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Talk To Xanth Creator Piers Anthony 439

Posted by Roblimo
from the beware-of-the-invisible-giant dept.
Not only is Piers Anthony one of the world's most popular fantasy authors (his books have been science fiction and fantasy staples for decades) but he has been using Linux and StarOffice 5.2 for the past year. This is your opportunity to ask Piers about either the technical aspects of using Linux and StarOffice to produce fiction or about his upcoming work (new Xanth novels coming soon!) or almost anything else. We'll forward 10 of the highest-moderated questions to Piers tomorrow, and will run his answers (verbatim, as always) as soon as he gets them back to us.
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Talk To Xanth Creator Piers Anthony

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  • by Corvaith (538529) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:00PM (#3843858) Homepage
    Not that switching over to Linux is, of course, a bad thing, but what I'd like to know from Mr. Anthony is--What made him change to Linux, and how he progressed in switching over? What parts were most difficult?
    • by PacoTaco (577292) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:35PM (#3844631)
      I'm sure he appreciates the excellent cut and paste features of StarOffice.
    • Bingo. Plus, what can Piers tell "the community" about his switch that would lead to making the switch easier for others in the future? What should be kept, what improved, what hidden by pretty GUI wrappers, and what should be tossed out? What pushed him through the problems? Which distro? (Asked only to gauge how hard those problems were. When I installed RH 7.2 I found it easier than my last Windows install.) I guess this question(s) goes beyond an interview, maybe a short description on his website. [hipiers.com]
    • I remember one of his forewords talking about how he used CP/M and a custom-done word processor at one point. He's probably fairly technically experienced compared to what you'd expect from your Average Joe author. :-)

      Anyone read Killobyte, his sci-fi VR book?
  • by sparty (63226) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:02PM (#3843883) Homepage

    With larger documents and the importance of formatiting in the publication process, have you had difficulty with publishers and document submission? If so, has your establishment (ie previously published work) allowed you to overcome opposition of the "we-don't-support-that" variety? Or did you find that publishers were open to alternate submission formats? Or were they already using other formats (I know some authors have actually typeset their works themselves, using LaTeX, but I assume they are few and far between).

    In short, modern print publishing requires a lot of attention to detail and transmission of large documents electronically--how do you make it work with your chosen set of tools, when publishers probably don't expect authors to be using that paritcular set of tools?

  • by Faldgan (13738) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:09PM (#3843942) Homepage Journal
    You are a professional writer, not a professional computer nerd. With computer people, we try/run linux because we can. With people that are not full-time computer geeks, if they run linux, it's because something drove them to it, either something they disliked about their previous OS, or something they wanted from linux. Why did you switch?
  • Literary Scope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlphaHelix (117420) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:10PM (#3843960) Homepage
    I enjoyed many of your books when I was much younger, and I found that they had a fantastic impact on my vocabulary and imagination. However, at around age 14, I started to feel that the newer novels that you were producing (this was in 1990 or so) were much more commerically oriented (I particularly recall that making the Brown Adept a lesbian seemed out of character and gratuitously sexual.) I'm now a much more mature reader, and I generally eschew the fantasy and science fiction genres for their immaturity, prefering works with more developed characters. My question to you is: Where do you feel your work fits into the science fiction/fantasy genre, and more importantly, where does it fit into the greater literary scheme of things?
    • Re:Literary Scope (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
      However, at around age 14, I started to feel that the newer novels that you were producing (this was in 1990 or so) were much more commerically oriented (I particularly recall that making the Brown Adept a lesbian seemed out of character and gratuitously sexual.)

      I don't think it has anything to do with the books he was writing in 1990 or any other date. I think it was the fact that you were 14. That is about the same age that many people seem to give up on his writings. It happened to me and my peer group around 1985 when were in the 14-15 year old bracket and it seems to have happened to a lot of people I have met since then, regardless of the actual year it happened, the one thing in common is that all of them grew out of Piers Anthony books by the time their 15th birthday rolled around.
    • I'm now a much more mature reader, and I generally eschew the fantasy and science fiction genres for their immaturity, prefering works with more developed characters.

      So true. For every Brave New World or SnowCrash, SciFi gives us thousands of novels that are literary diarrhea.

      • Re:Literary Scope (Score:3, Interesting)

        by crumley (12964)
        So true. For every Brave New World or SnowCrash, SciFi gives us thousands of novels that are literary diarrhea.
        Well, what you say is true, but you are too focussed on SF. As Sturgeon's Law [everything2.com] says 90% of the novels in every genre stinks.
    • Re:Literary Scope (Score:3, Informative)

      by 0x0d0a (568518)
      ...seemed out of character and gratuitously sexual

      Well...I believe a lot of Mr. Anthony's characters are gratuitously sexual...but that's the style he writes in, which suits the target audience very well: relatively lighthearted, scifi/fantasy, teasingly sexual stories, usually with puzzle-based plot resolution a la Star Trek.

      You can't deny that he's done a good job of producing his target market what they want, right?

      That being said, I wouldn't mind a more serious, less sexual variant of Killobyte. There are too few authors that really understand (or go to the trouble of researching) the tech in their tech stories and have the guts to make things relatively plausible. When you run across something like this (I believe someone earlier mentioned Neal Stephenson, who did a particularly good job), it's absolutely glorious. You can read through the book without constantly wincing at factual errors or impossibilities.

      Finally, whether you like the plots or writing style or not, one thing that cannot be denied is that Mr. Anthony has come up with an incredible variety of very original settings. He has produced an enormous number of fantastic worlds (especially when considering that he's a single author). I find that most of the interest in his books comes not from the character-character interaction, but from in absorbing the worlds he's come up with.

      For example (spoiler warning):

      Xanth, a peninsula which somehow overlays various peninsulas in our world (Florida, Italy).

      The Apprentice Adept series, where a technological world exists in parallel with a fantasy world, each of which has a similar social structure and characters. The tech society is heavily based around the playing of a massive game.

      The Incarnations of Immortality series, where humans in a modern society both technologically and magically advanced take on roles similar to those of beings in the Greek panetheon. The rules governing these beings are complex and where most of the content in the story comes from.

      Killobyte, Mr. Anthony's attempt to do for VR something like what Wired does for the Internet -- predict social impact and changes. (This may sound dry, but it's in fact a quick-moving bit of fiction).

      The Mode series, where characters stream through a rapid succesion of worlds that Mr. Anthony creates.

      The best series to prove my point is Firefly. Perhaps someone has different feelings on this book, but I read it and found it pretty awful. Why? It's one of the few (the only?) books done where Mr. Anthony worked within the confines of our existing world, and didn't create his own. Removing the fantastic worlds, you're left with some semi-plausible characters, less than incredible dialog, the mandantory gratuitous sexuality...not that great.

      I'd actually love to see a collaboration where Mr. Anthony does all the setting design and someone else does all the character and dialog work...Patricia C Wrede would be a good choice, as I like her upbeat dialog and character work).
  • by maddogsparky (202296) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:11PM (#3843966)
    Would/do you recommend open source tools to others in your field? If not, what is holding you back? If you are already an advocate, have you convinced anyone to switch? Who?

  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:12PM (#3843968) Homepage
    I must have read at least 20 of your books between 11 and 17, but over time, they seemed to lose their luster. A lot of people I know had a similar fascination, and a similar segue into other reading. Do you believe that your work in fantasy is targetted at the juvenile market? Is that intentional or accidental? Have you had pressure from publishers over the years to try to be 'more mainstream' or perhaps specifically write to the young adult market?
    • by dirvish (574948) <dirvish@foun d n e w s . c om> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:42PM (#3844190) Homepage Journal
      You should check out the first Bio of a Space Tyrant book. It is targeted at a more mature audience and one of the best books I have read.

      I would like to know what motivated Mr. Anthony to write books that are so different from each other, ie I enjoyed the Xanth series when I was about 11 or 12, but wouldn't read it now but the Bio of a Space Tyrant is still good today at the ripe old age of 22.
      • I read them. In fact, I re-read the first one a lot of times, but I read them all at least once. I noticed on his site he's e-publishing them now. Neat.

        Personally, myself and most of those I've talked to who are widely read believe that his best work was the first trilogy of the Split Infinity series -- Split Infinity, Blue Adept, and Juxtaposition, and some of the earlier Incarnations books. I did enjoy Bio when I was younger, but it is a bit pulpy now.
  • Interprobability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Streyeder (569869) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:12PM (#3843974)
    How has your experience with transferring files between office programs and operating systems? Unless, of course, this never occurs between you and your publisher.
  • Piers, any plans to work in the Apprentice Adept universe again? I was a big fan of those books, although it seemed to get stretched in the later novels. I remember reading that you were moving to the Mode novels instead and had no plans for Adept, but that was years ago...
  • by totallygeek (263191) <sellis@totallygeek.com> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:13PM (#3843979) Homepage
    I love that series of books. I always thought that they would make one great (2.5 hour) movie. Now that special effects are both a reality and inexpensive (thanks largely to Linux and computer pricing drops), do you see a movie of this series in the near future?
    • Now that special effects are both a reality and inexpensive (thanks largely to Linux and computer pricing drops),

      Good special effects are NOT inexpensive. Look at Harry Potter. They poured millions into it and it had some of the shoddiest special effects ever.

      While free OSes (like Linux) for rendering & workstation use are nice, the savings there is nothing compared to the time-costs of good human animators and programmers required to create custom software and scripts (if you want truly good special effects).

  • by count0 (28810) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:13PM (#3843980)
    How can you keep your current and future work in the Xanth world from becoming commercially-driven drivel? I stopped reading Xanth books when they started to seem forced - written for the fans, written for the publisher, no longer written for yourself. Sure, they were still full of atrocious puns, and some ridiculously funny situations, but the depth seemed lacking. That was in the early 90s. Anything improved? Or am I mistaken, and you're still as engaged as ever, and not a victim (like Frank Herbert) of publishers demanding new books with an established fan base.

    "A Spell for Chameleon" was the first book I ever bought with my own money (at age 11 or so). Somehow the early 90s Xanth work didn't stack up for me. It wasn't just that I have grown personally - I re-read "ASfC" just a couple years ago and still enjoyed it. Maybe I'll have to check out the latest opus and see if anything's changed (or if I have...).

  • What tools? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _Quinn (44979) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:14PM (#3843985)
    I imagine that the publisher has its own ideas about how the printed books should be formatted, but WYSIWYG seems to the dominant paradigm in word processing today. I remember reading (a while back) about (geez, was it wordstar?) some custom macros you had so you could keep comments in-line with the text, but skip over or locate them easily. Do you do something similar now? Do you do some sort of markup for things like chapter-opening quotes, or whatever? (I suppose that means: can you mark a block as some StarOffice style and the publisher will read that and Do The Right Thing w.r.t. to its formatting in the book?)

    Do you have a really nice monitor, or do you get hardcopies to do your revisions?

    -_Quinn
  • by mcarbone (78119) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:15PM (#3843991) Homepage
    what's your favorite pun?
  • A really simple question...

    As a writer myself I am curious how you go about writing...I read the notes you had in the in the "incarnations"(Your best in my opinion BTW) series so I guess I am looking to see if time and/or new technology has changed any of that....
  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:15PM (#3843995) Homepage
    If you were giving advice to a first-time author who wanted to shop around a fantasy manuscript -- and it was vibrant, original, compelling, and entertaining -- what publishers would you recommend? Assume the goal of this author is to be as widely read as possible, and the author is willing to do their part. (Grueling signing tour, visit tons of cons, etc) What publishers would be best at polishing the work and promoting it well?
  • Which OS? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Art_XIV (249990) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:16PM (#3843996) Journal

    Which operating system do you feel is most suitable for automating the summoning/conjuring of demons?

    • Which operating system do you feel is most suitable for automating the summoning/conjuring of demons?

      My answer to that would be "I don't know about 'summoning/conjuring' but Windows is awsome at curses".

  • Question for PA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ransak (548582)
    Running an 'alternate' OS as your main system for producing your works, have you ran into any incompatablities with distributing your works to publishers? Have they been willing to work with you on any incompatability problems? Are you happier writing on a free OS (in terms of flexibility, over all 'feel')? PS: Love the Incarnations of Immortality series!
  • by gilly_gize (470403)
    So has Linux ever served as a source of inspiration for any of your writing?

    (Maybe naming a character "grep" or incoporating recursive acronyms into the title or something)
  • FYI: The name for the Xanth novels is derived from Piers' name: Pier _Xanth_ ony.
  • How eager are publishers to get your work electronically when you submit it? Do you believe they'd feel the same about work from first-time authors? And do they try to insist on getting proprietary formats, or are they ready to handle formats like StarOffice?
  • Incarnations series (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Though you are most well known for Xanth, I would say that some of my favourite books are the Incarnation series. What inspired you to write these books? Is there/are there reasons other then ones expressed in the appendix at the end of each?
  • Inspirations? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kasparov (105041) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:23PM (#3844049)
    First, I just wanted to say, "Thank you," for releasing your version of "But What of Earth." The "co-authored" version that they put out was horrible in comparison.

    I know this isn't a Linux or StarOffice question, but I'm very curious about who your inspirations were in the Sci-Fi realm. Who are your favorite authors?
  • Does he still think computer manuals are scripted by demons in hell, or has he grown up a bit (along with our industry's improvements).

  • by medcalf (68293) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:25PM (#3844059) Homepage
    What was your inspiration for "On the Uses of Torture," and do you find that your fans are more or less interested in this kind of story than in your more well-known works?
  • Handheld PDA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robbway (200983) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:28PM (#3844081) Journal
    I've shamelessly stopped reading your books awhile ago, but I've always been fascinated by your commentary on writing, your choice of computers, life with macros, and your insistance on portable computing so that you could write whenever the ideas hit. Have you ever tried, or even switched to a PDA for your remote writings?
  • by tommck (69750) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:29PM (#3844091) Homepage
    The day my friends came over for a party and pulled The Color of Her Panties off my shelf and started taunting me (it still hasn't stopped and its 8 years later), is the day I stopped reading the Xanth novels. It didn't help that there was a little girl of about 7 years old with plaid panties on the cover!

    My Question: Can you continue to write novels so that nerds can read them without the title causing them to get their asses kicked more than already happens?

    T

    • > little girl of about 7 years old with plaid panties

      For some really unorthodox views on children and sensuality read Pier Anthony's "Firefly"

      I found it a bit disturbing, but amazingly honest, especially in today's political and moral climate (oh-oh I am starting to sound like Jon Katz...)

  • As you appear to be a fan of Open Source Software, when are you going to release the code to the perl script you've apparently used to crank out the last fifteen or so Xanth novels, and will the code be GPLed or BSD-licensed?
  • Technophilia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by epepke (462220) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:33PM (#3844121)

    About a decade and a half ago, I recall seeing you speak at a convention in Florida (according to rumor, the only con at which you ever spoke, though I don't know if this is true). As I remember, at the time you said you were reluctant to use a computer because you were already so fast on your Dvorak typewriter. Moving to a Linux-based system seems to me to be a rather dramatic switch, especially as Linux is generally thought of as a system of technophiles, the same sort of people who eagerly used CP/M systems with ADM 3-As twenty years ago. What prompted your switch, and what adventures (both pleasant and unpleasant) has it entailed?

    • I recall in the author's notes to one of his books Piers Anthony remarked something along the lines of using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard using a Dvorak keyboard mode. This was around the time of the introduction of the evil Com-Pewter, as I recall. I might be able to find the book somewhere at home, although it may have been in one of the books that we got through the library.

      So yeah, he probably switched to a computer when they got to the point where it was fairly easy to switch keyboard layouts, or when someone pointed out to him how to switch keyboard layouts. So it probably isn't as dramatic a switch as you might think...

      Of course, I've since gotten - well, bored, really - with Xanth and am now chewing through the Discworld series - kinda too bad, since a few years earlier, I might have some real questions to ask with this interview...

  • by emptybody (12341) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:36PM (#3844140) Homepage Journal
    In high school I read and re-read three series, Xanth, Apprentice Adept and Incarnations of Immortality. In 1988 my first son was born which drew most of my attentions away from your novels. In 1991 my second son and the real world drew me the rest of the way.

    I see that there are now 10 more Xanth novels that I do not have. I guess I have some catching up to do!

    Your authors notes were for me almost a series of their own. These, combined with your autobiography, "Bio of an Ogre", made me feel like I knew you. And gave new meaning and insight to most of your novels.

    Have you ever thought of collecting them together into a book of their own? Sort of a Peirs Anthony self retrospective or 'The Ogre Speaks Through the Ages.'
  • world building (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:36PM (#3844145)
    when starting off creating a new world for your stories, do you concentrate a lot on historical and geographical background, or get right into your main story timelines? basically, what process do you find to be the best when setting the stage for the depth required for epic fantasy?
  • If you write or edit your novels on you computer. Have you noticed any difference between how different word processing programs handle the reletively large document size, and does the format it's in affect how well the program can manipulate the document?

    (as a subnote, do auto-spell checkers go nuts with all the puns?)
  • by carpediem55 (157989) <Kurt@spartansolu ... ns.biz minus bsd> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:38PM (#3844163) Homepage
    I've read just about every book you've written, and through your author notes, its pretty apparent that you're not afraid to change with the times and technology. My question for you is, through all of your years of writing, what was the hardest change in technology that you ever did? And what was the best change-over that you did?
  • Gratuitous sexuality (Score:2, Interesting)

    by knodi (93913)
    I got hooked on your stuff when I borrowed "Man From Mundania" from my Dad. I read it in a weekend and devoured all the published Xanth books, the Adept books, and the Incarnations. They were all great, and as a young teen, I didn't mind the completely gratuitous and explicit sex in the Adept books.

    My mom was the one who had to drive me to the library, however, and I was unwilling to check out "The Color of Her Panties" with her looking over my shoulder. I already had to hide all the nude-covered xanth books under a big plaid hardback or two.

    I checked out Tatham Mound because of your name, but I couldn't get past a main character named "Bear Penis". Good lord man, why all the sex? Would it be so hard to make your stuff PG-13 instead of XXX or R? It's hardly a major literary compromise.

  • by toupsie (88295) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:40PM (#3844178) Homepage
    Seems like a successful author like you would be able to afford one of Apple's high end systems like the TiBook or the PowerMac G4. Mac's are always touted as the "Creative Artist" machine. So why would you, as a creative person, pick to run Linux, XFree86 and Star Office over Mac OS X, Quartz and AppleWorks/M$ Office? You appear to be bucking a long standing trend.

    Also, do you feel you are more productive using Linux and StarOffice?

  • I am curious if you read/enjoy other authors works. There are several I read that have very solidly stated that they do not, notably Terry Goodkind.
  • Sensitive Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WNight (23683) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:43PM (#3844198) Homepage
    Does your frequent focus on nakedness and panties of your very young female characters indicate an attraction on your part, or is there a good reason for this? (Re: _The Color of Her Panties_ which pictures (among other things) two mostly-naked young women.)

    Do you feel this is appropriate for books aimed at 10-14 year olds?

  • For most Mundanian creatures and things, Xanth tends to have magical (and very punny!) counterparts. I would imagine that a conversation with Com Pewter would go something like:

    "You're soft where?"
    "Open Sores"

    You've incorporated mundane technology into the Xanth world before. Will the idea of open source software make it into a future Xanth novel?

  • Do you perfer fiction over non-fiction, historical novels, science books, any authors of note (or hidden jems that you'd like to mention), subjects which have made you stop and rethink issues?
  • by Bonker (243350) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:43PM (#3844207)
    Mr. Anthony,

    From your in-story commentary and author's notes, we have a glimmering of your opinion on people who don't pay for books.

    What is your opinion of people who borrow the books you've written from libraries. Also, what is your opinion of fan-authors who write fanstories based on your work?
  • Women in Xanth books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SlashChick (544252) <erica@erica.BOHRbiz minus physicist> on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:48PM (#3844247) Homepage Journal
    Hi Piers,

    I've had the chance to enjoy several of your Xanth books over the years. However, I find it disappointing that, like many sci-fi authors, you choose to include lots of "naked women" imagery in your books. This makes your books unappealing to the female side of your audience (including myself), and it makes it hard for me to recommend your books either to younger children or other women who might be interested.

    I don't mind sex in books; what I (and a lot of other females) mind is the clear delineation of women as either sexual objects or as somehow "needing" a male to rescue them from various plights. Your earlier books did not have much of this imagery, and indeed the Xanth series seems relatively free of it, but I've noticed that some of your books do draw this conclusion. Unfortunately, the fantasy category seems to have more of this type of book than most other categories.

    In a world of fantasy books dominated by male fantasies, what is your suggestion to the relatively few females who do enjoy fantasy and sci-fi books?

    As a point of reference, I enjoyed the Phule series by Robert Asprin, as well as The Hitchhiker's Guide and, of course, several of the Xanth books.
    • Anthony might have a little more say because of his success, but generally, authors have NO IMPUT into the cover design for their books. The cover is viewed as an advertisement for the book, and is designed and controlled by the advertising department.

    • Even as a guy, I would like to see his response to this. In my experience, the reason for there being more female nudity than in men is that the woman has a much more elegant shape. No "external plumbing" to deal with. Most writers visualize what they write, and another man's jewels is something I really don't want to visualize. A woman, however, is a pleasant work of art throughout. I think one thing that fascinates my about Piers Anthony is that his nudity is not always sex-related. Panties are, of course, a different matter. Now, the whole "woman relying on a man" thing is something he seems to be guilty of. He creates a female character with plenty of independence and ability to spare, yet the story always seems to concentrate on her getting her man through vixen means. However, one could argue that he is making a point that most men are simple-minded lustful dogs, rather than making a statement about women's place in society. Despite the concentration on his choice of OS and word processor, I hope you get your question.
  • Hi, Piers. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:52PM (#3844280)
    I have a hard time coming up with a question that you probably haven't been asked repeatedly regarding writing, and there will no doubt already be a number of questions about your experiences with Linux already asked in this interview, so I'd like to bring up a matter that has already been done to death on Slashdot but could use some insight from an established author.

    There seems to be a movement within the current publishing industry (that parallels the ones within the movie and record industries) to shut down or hamper the abilities of consumers to, in my opinion, fully appreciate their Fair Use rights. Members of each industry are scared, quite understandably, by the capacity of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks and the Internet in general to allow their works to be shared on an unprecedented scale without compensating the creators of the works or holders of the copyrights on the works (this is usually labeled piracy, although this brings rather silly images to mind I'd prefer to avoid). I understand that this has happened with at least one of your books; another reason why I'd like to eventually ask you a question on the topic. However, I'm concerned that the direction some would like to take. For example, Pat Schroeder of the Association of American Publishers seems comfortable with the idea that public libraries might have to start charging patrons for access [washingtonpost.com] to continue offering the same services they do today.

    Assuming you don't mind metaphorically throwing a rock into a hornet's nest, what are your thoughts on these matters? Are public libraries (or P2P) a greater harm to society by permitting hundreds of people to get by on the purchase of one book, or are they a boon for offsetting the damage 100-year copyrights do to the public domain (from which we have historically drawn our knowledge and inspiration for art and culture)?

    BTW: I love your books.

  • by Pxtl (151020) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:53PM (#3844282) Homepage
    Mr. Anthony

    I was recommended to your novels when I was quite young, and found many of them quite good. I very much enjoyed the Incarnations of Immortality, particularly the first novel of the series. However, I quickly discovered the controversy surrounding your work, and learned why when reading the Bio of a Space Tyrant series. Re-reading the Incarnations drove this point home for me - how do you respond to all the charges of sexism in your work? The female characters in your novels are almost always pathetic damsels, even when in powerful roles like the Incarnations. No matter what they are always drop-dead gorgeous and hopelessly smitten with the male protagonists.

    I found the characters in "And Eternity" in particular most ridculous, such as the young prostitute and the heroic pedophile. The writing of the prostitute reads like it was done by someone who had never met a woman, a child, or a person living outside of a country club. It was the 700 Club concept of what a poor prostitute girl on the street must be like - with the pointless sexual fantasy of this little girl lusting after the judge. Half the novel is spent in a sad attempt to justify pedophilia.

    I often wonder how can a man with a family of women understand so little about them, continually adding Barbie doll after Barbie doll to his stories?

    So my question is this: How do you explain the anachronistic objectification of women in your novels?
    • I had the same exact reaction. I read most of his books as a young adult, but as I started to get older and gained more insight into what I was reading, i became more and more disturbed by what was blatant (at least, *now*) mysoginism and pedophilia. Looking back, this seems to be fairly prevalent throughout his books. This is particularly obvious in Firefly. In addition, in the Author's Note of Firefly, he specifically explains why he wrote the book, as well as laying out his agenda to justify pedophilia.

      At any rate, it's a shame that his stories have taken such a turn for me, since I really did like them. Now I just find them offensive. *sigh*
  • Granted I'm writing for a persepctive of someone who hasn't read your work in many years (I gobbled up the Incarnations of Immortality, Xanth and Blue Adept novels in college). Based on your writing and the snippets of biographical information you snuck into forewards, etc, you never stuck me as as "bleeding-edge hardcore technical" kind of guy. Granted also that Linux has worked hard to outgrow its reputation as a "hackers only need apply" operating system; even now, though, it does so with only a certain amount of success. I wondered: how did you discover Linux, and what brought you to adopt it (and welcome aboard, by the way!).
  • by Mhrmnhrm (263196) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:57PM (#3844322)
    What kinds of things typically get your creativity moving, and how do they push you towards a given "type" of series... In essence, what would tickle you to create 'Mode', rather than expand on 'Xanth' or 'Ogre'?
  • Copyright laws (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Casca (4032) on Monday July 08, 2002 @03:58PM (#3844324) Journal
    Mr. Anthony,

    What are your views toward copyright laws as they exist in the U.S. today? More specifically, how do you feel about the length of time that a work is protected, is it long enough, too long, or just right?

    P.S. I think it was really cool that you completed the novel for that kid that died before he finished it.
  • OK, I'll be up front about this... I admit I haven't read anything of yours recently. (The last I read was "... And Eternity").

    However, I recall in the postscripts to several of the Incarnations novels, you described going from CP/M to DOS as your writing platform. How was the change from DOS/Windows to Linux?

  • while a freshman in college my roomate purchased the legend of xanth the game. We both then proceeded to skip every class we had until we figured out the game. The books lend themselves very well to RPG games which are very entertaining. Dont know if you all remember the hanging participle. My question is will you be invovled in any projects in the futer with regards to video games. I keep thinking of warcraft but only with Xanth charactors. It would be so much more entertaining. I know this is a little segway from the main topic, but lets get real star office supports all word formats, including formating. The only drawbacks I would see is in the desktop publishing dept. The lack of a Pagemaker or Quark type app.
  • Most of the questions here seem to relate either to Xanth or Space Tyrant.

    Do you get any feedback/comments on your other novels or series, such as Macroscope or the Omnivore/Orn/OX trilogy? Which of your series is your favorite and why?
  • Why GNU/Linux? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by crush (19364) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:01PM (#3844347)
    Why have you decided to use GNU/Linux? On your website [hipiers.com] you say that:
    I want to be all the way independent of Macrohard, so that no more Doors slam on my tender fingers. We'll see; stay tuned for future reports.
    Specifically what is it that you, as an author, have found irritating about using Micrsoft products in your work?

    In note that you also say:
    It remains far behind on personal systems, but at such time as the Linux nerds catch on to the importance of user friendliness, that should change. Before too long I hope to get the ear of some of them, even if they don't necessarily like what I say.
    So, what don't you like so far? What do you want us to improve? Are there any author-specific tools that you miss from Microsoft?
    Cheers,
    crush
  • by joe_n_bloe (244407) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:04PM (#3844364) Homepage
    I'm not sure anyone on /. is old enough to remember, but Piers Anthony used to write rather lofty science fiction. Perhaps the most polished of the pre-Xanth phase was the Orn-Omnivore-0X trilogy but there were many other notable works (Macroscope, Var the Stick, etc.). He also had a wacky story in Again, Dangerous Visions--imagine a barn full of women being milked. (Got milk?) At one point he would have been considered a "serious" science fiction writer.

    Early Piers Anthony used to be very difficult to find, but nowadays it is being regurgitated in significant quantities at used bookstores.

    My question is: What prompted Piers to mostly stop writing Heinlein-esque SF and take up fantasy instead? It has to be more than "just the money" because fantasy wasn't the dominant genre in the late 1970s, and even successful SF/Fantasy writers don't really do it for the money anyway.
  • I'm a fan blah, blah... Favorite series' were "Bio Of A space Tyrant" [amazon.com] and Incarnations of Immortality [amazon.com] blah, blah...

    I've tried switching from Windows to Linux for production purposes but when push came to shove I always reverted to Windows when a project is time sensitive (looming deadline). Even on a fast computer I have noticed a lot of lag in peripheral response. I've also encountered a few bugs that would hang the application and force me to kill it and restart. Have you experienced similar problems? If so, how have you managed not falling back on the Windows crutch?

  • Stance on eBooks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EverlastingPhelps (568113) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:09PM (#3844400) Homepage
    What is your view on the future in ebooks? What has been done so far (like Stephen King's attempt) could be qualified as either a success or failure, depending on your view.

    Do you favor a closed, centrally driven system (keeping the publisher/distributer chain much like it is now) or something more like each author being able to make his own manuscript and hang his own "publisher" shingle? I suppose as a person with a highly developed creativity skill <g>, you couldn't have something completely different in mind, could you?

  • by iamsure (66666) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:10PM (#3844402) Homepage
    Mr. Anthony,

    As someone who has named both of his cats, all seven of his computers, and one of his cars after characters from Incarnations of Immortality, I would like to know why you haven't chosen to return to their mythos.

    Consider the fact you have done so with many of your other mythos'! (Bio of a space tyrant, Apprentice Adept, etc.)

    Further, with Incarnations, there are a world of possibilities left. Chance, hate, love, hope, all the minor incarnations you mentioned in books previously (I would really like to see hope)..

    Your writing weaves a world that one can live in, and while Xanth is nice, I deeply prefer a world where death is kind, and evil is human and flawed.

    It helped me through the pain of losing my mother to serious illness, and has been my favorite fantasy world since.

    I read in one of your author's note that the story of the original characters from IoI was "complete" and that you didnt see a need to continue their stories, and I can agree with that.

    That doesn't stop new characters in the same mythos from being created. Whether set before, during or after the events of IoI, there is definitely room to weave plenty of stories.

    Any chance of seeing some more of them?
  • After reading enough of your books, which at the beginning I loved immensely, I became bored by the repetitiveness, and similar themes throughout. (This in no way takes away from the books I have enjoyed, such as "On A Pale Horse", etc.) One theme which started to bug me was how in almost every story, one or more characters would have to run around in public while nude for no apparent reason.

    Could you please explain your rationale for this? What are your other favourite plot devices?

    Bork!
  • In case you decided, for some reason, to read all of these comments, Thank you.

    Thank you for Orn, Omnivore, and Ox, which taught me the rules to the Game of Life (Martin Gardner/ Scientific American).

    Years later, as I still write alife experiments and study emergent behavior, I know that had it not been for those few books, my life would have been much poorer.

    Thank you.
  • Just out of curiosity why did you switch, how did you first come to hear about Linux? Also please forgive this question being so long but not being a developer or a system administrator would you recommend linux to joe average? Why or why not?
  • by interstellar_donkey (200782) <pathighgate@hotmail . c om> on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:28PM (#3844571) Homepage Journal
    I've tried a few times to run star office in a business envrionment, and have found that while importing documents and spreadsheets is very easy with the more common MS office, exporting these leaves something to be desired.

    Specifically, formatting seems to be lost or changed. As a writer, I would assume that how your works are formated would be important to you. Have you had any issues of interoperability with Star Office and other platforms that your publisher/editor might use?

    Or, have you reached the point where you can make those people sort of 'deal with it'.
  • I am curious of your books what are your personal favorites and why? (Xanth, Incarnations, Bio of Space Tyrant, Modes, Adept series... hey wait! you should know your own works better then I do...)
  • by The Pim (140414) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:29PM (#3844578)
    Finally, the guy I've been looking for!! How the hell should I set up X so that when I su, I can run X programs as root?
  • CP/M (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ek_adam (442283) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:43PM (#3844680) Homepage
    I remember in the afterword of one of your books from the early 1980's, you discussed the research you put into choosing your first computer. At the time the choices for consumers were basically Apple II, CP/M, or MS-DOS.

    How many generations of computers have you used since then? What system were you using just before you switched? Were you still using CP/M?
  • by mbessey (304651) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:43PM (#3844684) Homepage Journal
    Ive noticed over the last 10 years or so, that the number of obvious typographical errors in the novels I read has been on the increase.

    Mostly, the problem is the use of the wrong word, or the omission of part of a sentence, rather than misspelling words

    Is there something about the process that's changed, or is this the result of over-dependence on computers to "spell check" manuscripts? Does anybody actually read the final MS before printing the books, or is that just not done.

    This is something that's been bothering me for a while, and I figured that since you're in the publishing business, you might have some insight.

    -Mark
  • I remember reading a short explanation from you describing the differences between CPM and DOS in one of your novels many years ago, so it does surprise me that you might adopt a word processor based on its merits, rather than its advertising. Given your long experience and reliance on word processing to meet the demands of publishing so many novels, I think you would have some opinions on features and pitfalls of various word processing software. Could you give us the benefit of your experience on this?

    I've seen notice in one of your Xanth books that work may be in progress on "The Iron Maiden." I hope it is. :)

    Thanks for spending some of your time to satisfy our curiosity.

  • Utter Crap? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by billnapier (33763) <napier.pobox@com> on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:46PM (#3844710) Homepage
    Mr. Anthony, can you pinpoint exactly when your excellent work changed from actually being good to utter crap?

    I used to read a lot of your works. "The Incarnations of Immortality" was ones of my favorites along with "Bio of a Space Tyrant". Those are the only novels of yours that I have kept. I enjoyed reading the Xanth novels, but after about the 25th or so, I realized that they just keep rehashing themselves over and over again. There is always the same formula, over and over again. When do you expect to do something original with the Xanth series, or have you completly given into just making money and stop writing good stories?
  • 'The Change" (Score:4, Informative)

    by KFury (19522) on Monday July 08, 2002 @04:47PM (#3844713) Homepage
    Piers, A Spell for Chameleon and the Source of Magic are two of the best sci-fi books I'd read up to that point.

    In your copeous Author's Notes, you mention how you wrote these books with adults in mind, and were surprised to find that the Young Adult market was where you were selling most of your copies.

    I'm curious why, upon learning this, you started pandering to that market? Each successive Xanth book became more pun-laden and slapstick, even when it got in the way of the actual story. Despite saying in nearly every Authors Note that you wouldn't accept any more reader-submitted puns, you go ahead and do it anyway, taking loose soap-operaesque plotlines and filling them with frivolous wordplay to tie them together.

    Granted, the series seems to do okay, considering that you keep adding to it, but I wonder why you abandoned the style and quality of writing that won you the Nebula Award, in favor of Xanth installments like "Color of her Panties," irritating those readers who loved the Piers who wrote quality work?

    Sadly, the decline of Xanth (around books 3 through 5 and on) can also be seen in most of your other series, including Incarnations of Immortality (after Being a Green Mother), and the brilliantly begun Apprentice Adept series (after the first trilogy).

    Is the changeover to Linux and StarOffice responsible for this change in tone and direction?
  • Paedophilia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by konstant (63560) on Monday July 08, 2002 @05:01PM (#3844814)
    Hello Mr. Anthony. As a young adult, I devoured nearly all your novels, with my particular favorites including the Adept series, Incarnations, Bio of a *, and the first eight or ten Xanth titles. It's fair to say that a large part of my psyche and probably my vocabularly are attributable to you.

    Recently I reprised On a Pale Horse with my girlfriend and I discovered to my discomfort that it dealt very explicitly with underage sex in a way that sexualized young girls in particular. Although the novel retained many charming qualities for me, I began to consider the female underage sexuality in the other books of that series, especially one of the later books (Of Eternity?) in which an underage girl uses a protracted stay in Purgatory in order to be able to have legal sex with a much older priest. Significantly, she is only 18 "by law". Physically and mentally she is 16 when she has sex with the priest. We are supposed to have any moral questiones calmed by this.

    As I recalled more of your works, I noticed a recurring theme of young girls being exploited in sexual ways. The opening of Bio of a Space Tyrant describes the protagonist's shame and arousal as his young sister is raped. Later in the series, I hazily recall a wealthy character who kept pre-pubescent girls for sex, then released them for service when they matured. The character was depicted in a very sympathetic light - he was just misunderstood.

    Finally, long ago I read a hardback book by you which attributed to you membership in a social organization dedicated to protecting girls against paedophilia.

    As a fan an admirer, but also as someone who is disquieted by the influence you may have had upon my young sexuality, I would like to know candidly whether you are attracted to underage women. Naturally I am in no way implying that you would ever act upon such an urge, but the writing you have given us is very close to an act in itself, considering your very broad and impressionable audience.

    Thanks.
    • Re:Paedophilia (Score:3, Informative)

      Someone please moderate the parent up...this is just the question I wanted to ask, but phrased in a much better way than I could think to.

      For further pedophilic evidence, see Firefly, in which he all but comes out and says that it should be okay to have sex with little kids, as long as the little kid wants it. That was about the point where I finally became fed up with Mr. Anthony and his apparent fetishes, and shoved my two big boxes full of Anthony books deep under my bed.

      It's sad, too...he did write some pretty good stuff back in the early days. Early Xanth, early Apprentice Adept...I think that Bio of a Space Tyrant was what first caused me to start questioning the political views that my parents had handed down to me. I thought the firewood-splitting short story ("Wood You?") was cute, Prostho Plus and Hard Sell were inventive, and Macroscope was amazing. He had some great ideas, back in the day.
    • Underage? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by judd (3212)
      Listen up, US folks. In most of the world, including where I live, the age of consent is at least two years lower than 18. I am constantly jarred by references to child pornography and underage sex where the participants turn out to be 16 or 17. Try and be a little less inward-looking, please.
  • by RembrandtX (240864) on Monday July 08, 2002 @05:02PM (#3844823) Homepage Journal
    This sounds horribly flame-bait.
    But before I elaborate .. let me clarify. I read a lot of your books. (proof is at my book tracker - under read books [remsbox.com].) 'On a Pale Horse' was one of the first Fantasy books of note that I read - and still one of my favorites to date. [I always recommend it to friends, which explains why not only have I bought several copies, but I do not have it in my book tracker as a result.]

    I have noticed , over the course of time, that your writing became more 'pulp' and less 'inventive'.

    Its hard to be creative full steam, especially when you have a family to raise - and I'm sure .. especially when your are well known in the sci-fi/fantasy world as a a 'creative' guy.

    Robert Asprin once said something to the effect of "Writing the story was fine, but after 6 books the cute idea I had to put a meaningful/funny quote in the beginning of each chapter really became the stumbling block." Is this a similar event for you ?

    Lets face is Xanth was certainly a money-cow for you. And the first four or five books were unique and interesting - My REAL question is .. when does an author find that enough is enough ?

    Do you ever regret that the Xanth series has overshadowed other deeper or more interesting works ? [Bio of a Space Tyrant for example.]

    Where is the balance of satisfying your fans desire for more of the same hinge with the fear of cheapening/overdoing your story ?

    Why do books like 'FireFly' or 'Macroscope' both great ideas - and brilliant books .. get pushed to the side. And books like 'Gollum in the Gears' [sorry , NOT a personal favorite of mine.] get catapulted to the top of the best seller list just beacuse it has the name Xanth on it ?

    Does this actually affect your writing style / choice / income in any way? Does it discourage you to write less mainstream work ?
  • About being prolific (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ruger (237212) on Monday July 08, 2002 @05:13PM (#3844894) Homepage
    I must confess that I only knew of your Xanth and Adept books prior to going to the Piers Anthony website linked here on /. I had no idea you'd written so many books (126 by my rough count). The earlist publication date I saw was 1956, which means you've been writing for approx. 45 years.

    How are you able to churn out almost three books a year?
    When you're writing a series, how many of the books in the series do you outline prior to writing the first word of the first book?
    Did you have a number of books (27 & counting) planned for the Xanth series when you wrote 'A Spell for Chameleon'?
    Why has the Xanth series continued?
  • by jejones (115979) on Monday July 08, 2002 @05:47PM (#3845095) Journal
    From your newsletter:
    [Linux] remains far behind [in usage] on personal systems, but at such time as the Linux nerds catch on to the importance of user friendliness, that should change. Before too long I hope to get the ear of some of them, even if they don't necessarily like what I say.
    You definitely have our ears here; please, have at it. Anyone who only hears from those who agree with him won't learn diddly, so I hope the folks who matter will listen.
  • by shed (68365) on Monday July 08, 2002 @06:41PM (#3845409)
    Not many people are aware that you attended Goddard, [goddard.edu] a very unusual institution of higher learning in Vermont. For those of you who don't know, the college was famous for its radical politics in the 60s, after Piers attended. No tests, no grades, student-designed courses which were called "group studies" and led by "facilitators."

    When I attended Goddard in the late 80s it was still a hotbed of radical politics, but also a strong proponent of critical thinking. Not a place where orthodox opinions hold unexamined sway. Although my politics have changed, I attribute my flexibility, independence and career success in part to this college experience.

    Do you believe your educational background has played a significant part in your success? If so, how? Would you recommend any changes to traditional educational techniques? Lastly, in line with the interests of the slashdot crowd, you're one of only a few authors to embrace linux as a desktop OS. Would you draw a link between using this "alternative os" and the "alternative" years in college?
  • by RWarrior(fobw) (448405) on Monday July 08, 2002 @07:05PM (#3845531)
    Mr. Anthony --

    A number of posters have asked about the finances and feasability of your decision to move to Linux and StarOffice, and I'm eager to see your answers. Others have asked about dealing with publishers who are not used to accepting documents in Something Other Than Word. Some have asked about your motivation, too.

    My question is slightly different. On your web site and in your books, you devote some attention to the efforts of previously unpublished authors to break into the market with that all-important first novel.

    Is the reason you were able to successfully make this transition and get your publishers to go along because you are Piers Anthony and not [insert nobody here]?

    I know you have a significant financial stake in Xlibris, which you discuss in detail on your web site, and you've talked about using that influence at times to get Xlibris management to make life easier for their customer-authors. You also have the selling power for a traditional publisher of someone like King, Grisham, Steele, or Grafton, in your genre.

    Would [insert nobody here] be able to successfully sell a first novel to a major publishing house because of the formatting issues? Would [insert nobody here] be able to entice an agent into even looking at it? All else being equal, why would a publishing house bother with someone new who wanted to do something strange?
  • Neq the Sword (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rothfuss (47480) <chris.rothfussNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 08, 2002 @07:46PM (#3845888) Homepage
    Does this question cost me a year of service?

    Have you ever regretted any of the character moves or plot lines you chose over the years in one of your series of books?

    Of particular interest to me is Neq the Sword from the Battle Circle series. I have wondered for nearly 2 decades what the hell you were thinking when you had Neq kill Var in the beginning of this book after Var lowered his guard. As a result of this situation, I never developed any rapport with Neq, pretty much wanted him to be slaughtered by Vara and loathed the existence of the third book.

    Of course I was 13 at the time, and I'm feeling much better now.

    I figure I read over 10,000 pages of your work when I was young. Thanks for the entertainment and odd vocabulary.

    -Rothfuss

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