This morning I ordered a copy of the new short-story collection The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth set in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse. This is not the first time Stirling has let other authors play in his sandbox. Back when I was in high school, when that wonderful place called Media Play still existed, I flipped through a copy of Drakas!, a collection of short stories other authors wrote in his Drakaverse.
I haven't started reading The Change yet beyond the first few pages and I don't remember Drakas! all that well beyond a few particularly interesting (or particularly silly) stories, but I do love the concept. Many authors have played in other authors' sandboxes before--I read Robert Jordan's Conan stories in high school and Brian Herbert has been filling in the blank spaces his father Frank Herbert left in the world of Dune--but short stories are different from letting another author write a novel-length work set in the same world.
A full-blown book is a pretty momentous--Brian Herbert's novels describe the Butlerian Jihad and much of Paul Atreides' reign as Padishah Emperor, stuff that was left out of his father's books completely or only alluded to. However, short stories allow for much smaller brushstrokes that wouldn't have large effects on the wider worlds.
For example, my BattleTech short story "Skirmish at the Vale's Edge," which I sold to BattleCorps and so it's now canon, depicts the relatively small Battle of the Jallington Vale described in a single paragraph in the Clan Wolf sourcebook. The good people from Catalyst Game Labs advised me to stay away from the major events and people, lest my story get nuked for contradicting established canon. Given how enormous the BattleTech world--like the Emberverse and the Drakaverse--is, there's plenty of blank spaces to fill without impacting people like Victor Steiner-Davion, Phelan Kell, etc. The same principle applies to the Emberverse and the Drakaverse as well. It's even been applied to Charlaine Harris's world of Sookie Stackhouse--see this collection Dead But Not Forgotten.
Perhaps someday my own work will be popular enough to justify similar projects. The world of Battle for the Wastelands I've plotted out thus far covers three generations and spans a whole continent, plenty of time and space for other writers to play in my sandbox without causing undue problems for the main plot. The world of The Thing in the Woods, although what I've plotted so far only covers a relatively short time period, could also host works written by other writers. The world depicted in my unfinished space opera The Cybele Incident and a current project I'm keeping under wraps for now also have plenty of space, especially the latter one.
All I need to do is make those projects successful enough. Time to get cracking. :)
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