Steven Brust

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Steven Karl Zoltán Brust
Steven Brust at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in 2012.jpg
Brust at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention in 2012
Born Steven Karl Zoltán Brust
(1955-11-23) November 23, 1955 (age 58)
Occupation Writer, novelist
Ethnicity Hungarian
Citizenship American
Genres fantasy
science fiction
Notable work(s) Vlad Taltos series
Khaavren Romances

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[edit]

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 (October 7, 2014)[1][2]

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[edit]

The series consists of three works (published as five 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[edit]

Short stories[edit]

Convention chapbooks[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

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.

Brust's style and literary theory[edit]

There is a certain amount of variation in the writing style amongst the Taltos novels, as well as between Brust's various series. Brust uses a different narrative approach in almost every novel in the Taltos 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.[8]

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.

In contrast to contemporary academic studies in literature, Brust has put forward what he called "The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature":

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.[9]

Brust elaborated, "The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff."[8]

Musical recordings and performances[edit]

Cats Laughing: Another Way to Travel
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[10]

Brust is a drummer who has played in the Minneapolis-based folk rock band Cats Laughing, and with the Albany Free Traders.[11]

In 1990, Cats Laughing released the album Another Way to Travel, with Brust as drummer. The cover of the album depicts the band members and a vehicle known as the Catmobile, the band vehicle for Cats Laughing. The car, owned by Brust in Minnesota, was a Cadillac ambulance, painted yellow, light blue, and dark blue, with murals.

Steven Brust: A Rose for Iconoclastes
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[12]

A Rose for Iconoclastes is Brust's only solo album, released in 1993.[13] Two songs from this album, "I Was Born About Ten Million Songs Ago" (co-written with Nathan A. Bucklin) and "Backward Message," were played by Doctor Demento on his radio program.[14]

Boiled in Lead: Songs from the Gypsy
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2/5 stars[15]

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.[8]

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


References in other media[edit]

The book Dragon is the subject of an argument in the webcomic Penny Arcade.[16] Tycho elaborates on "Fine Distinctions"[16] that same day.

Brust's band, Cats Laughing, appears in issue #5 of a Marvel comic book called Excalibur. Brust 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.[17] Brust 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. The album Another Way to Travel, noted by its picture, also has a cameo in the beginning of Emma Bull's novel Bone Dance.


The character Devera, 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.

Book title nicknames[edit]

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.[18] Examples include:

Brust does not have nicknames for collaborations out of respect for his collaborators, stating "It's one thing to not want to take myself seriously, and another thing to—I want to take them seriously."[18]

Award nominations (and dubious honors)[edit]

Brust's short story "When The Bow Breaks" was nominated for the 1999 Nebula Award, although it did not reach the final ballot.[20]

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.[21]

Dragon was a finalist for the 1999 Minnesota Book Awards in the Fantasy & Science Fiction category.[22] Freedom and Necessity was a 1998 finalist for the same category,[23] while The Phoenix Guards was a finalist in 1992.[24]

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.[25]

SCI FI Wire posted an interview with Brust after Dzur came out.[26]


  1. ^ Brust, Steven (May 16, 2013). Hawk isn't scheduled yet. If I had to make a vague guess, I'd say about 18 months, but I could be way off in either direction." - Twitter post - 6:12 PM - 27 Jan 12.
  2. ^ Amazon pre-order This title will be released on October 7, 2014.
  3. ^ "My Own Kind of Freedom". Dreamcafe Brust blog. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  4. ^ Brust, Steven (February 5, 2008). "Firefly novel". Dreamcafe Brust blog. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  5. ^ "Forthcoming Books". Locus Online. Archived from the original on December 29, 2012. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Incrementalists Book" Official book website for The Incrementalists.
  7. ^ Brust, Steven (March 2, 2011). "The Desecrator".
  8. ^ a b c Olson, Chris (February 3, 2003). "Interview: Steven Brust". Strange Horizons. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Walton, Jo (Jan. 20, 2010). "A conversation with Steven Brust about writing the Dragaera books". Tor Books. Archived from the original on 2013-08-24. 
  10. ^ Foss, Richard. Another Way to Travel review at AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  11. ^ "A short visual trip down musical memory lane" (Albany Free Traders publicity flyer). Geri Sullivan blog. February 1, 2007. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  12. ^ McDonald, Steven. A Rose for Iconoclastes review at AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  13. ^ Brust, Steven (1993). A Rose for Iconoclastes (CD). Beer & Pizza, Inc. (BMI). ASIN B000R9RCQY. 
  14. ^ "Steven Brust". The Mad Music Archive. Retrieved December 12, 2012.[not in citation given]
  15. ^ Parisien, Roch. Songs from the Gypsy review at AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-04-02.
  16. ^ a b "Fine Distinctions" . Penny Arcade. June 14, 2006.
  17. ^ "Steven Who?". Tenser Said the Tensor blog. August 15, 2006. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Robinson, Tasha (2002). "Steven Brust doesn't take himself seriously--but his readers do" (224). Science Fiction Weekly ( Archived from the original on 2002-01-26. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 
  19. ^ Dyer-Bennett, David (2012). "Book Note: Steven Brust, Jhegaala (#2)". Ouroboros: DD-B’s Booknotes. 
  20. ^ "1999 Nebula Final Ballot". DPS Info AwardWeb. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  21. ^ "Index of Literary Nominees". Locus Index of Science Fiction Awards. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  22. ^ "MBA Winners 1999" Minnesota Book Awards Past Finalists and Winners - 1999
  23. ^ "MBA Winners 1998" Minnesota Book Awards Past Finalists and Winners - 1998
  24. ^ "MBA Winners 1992" Minnesota Book Awards Past Finalists and Winners - 1992
  25. ^ "I have a new first name". Steven Brust blog. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  26. ^ "Dzur Is A Savory Meal". SciFi Wire ( August 24, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-11-14. Retrieved December 29, 2012. 

External links[edit]