Next I’m Going to Ask for a Pony

You’ll recall a few days ago we were chatting here about literary “one hit wonders”: authors who made an impression on just a few works. One author who got mentioned quite a bit was Barry Hughart, author of Bridge of Birds and two other books featuring Master Li and Number Ten Ox. Well, as more or less a direct result of these conversations amongst us, a new omnibus collection of Hughart’s series is coming out in hardcover from Subterranean Press:

As it turns out, two of Mr. Hughart’s novels are still available singly, but the omnibus version will now set you back in excess of $150 — and that’s just for the book club edition.

Later this year, we’re going to rectify that situation, with a gorgeous new edition, featuring a brand new cover by Jon Foster, with the trade print run likely limited to 2000 copies at $38 — not a bad price point for a book we expect will approach 700 pages.

For Mr. Hughart’s most ardent fans, that’s not the biggest news. In addition to the trade hardcover, we’ll be producing a 200-250 copy limited edition that will feature not only a leatherbound edition of The Chronicles. In addition, for the first time, Mr. Hughart has given us permission to publish the first draft of Bridge of Birds, which features Master Li as a nineteen-year-old, and Number Ten Ox as a bit player. This slipcased set will be a true rarity.

Seriously, now. How awesome is that. Not only that a new edition is coming out — and in hardcover, which fills my heart with squee — but that a major reason it is, is because we were talking about it here.

We must remember to use this power only for good, people.

Also, for you Master Li fans, here’s the page on Subterranean where you can  pre-order the book. And if you don’t think I’m not already in the line for this, you are a silly, silly person.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

40 replies on “Next I’m Going to Ask for a Pony”

Well I do have the omnibus edition published by the late lamented Stars Our Destination bookshop in Chicago. But I’ll gladly throw more money toward Subterranean – they do such a good job with the books they publish.

I laughed when I got the SubPress email – I had the exact same thought about the power of Whatever. I also immediately plunked down my spare change for this volume. Eminently re-readable and deserving of a place in anyone’s library.

Hey all,

Thanks to everyone for bringing Barry Hughart — who is a delight to deal with, I hasten to add — back to my attention. I’ve thought of doing an omnibus edition of his novels a few times, then back-burnered it. The enthusiasm I encountered here made me drag out my copies and then drop a note to Barry, who’s quite enthused about our new edition.

I should add, for those interested in the slipcased version with the extra volume, it will be limited to 200 sets, priced at $125.

All best,


I’d never heard of Bridge of Birds before it was mentioned here. (I know, I know…I need to pay more attention to my genre.) It was so enthusiastically recommended by so many people that I went looking for it…with no luck. So the announcement of this new omnibus edition makes me jump up and down with anticipation. Yup, I gots my $38 budgeted and ready to go.

In HARDCOVER?! *dies of happy* I have the Foglio-illustrated softcover, but I loves hardcovers!

Subterranean, you guys rock. Would it help if I just signed over my paycheck?

Just kidding. Mostly.

Excellent! We bought a couple of omnibus editions several years ago when we stumbled across them at a con. We’ve been giving them to various people as presents and could use some more.

Connecting the above post with the “true fan” discussion we had earlier. results in me thinking that there are a *lot* people who is willing to pay top dollars for books that they already have !

I guess Hughart dont have a blog nor he is producing a 100 USD worth of material each year and yet…

For myself I content to have his books in our local library.


Eh. I’m willing to pay $38 for a better version of a book I already have, from this particular author, and I suspect some are willing to pay $125 for the extra-special edition. Will we spend that amount every year on the author, is the question (answer in my case: Not so much).

Dancing Girl is the fourth book in the series, allegedly completed for years. The story goes that after the way his publishers treated him with Eight Skilled Gentlemen (publishing the hardcover and trade simultaneously), Mr. Hughart gave up on the business entirely. But in order to keep making a few bucks (at the publishing business’ expense!), he came up with the following scheme, worthy of Master Li himself:

1) Write a sequel (Dancing Girl)
2) Find a publisher soon to go through a buyout
3) Sell the rights
4) Wait for the fallout from the buyout (new editors, new management, new everything)
5) New editor goes through and cancels the contracts on all the midlisters from the old imprint, reverting rights back to Mr. Hughart
6) Goto 2

He has claimed to have done this several times. Though, I must say, it’s Barry Hughart we’re talking about here. His writing certainly implies a…casual relationship with the truth.

Thanks for this. I have multiple copies of the originals (I grab it used whenever I see it to give away to friends) and the omnibus edition. Hughart is one my favorite writers. I will now dutifully get in line for the new version, and hope that the renewed interest gives Hughart some cause to consider starting the series up again.

I read Story of the Stone… I never read anything else by this author. I didn’t even know who you were talking about until you mentioned Master Li and Number Ten Ox. Awesome story…a sordid trip to hell and what-not but a great story masterfully told.

I just surfed over to Subterranean Press, publisher of the new Hughart volume, to get the free MP3 files of Charlie Stross’s “Trunk and Disorderly” only to notice the MP3 files are hosted on What’s up with that?

I bought and read a rather dilapidated used paperback of Bridge of Birds a couple of years ago. So, holy heck yes, I just put down money for this preorder. I felt some real concern that this preorder might “fill up” rather quickly–although I suppose that would probably justify expanding the print run.

But anyway, new Hughart omnibus, wooooo.

I’ll be buying the Subterranean omnibus: I have the UK hardbacks, but they’re pretty cheap productions – the paper’s turning brown!

Hopefully they’ll also inspire someone to reissue Ernest Bramah’s Kai Lung books in nice, long lasting hardback editions – they are a very big influence on Hughart e.g. (after a quick visit to Wikipedia for some quotes):

“Kai Lung rose guardedly to his feet, with many gestures of polite assurance and having bowed several times to indicate his pacific nature, he stood in an attitude of deferential admiration. At this display the elder and less attractive of the maidens fled, uttering loud and continuous cries of apprehension in order to conceal the direction of her flight.”

“After secretly observing the unstudied grace of her movements, the most celebrated picture-maker of the province burned the implements of his craft, and began life anew as a trainer of performing elephants.”

“It is a mark of insincerity of purpose to spend one’s time in looking for the sacred Emperor in low-class teashops.”

“It has been said there are few situations in life that cannot be honourably settled, and without loss of time, either by suicide, a bag of gold or by thrusting a despised antagonist over the edge of a precipice on a dark night.”

Hughart is the better storyteller: you’re carried along by the plot – with Bramah it’s like going from cage to cage in a zoo, what’s in each cage is usually very interesting, but you feel you can break off at any time and do something else without wondering what was in the next cage (and sometimes the going between the cages gets a bit heavy). Quote for quote Bramah is the funnier of the two, but Hughart the better read.

Huh. Looking back on what I think is the sole source of information on the book (this interview), I guess Hughart does not actually say it’s a Master Li book, although the implication is there.

Of course, if it doesn’t exist, that’s it regardless. Thanks for checking.

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