More scenes from a book tour: Steven Brust's kick-ass JHEREG license-plate, on proud display at BookPeople tonight in Austin (so awesome to see so many happy mutants there tonight!).
There's still plenty of schools, libraries, shelters and other worthy institutions hoping you'll donate a copy of For the Win to them!
Next stop is Raleigh, NC, with a reading and signing at the Barnes and Noble in Cary on Saturday the 23d at 4PM. After that, it's Chapel Hill, NYC, Brooklyn and Toronto.
Full tour sched
Steven Brust's unauthorized Firefly fanfic novel
Steven Brust's IORICH: sword and sorcery and law and order
Brust's JHEGAALA, smart, hard-boiled swords and sorcery with great ...
Steven Brust's Dzur: witty and exciting heroic fantasy Read the rest
I've written before about Steven Brust's delightful, epic Vlad Taltos novels, a long-running series of sword-and-sorcery novels about a wisecracking human assassin in a land where the ruling class is composed of ancient, long-lived elves from a variety of noble houses named for animals. Brust has turned out a dozen of these novels to date (plus five more books in the style of Dumas, set centuries before the Vlad books), and they are, to a one, absolutely cracking yarns, Fritz Leiberesque novels where the steel flashes, the spells swirl, death is dealt, heroism is on display, and cunning saves the day.
But Brust's novels are also, to a one more than just fantasy novels. Each one is also a meditation on power, on freedom, on fairness, on economics -- even on cooking. And Brust doesn't use the action to sugar-coat the "message" -- no, the message, such as it is, is integral to the action revealed through it, naturally and engrossingly, so that each book is an education unto itself.
Take Iorich, the latest book, published last week. Iorich has the exiled Vlad Taltos returning to the capital city -- where he is a hunted man -- to rescue a friend from prison. And while Vlad has to do plenty of fighting and sneaking and skulking to get her out, the main method he employs is to use the law. And so Brust is able to skilfully blend a remarkable treatise on politics, law, justice, due process and even military ethics into a novel in which there is enough sword and sorcery to fill a dozen Vallejo paintings. Read the rest
I've been reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books since I was a boy, and nothing pleases me more than discovering a new one on the shelf, as I did this week, picking up the paperback of Jhegaala, the eleventh volume in the series.
For the uninitiated, Vlad Taltos is a human assassin in a strange world where humans occupy the eastern kingdoms and the rest is run by the Dragaereans, a long-lived elfin race whose sorcery is far more formalized than humanity's witchcraft (the human culture on Dragaera is based loosely on ancient Hungarian culture, and the magic is derived somewhat from Hungarian animist mysticism). Vlad lives among the Dragaera, pledged to the house of Jhereg, a mongrel house that you can buy your way into (the others are hereditary), whence come all the crime lords and assassins. In Vlad's storied, ten-volume adventures, he goes from street-punk to crime-boss to lordling to political operative, embroiled in a magnificently realized fantasy world that leaps off the page with a fascinating poleconomy, literary tradition, spirituality and history ancient and modern.
Vlad is a hard-boiled, wise-ass hero, whose narration is part of what makes the series so irresistible, laden as it is with deadpan humor, great observation, wicked emotional truths, and a keen gourmet sensibility (seriously: the food and drink in this book are so well described that I spent the entire time while reading it yearning for one of the marvellous cups of coffee or the hearty bowls of stew that Vlad subsists on through much of the tale). Read the rest
Elise Matthesen, conference chair for the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis, writes,
From 1986 to 1995, Steven Brust and his friends put on a deep,
intelligent, and intimate convention on the literature of the
fantastic. Its return in 2008 was so much fun that we couldn't resist
bringing it back again in 2009
Fourth Street is a small convention for people who are serious about
good fantasy and good books- serious about reading them, serious about
writing them, serious about appreciating them in all their various
forms. It's also for people who are serious about having a good time.
It's a weekend of high-quality, high-intensity, mind-stretching fun,
focused on books- there's a single track of programming that is at the
heart of it all. When everyone sees the same panels, it leads to
fascinating conversations in the consuite, hotel bar, and corridors.
Come and hang out with Catherynne Valente, Jo Walton, Pamela Dean,
Steven Brust, Sharyn November, Beth Meacham, Jon Singer, and many
other interesting folks. If you show up on Thursday evening, bring a
copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream, because we'll be having playreading
that night at the hotel, in between folding programs and prepping for
On-line registration will be open through tomorrow, Tuesday May 26.
Come and be part of the conversation. It will be better if you're
there -- you know it will.
Fourth Street Fantasy Convention
(Thanks, Elise!) Read the rest
In my latest Guardian column, "When love is harder to show than hate," I look at the fact that copyright protects critics who want to talk trash about creative works, but gives no real protection to people who want to say nice things about them.
Read the rest
The damage here is twofold: first, this privileges creativity that knocks things down over things that build things up. The privilege is real: in the 21st century, we all rely on many intermediaries for the publication of our works, whether it's YouTube, a university web server, or a traditional publisher or film company. When faced with legal threats arising from our work, these entities know that they've got a much stronger case if the work in question is critical than if it is celebratory. In the digital era, our creations have a much better chance of surviving the internet's normal background radiation of legal threats if you leave the adulation out and focus on the criticism. This is a selective force in the internet's media ecology: if you want to start a company that lets users remix TV shows, you'll find it easier to raise capital if the focus is on taking the piss rather than glorifying the programmes.
Second, this perverse system acts as a censor of genuine upwellings of creativity that are worthy in their own right, merely because they are inspired by another work. It's in the nature of beloved works that they become ingrained in our thinking, become part of our creative shorthand, and become part of our visual vocabulary.
Steven Brust, long one of my favorite fantasy writers, has posted the full text of a Firefly fan-fic novel he wrote. He talked to me about this book last year, saying that he just had to write it -- that it sat up in his head one day and demanded to be let out.
I have a theory about the cognitive basis for both fanfic and the arguments against it from some authors: as social animals, we have a lot of specialized systems for modelling and anticipating the actions and beliefs of others. The ability to predict whether another human is likely to kill you or mate with you is pro-survival.
I think that when we experience stories, we spin up that "person-simulator" we use on real people and use it to render out the people in the story. It's how we come to care about them, to empathize with them, to worry about the danger they find themselves in and to cheer them on as they strive to overcome adversity.
When you close the book -- or turn off the tube -- the simulator doesn't power down. Those modelled "people" go on living a life in your autonomous imaginative faculty, inhabiting the same numinous zone where the dead relations of whom you say, "Oh, if only great-aunt Foofaw were here, she'd just love this," the same zone as the characters in your life who are offstage but nevertheless "on your mind."
This is likewise true for authors. Just because the book is done, it doesn't mean that the simulator in which the characters have been playing out their lives switches off. Read the rest