Posted by: Mish | May 25, 2010

Thieves’ World

While wine flowed prior to a sci-fi con in ’78, Robert Asprin said to his cohorts, “Imagine if our favorite sword-and-sorcery characters shared the same settings and time-frames. Imagine the potentials. Imagine the tie-ins. What if…” the characters know of each other and their paths crossed? What if several writers agree to contribute their own characters and plots? What if the writers could use each others’ characters? Such is how the fantasy anthology Thieves’ World and its series were born.

Within the city of Sanctuary readers are introduced to Enas Yorl who is powerful but can’t undo his curse, thieving Shadowspawn who gets caught in a trap set for another, the wandering minstrel Cappan Varra, madame Myrtis who wants to bargain for her girls, and many others. They aren’t as cliché as they might seem. Because a writer’s character is shared, intonations and perceptions may seem to vary. It’s a case of he said she said. Thieves’ World is like a mystery where everyone is asked to give their account. And as Asprin said in his editor’s note, “the pecking order of Sanctuary will vary depending on who you talk to…or more importantly, who you believe”.

Those who let their arms be twisted into joining the project are:

  • John Brunner- “Sentences of Death”
  • Lynn Abbey- “The Face of Chaos”
  • Poul Anderson- “The Gate of the Flying Knives”
  • Andrew J. Offutt- “Shadowspawn”
  • Robert Lynn Asprin – “The Price of Doing Business”
  • Joe W. Haldeman- “Blood Brothers”
  • Christine DeWees- “Myrtis”
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley- “The Secret of the Blue Star”

Thieves’ World is a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable read. Some of the the writing may not be the best, but it gets points for originality. While some writers went on to other projects, new contributors such as Diana Paxon and C.J. Cherryh breathed new life into Sanctuary. Bradley’s Lythande and Offutt’s Shadowspawn continued their adventures in other novels.  A friend with whom I share similar tastes exclaimed, “those are great!” I’m looking forward to reading more of the anthologies and/or the spin-off novels, of which there are many.

“We hold where I come from that no man can flee his weird, so he may as well meet it in a way that’ll leave a good story. Besides, this may not be our death day.” ~Poul Anderson,”the Gate of the Flying Knives”

Two years ago almost to the day I was introduced to the name Robert Asprin. That was quite the filk session/wake- music, stories, Glen, and a lot of laughs. He’s one of the funniest men I never met, but Robert made MarCon more memorable than it already was.


Robert L. Asprin
06/28/46 – 05/22/08
Thanks for the laughter, sláinte!



  1. I was crazy about this as a teenager, me and my friends thought it was one of the coolest things ever.

    There was a game based on it too, more accurately a supplement for other games. It was so you could play roleplaying games a la D&D in the setting (not so odd an idea, the shared worlds Wild Card series of about the same time is basically the novelisation by a group of writers of their then roleplaying campaign).

    The supplement came with the most wonderful map, and setting background that we pored over as if it was some arcane and secret lore.

    Cool stuff. I’d largely forgotten it. Here’s to Robert!

  2. I’ve seen the RPG games that stemmed from the series and they look fun. I’m sure that if I was aware of them when I had local gaming friends we would have played between D&D, Masquerade, Rifts…

    I have one of the Wild Card books in the TBR queue. I knew it was along the same lines of Thieves’ World, but not about the RPG bit. Cool to know.


  3. Wild Cards was based on the Superworld rules I believe, which I have a pdf of somewhere but never got into.

    It may have been their characters rather than their campaign, it’s been a while. Not the most important point really anyway.

  4. It seems the Superworld rules were similar/spun off of Champions, which I used to play.

    Either way it’ll be fun to read. Thanks for helping move it up on the list. Heheh.

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