The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

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  1. OH man! It was awesome! The first couple chapters were a little hard to get, because names were intentionally omitted, but that got resolved right quick. I think I understand River much more now, hopefully how Whedon wanted her done. River and Mal are the characters that ran this book. Everyone else was an aside. A rather shiny aside, but I don’t know how well Jayne was captured. Which is probably a reason why he was in the bar for most of the book. All in all an EXCELLENT book and I hope that you have a sequel or two in the works under you hat, Mr. Brust.

  2. The word use and tone of each character was spot-on. The flashbacks were completely believable on all accounts. River’s point of view make more sense of her than I thought was possible. I laughed aloud on several occasions and considered copying & pasting my favorite exchanges to keep them always.

    Kit and the whole situation are also really great and fit well with the Firefly ‘verse and the types of stories already told.

    A few times I really got a Vlad/Lioish feeling from Mal and Zoe, but that could also be caused by the not-using of “Zoe said” and “said Mal” all the time. And of course the similarities in their situations.

    More please!

  3. oh, thank you, thank you, thank you, sir! I’ve been waiting for this since I first read you liked the show so much you were writing a novel on it.

  4. Done about half it is awesome. Do you have plans for more?

  5. Hi, I’ve gotten about two pages in, and I have to ask–did you have any cognitive dissonance about choosing a No Derivative Works CC license?

  6. A few people have brought this up. It IS a derivative work and Steve doesn’t care if people write their own fanfic based on his fanfic, but to release it under a CC license which prevents people from altering the text of THIS book requires the No Derivative Works license.

  7. Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes

    Voices, Check
    Characters, Check
    Rhythm, Check
    World, Check
    Feel, Yup again

    Yes this is your kind of Firefly
    I love it
    I wish I could beg for more.
    But there is the getting to eat issue.

    *sigh*
    Thank you for sharing with us

    [Gush off]

  8. Google defines freedom “the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints –
    exemption: immunity from an obligation or duty.”

    How useful a definition is that? Perhaps there are some monks that can make the claim immunity from obligation or duty, but otherwise the word freedom is just one of those words that’s so poorly defined, yet so often used with reverence that I just want to lock it up and never hear it again.

    But Brust’s River says, “Freedom was being able to do what you were meant to do. ” This narrows down the term to the context that imbues it with meaning and importance that it is constantly claimed to have, but without a definition that can hold up to those standards. The whole story builds on this. (Or is the story built on it? I can’t tell)

    I’m very appreciative to have read a definition that actually pins the word down and allows me to think a little clearer. I can’t think of a better use of fiction short of infecting people with empathy.

    And the same goes for the word “art,” but to a lesser degree.

  9. I very much enjoyed it. I thought the ending was a trifle abrupt, and Jayne’s character seemed a bit off, but apart from that- the concept behind it was great, the ensemble cast was *excellent*, the banter was witty, the suspense suspended well- all he good stuff.

  10. Danjo: Yes, the story is exactly built around that line. I really hadn’t expected anyone to pick up on it. I’m torn between being delighted that you did, and wondering if I was too obvious. 🙂 The setup for it is in the first sentence of the book, except that I made a couple of substitutions, such as “ginseng” for “freedom.”

  11. I’m rather annoyed at this story. Let me elaborate.

    Qualitatively, it was good. As has been mentioned, you didn’t catch Jayne quite perfectly, but I felt your portrayals of Mal, Zoe, Wash, and Simon were spot on. Excellence came in the form of River, who you brought out in the form form Joss Whedon intended much more adeptly then he could have done himself. I believe that you have knowledge and understanding which allowed you to show things he could only imply. This isn’t to say he did a bad job with her; merely that you were able to transcend restrictions, just like Napolean could theoretically include battle strategy in a fictional novel and do well while other writers would be forced to leave it out or screw it up.

    What bugs me about the story (and leads me to respect it so much) is how efficiently it changed my worldview. I’m not sure entirely how, and I don’t know the ramifications, but I see things somewhat differently.

    The catch, though, is that none of this was forced, but rather innate in the story, just like certain ideals were built in to Whedon’s original telling. I have a feeling, though, that your expression of freedom somehow presented more strength, reality, and meaning then the original Firefly series did.

    There comes my reaction: Something I expected to remain incredibly good fiction for fun reading **also** turned out to be powerful, persuasive art. Considering this, I believe that you truly followed the spirit of the show in a way simply miming the original “message” could have never done.

    This isn’t just good, it’s great, and I’ll be tossing it anyone I can find to read it. Thanks for writing.

  12. I just finished it, and really loved it. I think you’ve really captured the feel of the characters really well. It just felt *right*.

    This is the first piece of Firefly fan fiction I’ve ever read, and I really enjoyed your take on the setting and characters. I’ll agree with the others who’ve already posted that you have done a really good job with River, for the same reasons that have already been stated.

    I also particularly liked the character of Kit. I think that even though they have very different beliefs, Kit and Mal are very much alike. Both also have the ability to look at a situation and see things that others would miss. While they differ on how they resolve the injustices they find, neither one is very good at ignoring things that they find unjust. Neither take the easy path, even though doing so would make their lives much simpler.

    Most of all, this work made me sad all over again that Firely is off the air. I thought I was over that. Evidently not.

  13. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

    Please, sir, may we have some more?

  14. I didn’t get the ginseng bit, so it wasn’t all obvious. I wouldn’t worry about that kind of stuff, the tension between subtlety and clarity, because there’s a sweet spot that’s going to vary depending upon the reader and the point they’re in in their lives. So long as you purposefully choose a range on the spectrum and work for it, the actual choice isn’t as important as the making the choice and the working towards it.

    Given more time (and sleep) to think about it, the story hits me just at the right time. I’ve figured out what I was meant to do, but have grappling with the ramificaions of pursuing it for over a year now. By the old, crappy definition of freedom, being obligated to do what I was meant to do is instantly a loss of freedom. The obligation doesn’t feel internal, even though I couldn’t place an external source. How could I justify that loss? There isn’t any justification because the premise is built on a faulty word. That’s why I can’t thank you enough for nudging the word!

  15. I came here to cheer for the line about freedom being the ability to do what you’re meant to do, and River’s extraordinary moment of empathy with Mal, and saw that someone else had already done so. Well, let me second: that passage gave me chills, sir. This is strong work, pleasantly imperfect (the red pen in my head hovers over some of those slightly-too-long pieces of banter), and it lifted me up. You’ve found a new reader today – but then I imagine today you’ve found several.

    Cheers,
    W.

  16. You, sir, have made something wonderful. I just donated, and encourage everyone who liked this to do the same. I thank you.

  17. Just finished the book, and am having a hard time rectifying the fact that it was a great book, as well as, technically, fanfic. I am annoyed that the proper channels would not just bite the bullet and publish this. They damn well should have. It felt canonical and true to the setting–moreso than, say, the last three Star Wars movies. Combined. You really knocked it out of the park in terms of technical research and credibly describing the plight of the ship, which didn’t even come into play much in Cowboy Feng’s, your only other foray into sci-fi to my knowledge. But like any good sci-fi, it’s about characters, and you captured their voices amazingly well, and managed a difficult juggling act between them all (even minus Inara and the preacher, though they had some great moments as well, despite being absent). So now my question is, which character gave you the most fits, and which fit like a glove? I’m guessing River wasn’t the biggest problem, since there was a shade of Savn in her reality detachment…

  18. Thanks to all of you for the kind words. Feedback like this is more of a joy to a writer than I can describe. It’s especially cool when one is playing with a theme that especially hits home to someone at the right time. One rarely hears about stuff like that.

    As for the voices: I can’t recall any of them being a problem after the initial problem of getting into characters I hadn’t created; that was a new experience. Some people have said that I was a bit off on Jayne, which is possible, but it didn’t feel that way while writing it. To be sure, writing River was a blast.

  19. I really enjoyed this novel, too. It feels Fireflyish, and that must be really hard to pull off. It’s too bad they’re not publishing it. (Yet!)

    At the risk of being that guy who picks nits, I’m tempted to, in a spirit of constructive criticism, pick a few nits. Would that be welcome, or would it be looking a gift-novelist in the mouth? (I had a several-paragraph long comment written up, but thought it would be polite to test the waters before posting it.)

  20. Wow. I’ve seen every episode of Firefly multiple times, and can’t figure out how you worked your way into the characters’ heads. I’m reminded of how well Brooks pulled off The Phantom Menace book.

    There’s definitely some Vlad in Mal, although the pre-Serenity Mal and the post-Cawti Vlad were pretty damn similar before you even started. And I personally think you nailed Jayne, making him the goat right before giving him a moment more heroic than he ever got in the show. And River… I have to say my heart broke a little at Simon’s revelation at the end.

    Just wanted to end with a blanket thanks for all of your writing over the years. Keep on doing what you were meant to do, because obviously it’s writing fantastic stories.

  21. Thank you Steven Brust, I’m not a rabid fan of Firefly but that piece you wrote just felt perfect for the ‘Verse.

    I liked how the voices were, you had the speech-patterns and mannerisms perfect IMO. ‘Specialy River Tam. It was fun reading about her and how she said everything relevant while at the same time not really saying it (atleast thats how I see it.)

    Why don’t you send this to Joss Whedon? (if you haven’t done so already) 😀

  22. I expect KitK will be quite pleased now that he can let everyone see the book he’s been sitting on all this time. 😀
    I wish it’d been printed too; it still bothers me that this book didn’t get published. I remember all the research Steve did. Also how the penultimate chapter was written just before Serenity came out (while I was driving)…
    I look forward to reading the story again, Boss!
    Chica*—

  23. I’ve just finished it now and thought it was fantastic. As others have said, River just comes through so clear and strong and the line she gives to Jayne at the end is brilliant.

    I think this novel should actually appeal to a lot of fans just because it is so lovingly crafted to include references for ‘us’. The “what would Jayne Do” had me grinning from ear to ear.

    I have to ask, who would you have cast as Kit?

  24. That was quite fun! I’ve got to add my voice to those saying that River was just spot on. She was just perfectly captured; kind of funny, since she’s always my biggest concern when it comes to fanfic (and why I mostly avoid it). The combination of technical ability and empathy she has to blend seems like a tall order for a non-Mutant Enemy person.

    I understand what folks are saying about Jayne being a touch off; I got that, as well. The best way I can put it is that he didn’t seem quite the right combination of surly/whining toddler.

    Much like Serenity, the novel centered on Mal, River and the boat; while this gave some great lines, the side effect is similar to the movie as well – other characters got a bit short of shrift. I think that’s probably unavoidable in a novel with a cast of this size, but I would have liked to see some of the other character’s motivations or dialogue/thoughts fleshed out a bit more, rather than just implied/inferred.

    Of course then it wouldn’t be one novel but three or four, in order to give everyone proper stage time, and… well, the good is I’d love reading them. The bad is that it’s probably not terribly practical. 😉

    Any which way – thank you for the great read!

    (Oh, and attjen? Kit? John Barrowman.)

  25. Pingback: Steven Brust + Firefly = LESEN!!! « Det fiel mir ooch noch uff…

  26. For what it is worth, I thought Jayne was well done. It was always going to be tough to meet what people thought was going on ‘inside’ his head. But I thought it was right on. His attempting to reason out what happened while at the bar just results in him getting in a fight – that’s just Jayne.

    (Barrowman eh? How would he look with a beard? After I posted that I immediately got a name in my head: Alexis Denisof. (He’d certainly meet the ‘biology professor’ requirements, but I’m not so sure about being stocky.))

  27. “Now what is there about that I wouldn’t like?”

    HA! The essential Jayne. Quite well done.

    Tom @17 – fanfic isn’t necessarily low-quality. For some reason, the Firefly ‘Verse seems to engender some damned good fanfic; I think I’ve read more good stories than there were TV episodes…

  28. You knocked this one out of the park. Absolutely a joy to read. I pretty much read it straight through, only stopping to go home from work (I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was working late on a Friday 😛 ).

    I agree with what others have said with regards to the characterizations. They really rang true to me.

    What impressed me the most was how much this felt like an episode of the show. You managed to “direct” it like a Wheadon written show. You cut away from the action in just the right way. You hid information in the way the show did, not spelling out what the characters motives were.

    The only thing that wasn’t (and couldn’t) be in a visual medium was the hiding of the identity of Bursa/Sakarya. If we had seen the flashback, we would have known, which would have ruined the surpise.

    Anyway, lots of fun. Really enjoyed it. Bravo!

  29. (Hmm attjen. I don’t know how he’d look with a beard. I see your point about Denisof having the biology prof down, but he’s definitely not stocky enough. Maybe Michael Shanks? Stocky, but definitely geeky, and can wear a beard well…)

  30. I’ll have to revisit once I’ve had time to process my thoughts and read all the comments…but I just wanted to say that the novel was fantastic. Thank you.

    Confession: I was angry and sad that after Ariel, Jayne would betray Simon and River again. Still not sure if it fits with my view of him. Maybe it’s the truth, and that’s why I am/was angry and sad.

  31. In addition to all the above praise, with which I wholeheartedly agree, I need only say that I really enjoyed the way you made the “cuts” by way of those “current location” headlines.

    In my opinion, what made your portrayal of River so great was that you actually gave more information about what was going on inside her than the show ever did.
    During the show the way she was always making cryptical remarks seemed liked nothing more than some sort of warning beacon for the viewer, signalling : “Look, I’m craazzzy. Crrreeeppy, too.”
    In your novel none of River’s creep-factor was lost, but there also was an added level of understanding for Rivers worldview.

    There just wasn’t any of that “added” info on any of the other characters, methinks. It would have made them just as awesome.
    But then, it IS a 168-page-short piece of fanfic 🙂

  32. Is there anywhere I can find translations for the Chinese in the book?

  33. Ah, here’s a question that occurred to me as I read the novel, but I forgot to ask here until Eric J’s comment reminded me: do any of the Chinese phrases in the book by chance translate to, “I think I have been asking for nothing else for an hour”?

  34. corwin

    Tensor::33:: Hee hee. Wish I’d thought of that!

  35. Sandy @30: I’ve thought that about Jayne more than once, “he’s learning, he’s growing, he’s learning what it means to actually have a healthy relationship with other human beings.”

    And it keeps turning out not to be true; even in the movie, he turned on River. Jayne is just Jayne, and simply lacks a fully functional capacity for introspection or empathy.

    I think Steve’s characterizations were just excellent, my minor annoyance with the viewpoint games aside–he portrayed the characters in a way I found utterly true to the shows, I could visualize the episode playing back in my head as I read, and it was great.

    What an amazing gift to give us all. Thank you so much, SKZB!

  36. When Kit said “The guards have rifles, sidearms, and shockrocks.” (p134) I almost woke up my wife I was laughing so hard. Flash stones!

    As for Jayne, I thought Steve’s version of interior Jayne was great. He’s always looking for an angle, trying to think things through, but he’s blind enough to his blind spots that it just doesn’t quite work for him.

  37. now that was a bit of work, I have to disagree with you all who said Jayne was off. I felt Jayne had the right mixture of meathead, mercenary and morality…he was true to form and I particularly enjoyed his realization “he just wasn’t any good on his own” which leads me to think Jayne has grown up just a bit…just enough…

  38. by the way, in a future novel I could very much see a Vlad styled assassin coming after River (much like Jubal Early or the Operative) only to find the job is not the right job and he therefore decides to take down the Special Deputies (two by two, hands of Blue)…the more I think of it the more I can envision Vlad in the ‘verse!

  39. I just finished it and wanted to say thanks. My favorite author and my favorite series come together. Oh man, how often does something like that happen? I wonder if Joss Wheadon will ever read it. Thanks again!

  40. I published a review of this last week and link back here and to the free version. Thanks for the gift.

    At Imprint
    and at my blog

    Steven

  41. I tore through the book, and it’s currently being read by my 13 year old daughter. Then the wife gets it. After that I get to read it again.

    Thank you for this book. It’s wonderful.

    (more gushing can be found on my blog)

  42. All I have to say is, thanks. Nice work.

    ed

  43. Devera looked straight at Kaylee, right? That’s the only place I noticed where it might’ve been her. Though it’s so hard to pay attention when you’re experiencing so much joy reading the story. 🙂

    I also noticed the already mentioned freedom, and the ginseng also escaped me. Guess it balances out. Powerful stuff, either way.

    And I’d like to echo the earlier comment where it was said that this read just like an episode. More than anything, that’s what’s impressed me most. It’s not just the same characters, or the same universe: it’s the same show!

  44. I’ve only read through Ch 5, so here’s the Chinese I could figure out from there:

    Prologue
    ta ma de yunxu = f**king permission
    Suibian ni = whatever/ as you wish
    Ch 1
    hao xianshi de gongzuo ba =
    yongyuan bei ding wei laipigou de wanju = always reserved lazya** toy
    Wo taoyan dengyideng = I hate waiting.
    Ch 2
    mei you shenma liaobuqi = what don’t you understand
    houzi cong wo gangmen feichulai = when monkeys fly out of my a**hole
    wo zuo gaowan de suozai
    quanmian ta ma de baichi = complete f**king idiot
    Ch 3
    zai ta qiaoxiao diqiu de mianqian shoudao qian shang qian si de siwang = in the face of his (very small?*) earth receive endless death
    *if this part is supposed to mean very small, it should be chaoxiao
    Ch 4
    Gao shenma gui, zenma hui shi? = Screwed what up, what’s going on?
    Wo taoyan fuza = I hate complicated
    You yi tian = one day
    Ch 5
    xuexing de ta ma de diyu = bloody f**king h**l

  45. Couple of quick notes.

    First off, loved the book. Printed a copy for a friend that doesn’t have internet access.

    ***************Warning, minor spoilers***************

    Second, several people have mentioned that Jayne seemed a bit ‘off’, and I don’t think that is true. Jayne is put off by Mal’s odd behavior. Jayne acts like Jayne, and when he pushes Mal in the usual way, Mal fails to handle it properly because of the other pressures he is feeling. Jayne is then surprised to find out that he cares, and even more surprised to find a tiny bit of loyalty inside him.

  46. Just wrapped up the Firefly series, then read this.

    Awesome! Story felt just like one of the episodes, its too bad good series get cancelled.

    SKZB is one of my favorite authors, I have probably read every book written by him. Always excellent!

    Jayne’s characterization was perfect IMHO, as was pretty much everyone else’s (including River’s). Also, the math/science explanations of River’s perspectives (probability) were pretty good, not a lot of non-physicist/math types do that with such verisimilitude.

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