Author, Poker Player, Wearer of Hats
I had read “To Reign in Hell” before I met Steve Brust at a con, so I knew him first as subversive and funny, but because I hadn't read his Dragaeran books, I didn't yet know his wide and enduring popularity. We were on two panels together. He was insightful and provocative, but restless as a shadow boxer in a room of fluorescent light. If I had known him better, I would have picked a fight. Maybe the one about whether Wash has to die.
Later, when I saw him at another con, I'd read more of his work. It's an impressive portfolio: thirteen Vlad Taltos books, with four more set on Dragaera, five free-standing novels, and two co-written books, one with Emma Bull, the other with Megan Lindholm. So, by then I knew him as a masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery. At that point I probably knew enough to tangle with him, but I wouldn't have dared.
Here's what I know now: Steve is a charming combatant. He grew up in a revolutionary household, one of three children, whose parents married on Christmas – the only day they were willing to take off work. He inherited both their work ethic and muscular intellect. He came of age at protest rallies and on picket lines and still has the outsider's fierce critical eye – but his twinkles. His prose is insightful, nimble, and rigorously crafted. He only makes it look easy.
Politics pepper what he writes, but they dictate how. His fairy tales are kingless and all his characters work for a living. And from his full-length collaborations to his contributions to the shared worlds of Terri Windling, Neil Gaiman, Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, Roger Zelazny, and Joss Whedon, he's always looking for ways to widen the playing field and open up his stories until the territory between artist and audience is walled only like a sandbox is, to keep the fun deep enough to play in.
We cobbled The Incrementalists sandbox from an idea Tappan King suggested to Steve years ago, tacked to a Werner Hertzog movie I'd just seen, an experiment Steve had started earlier, and a loose end I was hoping to tie up. We wove its frame in a single night on my porch, with the kind of wild dreaming you do when its late and you're drinking and you're both stoned on the new-project optimism that comes from a shared love of structure, a passion for language, and a competitive delight in hiding little Easter eggs. He left for home a few days later.
Steve lives in Minneapolis amidst writers and musicians, his four extraordinary adult children – artists and tech wizards – nested inside an online community of friends and fans who collectively are experts on damn-near anything. Really. We've asked a lot of obscure questions.
About a week after he left my porch, the opening pages of a book showed up in my email with a note that said, “Your turn! Write until it isn't fun anymore, then send it back to me.” So I did. The sandbox was full of sand. He's a laughing Buddha with a whiskey glass, an industrious scholar with a thigh-holstered throwing knife. He is a profound and giddy intelligence and a steadfast friend, and I've written less the bio I intended than a personal testament. But it's my little sandcastle. I'll leave it on my beach.