Monday, January 2, 2017

Liavek: A Creation Myth

Know, my Excellencies, that there is a world beyond ours where magic is not bound to the laws of luck, where magic may not exist at all, and if it does, that world's inhabitants know little of it. In this world, seven writers gathered together, and these are their names: Steven Brust, Nathan Bucklin, Emma Bull, Kara Dalkey, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, and Patricia Wrede. They lived in a city named Minneapolis, and when they first gathered, their names were not known as those of writers, for none of their work had ever been published.

Because their world seemed deficient in magic, several of these writers created other worlds, and they would invite friends together on a weekend evening to have adventures in these imaginary worlds. The friends would take the parts of individuals in the world. The creator would direct their adventures and act the part of any additional characters that might be necessary for the entertainment, which was akin to a game and to an improvised play. The name of Patricia Wrede's world was Lyra, and Kara Dalkey's was Vesta, and Steven Brust's was Dragaera, but those realms take no part in my story (though in other tales, they are mighty lands, indeed). What is important is that they existed, and provoked Will Shetterly to create a world named Liavek.

Ah, you listen more closely! But this is not what you expect, for that Liavek was the faintest shadow of ours. Two adventures were enacted there. Will Shetterly was The Magician, Rikiki, the Levar, Rusty, and Stone. Emma Bull was Snake. Steven Brust, Patricia Wrede, and Kara Dalkey were adventurers who have not been seen since those games. Pamela Dean was audience, prompter of ideas, and baker of cookies. Still, this is a thread, it is not the tale. For the second adventure in that dim Liavek was the last, and Liavek was all but forgotten.

Now, to return to the first thread: Patricia Wrede sold her first novel, Shadow Magic, soon after these writers gathered together, and then Daughter of Witches, The Seven Towers, Talking to Dragons, and The Harp of Imach Thyssel. Steven Brust sold his first, Jhereg, and then Yendi and To Reign in Hell. Will Shetterly sold Cats Have No Lord, and Emma Bull sold "Rending Dark" to Sword and Sorceress. When Terri Windling, the editor who had bought all of their novels so far, received Pamela Dean's The Secret Country, and Kara Dalkey's The Curse of Sagamore, she decided to set these writers to a task. She asked them to create an anthology in which all the stories occurred in the same place and time. But they were too few to fill such an anthology, so she bade them invite writers whose work they knew and respected to complete the volume.

The first part of the task was to build a world in which many writers might play, and so the two threads of this tale finally intertwine. The writers had all created literary worlds of their own for the sake of their fiction. Confronted with the task of creating yet another world, they remembered Liavek, and that it had hardly been used, and so it was adopted for their purpose.

They knew they were too few to make a world, so other writers were invited to the first Liavek anthology. Gene Wolfe, Nancy Kress, Megan Lindholm, Barry B. Longyear, and Jane Yolen answer the call.

And, as these eleven writers labored together, what began as a stage setting became a world.

Now you think you know the end of this story? These eleven are the great gods of Liavek—and that is the point of my tale? It is not so, 0 most excellent listeners. For they were not the only writers invited to explore Liavek. In later volumes, Charles de Lint, Charles Saunders, Gregory Frost, John M. Ford, Caroline Stevermer, Bradley Denton, and Alan Moore enlarged on what the first eleven began.

Ah, you are amused that Liavek outgrew the confines of a single book? Listen more closely, Supremacies.

The writers who have told their tales are not Liavek's gods, nor are those who may write future stories the gods of the City of Luck. Our gods are those who read what these writers wrote, for if they are pleased, Liavek will never fall, no matter what Tichen or Ka Zhir may plot.

Excellencies, thank you for graciously indulging a longwinded teller of tales. As it was written by Jane Yolen:
May the luck of birth follow you,
not like a hound on a trail,
but like a shadow on a sunny day.

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