Anthology settings: unique or shared. Which is better?

Download PDF

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!





 Subscribe in a reader

Did you enjoy this post? Why not leave a comment below and continue the conversation, or subscribe to my feed and get articles like this delivered automatically to your feed reader.


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

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.

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?

Leave a comment