from a world where they aren’t illegal and where the figure of the superhero has permeated popular culture.  Plus, her background working with people with mental illness means that she can grasp the nuances of a mind that would use comic books as a method of murder.

Through the course of her investigations, Jace discovers a secret that the government has kept hidden, that comic books had been used as a counter-weapon against the comic cult and that even supernaturals need superheroes. But these superheroes, now having retired their super-powered weapons and hung up their tights, are now under attack and each of the murders is charged with comic and cosmic significance.

Comic books are the ultimate interface between the imaginary and reality, creating an imaginary world on the page – penning and inking it into existence. They are the perfect point of obsession for the deranged mind of a killer who intermixes reality and the imaginary and can’t distinguish between the two of them. Barant’s interplay between ideas of reality and imagination and the power of the written medium as a communication tool and point of connection evokes in the reader a curiosity about the nature of the university and the possibility of multiverses.

Barant’s discussion of the power of the comic reveals an interest in the persuasive influence of popular culture, and the ability of the written medium to create change. What we write about DOES have an influence on the world, though perhaps not so directly as the comic medium in Thropirelem.

Monster Worlds and Mental Illness

A Review of D D Barant’s Dying Bites (St Martin’s, 2009)
By Derek Newman-Stille

Jace Valchek is an FBI officer and a forensic scientist. She is used to things following understandable rules and used to having a strict moral code: no grey areas.

Author photo courtesy of D D Barant

When she is tossed into a world where the population is made up of 37% vampires, 43% werewolves, and 19% golems and humanity represents less than 1% of the population, she is forced to question the taken-for-granted notions she used to have, and enter into an ambiguous space where nothing is the same.

Vampires, werewolves, and golems are incapable of having mental illness, so, when a serial killer starts torturing and killing them, they need someone who has a bit of experience with mental illness, and they choose a forensic psychologist from an entirely human world. D D Barant’s Dying Bites explores what it is like to move from a position of privilege in a world that mostly caters to you and your body type to a world that is entirely foreign and that casts you as a minority, an abject outsider, a victim of hate crimes, and, potentially food. Jace is surrounded by manipulation, lied to by government officials and confronted with a group that could be freedom fighters or could be terrorists. Her firm view of right and wrong is called into question when she is part of the minority that the “terrorists” are advocating for.

Jace has to adapt to a world that doesn’t belong to her, whose structures and customs are not just foreign to her, but also excluding. In order to gain some degree of respect, she must wear perfume that allows her to pass as a werewolf (at least until the full moon comes around). She encounters tremendous amounts of racism from the society, where “pure blood” werewolves and vampires are trying to pass laws that deny humanity any rights and render them essentially cattle. She encounters human enthusiasts – people from supernatural races who have an interest in the un-supernatural and collectors of comics about human beings (the ‘underheroes’) and their amazing ability to still accomplish things while lacking so much. She is perpetually surrounded by reminders that she is a minority living in a world that is not built for her. And, as a vegetarian in a world of predators, she also learns what it is like to be a minority that may be an appetizer.

D D Barant portrays a world that diverged from our own in the 12th century when our world invented guns and theirs began the widespread use of the golem (a figure from Jewish mythology made of animated clay). Many of the events of their world are similar, but with nuances that separate them from our own. Bram Stoker existed in this world, but instead of writing about vampires, he was out killing them. Jace finds herself stranded in this world of monsters living everyday lives, but her faith in ideas of right and wrong and the law are called into question as she discovers government conspiracies, genocide, and secret projects. Dying Bites is only book one of The Bloodhound Files and already the world has been shaken.

You can explore more about D D Barant and his series The Bloodhound Files on his website at http://ddbarant.com/ .