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Vlad Taltos

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Subject: Jhereg, Dragaera, Dzur, Teckla, Jhereg (novel), Yendi (novel), List of LiveJournal users, Phoenix (novel), Taltos (Brust novel), Orca (novel)
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Vlad Taltos

Template:Use American English

Steven Karl Zoltán Brust
Brust at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in 2012
Born Steven Karl Zoltán Brust
(1955-11-23) November 23, 1955 (age 58)
Occupation writer
Ethnicity Hungarian
Citizenship American
Genres fantasy
science fiction
Notable work(s) See below

Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He was a member of the writers' group The Scribblies, which included Emma Bull, Pamela Dean, Will Shetterly, Nate Bucklin, Kara Dalkey, and Patricia Wrede; he also belongs to the Pre-Joycean Fellowship.

He is best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos. His novels have been translated into German, Russian, Polish, Dutch, Czech, French, Spanish, Hebrew and Bulgarian. Most of his short stories are set in shared universes. These include Emma Bull's and Will Shetterly's Liavek, Robert Asprin's Thieves' World, Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Terri Windling's Borderland Series.



There are two series set in the world of Dragaera, namely The Khaavren Romances and The Vlad Taltos novels. They are set in different periods in the world, but some characters are common to both series.

Vlad Taltos

There are currently 13 novels in the series (19 are planned).

  1. Jhereg (1983)
  2. Yendi (1984)
  3. Teckla (1987)
  4. Taltos (1988)
  5. Phoenix (1990)
  6. Athyra (1993)
  7. Orca (1996)
  8. Dragon (1998)
  9. Issola (2001)
  10. Dzur (2006)
  11. Jhegaala (2008)
  12. Iorich (2010)
  13. Tiassa (2011)
  14. Hawk, TBR (2014)[1]

Chronological order of novels:

  1. Taltos (1988)
  2. Dragon, main chapters (1998)
  3. Yendi (1984)
  4. Dragon, interludes (1998)
  5. Tiassa, section 1 (2011)
  6. Jhereg (1983)
  7. Teckla (1987)
  8. Phoenix (1990)
  9. Jhegaala (2008)
  10. Athyra (1993)
  11. Orca (1996)
  12. Issola (2001)
  13. Dzur (2006)
  14. Tiassa, section 2 (2011)
  15. Iorich (2010)
  16. Tiassa, section 3 (2011)

Omnibus volumes:

  1. The Book of Jhereg (contains Jhereg, Yendi and Teckla)
  2. The Book of Taltos (contains Taltos and Phoenix)
  3. The Book of Athyra (contains Athyra and Orca)
  4. Dragon & Issola (contains Dragon and Issola - SFBC hardcover)
  5. The Book of Dragon (contains Dragon and Issola - Tor paperback)
  6. The Book of Dzur (contains Dzur and Jhegaala)

The Khaavren Romances

Main article: Khaavren Romances

The series consists of three books and has been completed.

  1. The Phoenix Guards (1991)
  2. Five Hundred Years After (1994)
  3. The Viscount of Adrilankha, published in three volumes:
    1. The Paths of the Dead (2002)
    2. The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
    3. Sethra Lavode (2004)


Other novels

  • To Reign in Hell (1984)
  • The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars (1987)
  • Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille (1990)
  • The Gypsy (1992) with Megan Lindholm
  • Agyar (1993)
  • Freedom & Necessity (1997) with Emma Bull
  • My Own Kind of Freedom (written 2005, released[2] under the Creative Commons license February 8, 2008[3]), a novel based on the Firefly television series
  • The Incrementalists, [4] (2013) with Skyler White

Short stories

Convention chapbooks

  • In 1986, Brust was a Guest of Honor at the Per Ardua Ad Astra science fiction convention in Toronto, and he contributed the Vlad Taltos short story "A Dream of Passion" to the convention chapbook.
  • Brust included "Klava with Honey" in Eeriecon Chapbook #4 for the 2005 EerieCon convention. This very brief excerpt was initially part of the novel Dzur. He could not attend the convention for medical reasons.
  • He also contributed "Chapter One" for Eeriecon Chapbook #6 which was featured at EerieCon 9, 2007.

Introductions by Brust

  • In 1987, Tor Books published the gamebook Dzurlord (A Crossroads Adventure in the World of Steven Brust's Jhereg). Brust wrote the introduction for this book, which introduced readers to the world of Dragaera and its inhabitants.
  • Tor also published The Three Musketeers in paperback in 1994. Brust introduced the edition, saying that this translation (anonymous, originally published in 1888) was his favorite.
  • Brust contributed the introduction for Manna from Heaven. Wildside Press published this collection of stories from Roger Zelazny in 2003.

The Dragaeran books

The Vlad Taltos series is set on what is apparently another planet, in an Empire mostly inhabited and ruled by the Dragaerans, who are humanoid but have such differences as greatly extended lifespans and heights averaging about 7 feet. Referred to as "elfs" by some humans, they refer to themselves as "human". The Dragaeran Empire controls an area that is 'enclouded', and does not greatly concern itself with the rest. Vlad Taltos is one of the human minority (known by Dragaerans as "Easterners"), which exists as a lower class in the Empire. Vlad also practices the human art of witchcraft; "táltos" is Hungarian for a kind of supernatural person in folklore. Though human, he is a citizen of the Empire because his social-climbing father bought a title in one of the less reputable of the 17 Dragaeran Great Houses. The only Great House that sells memberships this way is, not coincidentally, also the one that maintains a criminal organization. Vlad proves surprisingly successful in this organization. Despite being a human and a criminal, he has a number of high-ranking Dragaeran friends, and often gets caught up in important events.

Brust has written thirteen novels in the series, which is proposed to run to nineteen novels — one named for each of the Great Houses, one named for Vlad himself, and a final novel which Brust has said will be titled The Final Contract. The first three novels resemble private-eye detective stories, perhaps the closest being Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. The later novels are more varied than the first three. Though they read like fantasy, there are science-fictional explanations for some things.

Brust has also written another series set in Dragaera, the Khaavren Romances, set centuries before Vlad's time. Since Dragaerans live for thousands of years, many characters appear in both series. It is partly an homage to Alexandre Dumas, père's novels about the Three Musketeers, and is five volumes long, following the pattern of Dumas' series. The books are presented as historical novels written by Paarfi of Roundwood, a Dragaeran roughly contemporary with Vlad. Paarfi's old-fashioned, elaborate, and highly verbose writing is explicitly based on Dumas', though with a dialogue style that is, at times, based on Tom Stoppard's wordgames in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (according to Pamela Dean's introduction to Five Hundred Years After).

The two series are finally brought together in the thirteenth novel in the Vlad series, Tiassa, which can also be viewed as the sixth novel in the Khaavren series. Tiassa comprises what are in effect three related novellas, each told in a different style and connected by a common theme. The first section reads like the first three novels in the series, with a first-person narration by Vlad but including Khaavren’s son, Piro; the second section has a different viewpoint character in each of its chapters; and the third section is narrated by Paarfi in the style of the earlier Khaavren Romances, with Khaavren as the viewpoint character and interacting with Vlad.

There is a certain amount of variation in the writing style amongst the Taltos novels as well. Brust uses a different narrative approach in almost every novel in the series. Some of these approaches are more purely stylistic and have minor effects on the actual story-telling; some are profound and involve the point of view of characters whom the reader never expected to get to know so well.

Further, as the writing of the Taltos novels has spanned over two decades, they have been influenced by events in Brust's own life. A fascination with the Mafia — subsequently brought into a somewhat shocking perspective by the murder of a friend — profoundly influenced his storylines, as did the breakup of his marriage. The events and arguments of his books, especially Teckla, are acknowledged by Brust to be influenced by his life-long interest in Marxist theory and practice, especially as advocated by Leon Trotsky. Since Brust is a self-identified "Trotskyist sympathizer", this topic frequently comes up in interviews with him.[6]

Lastly, Brust has a decided knack for slipping absorbing mysteries into the minor details of his stories; mysteries that tend to fascinate his readers, once they notice them, and often form the kernel around which later books coalesce, even though their resolution still springs upon the reader unexpectedly when it finally comes.



The same character, usually a cute brown-eyed girl of about nine, appears as a motif in all of Brust's novels. In the Dragaeran books her name is Devera. She is the (future) daughter of another character and seems to be able to appear anywhere in time and space. In Brust's non-Dragaeran books her appearances are usually brief and not always obvious.

Title nicknames

Brust is known for his propensity to give his books alternate titles for his own amusement. These have cropped up in numerous interviews and online forums, starting with "Jarhead" for Jhereg.[7]

Examples are:

  • The Rain in Spain (To Reign in Hell)
  • Aw Gee (Agyar)
  • The Kleenex Guards (The Phoenix Guards)
  • Tacky (Teckla)
  • Tucson (Phoenix)
  • Ripple (Brokedown Palace)
  • Crosby, Stills and Nash (The Sun, The Moon, And The Stars)
  • Jar Head (Jhereg)
  • Milqtoast [sic] (Taltos)
  • Stir (Dzur)
  • Giggolo [sic] (Jhegaala)
  • Your Itch (Iorich)
  • My Own Kind of Whedon (My Own Kind of Freedom, Firefly fanfic)
  • Hadassah (Tiassa)
  • Spit (Hawk)

Only his collaborative books escape being nicknamed.

Literary theory

In contrast to contemporary academic studies in literature, Brust has put forward The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature:[6]

"The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ‘em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ‘em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.
"The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff."


Music & other media

Brust played drums, specifically in the Minneapolis-based folk rock band Cats Laughing and also in the Albany Free Traders.[8] He released his only solo album, A Rose for Iconoclastes, in 1993. Two songs from this album were played by Doctor Demento: "I Was Born About Ten Million Songs Ago" (co-written with Nathan A. Bucklin) and "Backward Message."[9]

The 1995 Boiled in Lead enhanced CD Songs from the Gypsy featured songs by Brust and Adam Stemple, as well as the full text of the novel The Gypsy.[6]

Cats Laughing also appears in issue #5 of a Marvel comic book called Excalibur. Steve is the only member of the band who is both seen onstage and named. Emma Bull also appears but names everyone in the band except herself.[10] Steve was seen again in a one-shot special issue, Excalibur: Mojo Mayhem, in which the mutant superhero Shadowcat attends a Cats Laughing concert in Edinburgh and mentions previously having seen the band at Windycon.

In addition, Chris Claremont inserted a reference to "Cats Laughing — the Excalibur Sessions" into the DC Comics graphic novel Star Trek Debt of Honor.

Brust owned a Cadillac ambulance in Minnesota. It was painted yellow, light blue and dark blue, with murals. Known as the Catmobile, the car was the band vehicle for Cats Laughing. The same car is also depicted on the "Another Way to Travel" album with the band members. This album, noted by its picture, has a cameo in the beginning of Emma Bull's novel Bone Dance.

Brust performed in several Shockwave Radio Theater productions, notably Closing Ceremonies (aka The Fall of the House of Usherette) and PBS Liavek.

Dragon gets argued over in the webcomic Penny Arcade.[11] Tycho elaborates on "Fine Distinctions"[11] that same day.

Award nominations (and dubious honors)

Brust's short story "When The Bow Breaks" was nominated for the 1999 Nebula Award, although it did not reach the final ballot.[12]

Five Hundred Years After was nominated for the 1995 Locus Poll Award (Best Fantasy Novel). Other novels nominated for various Locus Poll Awards were Brokedown Palace, The Gypsy, Agyar, and Freedom & Necessity.[13]

Dragon was a finalist for the 1999 Minnesota Book Awards in the Fantasy & Science Fiction category.[14] Freedom and Necessity was a 1998 finalist for the same category,[15] while The Phoenix Guards was a finalist in 1992.[16]

Brust discovered in August 2006 that he had made the New York Times extended bestseller list at number 30 with Dzur. He mentioned his ambivalence on this subject online.[17]

SCI FI Wire posted an interview with Brust after Dzur came out.[18]


External links

  • The Dream Café - Steven Brust's homepage
  • Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • SciFan
  • Steven Brust at Fantasy Literature

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