Robert Asprin Was One of Sci-Fi’s Most Colorful Characters
Robert Asprin was a fantasy and science fiction author best known for his humorous Myth Adventures novels, and for coediting the groundbreaking Thieves’ World series of shared-world anthologies. Author and editor Bill Fawcett first met Asprin at a tabletop gaming convention in 1980.
“He became quite a significant figure on the fan scene,” Fawcett says in Episode 542 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Bob was probably the most brilliant person for seating people at his table in the bar and hosting it for hours and hours, and everyone was entertained.”
Asprin owed much of his success to the network of fans and colleagues he cultivated over years of attending science fiction conventions. “He took all of the money he’d made from the Myth books, and some of the money he’d made from Thieves’ World, and he went to anywhere from 15-25 conventions a year, for five or six years,” Fawcett says. “He held court and entertained everybody and became so well known that people were just out buying his books.”
After his years as a prolific author and editor, Asprin’s output slowed in the ’90s due to an array of personal and financial problems. Fawcett says that Asprin’s fiction reflected the full range of his complicated personality. “Humor 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 humor, good things and bad, romance and divorce, and romance and romance and romance.”
Asprin passed away in 2008, but his Myth Adventures series has been continued by his friend and collaborator Jody Lynn Nye, and his influence lives on in the many authors and musicians he mentored. “Someone like him doesn’t come along very often,” Fawcett says. “It was shown in his books and it was shown in the friends, and we all still remember him very fondly—even those he died owing money, we remember him fondly.”
Listen to the complete interview with Bill Fawcett in Episode 542 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Bill Fawcett on Asprin’s childhood:
His father was a martial artist as well—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 somebody important, who tried to pull a weapon on him, and his father took the guy’s 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 whole lot of time when he was young trying to convince the mob he didn’t want to be an enforcer and to just leave him alone. And Bob distinctly remembered those conversations. He used to recount them with some bitterness.
Bill Fawcett on tuckerization:
In Mything Persons, the “Woof Writers” are Richard and Wendy Pini. And there’s a fellow in it, Wilhelm the vampire agent, who has a phone permanently attached to his head. That was me. Everybody in that book, every single person, is someone from the group that we were around at that time. And it was fun to pick them out, and decide, “OK, that is so-and-so.” And he’d tell the person, and get permission, but they asked you not to tell anyone else, at least until the book was out, so that everyone could sort of discover it for themselves.
Bill Fawcett on the Myth Adventures series:
They’re optimistic books, they’re happy 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 was always one who thought that, with a 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 as to why he thought that way. Possibly because he had just a little of the con in himself, but he thought of himself as, and was, a hero. And so he wanted that to be the world.
Bill Fawcett on Thieves’ World:
They would hold an annual meeting, and everyone would decide what they’re going to do. There were a lot of personality conflicts in it, and it was reflected in the stories. Janet Morris and another author could not stand each other, and their characters escalated wiping each other out—or almost wiping each other out—in the first six books, every time, so that they started as a thief and a soldier and they ended up as demigods fighting over the city, because each was trying to one-up the other constantly. In fact, in order to protect his character, one author made his character immortal.