The Townhouse of Ideas

Author Interview: Steven Brust, Part TWO


You’ve probably noticed that I/we stopped sending these out every week. Yeah, we decided to move to a new format– they’re not going to be every week anymore– they’re going to be monthly… MOSTLY.

HOWEVER! First we’re going to clear the decks as far as this Steven Brust interview goes! So here’s part two, and part three WILL be later this month, just to make room for other stuff! There’ll be one more thing this month, too, but MOSTLY it’s going to be a once-a-month update– the slight reversion to more-than-once-a-month this month is mostly just to finish what we started.

Okay! So here we go with part TWO of this three-part interview that I did with fantasy author Steven Brust back in 2011! Here’s a link to Part One of this interview, in case you missed it:

All right, here we go! I had just asked ol’ SB about if and when his characters ever give him “push back” regarding how HE wants the story to go as opposed to what THEY want to do…

Steven Brust: In one of the early books, maybe Milquetoast, Vlad had just met Morrolan and they were walking up the stairs inside Dzur Mountain, and Vlad insisted on insulting Morrolan, and I went, “Fuck. Vlad is about to die. NOW what am I going to do?” But I just went with it, and they managed to work it out. I was relieved.

Park Cooper: I’ve noticed him do that from time to time.

SB: Me too

PC: It’s the anger with them tall guys. It… but why am I telling you. Well, the anger with the shorter, hairier guys, too, really. All the guys. He pushes it sometimes.

SB: Yeah.

PC: But by this time, I think his dear ones get that, whether they understand it or not. So it’s totally… yeah.

Now, we all know about your Musketeers-era influences… But what about your more, how shall I say, hard-boiled influences? I’m trying to catch any insights into it that might slip out. Because I dig your narration stuff. So me put it this way: Where did you learn to narrate?

SB: Well, Raymond Chandler, obviously.

PC: Yeah, it’s obvious, but I have to make you say these things.

SB: I stole the narrative voice from Raymond Chandler. I stole the world from Fritz Leiber. I stole the tropes from Michael Moorcock. I stole the general aesthetic from Roger Zelazny.

PC:  Ah HA! Yeah that’ll do nicely, awesome. Whole teams of brain cells in my head are victory- dancing. Have you read RZ’s The Dead Man’s Brother?

SB: In fact, I have. Interesting work.

PC: Pages and pages of tough guys with swords and horses and he just up and hands us one with regular old pulp guns and fists. Always wanted to see it, and then that little dream came true for me.

SB: Yeah; pretty cool.

PC: Using pulp a little loosely, obviously.

SB: Right.  I miss him terribly.  When Neil wrote American Gods, I missed him even more, because that was very much Neil’s work in his honor. And now, with Spiked, it’s happening again. I want him to read it. It hurts.

PC: Yeah. I hear ya, man. I’m friends with Trent Zelazny, just met him via Facebook a few months ago–

SB: –His son, Trent, has a book out now. I’m going to be reading it in the next couple of days.

It’s called To Sleep Gently. I’m looking forward to it—

PC: –Just reviewed To Sleep Gently on Amazon today for Trent’s birthday as a matter—

–of fact.

SB: Hah. Timing.

PC: Yeah. I read it today.

SB: How is it?


SB: Nice!

PC: He liked it.

SB: Good.

PC: Raw-ther.

Hm. Any thoughts on Vlad and other media? Movies? TV? Plays? Anything?

SB: Uh… I’m for it?

PC: Audiobook? Anyone done that yet?

SB: We’re in the process of working on those.

PC: No one ever comes and talks to you about Vlad and…?  Wait, all those? Or did you mean just audiobooks?

SB: Audiobooks.

PC: Ah ha. I have RZ doing Nine Princes… gonna get him reading more someday… maybe Guns of Avalon for Christmas… I heard RZ read a bit of The Black Throne at Dallas Fantasy Faire, circa 1990. Amusing…

SB: None of the other things. No one has expressed any interest.

PC: Haven’t they? Gaah! Philistines.

SB: It’s another thing over which I have no control, so I don’t think about it.

PC: Now, that’s a healthy comment…

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

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

(Park’s 2023 note: there has recently been a Jhereg/Dragaera version of the rpg Blades in the Dark entitled Blades of the Jhereg.)

some off-white dice, because this is the part where we talk briefly about role-playing games.

PC: I’m aghast. Well maybe a little interview publicity can help make that happen.

(Park’s 2023 note: …Did I make Blades of the Jhereg happen…?)

Any other wishes you’d like to make known, mighty one?

SB: Hee.


PC: What DO you want? Are you happy?

SB: Tough question.

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

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

SB: Thanks.

PC: So, okay, RPG, match-making, check. Ever RPGed, yourself?  I suppose?

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

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

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

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

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

PC: No seriously, “The world that became Dragaera was originally a home-brew rpg,” I am dying to hear a little more about that, please? Did you play anyone like Vlad? Or Morrolan? Any more hints about that? I am imagining that there’s some doctoral student out there writing his or her dissertation on RPG sessions that turn into famous series who’s covered Wild Cards already to whom I am about to throw yet another bone…

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

PC: Aw, man. That makes me very happy to hear about.