We’re honored by the review on Black Gate of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters

Reblogged from Black Gate:  https://www.blackgate.com/2015/06/16/heroika-1-dragon-eaters-edited-by-janet-morris/

Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters edited by Janet Morris

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_15175053GW6bP5j3For the past several months I kept seeing notices for the coming release of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters. Edited by Janet Morris, one of the true heavies in heroic fantasy, and someone I have known online for several years now, I knew this was a book I was going to be reading. That its table of contents included several writers I’m a big fan of as well as many whose names I’m starting to hear good things about made it look better and better. That it’s about killing dragons sealed the deal. So when John O’Neill asked if I wanted to review it and I could have an e-book of it, I said “YES!”

I’m happy to report that with all that buildup, it’s a terrific bunch of stories. Anthologies are great because you can pick them up and dive in anywhere and take a short, rewarding excursion into whatever genre it is. I generally don’t read anthologies from cover to cover in a short period of time. Reading for this review it turned out I wanted a break from dragon-killing when I tried to finish the book in only a few big sessions. There are a few stories that aren’t to my taste, but there are no clunkers and some real treasures in this book.

The stories, and there are seventeen of them, are presented chronologically — well, the ones set in the real world anyway. Those set in more fantastical settings are fit in among the medieval ones. In the earliest tales dragons stand toe-to-toe with the gods. Slowly, they lose that stature and become mere monsters. Deadly, true, but no longer forces of raw, elemental chaos. Eventually they’re regarded only as mythical. In the future, scientific explanations have to be found for their existence.

Janet and Chris Morris’ “The First Dragon Eater” opens the book. Narrated by Kella, a priest of Tarhunt, it tells of the battles between the Storm God, Tarhunt, and the dragon, Illuyankas. Taken from Hattan myth, it’s probably one of the earliest tales of dragon-killing. The story’s style — formal sounding, as if something recited in a temple — lends gravitas to the introduction of the monstrous worms that figure in so many world myths and fantasy stories.

“Legacy of the Great Dragon” by S.E. Lindberg moves forward into ancient Egypt, as Thoth, physician of the gods, helps Horus to find power to avenge the death of his father, Osiris, at the hands of Set. This is a wild piece, with a cosmically huge dragon and gods fighting inside of it.

The Morrises return one more time with “Bring Your Rage.” Set in Greece’s Heroic Age, hunting a dragon is a chance for a group of warriors to prove their mettle.

Thoas, the lame and grizzled Achaean, pushed the thrown stone aside with his toe. “War is brewing, stranger, thus have I called this hunt. Here we stalk dragons to find the strongest, the bravest among you northerners, to fight at Troy. What’s to lose? Your life. What’s to win? Your legend — your aristeia, to be claimed in my contingent on the battle lines at Ilion. I am Thoas, son of Andraemon, lord of Aetolia. I seek only the best of you barbarians to ship with me.”

oie_15183358Sb9GUYCsThe brutal hunt is recounted by by Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, who has come looking for death in battle after she accidentally killed her sister. Her telling is stirring and memorable.

In “Aquila of Oyos” by Walter Rhein, a dragon is undone by trickery and arrogance.

Cas Peace’s “The Wyght Wyrm” brings a Christian warrior, Jorj, to the Isle of Wyght. There he faces off against a dragon called up out of the past by Druids hoping to restore their old dominion over the British Isles.

After years of hunting and killing other dragons, an aged warrior has finally found the one that killed his family in “The Old Man on a Mountain” by Jack William Finley. It’s tight and tough, and you can feel every ache and pain as the dragon slayer climbs to his prey’s lair.

“Of Blood and Scales” by A.L. Butcher is a complex tale of politics, magic, and griffin-riding dragon-hunters. I found it a little too long, but the terrific aerial battles against the dragon more than made up for that.

Deadly jaws snapped shut just short of the griffin Julius was flying, tugging a feather from its wing as Julius steered it away, trying to deflect the beast’s attention from his friend. Once more Hawk dived past the dragon’s nose, seeing Rufus steering Bloodsnap around and upward. He hoped his griffin was faster than that dragon, its last attack had barely missed him. Perhaps, he thought, the sight of Rufus would be his last vision, save the inside of a dragon.

oie_151815xQ1JjnZmDragons appear as malevolent servants of pagan rule in ”Night Stalkers” by Travis Ludvigson. Sent to break the spirit of the pagan Saxons, Charlemagne’s champions, Roland and Ogier, find themselves up against monsters summoned out of the darkest pits. This is one of my favorites in Heroika. Faced with the prospect of several dragons, the warriors are forced to develop a plan of attack and then build a team and train it. It’s a great mini-epic with bloody dragon rampages under the eaves of dark German forests.

On a forest battlefield littered with Saxon and Frankish dead, Roland and Ogier meet their first dragon:

Tendrils of acrid smoke rose from the deep hole in the earth, carrying a putrid odor that caused several warriors to retch.

Following the stench was the sound of something large scraping against rock, growing steadily louder as it neared the surface. As the sound from the hole increased, Roland called the men together to form a shield wall and ready their weapons.

As they watched, an enormous scaled talon reached up from the hole and grasped the edge, rending the stone apart. This was immediately followed by a nightmare from the darkest depths of the underworld: a dragon.

No longer a personification of cosmic immensities, nor simply a beast to fight, in “Forged” by Tom Barczak, the dragon is an insidious manipulator hiding his true form in the guise of a man. He’s a positively satanic figure, and it’s not steel and strength that are required to fight him, but love and sacrifice.

In J.P. Wilder’s “The Rhyme of the Dragon Queen,” a band of dragon-hunters marches off to slay an ancient dragon harrying the town of Devasta. It felt over long, but the final confrontation with the monster is exciting, with the added bonus of a pair of mind-blowing reveals.

“The Dragon’s Horde” by Joe Bonadonna is a great, pulpy, creep-inducing story of genocidal war between mankind and dragonkind. While humans killed all the dragons five centuries ago, they were unable to destroy their dragonmen servitors. Now, the enemies live on either side of a mountain pass, in a constant state of battle. From their fortress, and possessing superior arms and discipline, humans have managed to keep the dragonmen mostly to their side of the pass. When the dragonmen successfully attack they take the heads of those they kill and steal off with any children they can grab. For centuries this has been the way of things.

When a priestess shows up at the fortress and claims a new dragon queen is about to be born all that changes. Guided by her goddess, she must assemble an expedition and enter the dragonman-infested wasteland beyond the pass and find the unhatched queen.

Bonadonna is a deft hand at writing fast-paced, bloody action, and there’s lots of that in “The Dragon’s Horde.” But he’s also good with atmosphere and mystery. Of the the last, there are several in the story. The darkest involves the eating of the dead dragonmen by the human warriors after each and every battle. Like I said, creepy stuff.

In “Wawindaji Joka (The Dragon Hunters)” by Milton Davis, the hidden connection between dragons and those who hunt them is revealed. Davis is skilled at creating introspective warriors like this story’s protagonist, Jimbia. More than the dragonhunt itself, which is done well, the core of the story is how Jimbia is transformed by it.

“Against the Sky Tomb of the Earth Kings” by M. Harold Page gives you just what the title says: a giant flying mausoleum filled with corpses. Then it gives you an airship, a crew of mercenaries, and of course, a dragon. Page brings the biggest, most brutal battles toHeroika, as an entire city is laid waste. This is great, wild storytelling.

“Red Rain” by William Hiles is the first story in the collection to step out of pure fantasy and into the modern world. Union soldiers in the western Virginia mountains find themselves up against one thing they never expected — a dragon. Hiles does a good job depicting how the soldiers must first accept the frightening reality of what they’re facing, and then how to kill it.

“La Bétaille” by Beth W. Patterson is my favorite story in Heroika. Her prose is often beautiful, wonderfully evoking the wild Louisiana swamps and their denizens.

Pichou, a young girl in Cajun country, is the only person who realizes something is secretly working evil on the people of her neighborhood. She soon discovers that her opponent is a vast, dark power that hides deep in the swamp bending things to its will.

The reptiles were heading toward an enormous boat the like of which she had never seen before — a boat as big as her cousin’s trailer.

Then a glowing white light appeared in its upper window. A divided partition rolled slowly left and right, scanning the water.

This was no boat. It was the head of the biggest alligator Pichou had ever seen. But it couldn’t be…Perhaps it was a dinosaur? Like a coelacanth, thought to be extinct for eons.

Impossibly, “Fire on the Bayou” sounded in her head as the reptile’s giant mouth opened, disgorging searing flame into the night.

tyrannosaurus rex with feathers

Pichou is a great character, bold and determined, and I’m hoping to read more of her adventures in the future.

Bruce Durham’s “Arctic Rage” is a post-apocalyptic dragonhunt story. In the near future Earth is overrun by dragons, nuclear winter blankets the world, and the remnants of humanity have been pushed into the farthest North. This one’s got a mecha in it, so that’s great.

Heroika’s closing story, “Sic Semper Draconis” by Mark Finn doesn’t have any dragons at all, but it does have a completely up-to-date feathered T. rex. A massive time portal has opened in the southern hemisphere and flooded the Earth with dinosaurs. Long and tough experience with them has allowed humanity to more or less handle them. More or less.

Too many anthologies pick a tone and then it doesn’t vary from story to story.Heroika avoids that. Connected by the themes of heroism and dragon-fighting, it allows room for varying styles of mythic tales and heroic fantasy as well as all-out pulp craziness.

I’m excited to see so many stories, so many of them quite good, together in on place. I’m a fan of anthologies and there aren’t enough of them for my tastes. We’ve all read that fantasy readers only want long novels and that not enough people buy anthologies. Janet Morris has done a great job and is to be commended for taking a chance and getting this out before the public.

Perhaps the best thing about Heroika is that number 1 in the full title. Right now Morris is hard at work preparing the next volume, to be subtitled Shieldless. If you’re like me, that sounds pretty awesome.

2 Comments »

  1. Fletcher, thanks so much for your comprehensive review of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters. As you mentioned, we’re hard at work on Heroika 2: Shieldless, which Perseid Plans to publish in 2016.I’ll also take this opportunity to thank all our writers and our production team for working so hard to make this concept a reality. — Janet Morris, ed.

    Comment by sacredbander – June 16, 2015 1:57 pm

  2. Awesome coverage of an awe-inspiring collection of – as you said – ‘heroism and dragon-fighting’ tales! Crests off and swords raised to the editors, authors, and designers of the first in hopefully a long line of heroic anthologies.

    Comment by Jason M ‘RBE’ Waltz – June 17, 2015 12:54 pm

Is History the Agreed-Upon Lie: Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, Janet Morris, ed.

First published at: http://ishistorytheagreeduponlie.blogspot.com/2015/05/dragons-throughout-history-by-janet.html

Saturday, May 23, 2015

DRAGONS Throughout History by Janet Morris

Our “History as the Agreed-Upon Lie” began for the human species when we first painted animals on cave walls and left our hand-prints there; then in Mesopotamia  where we cut decorations into monumental stones as early as the 12th century BCE.  Were there ever dragons —  real ones?  Many cultures refer to them in myth and legend: some had legs; some but not all breathed fire; some lived in the ocean, others on  land; some flew.
So perhaps dragons hide deep in our racial memory, going back to the days when we were the size of German Shepherds and lethal beasts ruled sea and ground and sky. Did we ever eat them?  Today, the most fierce and proud of Western civilization’s professional warriors may refer to themselves as “snake-eaters”  — not because of their dietary preferences, but because of their strength, determination, and competitiveness.For more than thirty years I, with my husband Chris Morris and other like-minded folk, have been exploring the heroic ethos as did Homer in his day and Shakespeare in his:  not simply the “monomyth” of Joseph W. Campbell, but also heroism and anti-heroism as it has shaped our myth and cultures, and still does today.  In novels we like to read and love to write, history and myth and legend mix and reinforce and explain and articulate one another as only the written word can do.  Writers have depended on myth, legend, and history in disparate portions to create humanity’s greatest literature — the better the writer, the bigger the serving that writer gives us of history turned dramatic and allegorical.We live today in a time where anti-heroes are ascendant, which makes exploring the heroic ethos even more interesting.  Was Achilles an anti-hero?  Or a hero?  Homer blamed him, at the start of the Iliad, for the many souls his petulance sent down to Hades; later, when the Amazon Queen Penthesilea insists on facing Achilles in single combat at Troy, he warns her in a demeaning fashion, then kills her with one blow to her breastplate.  Then, taking off her helmet, he falls in love with her and  kisses her dead mouth on the battlefield in an undisguised act of necrophilia.  Humans are complex, have always been.  Homer, better than most, showed us the manifold nature of the heroic heart.

When we had a chance to develop a series for Perseid Press called
“Heroika,” anthologies, books designed to treat the heroic ethos
throughout human history, we jumped at the chance.  We called the first
of these anthologies, “Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters,” not expecting our
writers to take the “dragon eating” part seriously. But some of them
did.  Some even offered me olden family recipes… These story span
man’s recorded myths and legends of dragon hunting, from the third
millennium BCE and Hittite/Hurrian Myth of Illuyankas to tales of
magical realism set today and tomorrow. The men and women in these tales
include hero-cult figures such as Heros Equitans,  Rhesos of Thrace, who
preceded the myth of St. George and the Dragon yet embodied it, as well
as people who might live in your town, might have lived in your time, in
your grandfather’s time…. Heroika may yet present nonfiction articles
in subsequent volumes. This, the first
volume, relies solely on fictional tales… or does it?

So we ask you — no, better, we dare you to put aside your preconceptions and see what seventeen agile minds made of our call to duty as they each wrote a story about “Dragon Eaters” in human history, some about the men and women themselves, some about the myth, some about our racial memories.

Perseid Press specializes in writers who write dangerously for readers who read dangerously. In Dragon Eaters, people test themselves and their beliefs against forces of nature and hope to prevail with … the art of dragon killing:

Here’s a description of Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters, publication date May 25, 2015

“Dragons have been eating humans for centuries. Now heroes throughout history stalk their legendary foe. Learn how to hunt, kill, and eat the wild dragon. Never before has revenge tasted so good. A literary feast for the bloody-minded.

In Janet Morris’ anthology on the art of dragon killing, seventeen writers bring you so close to dragons you can smell their fetid breath. Tales for the bold among you.

HEROIKA 1 — DRAGON EATERS, an anthology of heroic fiction edited by Janet Morris, features original stories by Janet Morris and Chris Morris, S. E. Lindberg, Jack William Finley, Travis Ludvigson, Tom Barczak, J. P. Wilder, Joe Bonadonna, Milton Davis, A.E. Butcher, William Hiles, M Harold Page, Walter Rhein, Cas Peace, Beth W. Patterson, Bruce Durham, Mark Finn.

Come explore your own ancient history with us, in Heroika 1: Dragon Eaters.  Live a little — read dangerously.

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – JANET MORRIS

How the sacred Band began…

Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

first published in http://pczick.com/2015/05/13/author-wednesday-janet-morris/

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World(TM) series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves’ World might be about, I said yes.

After the panel, Bob Asprin explained what he wanted: a story of up to ten thousand words, set in Sanctuary, a town meant to be the armpit of fantasy, a town we writers would all share as the locale for our stories. Our characters would remain ours to do with as we pleased elsewhere, but the Sanctuary locale was the “shared” part of the anthologies, and Bob would send me a backgrounder about the town and the unfortunate and corrupt people who lived there in some forgotten place and past. He said he wanted it dark; he wanted the characters to be thieves and murderers and witches and such, and the government to be unable to keep the peace. There was one volume of this shared anthology already published, and Bob said he’d send me a copy of the book to show me what others had done.

But by then I already knew what I wanted to write, and what characters I wanted to use. I had written a very short story about a mage-killer, Cime, and her target, Askelon, the last great archmage, and the place where he ruled. I asked if I could bring some pre-existing characters and places, and the editor gave me permission. I asked if I could write characters who were both heroic and anti-heroic, and the editor said yes. So I originally thought I’d expand my existing story, and reference my archmage’s world of Meridian, an island which only sometimes appeared in our world. Bob Asprin okayed this as well.

But by the time I arrived home, I had another story in mind: Tempus, my character, had come storming into my brain: Tempus the Riddler, Tempus the Black, Tempus the Obscure. Tempus would be analogous to Heraclitus of Ephesus, but be the man Heraclitus would have been if he’d done what he advised others to do. So from that assignment came Tempus at his nadir, once a general, now a mercenary fallen on hard times, alone in lawless Sanctuary with a mission from the capital to see if the feckless prince who ruled the town could ever make a king. Cime would be called his sister, and Askelon his nemesis, but first I had to introduce him in a way that would make the editor want not only that story, but more stories of Tempus and Cime and the wizard-ridden world they perceived.

So I wrote, “Vashanka’s Minion,” the first story in the Tempus epic; Bob loved its anti-heroic flavor, and asked me to do another, which was “A Man and his God,” in which two men kiss, a priest of the Storm God dies, and Tempus’ world forever changes as he inherits the Sacred Band.

Right there, when the Sacred Band begins, the story becomes historical fantasy, since our Sacred Band is modeled on the heroic but doomed Sacred Band of Thebes.

I loved writing the first Tempus stories; the characters obsessed me; once I connected Tempus to Heraclitus and fantasy Sanctuary, a forgotten backwater in the real ancient past, I knew exactly what to do. I have never had more fun writing.

And evidently the readers had fun reading the Tempus stories, for the Thieves’ World series was a great success, selling more than a million copies, success enough that I could propose and sell a stand-alone Tempus book, to be a novelized anthology in which my earliest Tempus tales are seen by his young companion in war, Nikodemos. And in which (even better) I could publish my story about Cime the mage-killer and Askelon, lord of dreams who rules Meridian.

It was during this interval, as I was preparing the novelized anthology, Tempus, that the shared-world Thieves’ World became a bestseller; then I also sold the to-be-written trilogy about Tempus and his Sacred Band, called the Beyond trilogy (Beyond Sanctuary, Beyond the Veil, Beyond Wizardwall) as hardcovers to Baen Books, as Science Fiction Book Club selections, and as Ace mass market paperbacks. Subsequently, I wrote three more Tempus novels for Baen, and then many years later assembled the final Thieves’ World Sacred Band tales, along with new stories written expressly for that volume, in a second novelized anthology, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, and also, for Perseid Press, the epic Tempus novel, The Sacred Band.

For more than thirty years now, I have been writing about Tempus (and his sister-in-arms Cime, and the Sacred Band of Stepsons), and he has been living in my head much in the same way that Tempus is inhabited by Enlil, the Akkadian Storm God. But this book Tempus is the original, the earliest, and these are the tales that made Tempus famous — how it all began.

Janet bio pic cropped 12 05 13 Janet B&W Portrait 2About Janet:  Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. She has contributed short fiction to the shared universe fantasy series “Thieves World, (TM)” in which she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She created, orchestrated, and edited the Bangsian fantasy series Heroes in Hell, writing stories for the series as well as co-writing the related novel, The Little Helliad, with Chris Morris. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and contemporary novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.

Click below for links to more about Tempus and Janet Morris

Wikipedia page for Tempus

Wikipedia page for Sacred Band of Stepsons series

Janet Morris Wikipedia bio

Amazon Author Page

P.C. Zick

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Welcome to Author Wednesday and a guest post by Janet Morris, the author Tempus, a best-selling work of fantasy that has developed into much more than one work of fiction. Tempus even has its own Wikepedia pageTempus is also a part of the box set, At Odds with Destiny. I’m pleased to have Janet here today to talk about how her dynasty with the Tempus character.Time 5-1

The Birth of Tempus

By Janet Morris

tempus coverI started writing stories about my soon-to-be iconic character Tempus in a most unexpected way. At the World Science Fiction convention, I sat on a panel with editor of the Thieves’ World series, Robert L. Asprin. In front of a packed house, he leaned forward into his microphone and asked me to write for his new “shared word” series, “Thieves’ World.” Flustered and delighted, but having no idea what Thieves world might be about…

View original post 990 more words

Donny Swords interviews Chris and Janet Morris’ on “The Black Sword” project

http://mishanoamy.blogspot.com/2014/11/chris-janet-morris-nine-heroes.html

Chris & Janet Morris: Nine Heroes interview 6

Chris & Janet Morris

Nine Heroes: 9 Questions

Interview 6

(Exploring Heroic Fantasy’s Nine Heroes.)

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While I have deep respect for all the talent possessed by authors in this round of Nine Heroes interviews, I must confess I have reverent awe for these masters.  Chris and Janet Morris exude unrivaled passion for heroes in literature,  They evoke the spirit of the men and women they write, whether it is in their undeniably brilliant Sacred Band Series, or in novels such as their Sci-Fi masterwork, Outpassage.

The Morris’ go far back in the writing world, and are worth checking out if you take nothing else from these interviews.  They have talent often wept for and dreamed over.

So what do they offer Nine Heroes?

The right to call itself an edition scribed by legends.

Never ones to go light, The Morris’ delivered Rhesos.  Black Sword is one of the main reasons I loved Nine Heroes.  This is legendary stuff, literally.  The ease in which this story brings the ancient hero to life is an appalling feat for lesser writers than Chris & Janet Morris.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

Black Sword by Janet Morris/Chris Morris

“Anyone who has read a Ways of the Stygia novel would know I love black steel. Regardless of the gods who forge it, it is a fascination of mine. Anybody who has read my blog would also have a comprehension of my respect for Janet & Chris Morris.
Here, armed with her new hero Rhesos, and he with his black blade, Janet Morris pierces the imagination, delivering a classic hero. The story was engaging. It smacked of brilliance. When I finished all I wanted was more.
Thank the gods there will be a full-length novel soon starring Rhesos, child of gods, red-haired, with a temperament that reminds me a little of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, or El Borak… the troubled adventurer who is more than meets the eye… a hero steeped in myths and substantially viable for the ages.


If you are a Morris fan, do not miss Rhesos’ first story.”

Describe your hero, or heroes.

The hero of The Black Sword is Rhesos of Thrace, in Greek mythology known as the youngest king to arrive at Troy to fight, a nearly forgotten hero today but a truly mythic warrior. Sources say Thracians of this period were often of “heroic” proportions, red-haired and blue eyed, so Rhesos has those traits. He was a horse-breeder as well as the king of Thrace, and wore gold-trimmed armor and bedecked his white horses’ harness with silver and their chariot with silver and gold. In our story, he is described as “more beautiful than daylight.”

Live beside heroes, click here.

The female protagonist (one cannot truly call her a hero) of the Black Sword is Salmakis, the water nymph or naiad who became famous for her seduction and attempted rape of Hermaphroditos. When we first see Salmakis, she is an ancient crone, but she doesn’t stay old for long. She has bargained secretly with the gods to release Rhesos from his silver-veined cave in Rhodope and send him to her, so she can use him to restore her youth and beauty. When he meets Salmakis, he is a lowly mercenary who has just fought on the Macedonian side in a losing battle. The morning after they tryst, the crone is nowhere to be seen but a lovely young girl gives Rhesos a new panoply of weapons, all made from of black metal “kissed by blood.”
Tell us about your character in 9 heroes.

Homer counted Rhesos among the great heroes in the Iliad. Other classical writers including Euripides and even later writers such as Shakespeare extolled him. In the Iliad, at Athene’s urging, Diomedes and Odysseus murdered Rhesos as he slept on the night he arrived at Troy with “thousands at his back,” for fear of the oracles that said if his horses drank from the Scamander and he fought the next day on Ilion’s battlefield, the Achaeans would lose the war. Upon his death, since Rhesos’ mother was Calliope and his father Strymon, the river god, the Muse Calliope appealed to the other gods to allow her to resurrect him and grant him immortality. She won the right, but the agreement confined him to an underground cave for centuries. A hero-cult grow up around him in that interval, Heros Equitans. In our story, he remembers little of his life before the cave, and begins piecing things together…

What type of setting did you place your story in?

Our story begins in ancient Chaetae in the 4th century BCE, between Mygdonia and Macedon, and soon moves to a Greek settle in Asia Minor, Dicaea, and northward as Rhesos tries to get home to Eion.

What inspired your story?

The stories of Rhesos and his hero-cult and of Salmakis, the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon, were stories we longed to tell. When the opportunity to create a new hero for Nine Heroes presented itself, Rhesos was the obvious choice:  a great mythic hero, cut down by treachery early in his prime, then immortalized. Combining a story of Rhesos post-resurrection and Salmakis, who could gift him with weapons made by Hephaestos by calling on a fellow nymph, was too perfect a chance to miss. This story also allows us to interweave other mythic beings and powers, including the Erinys Tisiphone and Athene’s priestess at Troy, Theano, as well as Calliope and Pallas Athene (First to Fight) herself.

Is your story a part of a broader work or series?

In the Sacred Band series, we had been working in the 1st century BCE culture and geography, so an epic set there was a good choice because we were conversant with Greek settlements in Asia Minor. This story may be read as beginning in the Mygdonia of the Sacred Band, but Rhesos does not encounter the Sacred Band of Stepsons in this story. Rhesos has his own fascinating mythos. The Black Sword is a mythic tale, partly historical if you credit recent research that uses an ancient solar eclipse in Homer’s Odyssey to pinpoint April 16, 1178 BCE as the date Odysseus returned to Ithaca. If that much of Homer is true, then we feel comfortable taking as true Homer’s tale of Rhesos’ death at the hands of Odysseus and Diomedes.

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Rhesos is a new hero for us with whom we are well pleased. We are currently working on a novel about him that begins with “The Black Sword” story, somewhat expanded, and goes fascinating places thereafter. We may well do more than one novel with Rhesos, but the book with the working title “Rhesos of Thrace: Black Sword” will be a complete adventure of epic scope.

In four lines, tell us about your story.

Fleeing a battle he fought as a mercenary in service to Macedon, fighting deserters and brigands as he goes, Rhesos comes upon a smithy’s hut late at night and asks to buy equipment. The old woman there gives him shelter, food, and agrees to sell him weapons, but she’s disappeared in the morning, replaced by a comely girl who provides Rhesos with a black-iron panoply. Heading north, he comes upon a mercenary band encamped before the hilltop town of Dicaea and asks for work. The mercenary leader challenges him to single-handedly kill a monster threatening travelers in a nearby cave and bring back the monster’s head, giving him a horse and a guide to go with him to make sure he doesn’t abscond with the horse. In the cave, Rhesos confronts an Erinys, Tisiphone the Avenger, who offers him a deal involving a monstrous head….

Which, besides your own is your favorite story?

“The Act of Sleepless Nights” by Walter Rhein and “Just One Mistake” by A.L. Butcher. Although very different, each story is character driven and those characters are memorable.

A Man and His God: A Sacred Band Tale

Release Date:02-12-13

Publisher: Perseid Press

An immortalized cavalry commander joins forces with the high-priest of the god of war…. Where myth meets legend, two men kiss and Tempus’ world changes forever. Meet and mourn the Slaughter Priest in “A Man and His God.” In this canonical short novel, the Sacred Band begins when Abarsis, Slaughter Priest, brings his Sacred Band to Tempus and dies in his arms. In this pivotal story, the Sacred Band is formed from love and death….

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How many of the other authors in Nine Heroes have you read?

We read the entire book, each story in order.

Would you make another anthology with Heroic Fantasy?

We look forward to the opportunity.

A sample of Rhesos from Thrace.

“Rhesos of Thrace”

The Black Sword

(copyright (c) 2013, 2014,

Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
Somewhere an owl hooted. Out of the night a bat came at him, then veered off, drawn by the smell of his blood but not bold enough to tackle anything as big as he and still moving. Not yet. His shoulder muscles ticced, remembering too many vampire bats and too many
teeth tearing at him in his gloomy cave.If the bat came back, he’d need to draw his dull and tacky blade again. He was a good killer of bats; he’d had lots of practice, underground.
But no bat dove at him again until he nearly reached the lighted hut. No cave, this. He’d lived in a cave long enough to know one when he saw one. He was relieved: if not a cave, then not a ruse
to pen him up again in some hoary underground prison. This place looked tumbledown, ramshackle and . . . real enough: a simple hut of wood and stone with one window, a closed door, a darkened shed that smoked from a banked fire within, and a fenced area between.

When the bat swooped once more at him, he instinctively yelled and drew his weapon. Or tried to: his sica’s blade hitched and caught so that he grasped hard with both hands, one on his hilt and one on the scabbard, to tug it loose. By then the bat was gone, but he’d made enough noise that the door to the hut swung open.

A stooped figure stood there, barely clad and backlit: “I’ll not surrender without a fight, mind you.” A woman’svoice, speaking common Attic, reedy and laced with laughter; a small shape, bent forward, withered arms akimbo: “And you’ll be needing what, this time of night, proud warrior?”

Teasing, now, was this ancient crone. He’d cast aside his leather mantle and armor; lost his helmet, quiver and bow,knife, shield, and javelins, whilst he’d fled that battleground of wicked haze and ghosts. So he was no better garbed than she, in only tattered chiton with sica girt. On her threshold, he realized he was shivering.
Two strangers, alike in prospects, with little to lose and little to gain, took each other’s measure silently until Rhesos answered her: “I’m looking for shelter, food, and better weapons.”
“Better weapons in the morning, if you can pay. My husband owns the only smithery you’ll reach afoot within a day’s journey, but you’d know that. And I yet do a bit of leatherwork and weaving. The rest –– food and shelter –– you’ll get if I like the look of you, the sound of your name . . . and your money.”
“Rhesos of Thrace, from north of Thessalia, southwest of Great Scythia.” Only the smallest of lies, close enough to truth for a northern boy raised by fountain nymphs; a youngling king who’d arrived too late to fight at Ilion and lost his men and horses there. He wasn’t about to explain how he’d come here, since he was hardly certain where here was: He’d been born in Eion, but common folk called every place north of Macedon either Thrace or Scythia. He jingled the coins in his purse instead.

“I can pay.”
“Then you’re lucky. You’ll not be my enemy, but my guest. We in Chaetae have no quarrel with Thrace. Come in and eat, and I’ll find you one of my husband’s sheepskins to chase the cold from you.”

So this was Chaetae, some backwater between Mygdon and Macedon.
“Of all I’ve been, I’ve never been lucky. Until now, little mother.” He could still turn a phrase and lift a skirt when the occasion demanded, even a skirt as old and filthy as hers smelled.
“New days come then, Rhesos of Thrace.”
The stringy-haired crone retreated into her hut, beckoning him to follow.
Warmth waited in there, and food with aromas that made his mouth water –– and safety for a single night seemed tantamount to safety forever.
“Where is your husband?”
“He’s away somewhere,” said the crone, piercing-eyed, and smiled a long-toothed smile while she looked him over as if she’d pinch his buttocks next…

In closing, I want to thank Chris and Janet for their patient mentorship and invite you to read their individual interviews found on this blog. This has been a tremendous string of interviews.  Don’t be afraid to grab a copy of Nine Heroes, it is a distinctive read.

Thanks for reading this article.  Feel free to post feedback in the comments section below.

Donny

Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ Roundtable Podcast part 1

New podcast with Janet Morris and Chris Morris:
http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Dave Robison of Roundtable Podcast says:

This week’s “20 Minutes With…” segment isn’t.

20 Minutes, that is.

Why? ‘Cause when you get the opportunity to sit down with your literary heroes, you don’t hold yourself to petty things like temporal constraints.

I and the exceptional Michael R. Underwood sit down for an incredible conversation with Janet Morris and Chris Morris, creators and editors of the “Heroes in Hell” series, numerous Thieves World tales featuring the cursed immortal Tempus Thales (whose adventures are continued in The Sacred Band of Stepson’s series), and more marvelous speculative fiction than can be listed on Wikipedia.

Seriously… there’s never been a conversation like this on the RTP before. DO NOT miss this episode.

We’ve had some amazing authors Guest Host the RTP, astonishing creators who’s ideas ring through genre fiction and the SpecFic community.

But I’ve never interviewed one of my heroes before.

The fiction of Janet Morris and Chris Morris (“Heroes in Hell”, “Thieves World”, and more) has been a fundamental influence on my taste and aesthetic in genre fiction and having them on the show was an unparalleled delight.

I knew I’d never be able to do it alone, so I was hugely grateful when Michael R. Underwood agreed to co-host the show with me. Between the two of us, we engaged in (waaaay more than) 20 minutes of incredible discourse with these eloquent storytellers, discussing the symmetry of music and story, the resonance of the craft of fiction and non-fiction writing, and how to “ascend from the pit of self-doubt into the light of self-knowledge and mastery”.

This is one episode you DO NOT want to miss.

http://www.roundtablepodcast.com/2014/10/20-minutes-with-janet-and-chris-morris/

Thieves World(R): Bold beginnings, when Tempus and the Sacred Band first came to Sanctuary.

Perseid Press editions of the Sacred Band's adventures in Sanctuary and Beyond...

Perseid Press editions of the Sacred Band’s adventures in Sanctuary and Beyond…

First published at Fantasy-Faction.com:  http://fantasy-faction.com/2014/revisiting-thieves-world-anthologies:

REVISITING THIEVES’ WORLD ANTHOLOGIES

Readers of Fantasy-Faction are likely to be familiar with Scott Lynch and his Gentlemen Bastards books. Lynch has a style that is a pleasure to read, and has given us some very memorable characters. But Lynch has also accomplished a highly engaging bit of worldbuilding, and created a place in which “Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser would have felt right at home,” according to George R. R. Martin.

It was the worldbuilding as much as the title of the third Gentlemen Bastards book that drove me back to my bookshelf lately, as Lynch’s latest, Republic of Thieves, brought to mind Robert Lynn Asprin’s Thieves’ World from 1979. The “thieves’ world” of the title was not actually a planet of outlaws, but instead, the city of Sanctuary, a backwater community in decline and overrun with lawlessness. And yet it really was a new world of sorts, in that the book represented a bold and daring experiment in fantasy storytelling.

As Asprin tells it, it was the very type of worldbuilding that Lynch has done so well was one of the driving factors in the creation of Thieves’ World. It’s a lot of hard work. “[W]henever one sets out to write heroic fantasy,” writes Asprin, “it was first necessary to reinvent the universe from scratch regardless of what had gone before. Despite the carefully crafted Hyborean world of Howard or even the delightfully complex town of Lankhmar which Leiber created, every author was expected to beat his head against the writing table and devise a world of his own. Imagine, I proposed, if our favorite sword-and-sorcery characters shared the same settings and time-frames. Imagine the story potentials.”

This over-drinks conversation with Gordon Dickson and Lynn Abbey on the eve of the 1978 Boskone Science Fiction Convention eventually led to the creation of a shared-universe anthology that ran to some 12 books, not including spin-offs and tie-ins. We’ll be taking a look at them, six at a time, and revisiting this grand experiment that “earned a panel all its own at the World Science Fiction Convention.”

THIEVES’ WORLD (1979)

2014 SEP Thieves' World (cover)While a driving force behind the concept was to not have to create a world in order to tell a story, it still remained for Asprin to do the work initially to build such a world, with the help of the likes of John Brunner, Poul Anderson and others (including Jim Odbert on mapping this new land). The first of the Thieves’ World series, Thieves’ World, had a line-up of authors that included Brunner, Abbey, Anderson, Andrew Offut, Asprin, Joe Haldeman, Christine DeWees and Marion Zimmer Bradley. You’ll notice that Dickson did not get a story ready in time for the first book, nor did Philip Jose Farmer, nor Roger Zelazny, all of whom had initially been slated for inclusion.

In Thieves’ World, we are introduced to the city of Sanctuary and the political machinations that have put the Emperor’s naïve and too-popular half-brother in the governorship, and we experience the conflict that takes place as the new religion of the conquerors seeks to supplant the old and established religion of the conquered. If the book is perhaps a little slow to start, it can be attributed to the fact that this is, after all, a new mode of storytelling. Given the very nature of many tales being told by many tellers, the book can be forgiven for having to feel its way into a rhythm. We are introduced to the cast of characters, including beggars and crime lords, wizards and soldiers, minstrels and thieves, as this new chapter in the life of Sanctuary begins, life under the governorship of Prince Kadakithis.

TALES FROM THE VULGAR UNICORN (1980)

Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn (cover)The second volume of the anthology collection is Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, referencing a tavern that serves as a nexus for many of the stories in the books. This collection includes submissions from Farmer, David Drake, Abbey, A. E. van Vogt, Janet Morris, Offut, and Asprin. Whereas book one showed us conflict between the new and the old religions, book two shows us the gods themselves taking a hand in the fight for the hearts, minds and souls of the citizens of Sanctuary.

Philip Jose Farmer is arguably the biggest name amongst the contributors, but his story is fairly generic, notable more for the wordplay built into the title than for its content. Janet Morris introduces a new character, Tempus, who will come to dominate much of the storyline, who will, in fact, become so larger-than-life thatThieves’ World is no longer big enough to hold him, and he will go on to a number of his own novels in a spin-off series by Janet Morris and Chris Morris.

SHADOWS OF SANCTUARY (1981)

Shadows of Sanctuary (cover)Shadows of Sanctuary is the third anthology in the series, with stories by Thieves’ World veterans Asprin, Offut, Abbey, and Morris, and new-to-the-series Vonda N. McIntyre, C. J. Cherryh, and Diana L. Paxson. Perhaps learning from the past, Asprin begins this collection with a story about one of Thieves’ Worlds’ more interesting characters, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Lythande.

Shadows also includes another story by Offut that reinforces my opinion that he is incapable of writing a bad story for this series. A number of the tales are Tempus stories, with several of our other recurring characters also making appearances. By virtue of Tempus’ unique relationship with the god Vashanka, these stories also bring us back toward the storyline of the competing deities, and help us to look forward to new developments in the fourth book. All in all, Shadows is the strongest book amongst the first three publications.

STORM SEASON (1982)

Storm Season (cover)The fourth book of the Thieves’ World anthologies contains only six stories, compared to the eight in the first book and the seven each in the second and third collections, and it actually feels shorter as one reads it. All six stories are by authors who have written previously for the series.

In his Editor’s Note, Asprin warns the reader of a change to be found in book four. “While in the earlier volumes I have tried to keep the stories in the order in which they occur, this has proved to be impossible in Storm Season … Rather than try to cut and splice the stories into a smooth chronology, I’ve left it to the reader to understand what is happening and construct his/her mental timeline as necessary.” I have commented on and approved of some of Asprin’s previous editorial decisions, but in this case, I think the book might have been better served by cutting and splicing.

Much of Storm Season pertains to the conflict between Asprin’s gladiator/crime lord Jubal and Morris’ Tempus, and the other stories work to move this plotline along, while telling their own tales. Offutt, as usual, steals the show with a Shadowspawn story, and he ties together some of the loose strands of the shared narrative. At the end of Storm Season, the reader can look back and say, “Oh, that’s what was going on there. Now I get it!”

THE FACE OF CHAOS (1983)

CThe Face of Chaos (cover)haos marks a number of changes in the franchise; this is the first book (in the original run) that lists Lynn Abbey as an editor alongside Robert Asprin. (Reprints include her as an editor for earlier books in the series. Also notable is the fact that she and Asprin were married in August of 1982.) And with Vashanka essentially destroyed, the storyline moves away from that particular divine rivalry to a more worldly conflict, as Sanctuary is subtly invaded, and conquered, by a race of fishy humanoids from beyond the sea. More focus is applied as well to the supernatural competition between the pseudo-vampire Ischade and the Nibisi witch Roxane. Chaos also comprises only six stories, all by previous contributors.

WINGS OF OMEN (1984)

In the sixth book of the collection, the friction between the residents of Sanctuary and the invading Beysib heats up and makes for some exciting reading again. Its story count is back up to eight, Offut’s character Shadowspawn gets some good coverage, and a few fresh new characters also get some play, as well as new-to-the-series authors Robin Bailey and Diane Duane.

As we finish with what will ultimately be the first half of the series, Thieves’ World has grown into a real presence in the fantasy genre. As Asprin mentions in his Afterword in Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, “[A]nthologies in general don’t sell and … fantasy anthologies specifically are sudden death,” yet the sales of the first few collections generated not only a thriving series and a number of authorized spin-off novels, but also a board game, a role-playing game, and a number of RPG supplements. In fact, at the time ofWings of Omen, the very words “Thieves’ World” and “Sanctuary” had been trademarked for the franchise by Asprin and Abbey.

Next month we’ll look at books seven through twelve of the series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raymond Rugg lives with his wife and daughters in the Galena foothills between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada. He is the author of the non-fiction Handbook of Sales and Science Fiction and his short science fiction stories have been selected for inclusion at both the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association and the Far West Popular and American Culture Association annual conventions. You can contact him at salesandscifi@gmail.com. Free Luna!

Rating: 10.0/10 (5 votes cast)

Janet Morris and Chris Morris interview on the collaborative process in literature

Originally published in Uviart.  Thanks. Uvi Poznansky, for this incisive interview

http://uviart.blogspot.com/p/guest-interview.html

Guest

Interview about Collaboration:
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
with
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Authors of
And more books
So said Shakespeare’s Polonius of Hamlet, in Hamlet. So say Janet Morris and Chris Morris, lifetime collaborators in words, music, and strategy. I cornered this elusive pair to ask some hard questions about how they do what they do, and why.
Janet and Chris, writing is known to be a solitary art. How do you two manage to write seamlessly together, so much so that no one can tell which of you wrote what?
Uvi, Apropos of collaboration, Shakespeare’s Touchstone said in As You Like It, “We that are true lovers run into strange capers.” As Chris and I often do.
But first let us give you our view of collaboration as an art form. For centuries, two or more people have been collaborating on written works under one person’s name. History is rife with collaborations, announced and unannounced.
Some examples? Shakespeare had several close collaborators, none so famous in his own right as Christopher Marlowe, who seems to us to have been his closest collaborator, due to similarity in each man’s work and style. We’ve written of these two collaborating in various tales in our Heroes in Hell series. J, the Yahwist, first writer of the Old Testament, also had many collaborators. Even before Biblical times, collaboration was common: the Greek mythic cycles were written not only by Homer, but by many writers; whether these collaborators wrote at the same time, or followed one another, is immaterial: these were true collaborations. As literature became a business, not merely an art form for the collective memory of the human race, the custom and marketing strategy of putting one — almost always male — name on a work became an unwritten convention, pushing anonymous contributors into the background. Yet they often can be found, peeking out from history’s shadows, unsung and influential.
But these questions are about us, collaborating today: while we’re alive, we can answer what questions we choose, rather than leaving posterity to wonder; be as forthcoming as we wish about life and love and art. For us, life and love and art are one. We have always written together, first song melodies and lyrics, later novels — but always with one of us taking the lead, the other in support. In our early days, Janet supported Chris’ music, and Chris supported Janet’s prose. Since we met in 1966, we spent years smoothing the rough edges of our collaborative process, learning to focus on the art in question, not the artist, and thereby improving both. If we write seamlessly, it is because we deliberate about every thought, every phrase, every word, every rhythm, yet strive never to lose the shape of the initial conception. Our prose is rhythmic, our plots inventive, our song lyrics carry messages because we are keenly aware that a person has only so much time in life, and must use that time wisely.  When we begin a new piece of prose or piece of music, we start with a clear idea of what that story or song must say. We vigorously weed out irrelevancies and polish our idea until it is bright, clear, shining in our hearts and in our minds. When writing prose, the mind’s eye is where the visualization first takes place; when we write music, it is the ear which first carries the message to the brain.
All art is communication of ideas. We have co-written op/eds and policy pieces for governments, strategic plans for military, academic, and industrial users, as well as fiction. Writing nonfiction has taught us when and how to be sparing of words. Chris has been the voice of a TV station and products as well as our music. Now we are exploring the close relationships between music and writing fiction by producing audio books. The Sacred Band (audio edition) took a year to complete. Because the story’s characters live deep in our hearts and first drew breath in the 20th century, we took great pains to ensure that the narration remains true to the characters, who have evolved over decades and millions of words. Narration is only one breath away from literary exposition.
For each art form, our process is the same: one of us begins the effort with a title, a musical passage, a topic or an idea, or a clearly-stated purpose. Once the title and the purpose of the piece are agreed, the process of perfecting story and rhythm — yes, even fiction should have its rhythms, its beats — is sometimes begun by one or the other. Often, when a day’s work is completed by one, the other adds a voicing, a suggestion, recognizes a lost facet or missed opportunity, clarifies whatever is unclear; changes are agreed, and at the end of the day, we are sitting together, reading or playing the work aloud and finishing what the morning began. In music or prose, we never continue drafting or recording a long piece of work until we’re both happy with what we’ve done previously. If later in the evolution of the piece an element needs to be included that was omitted or unrecognized in the work as we began it, we go back and make those changes. Some recent examples of this process can be seen in our Heroes in Hell series,
For instance, Chris began Babe in Hell (a story in Rogues in Hell) with the idea of a baby and Solomon reprising the famous Biblical story, albeit in Hell. To Hell Bent in Dreamers in Hell Chris immediately added the quip “And twice on Sadderdays.” Once we’d named the play which is the centerpiece of the story, Janet added the flayed skins of heroes to be used as props. But sometimes, in longer works, we can’t recall who authored what lines. In “Words” in Poets in Hell, working on the first paragraph, Janet asked Chris to supply the crucial word: “Words are the what? of the mind” Janet asked. Chris said “mortar.” So the line now reads “Words are the mortar of the mind.” And so it goes, a natural give and take, sometimes contentious, often strenuous, always fascinating.
Our process is not quick. We’ve taken years to do a book such as I, the Sun; we say The Sacred Band (TSB) took eighteen months, but if one includes the research and discussion time before the first word was written, TSB culminates years of effort to crystallize that story so we could then write it. In this way, we please ourselves, and have pleased many readers and listeners as well.
You who know our body of work are now wondering why one name appears on so many of the books or musical compositions. For now, suffice it to say that publishers think readers want a work crafted by an individual, preferably a male (unless the work is a romance or a book about women in society).
Now that you have told us how you write together, answer this harder question: Why?
Why write together? A collaborator provides perspective, a broader view; a universality that one mind, male or female, often cannot attain. For centuries such collaborations were known only behind the scenes:  the woman or man who was the editor, co-creator of ideas, first reader, was the power behind the throne, unnamed, a secret presence. So how do we decide whose name goes on a work when only one name appears? If one writer drives the work individually, or if a work is best read as the product of male or female, we so credit it. For this reason, we have several times used male pseudonyms when selling a book to a publisher for a particular market.
As you point out, the two of you haven’t always published with joint bylines. How did your first official collaborations come about?
Our first official collaborations in song music and lyrics preceded our collaborations in books and stories by about a decade. Although Janet received some writing credits on The Christopher Morris Band (MCA 1977) record album, and High Couch of Silistra was published under the byline ‘Janet Morris’ in that same year, not until 1984 was the first fantasy fiction story, “What Women Do Best,” published with the byline ‘Chris and Janet Morris’ in Wings of Omen, (Ace, 1984). And that occurred only with editor Bob Asprin grumbling that ‘now everybody’s going to want to do this in Thieves’ World®.’”
If Janet hadn’t been a canonical contributor to the series at that time, we wouldn’t have gotten permission for the dual byline. And sure enough, other spouses and collaborators long relegated to the background began appearing in Thieves’ World volumes and other places.
Subsequently, we signed a multi-book contract with Jim Baen, one of the caveats being dual authorship for some titles, but not all. We delivered those books, including The 40-Minute War, M.E.D.U.S.A, City at the Edge of Time, Tempus Unbound, and Storm Seed with dual authorship and Jim published them that way.
This in turn led to other joint book contracts, including but not limited to Outpassage (1988), Threshold (1990), Trust Territory (1992), The Stalk (1994), as well as several books by single-author male pseudonyms.
Nevertheless, publishers generally still wanted single male names on adventure or nonfiction or ‘serious books’ and female names on romance books, so the market continued to conform to its preference for single-writer bylines.
A book with the name ‘Janet Morris’ was still worth more to a publisher than a book with ‘Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ as listed co-authors. So we created male pseudonyms and these books commanded substantial advances in markets formerly closed to us. In the minds of publishers then, and perhaps readers, a story told by a single male was preferable, but even a tale told by a woman was preferable to a tale told by one woman and one man. We set our sites on this ox, and set off to gore it. And might have succeeded, as male/female co-authorship became more commonplace, but our brainchild “nonlethal weapons” intervened, taking us out of the fiction marketplace for nearly two decades. In that interval, Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, another writer at the literary agency which handles us, wrote War and Anti-war with his wife Heidi Toffler, insisting her name appear this time as co-author. The revolution had begun in earnest among writers with enough clout to enforce their wishes.
Do you believe that putting a man’s name or a woman’s name on a book effects who will read that book?
We experimented, as did other writers and publishers, with putting different names on books. Sometimes Janet wrote with other male or female writers, to see if the ‘Janet Morris’ brand could be transferred as publishers looked for ways to turn writers into franchises, as was done with Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, etc. But when a better writer is paired with a lesser writer, quality may suffer, and even honest writers trying to accommodate one another may lose the consistency of purpose, passion, and voice that a single writer or a self-chosen pair of writers can achieve.
The ‘brand name writer’ bias may then kick in, causing readers to buy only books written by the individuals or pairs of writers they already enjoy, not the franchised producers of subsidiary works or ‘as told to’ books.
As for the ‘gender’ bias in literature, at present this is still a real and strong force. Men looking for adventure fantasy or science fiction or military books are less likely to buy a book written by a woman; women with a strong allegiance to women’s rights and women’s issues are less likely to buy a book by a man or co-written by a man.
So the issue of whether a man’s name or a woman’s name goes on a book may be inextricably linked to subject as well as story, insight, and prose quality.
You’ve both written under single-author pseudonyms, always choosing a single male. Why did you do that? Do you still do it? If, so, why or why not?
We did this to break out of the science fiction/fantasy ghetto, into the mainstream, in days when those genres had a more limited market than today.
Do we still do it? No.
In actuality, our body of work allows us to write what we wish under either or both our names. For instance, we’re writing a novel about Rhesos of Thrace — as is our wont, this book has a Homeric feel, a purport that takes the Iliad for true, but focuses on a single character from that story and his later adventures. This book is a true novel — one part mythical realism, one part dark fantasy, one part heroic fiction in the literary sense, and one part a historical representation of the mythos of that character. We plan a new Sacred Band of Stepsons novel, which requires very specific voices and explores the hero-cult as a fait accompli, a subject fascinating us.
But if we were to undertake a contemporary story dealing with modern politics (sexual, racial, governmental and corporate), we’d consider writing such a book under a new male pseudonym, to allow us complete freedom of what we’d say and how we’d say it, because the truths behind these topics are brutal and unwelcome to those who think revisionist history will solve all the problems inherent in modern society and the human condition. Which condition is, of course, the only fit subject for fiction.
What are the benefits and debits of collaboration so far as process, not marketing, is concerned?
If a pair entering into a collaboration sets ground rules, defines story elements and shares a joint preoccupation with the characters, two hearts, two sets of eyes and two sets of ears impart an enhanced perspective, powering the creation of characters spun from utmost reality, characters perhaps more fully realized than a single mind might contrive to make them. In a pair made up of one male and one female writer, the native intelligence of both sexes is present in great measure, bringing a universal verisimilitude. The process of reaching truth and clarity for characters and story may have uncomfortable moments for one or both writers, but facing those places in the soul where one hesitates to look is the true purpose of fiction — to portray the world through a temperament (or two, or three).
What advice would you give to other collaborators about creating and marketing their joint works?
If two collaborators each have a previous body of work, then once both acknowledge parity, a new book can begin taking shape. If one writer is better known or better at structure or at lyric, then play to those strengths. Do not show this book to third parties, or discuss it with others until both writers are completely certain of every nuance, every line, every twist and turn of plot and psyche.
If two collaborators have no previous experience working with others, they must work harder to put aside their preconceptions and look at story and character honestly: success, not in the short term but for all time, depends upon the quality of every word. Make sure that both collaborators share the same goals. Define the story elements. Invoke the characters and be sure both agree who those characters are and what they represent concerning the story’s driving purpose.
Then begin, starting at the beginning. Create an adventure that two can share, and you will have created an adventure that the world can love.
Only when this first book is finished, no longer a fragile vision, but a full blown juggernaut of risk and beauty, show it to a publisher whose other publications attract you. If you both like what an editor or publisher has previously chosen, they may well decide to choose you.
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