Conclusion of Steven Brust interview

A column article by: Park Cooper



When I was younger, I read Steven Brust's Jhereg series. This fantasy series of books features Vlad Taltos, a human assassin trapped in a world he never made with a flying lizard companion who is, telepathically, almost as much of a smartass as Vlad is.

I would also like to say that the excellent artwork of Vlad at the top of this section of the interview was done by Ashley Cope, who gave me special permission to use it.

Here is the conclusion of the Steven Brust interview.


Cooper: Say, what about RPGs? Was there some work in that regard going on at some point? I feel like I read something about that once recently, but it all gets mixed up in my head with reading about the Amber RPG and other things . . .

Brust: I'd enjoy seeing an RPG. No action on that either, I'm afraid.

Cooper: I'm aghast. Well maybe a little interview publicity can help make that happen. Any other wishes you'd like to make known, mighty one?

Brust: Hee.


Cooper: What DO you want? Are you happy?

Brust: Tough question.

I'm doing all right, all in all. If you know any cute girls who are desperately looking for low-income, pot-bellied balding guys, send 'em my way.

Cooper: Whaaaa?!? You're up for grabs currently? I didn't know that. Sorry to hear. Y'know, for your sake.

Brust: Thanks.

Cooper: So, okay, RPG, matchmaking, check. Ever RPGed, yourself? I expect the answer is yes . . .                                     

Brust: Yep. Here in Minneapolis, it was all about home-brew systems, so I did a lot of that. Not much for boxed games. The world that became Dragaera was originally a home-brew RPG run by Adrian Charles Morgan.

Cooper: Oh, wow.  Yes, home-brewing can be fun. Not that I have group. I almost never have had. But I'm all about the pastime on general principles.

Brust: The problem with doing it these days is the same as my problem with poker: everywhere is non-smoking, and I don't enjoy being twitchy.

Cooper: So what did you do, actually? Sounds interesting.

Brust: Lots of different things--some of them much like D&D with all traces of seriousness removed, others more, ah, the word I can think of is literary.

Cooper: No seriously, “The world that became Dragaera was originally a home-brew RPG,” I am dying to hear a little more about that, please . . . Did you play anyone like Vlad? Or Morrolan? Any more hints about that? I am imagining that there's some doctoral student out there writing his or her dissertation on RPG sessions that turn into famous series who's covered Wild Cards already and needs more vital information...

Brust: Well, Sethra Lavode was an NPC. Aliera was my wife, Reen; Morrolan was a guy named John Robey. Kragar was Steve Bond--who kept just sitting there quietly while things were going on until Adrian would go, "Wait, were you there the whole time? I guess they didn't notice you." Vlad was my character, of course. When we started playing, much of the world was just there in outline; so I sort of invented how the Jhereg worked, Reen and John more or less invented how the House of the Dragon worked.

Cooper: Aw, man. I’m very happy to learn about that.

Let's continue in the geek vein: Favorite movie of all time? Not necessarily a geeky one . . .?

Brust: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Followed by The Princess Bride and Bull Durham.

Cooper: How about video gaming? . . . I don't see you as the video gamer type somehow . . .

Brust: I almost always have some game going while I write. Lately it's been LOTRO.

Cooper: How does "having a videogame on while you write" work exactly? Write a little, play a little, back and forth, or . . .?

Brust: It's something for my forebrain to work on my backbrain thinks about the book. I always keep my current project open on one screen, so it keeps staring at me asking what the next question is.

Cooper: What was your fave before Lord of the Rings Online?

Brust: There was a text-only RPG called Gemstone for a while. For a long time, I really enjoyed Aces of the Pacific and Aces over Europe. Alas, I don't think those will run on Windows 7. But the most productive and profitable of all was online poker. It was perfect for writing and I made some decent money until the Fed shut the sites down. That hurt.

Cooper: Ow. Back to TV . . . have you been keeping an eye on Game of Thrones?

Brust: Haven't seen it yet.

Cooper: Hm, okay . . . Comic books? Favorite graphic novel?

Brust: I read anything by Neil. But I'm not a comic person. I'm dyslexic, and I think that's why my brain has trouble processing comics or animation.

Cooper: Heh. My wife and I met through a Sandman fanzine circa 1994 when such things were still done by mailing ink on paper. She's a Minnesota gal.

Brust: Ya sure.  :-)

Cooper: Neil's aware of us . . . just sort of shook his head as if to say "great, now they're marrying." Not quite rolling his eyes, but . . .

Brust: Hee hee

Cooper: Okay, the interview spirits are telling me to ask you about drumming. I can't help mentioning Random, etc., etc. Oh, and I think of the drum Robert Silverberg mentioned that Gilgamesh had, with its one stick, for going into a drumming-induced trance . . .

Brust: Drumming is fun on many levels. Playing the kit (which I'm not all that good at) you have the fun of filling a dance floor. With the doumbek, well, I can make music on that. It's all about listening. It's a kind of high you don't get any other way.

Cooper: Yeah, see, that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about.

Brust: Silverberg is very good.

Cooper: I got into Silverberg’s work with Lord Valentine's Castle. Another V-named character . . .

Brust: My favorite of his is Star of Gypsies.

Cooper: I haven’t read that. Read much Heinlein?

Brust: Of course.

Cooper: Star of Gypsies sounds like a Heinleinesque title. Favorite Heinlein? Mine is probably Job: A Comedy of Justice, which says something about me . . .

Brust: Um. Tough call. Probably Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Cooper: What are you most looking forward to these days?

Brust: Working on a sequel to Spiked with Skyler.

Cooper: I suspected you might say something Spiked-related.

Brust: Yeah, I'm more than little psyched.

Cooper: What's wrong with the publishing industry these days, anyway? No, that's negative. What I'm really asking is...

Brust: I have no idea. I work very hard not to think about that.

Cooper:  Yeah.

Brust:  Seriously, I have no idea. I think there are cool things happening--mostly having to do with Cory Doctorow. But I don't think in those terms. I just write books, and am very, very happy that I can make a living doing that.

Cooper:  . . . What I'm really asking is what you'd change if you were in charge.

Brust: I'd give me a lot more money.

Cooper: Tch. What would you do with it?

Brust:  Now, that, I can tell you. I'd build a huge paddlewheeler, big enough to live on, and I'd park it in Minnesota during the summer, and Louisiana in the winter. I'd host poker games and concerts. And I'd get a lot of writing done.

Cooper: I was going to ask you about Brokedown Palace, but then I remembered I hadn't even mentioned To Reign in Hell; tell me about that.

Brust: What do you want to know?

Cooper: Ummm . . . I guess I meant it as a sort of "Aw gee, mister, was it as super neato cool writing it as I imagine?!?" It certainly made quite an impression on me. The darkness, the chaos, whispering . . . if it WAS the chaos talking, and not someone else . . .

Brust: It was a struggle. I was doing a lot of experimenting; much of it didn't work so the re-write was intense. But I'm pleased with how it came out.

Cooper: And hey, a sea of chaos, incidentally.

Brust: The fun part of it was doing all the short scenes--that let me do a lot of opening and closing sentences, and I love opening and closing sentences.

Cooper: Yeah, that's where you're a Viking. And as long as I have you here, what exactly does Vlad’s world owe to Fritz Leiber, exactly?

Brust: Heh. Everything. With the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, Leiber invented the field where I make my living.

Cooper: Am I right that Verra comes up a lot in Brokedown Palace? Because that's how I remember it, but it's been 20 years or so since I read it . . .

Brust: Yes.

Cooper: . . . What IS a sea of chaos, anyway? I sort of imagine it like liquid antimatter. But worse.

Brust: That's a reasonable way to imagine it.

Cooper: Have you read Leiber’s The Sinful Ones? What about Our Lady of Darkness?

Brust: No.

Cooper: Aw, too bad, they're keen.

Is it a dumb question to ask why in the world anyone would be crazy enough to make Morganti weapons in the first place? Or am I much too idealistic about hominids' capacity for evil and spite?

Brust: Why would anyone be crazy enough to invent napalm? How about atomic weapons?

Cooper: Yeah, see, that's why I had a feeling it was just me. Sigh.

Well, I hate to let you go, since I'm afraid I'll think of a fantastic question as soon as I do, but I guess that's what follow-up questions are for. Anything you want to talk about that we haven't already talked about? There are all sorts of things in the Everything In The Whole Wide World Museum we haven't talked about . . .

Brust: One thing I want to mention. The editor who first discovered me (and just about every good fantasy writer from 1980-1990) is having financial problems, and we're doing an auction for her. I'm auctioning off the dedication to the next Vlad novel. 

  That would be Terri Windling.

Cooper: Sure, I read Bordertown, too.

Brust: Cool.

Cooper: But if I hadn't, you heard her name constantly back in the good old days.

Brust: Yeah.

Cooper: I'll try to get right onto editing this, to get the word out.

Brust: Thanks! The auction goes for another 18 days, so I'm hoping it'll be out before then.

Cooper: Okay! Well then I'll let you go, and I'll work on this as best as I can!

Brust: Cool. Thanks much, and take care.

Cooper: "Wave bye-bye to Steven Brust, Barb!"

 >she waves< "Bye-bye! Thank you!"

 Me too, bye! I'll be in touch . . . !

Brust: >Lizard Boy waves back<

Cooper: Thanks . . . !


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