Black Gate Adventures in Fantasy Literature review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

See original post on Black Gate here:  https://www.blackgate.com/2014/01/12/heroic-fantasy-with-the-sharp-edge-of-reality-a-review-of-the-sacred-band-by-janet-morris-and-chris-morris/

Heroic Fantasy with the Sharp Edge of Reality: A Review of The Sacred Band by Janet Morris and Chris Morris

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 | Posted by Joe Bonadonna

The Sacred Band-smallThe Sacred Band
Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Perseid Press (547 pages, June 2011, $24.95)

All three hundred of the Sacred Band of Thebes fought at Chaeronea in August of 338 BCE, and two-hundred fifty-four skeletons lie buried there today under a granite lion. Some still argue about the fate of the forty-six whose skeletons were not recovered. Plutarch says that they died together, and Philip of Macedon wept to see it. Another, later, view is that the remainder surrendered, were taken prisoner, or deserted. We tell a different story.

— Janet and Chris Morris, in their Authors’ Notes and Acknowledgments from The Sacred Band

And this is the premise behind this wonderfully rich, complex, dramatic and highly emotional epic of gods, demi-gods and Men. This is the story of how Tempus the Black, Favorite of Enlil, Storm God of the Armies, and the one they call Riddler, challenged the gods to rescue twenty-three pairs of Thebans, forty-six warriors who had been fated to die. And rescue them he did… Charon, Lysis and the other forty-four men of the original Sacred Band of Thebes… by opening a dimensional portal from Chaeronea to Lemuria, where they were taken, trained and made part of the greater Sacred Band.

This is the also the story of Nicodemus, who is called Niko and Stealth, a true weapon of the gods, of his own struggle with becoming the favorite, the avatar of a god, and his intimate relation with the goddess Harmony.

After training and orientation, the Thebans do their best to settle in, to become one with Tempus’s Sacred Band. But it’s difficult for many of them, because memories of the Chaeronean battleplain, memories of seeing friends and comrades die in a battle in which they were fated to die keep intruding on their thoughts.

Sanctuary Thieves' World-smallDreams of Chaeronea haunt their hearts and give pain to their souls. Various versions of the “mantra,” Long spears, thunking into flesh. Men staggering backward, impaled, weeping, are a recurring theme throughout this story, as men dream of Chaeronea and that far-away field of battle. What these survivors remember and what they suffer adds a personal and very poignant touch to this novel, for as we turn the pages we get to know these men, these warriors, these heroes.

Now, Tempus has plans for his new and greater Sacred Band: to return to Sanctuary, that infamous “border town between morality and immortality, its feet in hell and its fingers stretched up to heaven.” Sanctuary: the center of activity in the classic Thieves’ World Series, where I first discovered Tempus, known then as the Hell-Hound.

In Sanctuary once again, Tempus plans to settle old scores and tidy loose ends. But he and the Sacred Band get more than they bargain for when they return to that “place where anything may happen, and sometimes does, when wills are strong and mysteries invoked.” For instance, there’s the warrior Kouras, soon to become a favorite and an avatar of the god Vashanka, who once favored Tempus.

How Kouras deals with becoming one with a Storm God and his love for a girl named Shawme is just one of the many sub-plots that grace this novel, which owes so much to history, mythology and the sheer brilliance, talent and imagination of Janet and Chris Morris.

A young, hot-headed warrior named Shamshi, who has wizard’s blood, gets things going when he murders a harlot one night. Apprehended by the Band, he is stripped naked, sewn inside the hide of an animal, and placed on the altar of Enlil, the Storm God:

If no beast eats him in the night, then we free him in the morning. The lesson’s done. Punishment finished. He’s cleansed by the storm god of any taint. If the god sends a bear or a wolf or a panther to tear him apart, then that is Enlil’s verdict and no one interferes. But if anyone cuts him loose tonight or tries to save him, we hunt down all of them and kill them.

A Man and His God-smallSo Tempus says to his men. Harsh treatment? Not at all. This punishment is most fitting to the crime in the context of the novel and the world in which the Sacred Band lives. But Shamshi has patience, and there is one who walks in dreams and shadows who has his eye on the boy with wizard’s blood. Thus, when Shamshi is freed, he is now bound to his savior in body, mind, heart and soul. He then sets out on the road of vengeance, uses his skills as a warrior and some other talents and gifts and help he has been given, and begins to pick off the Sacred Band, one by one. But his main target, the man he feels has betrayed him, and the one he most wants to kill is Nicodemus: Niko, whose war-name is Stealth.

Now the manhunt begins as Sham preys on the Sacred Band, killing them with single-minded determination and cold-blooded ruthlessness. Night after night, men die. A stable burns one night and horses die in a very tense and moving chapter. Other powers are brought into play as Tempus and the Band balance duty with their personal manhunt. Old friends and comrades come to aid in the hunt: Jihan, daughter of a sea god and Tempus’s lover; Randal the Mage, Ischade the Witch, and even Cime, Evening Star of Lemuria and sister of Tempus, are called in to help.
But there is more behind this manhunt than just tracking down a rapist and a murderer, for the stage is being set for a coming battle, a battle for Meridian, the realm of Askelon, entelechy of dreams and shadows. This battle will test the Sacred Band as it has never been tested before, and they will be hard-pressed because worlds collide in this battle when Askelon brings Meridian to Sanctuary, and the battle becomes a shadow, an echo of the great battle of Chaeronea.

And in this battle, not only the mettle of the Sacred Band will be put to the test, but that of the original Sacred Band of Thebes, as well — those forty-six warriors who had been fated to die but were rescued by Tempus. They will not only be fighting both old and new foes, but old comrades, as well — comrades who died at the hands of the Mesopotamians. Tempus and Niko will be tested in this battle, too. To the limits of their skills and power, strength and endurance they will be tested. Question is: will Enlil the Storm God come to the aid of Tempus, his avatar?

Beyond WizardWall-smallAnd what of Niko? Will the goddess Harmony continue to watch over him? Guard and protect him? Can Askelon, a god himself, be defeated? And what of Shamshi? He’s a great character because, for all that he is evil, he is also one to be pitied. He is a victim of forces and powers beyond his understanding, as well as a perpetrator of heinous acts. He is a pawn in the hands of something greater than himself, a puppet and a tool used by gods and the Fates.

The Sacred Band is much more than great Heroic Fantasy: it is classic literature, filled with sub-plots, a fine cast of well-drawn characters, insight and wisdom and recurring themes of honor, faith, brotherhood and love. This novel spoke to me on a personal level because it’s a story of pure human drama and powerful emotions. While the characters are larger than life, they are also richly-drawn and written with great depth of insight and humanity. What also rings true with the Sacred Band is their military tradition, their ethos. These characters are soldiers, warriors. They are not only mythic heroes, they are also everyday heroes; real people, everyday people who face extraordinary odds and foes. They are true to all who have served in any branch of the military.

This is not sword and sorcery, this is not elves and dwarves and high-concept fantasy… The Sacred Band has the sharp edge of reality, the harshness, the bitterness and the danger of the real world. Love, loyalty, honor — these are the ideals by which these characters live and die. This novel is epic in scope. It is mythic by heritage. It is positively Homeric.

This is a 5-Star novel written by two highly-talented writers who have been around for a very long time, who have not lost their chops and their edge, and have not slowed down. There is so much in this novel to enjoy, so much I haven’t even touched on. All I can say is that this is classic stuff. Buy it. Read it. You’ll see.

As Tempus and the Sacred Band would say, “Life to you, and everlasting glory.”

Read my other reviews of Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ novels on Black Gate.

Publisher’s LINKS:

Audiobook:  https://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band/dp/B00N1YRVH2/

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Book-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI/

Trade paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris/dp/0988755009/

YouTube Sacred Band (audio/visual book trailer):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sacred-band-janet-morris/1100390034?ean=9780988755000&st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Shopping+Books_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP62465

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Character Interview: Nikodemos of the Sacred Band

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Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

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Welcome to Nikodemos, of the Sacred Band.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  I am Stealth called Nikodemos; Niko to my friends.

Age:  How do you mean?  I have spent five years in the City at the Edge of Time, where time doesn’t pass, and lived now and again on Lemuria, where the Band is based, and where mortals do not age.  When I joined Tempus’ Sacred Band with my first partner, I claimed twenty-five years, not quite true, but I’d already been a right-side partner for nine years.  I have served sixteen years with the Stepsons.  So, thirty-seven, perhaps, as mortals count time.

Please tell us a little about yourself.  First I should tell you that I answer your questions only at my commander’s order.  I’m overall second in command and hipparch, or cavalry commander, of the Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons.  I manage our prodromoi, our skirmisher light cavalry, as well as our heavy cavalry.  I am a committed Sacred Bander, right-side partner of our commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Sleepless One, the Obscure, Favorite of the Storm God.  I am also a secular Bandaran adept, initiate of the mystery of Maat.  I’ve claimed Enlil when I have needed a tutelary god.  These days, the goddess Harmony calls me her own.  I’m not a man for words.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less.  Tall, but shorter than Tempus.  Hazel-eyed.  Dark-haired.  Fit.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  The Sacred Band Ethos guides me.  I am still learning what the Riddler has to teach.  I strive for balance in all things.  Stepsons should want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  To serve with the Band requires unflinching determination; unwavering devotion – to one another, to honor, to creed.  I’m Bandaran at my core: venerating the elder gods, but worshiping only the god within.  The Band says, ‘Life to you, and everlasting glory.’  I don’t ask destiny even that much.  Only to be useful while I live.

Would you kill for those you love?  I have.  I do.  It’s what I am:  a fighter.  I told you:  My mystery is maat, one of seeking balance and equilibrium, truth and justice. On occasion, I become justice incarnate, when justice must be dispensed with a sword.

Would you die for those you love?  I am a Stepson.  So, of course.  If you are really asking about my being immortalized by Harmony, I will tell you only that what is between me and the goddess is ours alone, not yours to know.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  We are all weak, even those of us, like my commander or myself, who’ve been immortalized by some god or goddess or touched by sorcery.  I’m a Bandaran fighter.  I have a calling:  I take my strength, my mystery, my spirit and my skill out into the World and challenge its evil until it wears me down. Then I return home to Bandara or lately to Lemuria, restore my internal equilibrium, and do the same again.

If I must confess a flaw to you – and only the gods know why – it would be that I ask too much, not only from others, but from myself.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others?  Ah, the women.  Everyone asks about how a Sacred Bander can love so many women.  It’s a soul that calls me, not the size of breast or buttocks.  But yes, I love women as well as men and horses, and the sun that’s new every day, and weather on the wind.  Without love, how can a man live fully the life that the gods bequeath?

My relationship with my commander is most important:  love without limits, wisdom beyond price; leadership is what he teaches, and commitment beyond measure.  I know I’m imperfect, still young in his sight, still balancing my rage.  More now than ever, since the goddess Harmony touched me, I need his guidance.

And there’s Harmony herself.  That this goddess favors me, gave me that great horse, is beyond my ken but she’s goddess of the Balance, after all.

Above all else come my brothers of the Sacred Band.

And Randal, although he’s a mage and a shape-shifter, was once a partner to me and still like a brother.  Not every man is alike in mind: our differences define us.

Do you like animals?  I love the Band’s Tros horses, and the horses we bred up in Free Nisibis, and the black horse the goddess gave me.  Love is vulnerability, you must understand:  love comes at the risk of grief.  I’m careful how much vulnerability I court.

Do you have a family?  More than one:  The Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons; Bashir and the freemen of Nisibis; the adepts of Bandara.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour?  Too much suffering, too much death.  Terror in war.  Slavery and sorcery.  And then a left-side leader who loved me and made a man of a foolish boy.

Do you have any phobias?  Witches.  Warlocks.  Arrogance.  Stupidity.  Stupidity kills more than all else.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself.  I was courted by the entelechy of dreams who gave me a charmed panoply forged in hell itself.  I was stalked by a witch.  The Greek goddess Harmonia is my current lover.  Pick any one.

Tell Us About your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live.  These days I live with the Band.  Lately we’ve been in Thrace.  When we’re not campaigning, we billet in Lemuria.   There the Riddler’s sister rules with unchallengeable power from behind its sheer seaside walls.  From there we fight where the commander and his woman send us, anywhere in space and time – past, future, other realms.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs?  So many.  What’s between men and gods powers all.  We fight in theomachy, too often:  Tempus is Favorite of the Storm God, so we fight a lot of wars.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  Where?  Sometimes, a world away.  Wherever Cime, the Evening Star of Lemuria, decrees.  To places decoupled from time and space, like Bandara or Meridian or the City, or Thrace.  We’ve been places others only dream of.  We fought in a future so far away that the seas were dead.  We fought in a place so primitive ancient beasts walked the earth.  Sometimes we slip through gates between dimensions…  I’m a simple fighter.  Ask Tempus and Cime these questions, not me.  We go where he leads, we fight where he puts us.

Name and describe a food from your world.  Nisibisi blood wine, made with bullock blood.  Possets of watered wine with cheese and nuts and barley.

Does your world have magic?  If so how is it viewed in your world?  You jest.  We fought a war for more than a decade against sorcery, thought we’d won it, but now fight the mages yet again in other realms.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  An intellectual said we are timocrats.  What that means, I don’t know.  We fight for honor and our commander, not for place or race or national goals.  Dominant in our world are fools and kings and reavers and their sorcerous allies, who scheme under any name that will give them greater power.  They try to seize control of everything and everyone.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?Races vie for power.  People hate anyone different, then deem them soulless, then try to wipe them out.  Tempus says that, absent reason, men will fight over eye-color, hue of skin or heavenly affiliation.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people.  We have no myths, except perhaps the one that says no nation can lose if Tempus and the Band fight on its side.  We have truths and realities, sometimes long forgot and often twisted, that fools think are myths, going back to the time of Gilgamesh.

What is the technology level for your world?  Tempus and his sister have the Lemurian windows, to take you anyplace in space and time.  We use repeating crossbows; some forged iron, some poor steel, some bronze, but well forged bronze still bests iron.  We have naphtha and poisons, great ships and more, and cloud-conveyance.  But what difference?  It’s the man, not the weapon, that wins the day.

Does your world have any supernatural beings?  Supernatural?  Like the entelechy of dreams who is regent of the seventh sphere?  Or do you mean the gods?  Jihan, the Froth Daughter?  Witches?  Sorcerers.  Some mainlanders say that we Bandarans do the same as sorcerers, just under another name.  Mystical creatures?  Of course.  Naiads.  Erinyes.  We have devils, demons, fiends, snakes that change shape, giant vipers and rocs and eagles.  Don’t you?  We have zombies, vampires, necromants; even a ghost horse, Straton’s mount. And our warrior-mage Randal, one of our bravest fighters, can become a dog or an eagle when he must…

Author notes: Novels(s) in which Nikodemos appears.

Beyond Sanctuary (1985), (2013), Janet Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

Beyond the Veil (1985), (2013), Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

Beyond Wizardwall (1986), (2013) Janet Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

Tempus (1987), (2011) Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY
City at the Edge of Time (1988), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Tempus Unbound (1989), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Storm Seed (1990), Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Sacred Band (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morrishttp://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris,http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2

Nikodemos  also appears in Morris & Morris Sacred Band of Stepsons stories set in the Thieves’ World shared universe, including:

“Wizard Weather,” Storm Season, Ace 1982

“High Moon,” Face of Chaos, Ace 1983

“Hell to Pay,” The Dead of Winter, Ace 1985

“Power Play,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

“Pillar of Fire,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

Author name:Janet Morris

Chris Morris

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

theperseidpress.com

sacredbander.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/tempusandniko

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

Interview with Tempus the Black

see orginal post at: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/character-interview-tempus-fantasy/?platform=hootsuite

Character Interview – Tempus – Fantasy

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Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, the Sleepless One, Tempus Thales, Herakleitos, Favorite of the Storm God, the Hero.

Age:  I’ve lived for centuries, in different countries, through different times, different dimensions.

Please tell us a little about yourself:  I am a mercenary of the storm gods, servant of the gods of war.  Sometimes I find my path solitary, but often I have warriors serving with me who also serve celestial purpose.  When I was young, I contested with a sorcerer to save my sister.  From this struggle came my curse and my immortality:  those I love are bound to spurn me; those who love me die of it; I regenerate any wound I take, except wounds of the spirit or the heart.  I’ve been thrust by gods and demiurges and even my sister from one world to another, so time for me is fluid. I was born in a lost place we called Azehur then, a philosopher-prince who loved the glory of truth above all things.  Now I go where the storm god of the armies leads, carrying him in my heart and in my flesh.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less:  Two meters tall, horseman’s body, eyes that show my age.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  I have one; I wrote one; I live one.  The Sacred Band Ethos serves me most times.   At its core is this truth:  live by the Logos; fight shoulder to shoulder for freedom; honor those who die in battle.  In living I have found that character is destiny.  My character tells me this:  grab reality by the balls and squeeze.

Would you kill for those you love?  Without hesitation, I always do.

Would you die for those you love?  If I could, I would.  But death is denied me.  Once I offered to trade my immortality to save another, to no avail.  I live on, amid the strife on every battlefield, from war to war.  Some say no war I fight can be lost, no cause I champion fail, but that is mythos, not reality.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?  Strengths I have many; governing those strengths is my hardest task.  My weakness resides in loving too much, all my fighters, my partners, and the world the gods have made.  For untold years my weakness was my sister in arms, Cime; then for a time it became Nikodemos, my partner.  Love of life itself, lived with heart and soul, is weakness:  one must want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  Rage is power, yet rage is weakness. Only so much can be borne from men, so much from gods.  My greatest strength is knowing one simple truth:  in change lies all good, all rest.  Glory and wisdom are all around you, in every breath taken, yet no man can discover the limits of soul.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? I greatly prize my relationship with my Sacred Band of Stepsons, and with one special Stepson, Stealth called Nikodemos.  My relationship with my sister Cime, who was cursed with me so long ago, yet confounds my heart.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  Here too are gods:  in every creature free to breathe is proof of heaven. There is no animal that is not more noble in its way than humankind.  Horses are my greatest allies, friends and companions.  In a horse is nature’s greatest impulse, realized.  We breed some special horses in the Sacred Band:  Trôs horses, so fast they run holes in the wind; Aškelonian horses, created by the demiurge, who can run on water; we have even a ghost horse, who cannot die or be hurt whatever men may do.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them.  My Sacred Band of Stepsons is my family.  They mean the most to me.  Niko, my right-side partner, is the best of those, the closest to me.  As for my sister Cime …  some say we have no consanguinity, but we grew up together, fought a sorcerer together, staggered under our curses together; when we were younger and more angry, we wreaked great destruction together – her against sorcerers and me against human folly.  I have a mistress, Jihan, a Froth Daughter sired by Stormbringer, who begat all weather gods.  And I have a few sons and daughters, scattered here and there:  some of those are worth succouring, and so I do.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember something from my youth, but you would not call those days my childhood, nevertheless, from earliest days I have taken the side of Reason against Unreason. I have spoken above of my encounter with a sorcerer, trying to protect my sister Cime, and the curses that fell upon both our heads because of that. If she hadn’t come to me to save her, would things have gone differently?  Would I have stayed where I was born, assumed my kingship?  Been content to philosophize and teach, but never act?  Probably not.  For war is all, and king of all… and all things come into being out of strife.  Unlike most, I know what gods and heroes are.  My curse and the warlike life I’ve led colors all: the battles I have fought; the dead I carry in my heart, from battlefield to battlefield, war to war. My battle with all sorcerers is not yet over; may never be.  Trying to help Nikodemos takes me back to my own young days of strife and fury.  The best men choose immortal glory in preference to mortal good. In teaching Niko, Cime and I have another chance to know the name of justice, to prove that opposition brings concord as we guide this hero, closer than any blood son to me, toward a worthy future.

Do you have any phobias?  No.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. When I am in battle, I am faster than any other upon the field.  If I am on a Trôs or other such horse, I can transfer my speed to my mount.  And, of course, any wound I take will heal, any limb regrow.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live:  Now when I can I ‘live’ with my Stepsons in Lemuria, a seaside island citadel where time does not pass as it does elsewhere.  From there, with Cime’s mystic powers, I can stage any mission, fight in any place or time.  At this moment we are campaigning somewhere in ancient Thrace, Pelasgian times, at the whim of the storm-god Enlil, who shepherds us through all things.  War will be in the mix of it, with the god guiding us.  My Stepsons are skirmisher light cavalry; we fight with edged bronze weapons, primarily, against what hegemonies challenge us or displease the gods.  But a man is a warrior because of mind, not weaponry.  We fight with weapons at hand, against whatever confronts us, and mostly where the ancient gods still war.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? Many.

If so do you follow one of them? I believe in admitting that all things are one.

Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour:  Our world, as you call it, all that lies within humanity’s ken, is full of gods.  We are servants of history and its storm-gods, sworn to the gods of war.  Enlil is the foremost of these for my fighters and myself.  The worlds we know are polytheistic, and many wars we fight are actually theomachies – wars between gods or among gods and sorcerous humans, who warp the fates of simpler men.  Once I warred in a nearly godless future, to bring them the means to repopulate their heavens; this we did for people dying from their paucity of belief, prey to the lusts and greed and fears of others no wiser than themselves. As for myself, I am a simple warrior-philosopher; my relations with gods remain pragmatic:  when gods reside in my flesh and in my head, then they control the battle tempo, not I. Is this religion, when gods and fates and worse walk the earth?  Or is it reality?

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  I mentioned that I go wherever the gods send me.  I have been in Akkad, in Sumer; I have been in Chaeronea, in Nisibis, in Mygdonia, in Thrace.  I have been in what you call 20th century New York City, and to a future of dying oceans and a place there called Sandia.  I have been to the ends of the earth, to Bandara, to Lemuria, to the City at the Edge of Time, and to Meridian, the archipelago of dream and nightmare.  To Meridian, I suspect the Sacred Band will soon return.

Name and describe a food from your world.  A posset:  spiced wine and cheese or milk and barley, sometimes with nuts and sometimes not; served often with lamb or fish or ox-tail.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  We have a surfeit of magic, sorcerers from every time and plane meddling with Fates and gods.  We have wars between wizards and gods.  We have sorcery to rival godhead.  Thus, because people believe more in evil than in good, it does.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.)  Our world, I once said, is an everliving fire, with portions of it kindling and portions going out. In age of bronze, we hear Plato’s musings about timocracy and democracy and tyranny, as well as the elusive republic. I have lived in earlier theocracies, oligarchies, and simple hereditary monarchies, often passed down through female lines.  Meritocracy I have seen but little of; Kakistocracy is, to my mind, a condition synonymous with governance by decree of any kind and especially with simple democracy:  people will choose those most like themselves, long before they’ll choose a person one bit better:  the foolish hate the smart and try to destroy them. This truth itself dependably produces bad government.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?  Prejudice lives in flesh; the black dog hates the white; the roan horse hates the chestnut; in herds, mares of one color stick together.  How different, for humans?  People hate anyone different, and call them prey.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. The greatest myth is that wisdom is called by the name of Gods.  The legendary Gilgamesh sat beside the dead Enkidu seven days, until a maggot fell from Enkidu’s nose.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without?  Most of all, I need my war horses and the heroes who bestride them or drive them.  The items I need are loyalty, clarity, and justice.  The technology in my world depends on when you ask me:  sometimes we have bronze spears and war axes; sometimes we have iron flights and crossbows; sometimes we have fireballs, and armor forged by men and gods.  I have been where metal flies and chariots need no horses; in those places, man has become the slave of all he owns, afraid of having so much to lose – and thus has nothing.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.  We have a populous cosmos.  We have demons and devils and fiends; we have were-wolves and were-snakes and men and women who can change into any creature at whim.  We have undeads and necromants; we have dragons and rocs and creatures part-man who lie deep in the seas; we have Froth Daughters and Fates and Erinys and sphinxes and naiads, and creatures who lived before the gods were born and spawned them.  We have pantheons of gods, most of whom are jealous and bellicose, and deadly when they walk the earth.  We have gods within and gods without. We Stepsons ourselves are the weapons of the gods, some say.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? That an intelligible light drives all things through all things, under a sun that is new every day.

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.)  First, Enlil, greatest of the storm gods of heaven.  Next, Harmonia, whom we call Harmony, who is Justice, and sometimes walks among my Sacred Band.  Next comes Maat who tends the Balance. For eons, Aškelon of Meridian, demiurge, ruled over the seventh sphere, realm of dream and shadows, but no longer – but that is another story.  And we have the Logos, by many different names, who some call the will of Fates and some call Thunderbolt.

Please check out further posts in the next few days for Tempus and his Sacred Band.

https://sacredbander.com/

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/beyond-sanctuary-heroic-fiction-review/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/character-interview-number-three-nikodemos-fantasymythic/

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICAPn0E7NC0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTaDPNWAtHk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8FqgC4eK6A

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacred_Band_of_Stepsons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempus_(novel)

http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-quotes-about-sacred-band-ethos/reference

Here are book links in chronological order, beginning with Beyond Sanctuary, the Author’s Cut, first book in the Sacred Band of Stepsons Beyond Trilogy.  Beyond Sanctuary  will be free March 7, 8, 9, 2014):

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY

http://www.amazon.com/The-Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY

Here are Kindle Single links (shorter Sacred Band of Stepsons fiction):

http://www.amazon.com/Man-His-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B008MZ1T14

http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Weather-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00BEJX8MS

http://www.amazon.com/MAGE-BLOOD-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B006ZK8PLU

http://www.amazon.com/Wake-Riddler-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B0087OSP0S

Here are the Audio book links:

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/A-Man-and-His-God-Audiobook/B00BEJ7LI0

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Mage-Blood-Audiobook/B00CXVRDWM

http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Wake-of-the-Riddler-Audiobook/B00AU7IQZE

The Ghost Horse Interview from the Sacred Band of Stepsons series

see original link at: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/character-interview-ghost-horse-fantasy/?platform=hootsuite

 

Welcome to Ghost Horse, from the Sacred Band Books.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s):  Ghost-horse; the bay.  If you can hear me, you’ll know it.  I have no name in the way you mean.

Age:  thirteen years, interrupted by death and resurrection.

Please tell us a little about yourself:  A war-horse am I.  Strong and brave.  Straton’s horse am I, once found, then lost, then found again.  Of all the Sacred Band of Stepsons, Ace called Straton alone now rides me.  When he’s astride my broad back, nothing is impossible.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less:  Sixteen hands, blood bay war horse, broad backed and strong.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it?  A moral code?  Bear my rider whence he must go, forever.  Run far and fast.  Bring my rider’s battle to his enemies.  Charge boldly; never falter; never hesitate; refuse no challenge.  Feel the love, hear the words of my human partner…

Would you kill for those you love?  I do.

Would you die for those you love?  I have done so.  And been brought back to life for my human partner’s sake thereafter.  Now nothing harms me, no metal cuts me; in any battle, my blood never spills. Nowadays I do not die for love; I live for love – the love of my human partner, Straton.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses.  Carrots and sugar-beets, those my weaknesses, which I dearly love.  Running over green grass, into battle, finding the safest path to victory for my rider, protecting him and all his Sacred Band:  these are my strengths:  As the only ghost-horse of the Stepsons, my place is always in the forefront:  with Straton I forge new ground; I bear him everywhere, unflinching.  Such service we have seen, such places far and wide, as few horses ever see.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Ace called Straton, the right rider for this broad back; the right partner for my battles.

Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions?  Do I like other horses?  As with men, some horses are brave, some cowardly; some generous, some churls.  I was bitten in the throat by a man who attacked me as if he were a dog, once.  So dogs are not my friends.  Sometimes a cat will bide with me, in this stall or that.  I like cats:  they give loyalty when deserved; they are rightly cautious.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them.  I have been a cavalry horse since I was two, and chosen from a band of captured bachelors.  Straton has brought me up; he is all I trust, all I love; he is my family.  Sometimes he finds me a mare or two, but battle is my greatest passion:  in war, Straton and I find our greatest joy.  Sometimes we run for the sheer bliss, over vast plains and through forest, with no enemy in sight.  Straton’s lover, Ischade, resurrected me after the dog attacked me, after the battle in which I was mortally wounded. She loves Straton; I love Straton, so Ischade is, in some ways, under my protection.  Up behind Straton she sometimes rides me, and then no place is too far, no goal to loft, for us three

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? I remember the day Straton chose me, the look in his eye, the apple in his hand.  He sent me to other men, to teach me the ways of war, and got me back again.  We have thundered into so many battles, even the Battle of Chaeronea together.  With Straton astride me, I never doubt, I never fear.  Wherever he wills to go, I can carry him, be it to hell itself and back again.  This I believe because Straton knows it:  whatever my rider thinks, I know to be true.  Wherever he wants to go, I will take him.  Whatever he needs, I try to be.  So Straton gives me the wants, the needs, the courage of a man, and I show him the wants, the needs, the courage of a horse, and together we are indomitable. A horse wants to fight or flee, as does a man; deciding which is my rider’s task.  Making his wishes real, that is mine.

Do you have any phobias?  Dogs and the men who become them.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I have a spot on my withers where men can see into hell itself, and a spot on my hip where they can see into nothing at all.

Tell Us About Your World

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live:  The world in which I live is wherever my rider, Ace called Straton, wishes to go.  I have fought on Wizardwall, against the black mages of Nisibis.  I have fought on the battlefield of Chaeronea; I have fought in mystical Meridian.  Since I was foaled in Syr, I have been adventuring:  first among the other horses, until the mares cast us bachelors out; then in the high steppe country, and at last as a war-horse of first Straton and then the greater Sacred Band.  We fight in the forefront; we travel by cloud conveyance from war to war.  We have numinous allies to take us any place in space and time.  Except for my rider and the witch who loves him, all I care for is contained in Tempus’ Sacred Band.  And someday, Straton has promised me, we three will ride forever, away from witchery and angry men, in the green fields of the gods.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? A horse believes what he can see and feel, and is bred to tell what he can trust.  We have our gods, you know:  Epona, Poseidon, Hekate, and the war gods before them:  a war-horse gives his life into his rider’s hands, and that rider gives all to the gods.  My world is full of enemies, who’d eat a horse as soon as kill a man, and those enemies have rival gods.  So we war-horses fight on the side of right, as our riders see it.  And that will never change, has been the same since the first gods were foaled.

If so do you follow one of them? I follow the gods of Ace, called Straton.  As long as he lives, that will never change.

Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour:  I am a war-horse, so I go to war.  With Ace called Straton astride, I do the needful, all his gods command, since his gods are also mine.  I am a peace-keeper, so I ply angry streets.  I am an explorer, so I lope where no horse has ever gone before.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where?  I go where Ace called Straton needs to go.  I fight for him, with him, beside him.  I keep him safe whether we are in this world or another.  Anyplace a horse can go, I take him – even a world away.  I have spun in whirlwinds unto foreign lands, even Thrace and Scythia and on from there.  Not future or past or anywhere is barred from the Sacred Band of Stepsons, so in ranks we sortie.  Even Tempus, the Riddler, has commended me in public for my bravery, when I have fought in dimensions some horses never tread, and more farther realms lie just ahead….

Name and describe a food from your world.  Salt hay, tender and tan, bluest grass bitten right from the earth, roots and dirt and all; fat oats, steamed until their hulls break open; corn and molasses and flaxseed mashed.  My favorites though, are carrots with their green and lacy tops, and chunks of tender sugar-beet.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world?  Magic is the necromant who resurrected me, gave me a chance to come back to this world for the rider whom I love.  Some think magic is aught than natural; I say magic is the wind in your mane, yielding turf underfoot, and a rider on a mission.

What form of politics is dominant in your world?  Politics are for mares and men, not for stallions.  I will walk upon my hind legs to strike any enemy of my rider or my mares and foals.  I will trample jackals and lions and feral dogs.  I believe in giving one warning squeal, and a bellow of promise; then I strike, unashamed, to defend what is mine:  that is the extent of politics for me.  The rest is clacking of jaws and whistles on the air.

Does your world have different races of people?  We have humans of every color and belief and shape and size, just as we have horses as diverse.  In a herd of horses, as in a crowd of people, those who are alike band together against those of different nature.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. In ancient times, Zeus gave two horses to Tros, king of Troy, to console the king after the god had taken Ganymede for his young lover.  From those great horses, the best, the strongest, the fastest horses are sprung.

What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? We have chariot with metal-bound wheels and axles fitted with scythes.  Some of us wear armor, felt or scales of metal.  Some of us have iron shoes upon our hooves.   What item would you not be able to live without?  My rider.

Does your world have any supernatural/mystical beings? Please tell us about some.  This world is full of gods, mages, shape-shifters; and demi-gods, and elementals – even a demiurge or two and creatures who spawn weather gods and fashion fates.

Within your civilisation what do you think is the most important discovery/invention? Horsemanship, so that we and our riders can be better partners.

Name three persons of influence/renown within your society and tell why they are influential (Could be someone like Christ/Mandela/Queen Elizabeth or a renowned figure from a non-human/fantasy world.)  Hekate, goddess of race horses.   The Hippoi Athanatoi, the immortal horses of the gods themselves, offspring of the weather gods themselves; and all the Hittite god of horses, Tarhun, in and of himself a storm god.

Author notes:

Book(s) in which this character appears plus links

The Sacred Band  http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Storm God  http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY

Author name: Janet Morris and Chris Morris

 

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sacred_Band_of_Stepsons

https://www.facebook.com/TheSacredBand

https://www.facebook.com/JanetMorrisandChrisMorris

https://www.facebook.com/JanetEMorris

https://www.facebook.com/christophercmorrissings

https://www.facebook.com/fishfightersonggirl

https://www.facebook.com/SacredBandBeyondTriolgy

https://www.facebook.com/PerseidPublishing

http://www.theperseidpress.com/

https://sacredbander.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Janet-Morris/e/B001HPJJB8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Morris

http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Morris/e/B008L41JNO/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_2

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Morris_(author)

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 - Author/Editor

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

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

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)
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