Ten Years of the Spider Queen (now with added trivia)

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This month the second War of the Spider Queen Omnibus will be released, marking the ten year anniversary of the series (this second omnibus collects Extinction, Annihilation, and Resurrection).  Hard to believe that so much time has passed.

WotSQ was the second multi-author series I worked on for Wizards of the Coast.  Sembia was the first, but the two series were quite different.  With the Sembia series, each of the seven authors had their own character (Erevis Cale, in my case) and told their own story, albeit in a shared setting and with considerable crossover between characters.  In that respect, Sembia was very much like Thieves’ World.  WotSQ, on the other hand, involved six authors writing one collective story and using the same characters.  As you can imagine, this presented some creative challenges and made the hand-off from book to book key.  This could only work well if all the writers and editors involved were talented pros. Fortunately that was the case with WotSQ.

For my part, Resurrection was the hardest book I’ve ever written.  There were a couple reasons for that. First, I wasn’t originally pegged to write it; someone else was, but that fell through for some reason. So I came into the series late, without having followed it beforehand. Hello, crash course.  Second, I was writing characters that I hadn’t created, so they didn’t really feel mine at first.  That changed while I wrote the book, though, and by the end I felt very comfortable with Halisstra (she really gets put through her paces and undergoes a lot of development) and Pharaun.  Third, there was a creative constraint that I had to work around.  Just one, but it was a biggie: I was told how the book had to end.  I could get there any way I wanted, but it had to end a particular way.  I’d never had to work that way before and, I’ll admit, it bugged me at first.  But it worked out fine. In the end, the whole experience was great and I’m delighted that the series has been so widely read, and continues to be, even ten years later.

And now some trivia (with SPOILERS):

When WotC offered me the opportunity to write Resurrection, I had just finished Dawn of Night and was starting on Midnight’s Mask.  My editor at the time, Phil Athans, told me that if I wanted to do the Spider Queen wrap-up, WotC could delay the release of Midnight’s Mask.  I didn’t like that idea (because even then I regarded Cale as my signature character and I didn’t want to delay the release of the third book of the trilogy) but Phil talked me into it and I’m glad he did.

As a result of the last minute author switch I mentioned above, I had to write Resurrection on a very tight deadline.  Very stressful.  Not sure I could or would do that today.

In my initial outline of the book, Gromph Baenre died in magical combat with the Lichdrow. We changed that in a subsequent iteration and Gromph survives the fall of House Agrach Dyrr – barely.

In my first draft of the book(or maybe just the outline, I can’t remember) Pharaun lived.  In the published book, he does not.

Originally I named the various places in the Demonweb Pits with Dante-esque sounding names.  I don’t remember any in particular, but they would have been something like “The Pillars of Transgression” and the like.  We cut those and replaced them with more Drowish sounding names.

I’m particularly proud of my invention of The Seething, which squicked out some readers.  🙂  I love it as a reflection of Lolth’s doctrine.

I’ve gotten more reader mail about Resurrection than any book I’ve written (save perhaps The Old Republic: Deceived).  Readers loved the book passionately or hated it with the heat of ten thousand suns.  Very few felt indifferent.  The death of Pharaun was the particular event that inspired the most vitriol (by far).

Resurrection has sold more copies than any other book I’ve written.  It’s ten years old, of course, so it’s had a long time to build up sales, but it’s still done very well. In English, the book has sold somewhere between 200,000-300,000 copies (across all formats) and continues to sell strongly today.  It’s been translated into (I think) upwards of a dozen languages, but I have no idea of actual unit sales in foreign countries.  Probably a lot though. So, you know, rock on, you Drow bastards.

Finally, I want to note my enormous gratitude to Phil Athans and R.A. Salvatore for letting me contribute to the series and for being such excellent editors.  It was a blast and it’s something I’m proud to have been a part of.

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5 Comments

  1. I still hold that series in a special place within my fantastical repetoire. At the time, I hadn’t branched away from reading Salvatore (well, I was 13 when I started reading Forgotten Realms), so when I stumbled upon the series with his name attached, I dove right in. As a young reader, I really enjoyed seeing each author’s writing style shine through with the pre-existing characters. Each author killed it in their own way. The dynamics of Pharaun and Gromph really spurred my readings in the later books, but I’ve always enjoyed sorcery and strategy amongst the sword play. Either way, reading the series helped me branch out from my fantastical shell, not only to explore authors within the Fáerun, but also outside of it. And for that, Thanks!

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  3. Interesting to hear it was the hardest for you to write. I think its one of the best! Also interesting is to hear you say how the characters “became” yours as you wrote it. Looking back, I remember thinking how great the ending was for all the characters. I mean, it seems likelike a mainweek character pretty much has to die for a story to really kick ass. But good call on not killing off Grimly, I was rooting for him him through that whole throwdown (and kept thinning he was gonna get whacked)!

  4. Also, I agree 100% with Mousyman’s comment. That series. Helped me branch out from a Salvatore-exclusive reading schedule – leading me to pick up the halls of stormweather!

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