Books of 2014, #11: The Phoenix Guards, by Steven Brust

Some days, you just need you some Dumas pastiche. Or, at least, I do.

I’ve read this, and its immediate sequel, 500 Years After a dozen times since it first came out. My affection for it runs deep and wide. If it is not a profound work of literature, it is an exemplary entertainment (which, really, I would say about Steven Brust’s entire oeuvre).

That said, there is An Incident that this book will always remind me of.

Many years ago—understand, this is before the Internet had made it into maintstream consciousness, and even somewhat before Sir Tim had a first implementation of the World Wide Web—if you were a fan of any sort of Science Fiction or Fantasy literature, the place to be was on an online service called . This was because GEnie had the SFRT—the Science Fiction Round Table. Actually, there were four of them, because they quickly outgrew the first one.

If you go read the page on Wikipedia, you’ll notice there’s a disproportionate amount of verbiage dedicated to the SFRT. This is not an accident. Other RT and other services were popular, but the SFRT was a community with a real presence.

(Incidentally, I actually think one of the things that made GEnie very attractive was that they provided, gratis, software (called Alladin) for easy offline reading of new messages—and they even had a version that supported the Atari ST that I had at the time. This meant you could participate without breaking the bank at a time when an hour of access at 1200 bps cost $6.)

So, anyway, there was lots of activity on the SFRT, and, more to the point, there were lots of writers. Pros. For instance, Neil Gaiman, then just coming into prominence with Sandman, was on a lot—I remember him announcing the birth of his daughter Maddie on the SFRT, for instance. This is where I first became acquainted with Patrick and Teresa Neilsen-Hayden.

Anyway, lots of pros. Including Steven Brust.

So, I can only hope that the message in which I once explained to him how I thought a twist in the plot was “unearned” has disappeared into nothingness, as GEnie and the SFRT are gone, gone, gone.

But other than that one incident, the SFRT was a wonderful place to hang out. I miss it, except of course for the fact that I wouldn’t have time ot keep up with it today.