Salem Wagner is the first of Crowley’s four lieutenants and, although there’s a flat hierarchy among Crowley’s lieutenants, the closest thing Crowley has to a second-in-command.
Salem is an intergalactically respected psychiatrist and psychopathologist. Like Crowley, Salem is equal parts dangerous and compassionate, depending on whether she’s an ally or a threat. In Lea Monde, she’s known as a healer of great renown. To Lea Monde’s enemies, she’s a purveyor of fear and nightmare-inducing psychotropics.
As with Crowley, she has a brilliant mind and a calculating intellect. Unlike Crowley, whose mind focuses on analysis, events and outcomes, Salem’s mind focuses on understanding living beings and sentient emotion.
Salem hails from Kepler 22b, one of the original colonies in the world of Draconis, and one of the most built-up planets in the outer systems. She earned three PhDs from the top university on Kepler 22b before eventually volunteering to be assigned to the Antares System in the Scorpius Cluster to reintegrate refugees from the Andromedan Civil War.
At that time, she met Crowley as a young man, who had by then taken over the refugee camps as an unofficial leader. After spending time with Crowley as his therapist, she defected from the EDF and joined him to aid in the formation of what would later be known as the Lea Monde cult.
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Salem is the head of one of Lea Monde’s four main houses: The Tsukuyomi. The Tsukuyomi specialize in psychiatry, psychology, genetics, diplomacy and medicine. Considered the ‘healing’ house of Lea Monde, the Tsukuyomi are a beacon to the grieving, the broken, the ostracized and the at-odds.
At Lea Monde’s House of the Tsukuyomi, beings of all species gather and get along, be they human, human-derived alien (such as the descendants of the first Martian and Venusian colonists who have evolved to adapt to their new homeworlds), genetically altered, or genetically enhanced animals. Even the native Martians, a shy, introverted species that bitterly avoids humans, who they perceive as inherently violent and savage, has representatives present in Salem’s house.
Salem, and the entire concept of Crowley’s four lieutenants, emerged as this idea that Crowley would surround himself with people who amplify his capabilities and shore up his weaknesses, both as surrogates and as teachers. And first among them, for the aloof and calculating Crowley, was someone whose ability to connect with people was also at genius level.
Crowley also is a person with enormous trauma, and so it makes sense he’d want to in-house a therapist and he’d want the best, because you can kind of see the way Crowley views it in his mind, which is he recognizes the damage having unhealed trauma could do to his goals and his formidability. And of course he would want someone he could trust like family.
So the idea of Salem is sort of that she’s the unspoken Queen of Lea Monde. There’s no official title, but everyone kind of knows that she’s the closest, most trusted person in Crowley’s orbit, even among his inner circle.
The sort of kernel of the idea for Salem was I liked this archetype of the doctor character as a villain, and what that person is capable of. Hannibal Lecter is the example that immediately comes to mind. Scarecrow from Batman. Just the way that these drugs are impossible for even the deadliest soldier to resist, scalable, and the true scope of their effects are mysterious and unknown to everyone but the doctor. Everything from anesthetics to psychotropics to pharmaceuticals that seem innocuous but have clear and measurable long term effects on behavior.
I think for Salem, like Crowley, more of the influences kind of came later, more similarities I noticed to other things than influences.
There’s definitely similarities with Dr. Takemi from Persona 5, that’s a huge one. Abby Sciuto from NCIS. I knew I wanted her to be goth, because something just seemed to fit about this hot goth doctor being the queen of Lea Monde. To that end, there’s definitely some Morticia Addams in there, especially the original 1960s one. Anna Karina from Alphaville. Maybe Elvira a little bit, although Salem is obviously much less campy.
There’s this woman on YouTube called The Truth Doctor who strikes me as very Salem, though Salem probably has a little more of that natural intimidation factor, the kind you find in someone like Joan from Mad Men, who I guess would be another character with some similarities, where you just kind of get the sense from her vibe that, like “Oh, if I cross this person, I’m gonna have a bad time.”