Dallas-based author Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam has a growing list of published stories and a Nebula nomination to her name, and now she has another honor: She has, in a way, rubbed shoulders with characters in the hit fantasy series The Magicians.
Stufflebeam won a contest by television network SyFy to write a short story set in the Magicians universe. The "Battle the Beast" contest prompted writers to publish a story of 1,500 words or less that involved a failed encounter between the show's cast and their antagonist, The Beast. The winner was promised a $10,000 prize and would have their story turned into a digital short by SyFy.
That sort of prize money is extremely appealing to short fiction authors who are used to much lower rates. The downside? If you don't win, you've spent time writing a story that you can't profit from at all, making this a contest that was most suitable for fans.
Stufflebeam fit the bill. She and her partner, Peter, are both fans of the show. He helped her work out what the plot for the short story would be and contributed some of the key details.
Her story, Party Tricks, won the contest and can now be seen as a series of animated shorts on SyFy's website. Better yet, she served as the model for the story's protagonist, Tara.
"They wrote me and said, 'The artist wants to model the character that you made after you. Do you have a problem with that?'" Stufflebeam says over the phone. She liked the idea, but wanted to make sure that the story wouldn't be changed in any way. "'If, for example, you're going to kill that character off, I don't think I can handle seeing something really brutal happen to someone who looks like me," she said, laughing.
"I had to send them a bunch of photos of me, and then they sent me these sketches and said, 'Hey, can you do these faces?' So I had to send them a bunch more pictures of me doing a surprised face, an 'in pain' face, a neutral face, and then I think there was a happy laughter one."
The TV show, like the book series it's based on (written by Lev Grossman), is set in a world that feels like a cross between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia with a lot more sex and drugs (it is not a series for children).
The main Magicians character featured most prominently in Stufflebeam's wining story, Party Tricks, is Eliot. In a fun twist, the actor that plays Eliot, Hale Appleman, narrates the animated SyFy short.
"It was very surreal," Stufflebeam says of both hearing Appleman read her words and seeing a representation of herself interacting with a representation of the actor. "I keep watching it and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm hanging out with Hale Appleman/Eliot!'"