Ethshar was created, or at least developed, with gaming in mind, as well as fiction -- though when I drew the original map back in high school I didn't have much of anything in mind except keeping myself busy during a boring geometry class. In 1977, though, when I took that old map and started turning it into a world, I had in mind both gaming and fiction.
The problem was that I got so involved in the complexities of what I was inventing that it became unplayable as a regular face-to-face game; an hour or so of game time could consume days of real time. So I switched to play-by-mail, and that worked, after a fashion, for a couple of years. In 1980, though, a housefire destroyed my original set of maps (you'll notice the very first map, as posted here, is visibly damaged; the others, which were still in use instead of stuck in a drawer, were completely destroyed) and most of the records. Since I'd sold my first two novels by then and given up other gaming, I never tried to revive the campaign; since then, Ethshar's only been used for fiction. It works better for stories, in any case; in the original form it was never very practical as a game.
Every so often someone suggests that I sell the gaming rights to someone. Well, I wouldn't mind doing that, if there was enough money involved and I was convinced the buyer would do a good job. So far, no one who's expressed interest has met those two criteria. If you think you might, you're welcome to try, but you'll need to convince my agent, who's hardnosed about this sort of thing.
Yes, there are maps. The first set was destroyed in our 1980 housefire, but I redrew them, of course, working from scorched fragments and memory. They're very large; the smallest is 18" x 24". They're done in colored pencil; it doesn't reproduce well at all. I've got detailed maps in various scales of the World as a whole, the Hegemony of the Three Ethshars, and the Small Kingdoms, and street maps of every city with a population over 10,000.
They don't photocopy well.
Actually, a map of the Empire of Vond probably should have been included in The Unwilling Warlord, but, frankly, I forgot when I was packing up the manuscript for submission. I did include a map of the Empire of Vond as an insert in the limited edition of The Vondish Ambassador, but once again forgot to send it to the publisher for the regular edition. There's no map in, say, The Spell of the Black Dagger because the whole story takes place in a single city. Several of the novels really cover fairly small areas. Besides, if I did include an accurate map, you'd see that the map wouldn't necessarily agree with what the characters in the novel believe. This is because the characters are wrong. Ethsharitic cartography isn't very good, and the teaching of geography isn't given a high priority in most families. But hey, just recently, while sorting through old files, I made a discovery -- I found the original map I drew in my high school geometry class! It's somewhat battered and fire-damaged, but at least you can see it. This isn't exactly the same as the final version, and it doesn't show any detail at all in the Small Kingdoms, but at least it'll give you map-hounds a start.
Sure. See Geography.
Nineteen, so far -- ten novels and nine shorter stories:
That's complicated. The first ten novels should all be available in one form or another from online booksellers, and any bookstore should be able to order them for you. Most (not all) of them are available in e-book form from Fictionwise.
As for the short stories, they're slightly more difficult. Six of them are reprinted in the first six Wildside trade paperbacks as bonus features -- ''The Bloodstone'' is in the back of The Misenchanted Sword, ''Weaving Spells'' is in the back of With A Single Spell, ''Ingredients'' is in The Unwilling Warlord, ''Night Flight'' accompanies Taking Flight, ''Portrait of a Hero'' joins The Blood of a Dragon, and ''The Guardswoman'' follows The Spell of the Black Dagger. The other three are online here.
I'm afraid I don't know which stories are included in the e-book editions; some are, some aren't.
Some of the anthologies the stories appeared in may still be available, as well, if you look around.
It generally doesn't matter. Any order you like. Each story is designed to stand on its own. Some, though, do work better if you've read earlier ones. The Spell of the Black Dagger does sometimes refer back to people and events in With A Single Spell, The Unwilling Warlord, and The Blood of a Dragon. The Spriggan Mirror is more or less a sequel to With A Single Spell and also refers back to Ithanalin's Restoration. The Vondish Ambassador follows up on events in The Unwilling Warlord, and to a lesser extent Night of Madness.
When it's finished, The Final Calling will be a direct sequel to Night of Madness, and will also follow up on plot elements from The Unwilling Warlord and The Vondish Ambassador, and maybe even The Blood of a Dragon. That's probably a bad place to start.
There are lots of references and cameos connecting the various stories -- the protagonist of The Misenchanted Sword appears briefly in The Blood of a Dragon and Taking Flight, for example, and a very minor character in With A Single Spell turns up in a somewhat more important role in Taking Flight, and so on -- but you won't miss anything important if you don't spot these.
If you really must have a recommendation for where to start, I'd choose The Misenchanted Sword, which was the first one written and which is mostly set well before the others in the internal chronology.
Yes, but in an odd format. See the explanation for The Final Calling for details of how I'm serializing new novels.
I do have several more novels planned, if I ever find another publisher who's willing to pay enough to make it worth writing them:
There's a faint possibility I might someday repackage the series as a "young adult" series, in which case I could sell some of those, but not all.
You can contribute to the online serials mentioned above.
Or if you have about twenty grand to spare, that's what it would cost to convince me to write another Ethshar novel instead of something more commercial. If you do have twenty grand, well, I can find the necessary editorial and production facilities to get into print; it's just the up-front money that's a stumbling block.
I'd like to. There are a couple of problems with the idea, and a couple of possible solutions.
The first problem is that single-author collections generally don't sell worth a damn these days. No one's interested in publishing books that don't sell, and I don't particularly want to see a book with my name on it not sell, because it might hurt sales of subsequent volumes.
One possible solution to this is to have the collection published by a small press, rather than a big New York house; I think this is a viable approach, but it does mean the book would be relatively hard to find and wouldn't exactly make me rich. (You do understand, of course, that the underlying purpose of Ethshar is to make me rich.)
And then, of course, there's the second problem: So far, the short stories don't add up to an entire book. They total maybe 45,000 words, and these days book-buyers want 80,000 or more.
The obvious solution is to write more of them, and I might do that.
A possible solution to both problems would be to combine the short stories with ancillary material, such as some of the stuff on this website, and have it published by a small press. I hope to pursue this idea eventually.
A story about the break-up of Old Ethshar wouldn't be just one story, but dozens. It would resemble what happened to the Soviet Union a little, or maybe the feuding-warlords era in China, though it's not much like either of those, really. It's not that the central government lost control, really, so much as that the central government fell apart, and every local underling tried to take its place. And then those subdivided, and subdivided... I've charted out where some of the Small Kingdoms came from, and it's too long and complicated a process to make for a very good story.
Maybe. It might come up in The Final Calling.
When am I going to reveal more about sorcery? Jeez, I dunno. If I ever write The Sorcerer's Widow, I suppose.
The minor sorts of magic may never be the basis of stories. They may never get explained at all. Eventually I expect to cover all the major varieties at least somewhat, but I'm not in any hurry to get to any particular sort.
In Ethshar there are several different varieties of magic, rather as there are different branches of science in our world. Different authorities count the varieties differently, and come up with anywhere from three to twelve kinds; I make it either five or seven, depending on how I want to count a couple at any given time. These different magicks need different names, so I've called one wizardry, another sorcery, a third witchcraft, and so on. The Northern Empire relied heavily on sorcery, which uses talismans and charms, and demonology, which (obviously) involves summoning demons, while Old Ethshar relied more on wizardry, which uses ritual and incantations, and theurgy, which calls on the gods for help.
The art director at Del Rey screwed up. I have a full explanation on another page.
Click here to return to the top of the page.
|The Legends of Ethshar|
That's it; here's your list of handy exits: