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Anthology settings: unique or shared. Which is better?

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I wrote for an anthology recently, and have other anthology projects simmering on the back burner.  The following question has arisen for me.

When reading (or writing!) for an anthology, which do you prefer?

A) Each story brings its own unique setting,

B) The stories take place in a shared world,

or variation #3,

C) If a shared world, there is crossover between characters and events, as in the old Thieves’ World series which pioneered that style.

If I’m writing for an anthology, I prefer to explore a setting of my own creation, because this lets me flesh out the worlds that otherwise only appear in my books. (Although, the right shared world setting would interest me, I think.) But if I’m editing an anthology, or writing for one I’m putting together, I like the shared world concept – again, because it lets me flesh out settings that hold some special interest for me.

So, if I have a horse in that race, I’m pretty clear where I want to go with it.

But – what about you? I’m interested to hear what other writers and readers of anthologies think about this setting issue. Do you have a strong preference one way or the other? If you’re a writer, do you find you muster more enthusiasm for a setting of your own design, or do you fall in love with the shared world and want to play there? If you like shared worlds, do you also like playing with other writers’ characters, and likewise letting yours be used by others to some extent?  If you read shared worlds, does it add to your enjoyment to have character cross-over between stories?

Any other thoughts on the subject?

Please weigh in in the comments section below. Thanks!





Reader Feedback

3 Responses to “Anthology settings: unique or shared. Which is better?”

  • Jeffrey Scott says:

    I remember Thieves' World and a few other anthologies. As a writer and a reader, it depends on the content. If I like the world, seeing greater depth added by other authors weighing in works for me. If the topic interests me, then getter depth in a single world or getting a broader base of perspectives works. I think my interest as a reader is often peaked by seeing an author or two that I recognize in the author list.

    As a writer, anthologies interest me if the topic or the world excites me, both as a reader and as a writer. A world someone else created would interest me if I come up with a story idea that works in it. If the topic interested me and someone invited my input, I would look to see if I had a related idea in some of my work that would make a good novella or short story and play around with it to see if it worked in the anthology.


    "Never ask an elf for advice, for he will say both 'Yes' and 'No'." —- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

  • Stuart says:

    I publish anthologies of short stories, and while I personally prefer collections based round a common theme, rather than a common setting (so a book of ghost stories rather than something like Thieves World), readers appear far to prefer shared world books, even if the actual stories themselves are widely disparate in tone and intent.

    • Teramis says:

      That's an interesting observation, Stuart. What kind of genres do you publish in? And are you speaking of reader preferences in a limited set of genres, or across the board?

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Author Deborah Teramis Christian

Teramis wrote her first book at age 9, but like all good literary lizards has taken her time charging upon the market. Finally in a situation where she can write full time, she is becoming the Dragon, Unleashed, or a close facsimile thereof. Roar, said the saur.

Teramis On the Web

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This military science fiction anthology contains "Live Fire," Christian's Tiptree Award-nominated short story set in the Sa'adani Empire, the setting of her science fiction novels. Now available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.