From The Writers' Room

The Wonderful World of Ellen Kushner

On the joys of sharing one's universe.

So what’s it like, everyone asks me, to open up your cherished world to other people to write in? I’ve always enjoyed collaboration: my creative life has been full of it, from theatrical adaptations with Shirim Klezmer Orchestra and Vital Theater, to writing an entire novel with my partner (now wife), Delia Sherman—not to mention Terri Windling’s shared world Bordertown series, which a lot of us (then) young fantasy writers[1] created together under Terri’s creative vision and guidance.


For Serial Box, I wanted the freedom to open the story up to other writers, without having to worry or micro-manage content. So when I agreed to oversee and collaborate on a new work set in the Swordspoint world, I just insisted that it not take place during or after any of the three existing novels.[2]After all, I’m still creating solo work about various members of the Tremontaine family, with a new novel in progress, and I didn’t want to risk even accidentally inserting any contradictions. I was looking forward to taking some of the older, minor Swordspoint characters and showing them when they were in their prime—and even getting some back-story on the greatest of them all: Diane, Duchess Tremontaine.I’ve always prided myself on implying a world that was a lot bigger than what was in the books. You (and I) are just following my characters around, after all; you only see what they see, and they are not necessarily interested in everything. Which is why Delia could have pretty free rein delving into the University and even the city’s middle class when we collaborated on The Fall of the Kings.What I didn’t fully realize was just how grand and glorious bringing in four new authors would be! Suddenly there was math and science, cacao beans and navigation, colored inks and red herrings . . . and of course a lot more cooking! Not to mention a giant vengeful swan pudding.The lovely thing about this particular gang of writers is how, despite our copious idiosyncrasies, we’ve all jelled into a cohesive unit, with each one lending his or her strengths (and obsessions!) to what we all hope looks like an unbroken whole. We have argued and bitched and fretted and fumed . . . but mostly we have laughed a hell of a lot, and gotten the chance to admire and benefit from each other’s brains and talent.So: What’s it like?It’s like . . . it’s like home. With all your favorite relatives. And a giant vengeful swan pudding. [1] Original Bordertown writers included Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Midori Snyder and me.[2] If you’re just joining us: Swordspoint was followed by The Privilege of the Sword, which takes place fifteen years later and is narrated by the teenage niece of one of the original main characters. Next comes The Fall of the Kings, which is about forty years after that. And in between are a lot of short stories to fill in the gaps. More info here on my website.

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