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A Conversation with Contributors to Thieves' World: Turning Points
Interview by Steven H Silver
October 2002
Thieves' World: Turning Points
Thieves' World 1
Thieves' World 2
Lynn Abbey
Lynn Abbey was born in the city of Peekskill, New York. She attended the University of Rochester getting 2 degrees in European history and was working on a PhD, when she decided to become a computer programmer working in New York City for a large insurance company. About the time of the NYC Bankruptcy Crisis of 1976, she moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. There she began work on her first novel, Daughter of the Bright Moon. Through 80s, she wrote more novels and co-edited (with Robert Asprin) the 12 volumes of Thieves' World,a shared-world anthology series. In 1993 she moved to Oklahoma City.

Lynn Abbey Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Lynn Abbey
SF Site Review: Turning Points
SF Site Interview: Contributors to Thieves' World: Turning Points
SF Site Review: Jerlayne

Raymond E. Feist
Raymond E. Feist has produced some remarkable novels. Most fall into his Riftwar Saga, consisting of Magician: Apprentice, Magician: Master, Silverthorn, and A Darkness at Sethanon, along with his Midkemia series consisting of Prince of the Blood and The King's Buccaneer, plus The Serpentwar Saga, consisting of Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King, and Shards of a Broken Crown. He developed the basis for the award-winning game, Betrayal at Krondor.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Krondor: Tear of the Gods
SF Site Review: Krondor: The Assassins
SF Site Review: Krondor the Betrayal
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Serpentwar Saga
SF Site Review: Rage of a Demon King
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown
SF Site Review: Shards of a Broken Crown
Return to Krondor (computer game) FAQ
Betrayal at Krondor (computer game) FAQ
Sierra Studios
Download Betrayal at Krondor

Dennis L. McKiernan
Dennis L. McKiernan was born in 1932 in Moberly Missouri. He lived there until age eighteen when he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving four years during the Korean War. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Missouri in 1958 and, similarly, an M.S. from Duke University in 1964. Employed at a R&D laboratory, he lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio. He began writing novels in 1977 while recuperating from a car accident. His novels include the trilogy of The Iron Tower, the duology of The Silver Call, and Dragondoom.

Dennis L. McKiernan Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Dragondoom
SF Site Review: The Writing of Dennis L. McKiernan: From The Silver Call to Dragondoom
SF Site Review: Once Upon A Winter's Night
SF Site Review: Hel's Crucible Duology
Dennis L. McKiernan Tribute Site
Dennis L. McKiernan Tribute Site

Diana L. Paxson
Diana L. Paxson grew up in California. As a child, she made up stories to put herself to sleep. She started writing seriously in 1971. Her first sale was 8 years later. Her influences include Marion Zimmer Bradley, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Mary Renault.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Book of the Spear
SF Site Review: The Hallowed Isle, Book One: The Book of the Sword

What did you [Diana L. Paxson and Robin Wayne Bailey] miss most about Sanctuary during its hiatus?
Diana L. Paxson: The series was ended rather abruptly. If I had known the last volume was going to be the last, I would have concluded Lalo's story arc. That has been like an itch I can't scratch.

Robin Wayne Bailey: Oh, there are several good answers to this. Primarily, I missed the interaction with the other writers. It was great fun to scheme out the stories. I loved calling Carolyn Cherryh up and asking, "Where's Ischade at this point in time?" Or calling Janet Morris to tell her, "Guess what I'm planning for Zip?" Or "Sure, I don't mind if Tempus rapes Chenaya, but don't expect her to take it lying down." So to speak. I've lost track of Janet, but Lynn and Carolyn and Diana Paxson, I still count as dear friends, and I loved the opportunity to work with them. There was terrific give-and-take among the Thieves' World writers.

Secondly, I also missed what I considered to be a very good vehicle for heroic fantasy. It's a sub-genre that's generally slid into disrespect. But Thieves' World was so unique and so successful that it commanded both attention and respect on its own terms. There were so many stories -- and so many kinds of stories -- that could be told within the Thieves' World framework. Remember an old television series called The Naked City? It had an opening that went, "There are eight million stories in the naked city...." And that was Sanctuary.

Thirdly, I suppose I should admit I missed the money. Thieves' World was a small gold mine.

Obviously, you [Diana Paxson] has at least a vague idea of what happened to Lalo, Gilla, and all their children in the years between Stealer's Sky and Turning Points. Do you know the specifics, or are you ignoring them until they become important to a story?
Diana L. Paxson: Yes, I worked out exactly what happened to everybody except Lalo himself, whose fate, after he went off with that caravan, is still a bit obscure. More information about them will appear in future stories.

You [Robin Wayne Bailey] published a Thieves' World story ["The Stars Are Tears"] while the series was not a going concern. What made you decide to set a story in Sanctuary?
Robin Wayne Bailey: The original Thieves' World master agreement gave all of us the right to try to market our characters. Janet [Morris] published a number of Tempus novels. Andy [Offut] published one or two Shadowspawn novels. Marion Zimmer Bradley published a novel with Lythande. David Drake did one or two novels with his character. I always kind of wanted to do a Chenaya novel. She was undergoing considerable change when the series ended. But I was tied up with other book contracts and never got around to it.

Ten years or so after the Thieves' World series ended, Stephen Pagel, then working at White Wolf Books, approached me about contributing a story for the Bending the Landscape: Fantasy anthology. You may remember this anthology was to contain stories involving gay characters and gay themes. Almost immediately, I thought about Dismas and Gestus, two of Chenaya's gladiator side-kicks. Dismas and Gestus had been lovers from the beginning. I asked him what he'd think about a Thieves' World story, if Lynn would okay it. He loved the idea. I loved the idea. And Lynn [Abbey] loved the idea. I thought wouldn't it be cool if it could revive some interest in the series. And it did, I'm very happy to say.

You [Selina Rosen, Dennis McKiernan, Jody Lynn Nye & Raymond E. Feist] were not a part of the original Thieves' World series. Did you read it as a fan?
Jody Lynn Nye: Yes. I discovered it about the time volume 9 was being published, and at once went back to read the others.

Dennis L. McKiernan: You betcha. I believe that I have all the Thieves' World books (some still packed in boxes from our move to Tucson, but nevertheless I have'em). I really enjoyed the series.

Selina Rosen: No. I didn't read any of the books till I was asked to write for the series. I think I was chosen because my style and humor matched what Lynn was looking for. She also knew that I take editorial direction without shrieking and always make my deadlines.

I own a micro press (Yard Dog Press) and I know what it's like to work with people who don't take editorial direction well and or don't meet deadlines. It can be a real nightmare.

I don't envy Lynn's position. She's basically assembled a team of writers (some of us who had never written for the series before, because some of the former writers didn't return) who each hopefully bring something different to the mix while staying within the confines of the universe. Oh... and they have to be able to work together and meet deadlines. Add to that the fact that this was a wildly popular series which went through a long hiatus so that there is much expectation, and you've got the recipe for a writer's and editor's worst nightmare.

Raymond E. Feist: Actually, I read it for professional reasons; I was part of the group at Midkemia Press that did the city encounter section of the original Thieves' World FRP game that was published to complement the books.

The world for which you [Raymond E. Feist] are most well known, Midkemia, has its roots in a role-playing campaign. What were some of the similarities and differences between the early Midkemia stories and writing in Thieves' World?
Raymond E. Feist: Little, really. One was a gaming construct, and the other was a literary construct. In Thieves' World, I had a writers bible and Lynn to call; in Midkemia I've got maps, and notes, and pages after pages of histories. There is more than twenty years worth of world building in Midkemia. If I want to know what happens when I turn left on a certain street in Krondor and what I'll see, I call my friend Steve Abrams and he breaks out a map and tells me what's in every store on the boulevard.

What do you [Selina Rosen and Raymond E. Feist] feel are some of the strengths of working in a shared world environment?
Selina Rosen: A ready audience. With my own novels, I have to find an audience. Thieves' World already has one, so all I have to do is write a story that those fans are going to like, and hopefully I've done that.

Raymond E. Feist: It's like playing in another kid's sandbox, with their toys. It allows you to deal with structures that are already in place, so you can concentrate on characters and not have to worry about world-building.

You [Jody Lynn Nye] recently completed a couple of projects in collaboration with Thieves' World co-creator Robert Asprin. How does working in a shared world environment differ from working on a collaboration?
Jody Lynn Nye: Shared worlds have to have tighter overall guidance. I've worked on shared worlds before, such as The Fleet (edited by David Drake and my husband, Bill Fawcett). Ground rules have to be established to cover every contingency that might arise in the creative minds of the pool of authors, so no one is stepping too hard on anyone else's toes -- no easy task. The basis of the world comes from the creator or creators, in this case Bob and Lynn; now just Lynn. With a single collaborator, both of us establish the world and negotiate changes. In a collaboration, even if one doesn't like one's co-author (and there are long-established published pairings who don't speak to one another and communicate solely by e-mail and letter), one must diplomatically approach the other to settle disagreements. In a shared world, if one has a turf problem, the 'moderator' can step in to help. That's a little easier.

How much consultation do you [Selina Rosen and Raymond E. Feist] do with the other authors while you are writing your story?
Selina Rosen: Robin Bailey and I kicked some things around -- we do many of the same conventions together and have been friends for years so it seemed natural for us to discuss the project.

I talked to Lynn a lot to make sure I was giving her what she needed. I read the Thieves' World bible Lynn shipped us all over and over again and read through the books.

I don't believe I talked to any of the other writers during the process of writing the story. If I did and I'm leaving someone out, they can slap me next time they see me.

Raymond E. Feist: I did very little, actually, because Lynn and I had agreed that I'd do a story that sort of took place "meanwhile, in another part of town," while all the big action took place "over there." So I read most of the other stories, but didn't talk to the other authors.

Although your [Dennis L. McKiernan] characters don't necessarily interact with characters in other people's stories, other authors include references to many of your characters. How much were you in contact with the other authors, while planning and writing your stories. Did you see their stories before the book was published (or in galleys)?
Dennis L. McKiernan: I saw the other authors' characters very little and was in contact with but two of the authors. However, my story was finished waaaaay ahead of the others, and it was sent out to the other authors, and so that might be the reason Halott and Rogi popped up elsewhere. Besides, I did start and end my story with two rather nice celestial events (which I checked out with some astronomer friends), along with a spectacular public event, and they seemed to provide the other authors some things they could reference in their stories.

How much did you [Jody Lynn Nye] look forward to possible future stories about Pel Garwood when writing "Doing the God's Work"?
Jody Lynn Nye: Plenty. I think he's a good character with lots of potential. I'm enjoying his sense of humor. His contrition doesn't change his fundamental character, which does tend to see the funny side. His humanity was wasted in the cult, and now that he is free and following a calling he at last has something to lose that he knows is worth keeping. I know a good deal about herbal magic and medicine, so I can draw on knowledge I already have, and concentrate on Pel's plight in the midst of the stimulating environment that is 'modern day' Sanctuary. Will he be forced to reveal himself as Wrath? Will he ally with one side or the other of the government? What will his relationship be with former members of the Hand?

In Turning Points, your [Selina Rosen] character Kadasah is the only Irrune we see who is not part of the royal entourage. How much freedom do you have in your depiction of the average Irrune in the street and their culture?
Selina Rosen: A lot... if I have a question, I call Lynn. I saw the Irrune as being very conditioned for an independent lifestyle in the streets of Sanctuary. Also, the character I created seemed to balance out the characters created by the other authors. In other words, I decided we needed a big fighting bitch with an attitude, and at least to me such a character would most realistically be spawned from the Irrune people.

Why did you [Robin Wayne Bailey] choose to completely ignore Chenaya and follow her nephew's story in "Ring of Sea and Fire?"
Robin Wayne Bailey: Lynn was very clear that the new Thieves' World series was to take place forty or fifty years after the end of the first series. In fact, in the planning stages, Lynn and I referred to it as Thieves' World: The Next Generation. Too much time had gone by. Rather than retell origin stories and explain old relationships and old histories, it was an easier, cleaner task to sort of wipe the slate. The background remained in place, and the concept still remained pretty much the same. But face it -- time had passed in the real world, too. Some of the original writers weren't available anymore. New writers would be bringing new characters and new approaches. It made sense for all of us to start fresh.

Do you [Robin Wayne Bailey] have any plans to explain what happened to Chenaya in future stories?
Robin Wayne Bailey: Well, who knows. Right now, the rules pretty much say let the past alone. But you'll note that Regan Vigeles bears the same last name as Chenaya and her father, Lowan. So he's related. And there are not-so-subtle clues that some member of that family -- some years ago -- did something so horrible that all the Vigeles property throughout the empire was forfeited, all their fortunes seized, and the Vigeles name made something shameful. So Regan doesn't even use his real name. Very few people know he is a Vigeles. To most of the world, he's "Spider."

Now, what happened to bring such shame on the Vigeles name? And is that a Chenaya story? Muhahahahaha! Perhaps someday I'll get to tell it.

What were some of the unexpected difficulties you [Selina Rosen] discovered about dealing in a shared world milieu?
Selina Rosen: As I told Lynn when she first approached me, I'm not used to playing in other people sand boxes. I'm used to writing my own universes, basically being a god there, having to answer to no one but my editor and publisher, and I have a publisher -- thank G-d -- who basically lets me write just exactly what I want to write.

I had never done anything like this so there was much studying, reading (especially since I hadn't read the books before), writing and rewriting. I didn't want to let Lynn, the other writers or the series fans down. It's a lot of pressure to write for fans who are expecting a certain style, charm and ambiance and who have been starved for their favorite series for so long. It's hard to write what you think they want and still stay true to your own style.

When creating a story for a Thieves' World anthology, what do you [Diana L. Paxson] try to do to set it apart from the other stories which will be appearing in that volume?
Diana L. Paxson: My specialty seems to be domestic relationships. In the first series, Lalo was one of the few decent family men around, just trying to make a living in the middle of chaos. Now the focus is on his daughter, who is dealing with the daily challenges of keeping an inn while dealing with her own life. There aren't very many mature mother-figures in fantasy.

Sanctuary is filled with foreigners of all sorts. Why did you [Dennis L. McKeirnan] decide to have your heroes other-worlders instead of merely foreigners?
Dennis L. McKiernan: I wanted Halott, my Necromancer, to start and end the story with some spectacular bit of magic, and yet I wanted to tell the story that I did. I originally considered crossing someone over from Mithgar (my series) but decided that it would complicate things too much, and so I crossed over my protagonists from a wholly new world. I also wanted to somewhat showcase Rogi, Halott's somewhat inept assistant.

Your [Raymond E. Feist] choice of ending for "One to Go" is a little surprising given that they are new characters in the first book of what will presumably be a series. What made you decide to go that route?
Raymond E. Feist: Lynn and I talked about the fact that early Thieves' World stuff was almost totally devoid of humor. The second volume even talked about that, but the stories still tended to the "serious" fantasy side. I just wanted to do something silly and swim against the tide, basically. I also didn't want to do anything that screamed "sequel" or promised another adventure with Jake. If I ever do another Thieves' World tale, it'll be with different characters.

Although Regan Vigeles appears to be the protagonist in "Ring of Sea and Fire," Aaliyah is a more exotic, and potentially intriguing character. Which character will you [Robin Wayne Bailey] feature as protagonist in future tales?
Robin Wayne Bailey: I've already agreed to do a story for the next volume, and Regan and Aaliyah and Ronal will be my continuing core cast. I am fairly pleased with Aaliyah. Sanctuary had never had a shape-changer before. And the cast has always been a little bit white-bread, so I wanted a black woman on Sanctuary's streets. Yeah, she is kind of exotic and intriguing, but she's made so because we don't see into her mind at all. We don't get a look at her thought processes. At least not in this story.

What were some of the weaknesses of the original series and do you [Robin Wayne Bailey and Diana L. Paxson] see any way they could be avoided?
Robin Wayne Bailey: Well, the "Superman" syndrome really got out of hand. Tempus, Roxanne, Ischade, Chenaya. Toss in a sometimes-active Vashanka, a couple of God-babies. Even Lalo the Limner, a character I really loved, developed incredible super powers. I think, for me at least, that was getting boring. You had to wonder why the hell the normal citizenry wasn't fleeing the city in screaming droves. The upside, however, is that all those Supermen began to make the milder characters, by contrast, look really good -- Andy's Shadowspawn, Drake's caravan master. I even put Chenaya off-stage for a story so that I could concentrate on her normal-guy partner, Dayrne.

Also, the magic got really out of hand. Alfred Bester originally created a fairly restrictive magic system for the series. It got tossed aside much too quickly and the only magic rule that remained was "anything goes!" One of the things I wanted to achieve with "Ring of Sea and Fire," was make sure that everyone remembered the magic was still somewhat dampened in Sanctuary.

Diana L. Paxson: The magical battles kept escalating, and we had to keep upping the ante to keep pace. It's necessary to change things to keep the challenges and the action going, but I hope we can keep the focus on character rather than fireworks.

What major differences do you [Robin Wayne Bailey and Diana L. Paxson] see between the initial Thieves' World project and the current incarnation?
Robin Wayne Bailey: There are the obvious ones. New characters and a new political situation. I think Lynn intends that each story should stand on its own this time around. At least, that's my impression. Stories in the old series had become just a little too much like chapters in a book. Chapters are not necessarily good stories -- they're fragments of something larger.

Diana L. Paxson: One major difference is in the status and power of the various deities and their priesthoods. Sanctuary is still shell-shocked, and the gods, like their worshippers, are laying low. Admittedly, things did get a bit out of hand towards the end of the earlier series, but I hope that some of the gods and goddesses will wake up and get active again.

Of all the characters who have wandered through Sanctuary's alleys, which would you have most liked to create other than your own?
Diana L. Paxson: Cappen Varra -- it's our loss that Poul Anderson is no longer around to add his own brand of magic to Sanctuary.

Selina Rosen: Dennis McKiernan's, secondary character Rogi. Why? Well because he gave the character a huge shwang with a dragon tattooed on it, which of course gets him at least mentioned in damn near every story in Turning Points, including mine.

Dennis L. McKiernan: Well, I haven't seen all the other authors' stories, but I do like Raymond Feist's character, as well as Robin Bailey's two. I really like Halott and Rogi, though, and I don't think I'd trade. [smiles] However, if you are referring to the previous characters in the series, I rather like Shadowspawn.

Raymond E. Feist: Boy, that's a tough one to answer. I like a bunch of them. I'm a sucker for quirky characters, and there are a bunch of them in Sanctuary. I'm writing this from Scotland, so I don't have the other stories with me, but I'd have to say the fugitive character, the scholar [Heliz Yunz] who's the last of the supposedly destroyed magical order appeals to me as much as anyone else.

Robin Wayne Bailey: Oh, damn. I'm having my first "senior moment!" I'm forgetting the name of the wizard [Enas Yorl] whose house keeps moving from place to place and whose form changes uncontrollably. I found him fascinating. So much so, that he was the very first resident of Sanctuary that Chenaya sought out on her own to meet and talk with -- and to have sex with, the little teen-aged slut.

Jody Lynn Nye: Lynn's Molin Torchholder, Bob's storyteller [Hakiem], and Diana Paxson's balance-maintaining magician [Lalo].

Copyright © 2002 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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