As some of my readers will be aware, as well as being the creator of the IX Series (The IX – Exordium of Tears – Prelude to Sorrow – TBR) I also devised the rather dark and devilishly intense character of Daemon Grim.
Now, this guy is none other than the Grim Reaper himself, Satan’s chief bounty hunter and go-to guy in times of trouble, and you get to read about his trials and tribulations in the #1 international bestseller, Hell Bound, and the sequel due toward the end of this year through Perseid Press, Hell Hounds.
The thing is, there’s more to the Reaper than first meets the eye, as his exploits form part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe.
Don’t know what Heroes in Hell is all about?
Heroes in Hell is a series of shared world fantasy books, within the genre Bangsian fantasy, created and edited by Janet Morris and written by her, Chris Morris, C. J. Cherryh and others. The first 12 books in the series were published by Baen Books between 1986 and 1989. The series was resurrected in 2011 by Janet Morris with the thirteenth book and eighth anthology in the series, Lawyers in Hell, followed by four more anthologies and two novels between 2012 and 2015.
Of note is the fact the stories from the series include one Hugo Award winner and two Nebula nominees.
The shared world premise of Heroes in Hell (also called The Damned Saga) is that all the dead wind up together in Hell, a devilishly wicked arena where anything and everything can go wrong in the relentless pursuit of their various ends.
Here’s the list of recent releases since 2011:
Lawyers in Hell
Rogues in Hell
Bridge over Hell
Dreamers in Hell
Poets in Hell
Doctors in Hell
So, why would I want to contribute to a shared universe? The answer is simple– For the challenge.
Think about it. With the IX Series, I can basically do whatever I want. I can have as many protagonists and antagonists as I see fit. Run them through hoops. Put them here, there, everywhere and make them fit just about any situation I care to conjure up. On the other hand, when it comes to writing for Heroes in Hell, I can’t do that.
A shared universe is governed by its own fundamental forces. It has its own rules, as to where and when its sets. Principles govern it subjects regarding their interaction with each other and the realms they live in. Simply put, there are limitations on what you can and cannot do, especially if your story includes characters ‘owned’ by another contributor.
Daemon Grim, for example, is leader of the Hell Hounds, (a select cadre of damned hunters) and the Inquisitors (Satan’s special interrogators). Because these individuals are of ‘my’ devising, I have a pretty long leash on what I am allowed to do with them – as long as I stay within the guidelines governing the Rules of Hell.
However, Grim and his cabal regularly interact with other notables, such as the Undertaker, the Kigali, and the Sibitti. These particular creatures ‘belong’ to other authors so I have to follow an adopted procedure.
First, I need permission to use them in my own stories. Second, I have to agree not to involve them in anything that can change their nature or cause permanent repercussions. And finally, I have to ensure they ‘stay in character’ when they interrelate with others.
For example, in Hell Hounds, there’s a scene where Grim faces off against the Sibitti. As personified weapons of the plague god Erra, the Sibitti have a distinct way of fighting. So I need to ensure I stay true to their modus operandi.
Do you see the challenge in this? I can’t simply think up a fight scene – my specialty – and go with my natural flow. I have to adopt the specific current those characters I’m borrowing adopt when in battle, and ensure I reflect that appropriately.
This is particularly apparent in the yearly themed compilations Heroes in Hell is famous for. Look at the list of recent releases from 2011, and you’ll see topics as diverse as lawyers and dreamers to poets and rogues. Grim, for example, was introduced in the 2015 Doctors in Hell anthology. The next selected theme – due for release in Fall 2016, is Pirates in Hell, a calling completely at odds to that of a doctor, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Do you see the variety this affords?
But you might think…hang on, doesn’t that make the larger books you write a little disjointed? Well, it could, if I didn’t keep a careful balance. Let me explain:
When Janet invited me to write for Heroes in Hell, we came up with the idea of leapfrogging the novels with the anthologies to keep things tight and integrate Grim more fully into the universe. So, Hell Bound follows on immediately after the action in Doctors. The forthcoming Pirates short story – Pieces of Hate – carries on Grim’s adventures three months after the events in Hell Bound. In turn, Pirates will lead into Hell Hounds, and so on and so forth. Do you see the forethought and planning this involves?
You might wonder, why on earth do I put myself through it?
That’s easy. I want to improve.
As writers, we owe it to ourselves and our readers to become the best we can be. Now, I’m a disciplined and focused person. I work hard to develop and nurture my own distinct “voice” which I hope is apparent in my work. The trouble is, when we rely solely on our own preferences, we can sometimes limit the extent to which we can mature.
I like contributing to the shared universe because the various themes touch on topics I wouldn’t normally consider. Doing so accelerates my learning curve and broadens my skills and experience. In the end, it’s you – the reader – that benefits.
Well, if you want to find out more about the diversity of writing for a shared universe, check out some of the latest releases in Heroes in Hell. Some great writers contribute to every edition, and their various styles ensure there’s always something in the anthologies for everyone.
Perseid Press: http://www.theperseidpress.com/
Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.
An astronomy and law graduate, he is the creator of the international number one bestsellers, The IX, and Hell Bound, (A novel forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with two of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for http://Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
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Publisher: Perseid Press
Andrew P. Weston Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/
The IX Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/