Tales from the Flat Earth Analysis

Tanith Lee

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although the Tales from the Flat Earth were first published as separate novels, they comprise sets of interlocking short stories. Each book loosely focuses on the action of a “Lord of Darkness”—a personification of a disruptive force such as wickedness, death, or madness—but particular human characters rarely appear in more than one section of each of the books. The result is closer to a set of collected myths than a trilogy, although there is a clear chronological order to the stories. Like myths, they are set in a dream time, a prehistory when the world literally was flat.

Night’s Master introduces Azhrarn, the fantastically beautiful “Lord of Demons,” whose function is to spread wickedness (most often in the form of social chaos with erotic overtones) and whose realm is the Underearth, a netherworld populated by his demon subjects. He meddles in the lives of humans he finds interesting or attractive, giving them power if he thinks they have disruptive potential or destroying them if they spurn or neglect him. He rears and then loves Sivesh, a attractive youth whom he later lures to destruction for abandoning him. He grants unearthly beauty to Zorayas, a disfigured sorceress who conquers much of the world before being destroyed by her love for herself.

Holding humans in contempt, Azhrarn nevertheless is forced to realize that without them his life would have no purpose. When an indirect consequence of one of his actions gives rise to a disembodied spirit of hatred that threatens to destroy all life on Earth, he therefore takes action. He travels to the overworld to entreat the gods to aid humanity, only to find that they have no interest in it. Exposing...

(The entire section is 697 words.)