When it comes to reading, the writers most responsible for my passion are probably Enid Blyton and the composite figure who went by the name of Franklin W. Dixon. As a seven- to nine-year-old living in Zürich, a place where it got dark at a ridiculously early hour in winter, I would voraciously devour any age-appropriate mystery books in the school library – see number 5 on this list.
Interestingly enough, I also had my first brush with science fiction and fantasy literature by reading The White Mountains… but it didn’t seem to have stuck.
I owe my love of the SFF genre, and my writing career, to someone unexpected: Robert Asprin. He was quite big in the 1980s, and one day, randomly waiting for my mother to finish buying stuff at a Kroger at age ten or eleven, I picked up Another Fine Myth from the rack, probably because I liked the cover of the Ace paperback.
I was hooked.
Yes, this isn’t mainstream fantasy. It’s the equivalent of H2G2 for fantasy. But, they are still the benchmark for laugh out loud comedy in the genre. Just as the H2G2 books haven’t been surpassed by anyone for sheer comedy in SF, these are still the benchmark for fantasy (I’m also a huge Discworld fan, but those usually put the story before the comedy and just feel a bit less jokey to me).
Such is the power of those early Asprin books that I am still reading them today. Asprin died in 2008, the year Myth-Fortunes (the latest one I’ve read) was published, so I’m assuming that this collaboration with Jody-Lynn Nye was the last he participated in.
To be completely honest, the final few books in the series have lost a little of Asprin’s original silliness; I suppose dilution is unavoidable when working with a collaborator. On the plus side, without Nye, one can never be certain that the new myth books would have been written t all. Asprin certainly had a long period when he wasn’t writing any more of them.
I’m just thankful we have the new Myths at all. The cast of characters certainly doesn’t miss out by being less comedic, and the storyline–probably due to Nye’s influence–has taken some very interesting and unexpected turns.
I rate the early ones better, of course, but that might be just because Asprin had a blank canvas to work from, and he could put his characters in whatever situation he felt like without going against a firmly established vein. The structure of the later books, and fully rounded characters puts a few constraints on doing that in the current iterations.
That doesn’t mean the new ones are bad; they aren’t. In fact, they’re very good. And Myth-Fortunes is a solid effort that appears to put many of the story arcs on new tracks… so now I need to read the next one.
Gustavo Bondoni is a short story writer and novelist. His comic fantasy book The Malakiad isn’t as well known as Asprin’s, but he thinks it’s just as good (and he loves the cover). Check out the print version here, and the Kindle ebook over here.