Robert Asprin was an author of fantasy and science fiction best known for his humor Mythical Adventures novels and for co-editing the groundbreaking novels The world of thieves shared world anthology series. Author and editor Bill Fawcett first met Asprin at a tabletop gaming convention in 1980.
“He’s become a pretty big figure on the fan scene,” Fawcett says in episode 542 of the The Galaxy Geek’s Guide podcast. “Bob was probably the brightest person to seat people at his table in the bar and host him for hours and hours, and everyone had a blast.”
Asprin owes much of his success to the network of fans and colleagues he has cultivated over years of attending sci-fi conventions. “He took all the money he made from the Myth pounds, and some of the money he had earned with The world of thieves, and he went to between 15 and 25 conventions a year, for five or six years,” says Fawcett. “He held court and entertained everyone, and became so well known that people had just bought his books.”
After years as a prolific writer and publisher, Asprin’s output slowed in the 1990s due to a series of personal and financial issues. Fawcett says Asprin’s fiction reflected the full range of her complicated personality. “Humour doesn’t work without pathos, and it doesn’t work without emotional depth, because then it’s slapstick,” Fawcett says. “And Bob wrote humor, and it came from him. There was pathos in his life and his humor, good things and bad things, romance and divorce, and romance, and romance, and romance.
Asprin passed away in 2008, but his Mythical Adventures the series was continued by his friend and collaborator Jody Lynn Nye, and his influence lives on in the many authors and musicians he has mentored. “Someone like him doesn’t come around very often,” Fawcett says. “It was shown in his books and it was shown in friends, and we all still remember him very fondly – even those he died due to money, we remember him fondly.”
Listen to the full interview with Bill Fawcett in episode 542 of The Galaxy Geek’s Guide (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Bill Fawcett on Asprin’s childhood:
His father was also a martial artist – Bob was a fencer – and his best weapon was the machete. Filipinos learn the machete. His father had to flee the Philippines because of an incident with the son of an important person, who tried to shoot him with a gun, and his father ripped his hand off with a machete, and it became a good idea to go to another country after that. So he came to Chicago, and he spent a lot of time growing up trying to convince the mob that he didn’t want to be an enforcer and leave him alone. And Bob distinctly remembered those conversations. He told them with a certain bitterness.
Bill Fawcett on tuckerization:
In mythical peoplethe “Woof Writers” are Richard and Wendy Pini. And there’s a guy in there, Wilhelm the Vampire Agent, who has a phone permanently attached to his head. It was me. Everyone in this book, every person, is someone from the group that we were at the time. And it was fun to pick them and decide, “OK, it’s so-and-so.” And he was telling the person and getting permission, but they were asking you not to tell anyone else, at least until the book was out, so everyone could sort of find out for themselves- even.
Bill Fawcett on the Mythical Adventures series:
They are optimistic books, they are joyful books. Not only do the good guys win, but sometimes the bad guys turn around – like Big Julie – and become one of the heroes instead. Because Bob always believed that with few exceptions, villains were misunderstood, and if you understood that they thought they were the heroes, you could turn them into real heroes. …I would have to speculate why he thought that way. Maybe because he just had a bit of an ass in himself, but he considered himself a hero and was. And so he wanted it to be the world.
Bill Fawcett on The world of thieves:
They would hold an annual meeting, and each would decide what to do. There were a lot of personality clashes in there, and it was reflected in the stories. Janet Morris and another author couldn’t stand each other, and their characters escalated into annihilating – or nearly annihilating – each other in the first six books, each time, so they started out as a thief and a soldier and they ended up as demigods vying for the city, as each constantly tried to outdo the other. In fact, in order to protect his character, one author made his character immortal.