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The Parsina Saga

The Complete Parsina SagaThe Parsina Saga came about because I'm a great fan of Broadway musicals, and Kismet is my single favorite show. (Which is all the more odd because it wasn't written by Stephen Sondheim, the greatest talent ever to write in the American musical theater.) I also have fond memories of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, back from the days when movie theaters ran Saturday afternoon children's matinees. I'm convinced that there's a large audience for the exotic Arabian Nights type of fantasy.

In the late 70s, I looked around at the non-horror fantasy being published, and it seemed almost all of it fit into one of two categories: either European mythology (Tolkien and those who followed) or Unnamed Barbarian Cultures (a la Robert E. Howard and the Conan mold). There was a whole world of mythology being totally ignored.

I wanted to rectify that. I wanted to write stuff about genies in bottles and flying carpets and other elements with a high Sense-of-Wonder Quotient. Over the course of several years, I worked out a world-spanning, multi-volume story with some appealing characters. To fuel the fire, my first wife, Kathleen, bought me a complete set of the Sir Richard Burton translation Arabian Nights (plus Supplemental Nights). The dreams took shape.

The Arabian Nights is, of course, a piece of Islamic literature. Having studied Islam for a bit, however, I confess I found it (personally) a rather boring religion, not nearly dynamic enough to go with the high Sense of Wonder I wanted to achieve here. So I studied the religion that preceded Islam in Persia, Zoroastrianism, and found it much more to my taste. It has some interesting precepts, such as "As much as you possibly can, do not bore your fellow man." It's as sexist as all the other religions that sprouted in that part of the world, but I'm trying to play down that aspect as much as possible.

I originally conceived the project as a 5-book series: the first book to set everything up, and books 2-5 each about the quest for one of the four pieces of the Crystal of Oromasd. The 5th book would also wrap up the entire series. But when Ace Books bought the series, they wanted it remolded into a trilogy. I had to rethink the entire structure of the piece, and redesign the break points between the various books.

When Ace failed to publish the first two books in a timely manner, I pulled the series from them and sold it to Bantam. That was fine, except Bantam thought the series would work best as four books! Once again I had to redesign the break points between the books. (If the stopping point of the second volume seems a little strange, blame it on this constant redesigning.)

The first three books saw print in the mid-80s with covers by Richard Bober, some of the most beautiful art I've ever seen on any book cover. I'd made a good start on the fourth book when a number of unrelated factors out of "real life" hit me all at once. No one of them was crippling by itself, but the cumulative effect of all of them was to take me away from the keyboard for quite some time. Bantam, quite understandably, canceled the contract and returned the rights to the books to me.

The books languished for several years and my poor readers suffered, not knowing the outcome. I know precisely how they feel, because I've been the victim of getting hooked by uncompleted series, myself. (I'm a Twin Peaks fan, and I follow Roger MacBride Allen's Lost Earth series.) I know what the frustration feels like.

In the early 2000s, Treachery of the Demon King was finally published and the saga is now complete. All four books (Shrine of the Desert Mage, The Storyteller and the Jann, Crystals of Air and Water and Treachery of the Demon King) are available in both trade paperback and electronic editions. And if you'd prefer to have everything in one boxed set, get The Complete Parsina Saga.

Here is a very badly drawn, very approximate map of Parsina.

(And I'd like to say a public thank-you to European fan Basile Grammaticos for pointing out to me the fact that there are no appreciable tides in the Mediterranean [and hence the "Central"] Sea. I've corrected this mistake in the current editions.)

And if you're looking for some other way to capture the exotic flavor of this series, I have some suggestions:
  1. Get yourself a copy of the original Broadway show album of Kismet and listen to the lush music by Alexandr Borodin, the clever lyrics of Robert Wright and George Forrest, and the mellifluous voice of Alfred Drake.
  2. Find out whether Kismet is playing in your area, and go see it if it is. (Chances are, though, that it isn't; it requires singers of operatic quality, who aren't always available to local groups. Not to mention fairly elaborate costumes and set design. It's not as easy to stage as The Fantastics.)
  3. Rent the video of the MGM movie Kismet starring Howard Keel. They cut some of the music and rearranged a little of the story, but it's still pretty good.
  4. Rent the video of Ray Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. It's a little dated, but still a lot of fun.

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