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Thursday 1 April 2004

Wizards Of The Coast Gives Imaginary Worlds
An Opportunity To Unite

by Ferje Vedfamner

Wizards of the Coast has announced plans for a series of "shared world" novels by some of genre's most respected imaginary world fantasists.

"We will offer imaginary world novelists a significant cash advance to unite their imaginary worlds," said Wizards of the Coast spokesperson Miranda Jones. "Some authors, depending on their stature and sales record, will be offered more significant cash advances than others.

"To our way of thinking, these worlds are currently fractured splinters of a greater whole. Consolidating these places will allow for better possibilities in terms of product tie-ins, as well as make the authors' job a lot easier."

Writers mentioned by Jones included China Miéville, Jeffrey Ford, Paul Di Filippo, K.J. Bishop, Ursula K. Le Guin, M. John Harrison, Stephen R. Donaldson, Patricia McKillip, Gene Wolfe, Jeff VanderMeer, and Michael Moorcock.

In an unprecedented act of real-estate shifting, the authors involved would have to attempt to reconcile their separate milieus into one uber-setting.

"I'm confident, from the little I've read, that the Well-Built City, the Etched City, and the Linear City can be blended together. If nothing else, they all have the word 'city' in them," said Robert Asprin, Thieves' World editor and Wizards of the Coast creative consultant for the new project. "The biggest challenge will be selecting a name for this new mega-place, and figuring out what to discard and keep from each world. For example, those mosquito people in The Scar were a real downer. They're going to have to go."

The Well-Built Etched Linear City might have a certain ring to it, but how to include Bas-Lag, Viriconium, the Multiverse, Ambergris, The Land, Hed, Earthsea, and many others?

"At first we thought we might just take the first two letters of each place and mix them together," Asprin said. "Early drafts called the place Vibamuamheeawebuetli, but it sounded too Hawaiian. Then we thought perhaps combinations of three letters, which resulted in hybrids like Basvirmulambhed, which was only slightly better. But for now, we're just calling it The Mega City."

When asked to share their thoughts about such an enterprise, author response varied significantly.

M. John Harrison said, "We all die alone and without love. Soon enough, I'll be lying in a coffin, friendless and dead, and then eventually, too, the universe will collapse in on itself and become a heap of ash. So why should I resist the pull of corruption any longer? Considering how grim it all is, I'll put in monkey lovin' if they want that. And a cat. Can't forget the cat."

Asked to comment on whether "monkey lovin'" might be included in the new shared world, Asprin said, "M. John Harrison is a highly-respected literary figure. If he feels monkeys loving other monkeys might add something to the shared world, we will defer to his expert opinion."

Other writers had a more enthusiastic response to the announcement.

"It's really no problem. I'll be happy to," K.J. Bishop said when contacted. "There are large stretches of The Etched City where nothing much happens, so I can easily insert the details of this new world there."

Jeffrey Ford said, "Sounds like bullshit to me. But what the hell — I'll give it a go. Can't be anywhere near as bad as being in that Album Zutique anthology. I'm still bleeding internally from that one."

Meanwhile, Stephen R. Donaldson had his own requirement: "As long as there is almost masochistic pain in every blade of grass in this shared new land — as long as even the characters' feet, in contact with the Land, convey the angst of daily suffering — I'm fine with it."

In response, Asprin told Locus Online, "Donaldson's pain has been our pain for a long time. I'm sure we will be able to fulfill his requirement."

China Miéville replied via email as follows:

Three worlds for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One New Weird to rule them all.

Jeff VanderMeer, busy preparing yet another version of his City of Saints & Madmen, was unavailable for comment. Also unavailable for comment were Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Gene Wolfe, Patricia McKillip, and Terry Goodkind, although for vastly different reasons.

Some negotiations are already underway between the various authors as to which elements of their settings will be carried forward and which will be left behind.

"We're not quite sure what to do with Mary Gentle's rats," Asprin said. "They're bigger than the rats in most of the other books, although King Rat has something going for it as well. We might just let them fight it out."

Any animals introduced into the new shared setting would be quarantined first to avoid the spread of any natural or unnatural contagion.

When reached for comment, Michael Moorcock said only, "It's all part of the Multiverse, pardner, so all I have to do is sit back and let the royalty checks come in."

Ferje Vedfamner is preparing a new version of his latest book.

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