Fantastical beings need help GTD, right?
February 2, 2015 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Superheroes and vampires and dark overlords (oh my!) don't operate in a vacuum. They have meetings to schedule and budgets to balance and dry-cleaning to be picked up but obviously they can't be bothered with such mundane details. I want to read stories about the staff that gets those things done. I've wandered across a couple that I have enjoyed and would love suggestions in the same vein, especially if they are funny or lighthearted and play on the contrast between the extraordinary and the banal.

Some examples include:

Sliced Bread 2 tells the story of a young man who ends up working as an administrative assistant of sorts for a superhero.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley also falls somewhat in line with what I'm looking for, as part of our heroine's super skills are related to administrative tasks.

Blog/serial fiction format, ebooks, dead trees, short stories - all are fair game.

I'd have my assistant take care of this, but the last one quit after all the unpleasantness with the trolls and I haven't yet found a replacement. Memail me if you're interested in the job.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
It's not a book, and they aren't really superheroes, but your question made me think of Star Trek TNG's The Lower Decks. Which lead me to the TVTropes entry for Lower Deck Epsiode, which pointed to Orson Scott Card's "* Shadow" series under literature which I think fits, but then I had to close the tab to avoid going down a TVTropes hole but that's what I've got for you.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: Oh boy. You must read the Laundry Files series by Mefi's own cstross (Charless Stross). Computational demonologist fights bureaucracy and otherworldly horrors as an agent of an occult British secret service. The most recent one uses Agile with... monsters.
posted by canine epigram at 11:19 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series is essentially this, the M.Y.T.H Inc, ones exactly about the underlings when the "boss" is off doing something else. They are all humorous, in the Phil Foglio style---in fact Foglio did the covers.
posted by bonehead at 11:25 AM on February 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

A thing I tripped over last week which you might like is Lucy A. Snyder's Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. It's a collection of articles and short stories from a world where it's possible to control and reanimate the dead with the power of technology, and it's very focused on that bog-standard everytech response to living in such a world. I found it hilarious.

As a bonus, the titular first story can be read for free here if you want to get a feel for the writing. It's not book length, but in ebook form it's not book price either (I got my copy for $3.50).
posted by sciatrix at 11:27 AM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: You might also enjoy Resume with Monsters by William Browning Spencer. Not exactly what you are looking for, but a dark comedy about the terrors of the working environment, and, I think, one of the inspirations for Stross' Laundry novels.
posted by bonehead at 11:29 AM on February 2, 2015

Kind of from the opposite direction, but Marvel does the occasional Damage Control story, wherein we see the people who clean up after super-fights.
posted by Etrigan at 11:31 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may enjoy the game Middle Manager of Justice. Also Metafilter's Own cstross writes the Laundry Files series, which is about IT nerds fighting nameless horrors from beyond spacetime with eldritch magic, which is actually a very advanced branch of applied maths. Matrix management and paperclip budgets feature.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:16 PM on February 2, 2015

The Afternet by Peter Empringham (there's also a sequel). A glitchy computer system and some hapless minions are left in charge of the afterlife and it's all downhill from there.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 12:22 PM on February 2, 2015

Jasper Fforde's Chronicles of Kazam series is aimed at middle grade/YA age: "Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up."
posted by teditrix at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2015

The lovely British TV series "No Heroics" was sort of a Cheers/Friends-themed superhero show. The bar they all gathered in had one important rule: no superpowers could be used inside. The only exception was the bouncer, whose superpower was... less than ideal for a bouncer dealing with superstrong/telekinetic/superfast/flying/etceteras.

The main protagonist had problems actually doing superhero stuff, because he couldn't fly, so he had to take the bus, and usually arrived after a flying super had already saved the day.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:25 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, there is the archetypal story for this idea: Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, by Larry Niven.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2015

For TV, part of what makes "The Venture Brothers" so glorious, is it gets further and further into the bureaucracy of super-villains, from the lives of Henchmen, to the bylaws covering the Guild of Calamitous Intent.

Seconding the Laundry Files (really helped me cope with my stupid bureaucratic job - should have read more!).

For old school (1940), there is 'Magic, Inc' a novella by Robert A. Heinlein, dealing with a small business owner in a magical universe (more, dealing with a shakedown, situation).
posted by Elysum at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2015

Seconding No Heroics.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: I'm a big Patrick E. McLean fan. He has podcasts and ebooks called How to Succeed in Evil about an evil efficiency expert who is a consultant to villains.

I just started his audiobook (podiobook actually) of a Merchant Adventurer - which I've read but I really enjoy his audio, so I'm going through it again. It's about a merchant in a fantasy world who really just wants simple profit in his business, but winds up having to fight a dark wizard.
posted by mearls at 6:09 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a huge fan of the intersection between the fantastical and the mundane. As a palate cleanser which doesn't strictly answer the question, here is Ming The Merciless operating a vacuum.

More on topic of an answer, Neil Gaiman's Sandman books sometimes delve into the back stories and lives of the god-like Dream's support staff, and are well worth a read.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:11 PM on February 2, 2015

Best answer: I loved Super Human Resources.
posted by shesbookish at 8:19 PM on February 2, 2015

Lolth the Demon Queen, Mistress of Spiders, Queen of the Drow, Dark Empress of abyssal hordes, and her personal secretary Morag, a marilith (a six-armed serpent-form demoness, one of the commanders of the Blood Wars) had "a delicate relationship based on mutual scorn and exasperation" in Paul Kidd's novel Queen of the Demonweb Pits (2001).
posted by kadonoishi at 12:14 AM on February 3, 2015

If you're open to fanfic, there's the Odyssey series by Gairid, in which Lestat and Louis from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles take on a mortal assistant.
posted by daisyk at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2015

Related: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel by Steven Sherrill
posted by cephalopodcast at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2015

You might also want to take a look at The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Elements of fantastic realism in it too.
posted by cephalopodcast at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2015

Just saw this review of Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz, and wondered if it might fit?

The main character is a Bureaucramancer, from the review-
"Obsession is magic. You obsess enough, love something obsessively enough, it can become a power to wield, tearing right through things like physics. Felinomancy, deathmetalomancy, artomancy, videogamemancy - every flavor imaginable."

"Protagonist Paul Tsabo was entirely unprepared to find out there was anything exeptional about him. All he has in his life is paperwork. Forms and check-boxes and signature fields. Bureaucracy, that's what he does - and he does it well."
posted by Elysum at 10:37 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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