Norwescon 36 Video: Terry Brooks


brooks-swordofshannara36 years ago this month—I think—The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks published to the world.

It had an immediate impact. As I’ve said in the past, Sword is largely considered to be the book that launched modern fantasy and made it commercially viable. Until that time, publishers thought readers only wanted Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. But in 1977, Sword proved without a doubt that readers wanted more epic fantasy. It sold 125,000 copies in its first month of publication alone and it spent months on the New York Times trade paperback list. Publishers saw the money to be made and quickly began finding other fantasy writers to give the reading community what it had been denied for decades.

That beginning is an interesting one. While at Norwescon 36 in Seattle, WA last weekend, Terry Brooks sat down with Pierce Watters and talked about that beginning.

And I was there with a camera!

Listen to these two men talk about the founding of Del Rey Books:

There you go. Some history for you. It’s always fascinating when Terry talks about those early days. He was there at the beginning but it’s more than that. He knew Lester del Rey. He knew Judy-Lynn del Rey. The three of them shaped our present.

And to truly know our present, we must know our past.

  • Kyle Loechner

    Wow… 125,000 copies in its first month? That’s insane!

  • I wonder if Terry ever gets frustrated when people mispronounce Shannara.

  • Elizabeth Carver

    this was so enjoyable. Terry Brooks is such a fun person. I loved watching him talk about his begining and back stories of his progression into what he is now.

  • Elizabeth Carver

    I loved hearing Terry talk about when he was just starting out and his progression into what he is now. This was just so enjoyable to watch.

  • Andrew Nikolic

    \Until that time, publishers thought readers only wanted Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. But in 1977, Sword proved without a doubt that readers wanted more epic fantasy\

    Only thing the sword was, was an epic clone of the rings. It was dumbed down, names changed, ring becomes a sword, characters are all almost identical. Brooks has written well since and i am a fan of the rest of his work, but perhaps the reason it wasnt a big deal to him was because it wasnt his.

  • It wasn’t a big deal to him because, as Terry said, he didn’t know better. He was out in the boonies of Illinois with no understanding of how the publishing industry worked and what was deemed important.

    As for your comments about SWORD, you are not entirely correct. While the first 1/3 of SWORD matches up plot point by plot point with Lord of the Rings, the rest of the book does not. Allanon as Gandalf does not fight at Tyrsis. Flick is not at Shea’s side at the end of the novel like Sam was for Frodo but instead Flick is infiltrating a Troll army. There are no “mirrors” in LOTR for Panamon Creel and Keltset. So while I appreciate where you are coming from, the fact is if you look at both books from a scholarly point of view there really isn’t anything similar about them by the end of the book beyond a good versus evil motif — a motif that is in many books, not just LOTR. Something for you to think about.

  • Andrew Nikolic

    Something to think about is how although the first 1/3 of the book is the same, near identical, the following 2/3’s although deviating in plot slightly, still possess the character clones from the lord of the rings.

    Almost every character has been cloned; Gandalf – Allanon, Frodo and Sam – Flick and Shea, Aragorn – Menion, Boromir – Balinor, Gimli – Hendel, Legolas – Durin, Gollum – Orl, Barrow wights – mist wraiths, Nazgul – skull bearers, Sauron – Brona.

    These characters are used during the entire book, not just the first third of it, so tell me again it wasnt a copy of the rings?

    Even the Sword is a poor token version of the ring.

    By your rational adding a few different scenes changes a story, then the lord of the rings movie is clearly an original because it had different scenes to the books, the warg attack, the barrow wights, frodo was hit by the troll not stabbed, shelob was in the second book but the third movie, sam put the ring on. Changing a few things doesnt change the complete book, it started with stolen idea’s in the end brooks used less stolen ideas but some where still stolen, again the characters.

    So I appreciate where your coming from being that you are the facebook rep for terry brooks, but that doesnt change facts, no matter how much you want it to be otherwise the proof is overwhelming simple math for you you say one third of the book is a clone (i say about half but it makes little difference) add in the characters that persist throughout the entire book being 90% clones and your looking at 2/3rds or more of the idea’s in the book being Tolkien.

    I will say it again, brooks learnt to write AFTER the sword, but this book is honestly a blight on his career and if he had any integrity he would have admitted the truth and ceased labeling himself with it, but money is a powerful motivator and honesty is a rare thing in the business word, so that can be said is perhaps it cost him his pride to get his foot in the door, but since it has been there he has written some good pieces.

    Something for you to think about.

  • Andrew Nikolic

    way to sensor the page because you lost the debate, much like brooks stealing from tolkien you have no moral backbone shawn.

Get the best stories in your inbox, weekly. Any sufficiently advanced newsletter technology is indistinguishable from magic.