It was September 27, 1995 when I walked in the door at the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin offices of TSR to begin my new job as editor on the book publishing team. Talk about twists and turns. Barely more than a year later the whole company seemed to come to a halt. There were rounds of painful layoffs and a sense of hopelessness in the air. We stopped printing everything, including royalty checks. The Lions Club came and took the gumball machines out of the lunch room. Then one day we ran out of toilet paper, and that was it for toilet paper. It had a very Soviet quality to it, that particular slow descent into bankruptcy. If my key card opened the door in the morning I assumed I still had a job.

That continued for month after nerve-racking month until finally, like the Sera Angel he is, Peter Adkison swooped in as if from the Outer Planes and swept us all up in his loving embrace, and off we went to Seattle.

I’ve joked in the past, and even today, that the best thing TSR ever did for me was go out of business, and send me to Seattle (a city I’ve come to love), but in reality it did lots more for me than that—so much I couldn’t even list them here. When you add in the next thirteen years at Wizards, the internet isn’t big enough.

At Wizards of the Coast it hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. I’ve run up against my share of owlbears, too. The abject failure of the Discoveries imprint was a very difficult failure for me, both personally and professionally, and I can only hope—now when I really need it to be true—that I’ve come out the other end of that one. I was compelled to lay off Stacy Whitman and Cortney Marabetta, which I hated doing. And there were other fights, big and small, that I ended up on the losing side of, but in the end—who cares?

Honestly, right now, about four hours after being told my position has been eliminated, in what was a very uncomfortable reenactment of scenes from the George Clooney movie Up in the Air, I should probably be all upset, raging against the machine and all that, but I just can’t do it.

I left Wizards of the Coast for the last time this morning surprisingly happy. The people around me seemed to think I was insane, or crippled with denial, and I found myself having to pretend to be angry and upset, though I don’t think I pulled it off.

After very nearly fifteen years of strenuous service, frankly, I was done. I’d pretty much had it, and I have my sights set on bigger, but in the end not necessarily better, things.

I’m finding it difficult to remember the bad stuff, the things that got me angry and frustrated. The good times, the victories big and small, the friends still there or scattered across the country, are all that come to mind. I’m already looking back on my time at Wizards with no regrets.

I will definitely miss the people: the day to day camaraderie of my great team, and my twice a week D&D games. In a year or so, I might even miss the books! Yeah, turns out even in a job as cool as that one, burnout happens. The authors, I’ll do my level best to stay in touch with as I move on to . . . what? My own writing? Well, I have a book shipping even as we speak, so that’s moving forward. Another publisher? A literary agency? The electronic game biz?

Hell, maybe I’ll run for office!

No. I won’t do that.

Almost anything else, though, is possible.

—Philip Athans

About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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45 Responses to END OF PART TWO

  1. travizzt says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your position being terminated, but at least your aren’t raging and angry about it (hopefully that never comes). It’s always good to remember the good times and dwell on those more than on the bad…

    I hope that whatever is next is something fun, new, and exciting!

  2. Fantastic attitude. Business is business, and there’s always something over the horizon. I’m sure you’ll wind up on your feet.

  3. Robert Fleck says:

    Well, damn. Sorry to see you go from WotC. Looking forward to what you do next.


  4. stacy says:

    Given all the war stories of past layoffs (including my own), I’m not surprised to hear it came at some point, but wasn’t expecting it to come so soon. But then, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. 😉

    I tried to email the personal address I had on file, but it didn’t go through. Was just saying that sucks, etc., and to let me know if there’s anything I can do. (And I mean that seriously–getting you in touch w/ people, networking, etc.)

  5. Nina says:

    We miss you already, Phil.

  6. Pingback: Phil Athans, editor da Wizards, demitido « Ponei Riders Blog

  7. Matt James says:

    Best of luck, Phil. You will be missed!

  8. Phil, a classy note and I know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s been a great pleasure to work with you at WotC.


  9. Pingback: Phil Athans leaving WotC « Paul S. Kemp, Fictioneer

  10. NewGuyDave says:

    Mr. Athans,
    I’m only a reader, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed works that you’ve edited, particularly Mr. Kemp’s Erevis stories.

    Sorry to see you go from Wizards and I hope you end up happy wherever you set yourself down.

    Coincidentally, I have yet to check out your own novels, but I’ll look into it today. Take care,


  11. Phil,

    I’m kind of stunned right now on a number of levels. I definitely know what it’s like to leave WotC with a wide future ahead of you. If you are up to it, please drop me a line. All I seem to have is your wizards.com email address.

    Your friendship over the past 10+ years was one of the things that kept me from going postal within the hallowed halls of Wizards.

    Let’s chat, Ah-So style! 🙂

    All the best!

  12. matt a says:


    It was Ed’s world, but you are its heart and soul. Hopefully, the WOTC undead beholder will at some point pull all its eyestalks out of its ass and realize that it committed a critical failure without even rolling a 20 sider…



  13. Andy Collins says:


    Wizards of the Coasts’ loss is someone else’s great gain. I’m glad you have a positive attitude, and I wish you all the best of luck in future endeavors.

    If you feel like talking, drop me an email: andy@andycollins.net.

    Take care, good sir.

  14. Steven says:

    Color me stunned here about the changes, Phil. Glad to hear you’re finding the silver lining within that cloud, though.

    Make sure you forward along a new email contact, since I’m like Keith and only have your wizards.com address.

    Good luck and best wishes to you and your family, Phil.

  15. Phil, I’m really sorry to hear about what’s happened, but you set a helluva example, man. Like Paul said, talented people always land on their feet – and it’s a no-brainer that Forgotten Realms wouldn’t be where it is now if not for your contributions and the massive amount of time and love you’ve put in. 🙂 Keep us posted on what’s coming up next!

  16. Tina Roye says:


    I read and love your books and I am sorry to see you go as an editor. I just ordered your newest book and can’t wait to read it. Oh I forgot to thank you for the questions you answered on Formspringme. It helped a lot and now I am a freelance writer and going to be an editing intern. I can’t wait, thank you for the information you have given me, I am now well on my way. 🙂

  17. Colin McComb says:

    Phil –

    A classy exit, and a graceful note. I have absolutely no doubt that an editor of your caliber will find plenty of work, and I wish you the very best.


  18. Good luck, Phil! And friend me on Facebook! 🙂

  19. Mike Resnick says:

    Very sorry to be losing you, Phil. It was a pleasure working with you.

  20. Dane Pitchford says:

    Another reader, but to hear that your position was cut has probably been one of the most shocking removals recently. I’m sorry to see such a brilliant editor and author go. Best of luck, Mr. Athans.

  21. Julia Martin says:

    I loves ya, baby! I empathize with you and wish the best of you, as always.

    It was good times. It was bad times. And now, “Excelsior!” (To quote Thurber.)

  22. CA Suleiman says:

    Sorry to hear the wheel stopped on your name this time around, Phil. You and I may not have developed the working relationship I’d have wanted while you were there, but my respect for you never dipped as a result. Best of luck in your future endeavors, and I’ll keep an eye out for your name and work, wherever your journey takes you.

  23. Publishing houses, snatch this man up already.

    A brand new fan.

  24. Phil – Sorry to hear this, but also know of the relief of which you speak. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure!


  25. Ed Gentry says:


    I’m so sorry to hear this. You were the first professional to ever tell me that my writing had potential. I still have the letter from you telling me about my story being accepted for RotDII. WotC will be much the poorer for this decision down the road, I’ve no doubt.

    Best of luck to you and thank you for my first shot.

    -Ed Gentry

  26. Ed Gentry says:

    Phil, I’m so sorry to hear this. You were the first professional to ever tell me that my writing had potential. I still have the letter from you that earned me my spot in RotDII.

    I’ve no doubt that WotC will be much the poorer for this decision.

    Best to you and yours and good luck,

    Ed Gentry

  27. Monte Cook says:

    Best of luck, Phil. It was a long time ago, but it was good working with you.

    Their loss. Your gain. Trust me.

  28. Kameron says:

    I empathize, being recently unemployed myself, and I certainly appreciated all the help you gave this young author on his first novel.

  29. engin says:

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  30. Steve Tem says:

    Best of luck, Phil. I know Melanie and I really appreciated the insightful comments you had on THE MAN ON THE CEILING–you were the perfect editor for that project.

    Steve Tem

  31. Well, turns out I only had your Wizards address. So, let me say that I’m sorry to hear of your layoff, and wish you all the best in upcoming projects.

    Hopefully, you know where to find me if you need me.

    — Steve Sullivan

  32. angie says:

    Wow, Phil, fifteen years we worked together. That’s a ridiculously long time. My sentiments tend to mirror Nina’s and M@’s above. Take care. Oh, and if you need a typesetter for your future books …

  33. Matthew Morris says:

    Very grateful to you for all your work, and wish you luck in your endeavours.

    And a very graceful and classy reply to the news.

  34. ec says:

    Very gracious and sensible post. I wish you all the best in whatever you choose to do next.

  35. Wow, this is a shock. I’m sure you’re going on to do more great things, so I’m not worried about your future. But I’m sorry we won’t be working on any more FR projects together. Thanks for all the help you gave me.

  36. David Horowitz says:

    Every time I hear about an author or editor who is no longer a part of creating the fantastic world that is the Realms I remember the books they wrote and collaborated on and I think of how I will miss their influence in future books.

    Your influence has been extraordinary and the magic it brought to the realms will be sorely missed. I can only hope that by your unfortunate departure from wotc, that you find greater happiness, both personal, and professional, and more time to write. I will certainly be looking for your books.

  37. Scott Fitzgerald Gray says:

    So, so sorry to hear the news Phil. I’m still disappointed that our almost-working-together went the way it did, but more sorry now that I won’t have another shot at gleaning your insight. I know you know this already, but there’s an enormous group of writers out there who will talk about how good you are with no provocation. That says a lot.

  38. Stan! says:

    Very sorry to hear about it, Phil … but I think you’ve got exactly the right attitude on it already. It IS a big, wide world out here … and there are many possibilities for “next steps.” Can’t wait to hear what yours are, and lend my support if I can.

  39. Ack, I just now heard. Good luck! 🙂
    —Eric H.

  40. Keith Baker says:

    I’m sorry to hear this, Phil – though I’m sure you will come out ahead in the long run. Thank you for the opportunities and the stories.

  41. Matt Forbeck says:

    I’m sorry to hear you won’t be with Wizards any longer, Phil, but I love your attitude about it. I think you’ll find lots to love about the new things you wind up doing too, and I don’t doubt you’ll find them soon. Best of luck with wherever that takes you, and if I can help in any way just let me know.

  42. Pingback: The Tome Ep 140: Monster Manual 3 « Vorpal Network

  43. Ray Vallese says:

    Just heard the news (yeah, way late). It’s been a long time since we worked together, but Val and I are sorry for your job loss AND happy that it sounds like you’re heading for something better. Friend me on Facebook if you ever join the herd there.

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