It’s not really an important point, but there was recently some discussion on the newsgroup rec.mag.dargon about the role that Robert Aspirin’s “Thieves’ World” books had in inspiring the Dargon Project, and I thought it worth reiterating here.
Dargon does bear a strong resemblance to “Thieves’ World” (henceforth: TW). And in a sense it’s true that in 1985 TW inspired me to start a collaborative fantasy writing project that would print stories in FSFnet, the fantasy and SF emag that I’d founded a year earlier. I can’t argue with that.
Way back then, TW was the only popular example of a collaborative writing project, and that description hadn’t even been coined yet. So at that time I usually described the Dargon Project as “similar to Robert Aspirin’s Thieves’ World series” because that was really the most effective way of getting the concept across. However, the TW books are not as ubiquotous as they once were, and several other similar projects have led to a popular understanding of what a collaborative writing project is without having to tie it to TW. So a while ago I dropped the “Thieves’ World-like” comparison from the DargonZine FAQ.
But why is it so important to drop the reference to TW, anyways? you might ask…
Well, from the start, TW served more as a negative model for the Dargon Project than a positive one, and I (and many of the writers) consciously tried to avoid the problems we thought had killed the TW series. These included (but were not limited to) powerful/destabilizing magic, archetypal/stereotypical characters, superlative characters, authors investing ego in their characters, competition between writers who tried to make their characters “better” than the rest, resorting to end-of-the-world plotlines, authors working virtually independently and “springing” their stories on the others, and so forth. Fortunately, we didn’t have to suffer the added complexities of divvying up the royalties and the temptation (that many TW writers succumbed to) of printing garbage just because it was guaranteed to sell or because they were contractually obligated to produce.
So with all those criticisms of TW, you can perhaps understand why I wince when people cite it as “the inspiration for the Dargon Project”.
Looking back on that list of things we wanted to avoid, I think we (the Dargon Project) have done a pretty good job of avoiding the pitfalls that were TW’s fatal flaws. I can only think of one glaring failure where someone managed to violate several of those guidelines, and years later we’re still trying to restore the project to normalcy!
Beyond that, I think our problems have been minor. I just chastised the writers about “springing” surprises on people, but that wasn’t because people were doing things behind others’ backs, but because an author might waste a lot of time in writing a first draft of an inappropriate storyline if he/she doesn’t run an outline by the group first. And while we do occasionally print garbage too, the reason for that isn’t financial gain or obligation, but because we’re amateur writers learning how to write, and it doesn’t always come out as well as we’d like.
We’ve also got problems of our own, though. The Baranur/Beinison war has taken us six years to write, and it’s still going strong (despite all efforts to the contrary). Taking on something that big was probably our biggest mistake. There’s also ongoing conflict between the high and low fantasy camps, the people who want background detail and those who think it shouldn’t be defined until it’s needed, the realist versus escapist camps, the newbies versus the geezers, those who think fantasy stories need themes versus those who say it’s ok to just write to entertain, and so forth. There are *ALWAYS* things to argue about in the authors’ discussion group (and if there aren’t any, we’ll create some!), but hopefully that’s all healthy discussion that everyone learns from.
But enough pontificating. We’ve got a great issue lined up for you here. Leading off, we have a thought-provoking story by none other than Jim Owens. Jim last appearred in FSFnet 9-3. That was December of *1987*!!! He dropped off the net for the longest time, but he returns with this great short. We hope to see more from him, as well as a couple other veterans who have recently resurfaced.
We follow that up with a new Cydric story by Carlo Samson. Carlo is also an old-timer, and was last published in DargonZine 6-5, which was December of 1993. Carlo and a couple other authors will be visiting me in Boston later in the month, and I’m sure there’ll be stories to tell in the next editorial! Hopefully we can motivate Carlo to get stories out a little more frequently than once every 18 months! Carlo’s last story left his protagonist (Cydric) in port, about to embark upon a voyage of exploration. “Ship of Doom” takes place at an unspecified point in that journey, which Carlo’s future stories will present in more detail.
And batting cleanup is a great story by one of our newest writers: Alan Lauderdale. Alan joined the project in January and has hit the ground running. I found “I am my Lord’s Possession” engrossing, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. And Alan assures us that his next story is already half written, so hopefully it won’t be too long before his works appear again.
At present, I don’t have an ETA for the next issue, but it’ll be out just as soon as I’ve got the submissions! Hopefully this excellent issue will help tide you over until then.