Shadow Unit is a blend of The X-Files, Criminal Minds, and probably a half dozen other police procedural / supernatural type programs. Rather than being broadcast on television, the collective minds of Bear, Bull, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, and Amanda Downum have delivered over the course of seven short stories and one novel a full season story arc that most television shows would kill for. Except that Shadow Unit would never be broadcast, except maybe on HBO or Showtime.
The teaser description of Shadow Unit from the website:
The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit hunts humanity's nightmares. But there are nightmares humanity doesn't dream are real.They had me from hello.
The Behavioral Analysis Unit sends those cases down the hall.
Welcome to Shadow Unit.
Shadow Unit is a division of the FBI much along the lines of The X-Files where the Anomalous Crimes Task Force works on cases involving what has come to be called The Anomaly. The Anomaly is *something* that can take over a normal person, give that person some extra power and strength, and tends to push that person to do some really bad things. Local police and regular FBI can’t handle these sorts of cases, they don’t know what to look for or how to respond to it. Shadow Unit, colloquially called the WTF (yes, it means what you think), does.
Our Creators have written a series of stories with an exceptionally strong and well defined character list. With each episode the reader learns more about the characters. Some episodes will focus more on one or two characters not featured in a previous episode, but the strength of the series is that we are given a core group of characters to follow and fall for, and feel for. They make mistakes, but they are quite competent at their jobs. They are all at various stages of their careers and understanding of the Anomaly. They all have their backstories and over the course of this first season, we get a good look into the backstories of several of the characters, or at least enough of a look to feel like we know who they are.
I could not be more impressed and more thrilled with the Shadow Unit stories.
Shadow Unit is fairly interactive, with 8 stories, character livejournals (they respond!), various teasers, artwork, a message board frequented by three of the four primary authors (Sarah Monette doesn’t come round much, if at all).
Season Two should begin sometime next year, and I have heard it suggested there are plans for five seasons. One can only hope.
One comment I want to make about Refining Fire. Damn, it was good! Bear and Bull split up the finale into five parts, released over five days and each day I was left wanting more. By the end of the story, I was short of breath. Seriously. I had fear for Chaz, fear for the other agents, a bit of disgust at Reyes (and yet, I’m sympathetic towards him and I don’t know his backstory), and chills at the storytelling. If this isn’t nominated for awards next year, I just won’t understand.
The whole season is available to read for free online. If you like what you see, perhaps shoot a couple of dollars in the direction of the creators via the links on the website. This is professional level work provided gratis from professional writers. A couple bucks wouldn’t hurt, eh?
1. "Breathe" by Emma Bull
2. "Knock on Coffins" by Elizabeth Bear
3. "Dexterity" by Sarah Monette
4. "A Handful of Dust" by Will Shetterly
5. "Ballistic" by Sarah Monette, Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, and Amanda Downum
6. "Endgames" by Emma Bull
7. "Overkill" by Elizabeth Bear
8. Refining Fire by Elizabeth Bear and Emma Bull
Teasers and Deleted Scenes
Emma Bull’s essay on the origin of Shadow Unit
There is more than a little bit to do and see here. I loved every moment of Shadow Unit's debut season, and am now eagerly awaiting Season Two. They should really get paid for this, and paid well. It's damn fine work.