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Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Way of the Tiger continues

1987. It was the climax of the sixth book in the Way of the Tiger series. Having risen from orphan to pretender to king, the hero of the series, Avenger, travels to the Rift, a great chasm into the heart of the Earth, to rescue her (or his) comrade Glaivas the ranger. Plummeting down the precipices, Avenger lands on something soft. That's the good news. The bad news is that it's a web, in which she (or he) is stuck fast, and a colossal spider (and/or god) is coming closer, closer...

Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith got to there, section 424 in the book, and wrote, "The end." Other books in the series had an implied "to be continued", but this one bore a stamp of finality. There's a good reason; Mark and Jamie didn't expect to be writing another one. Knight Books, publishers of Way of the Tiger, had dragged their feet over whether to renew the contract. It's the eternal worry of the freelancer - a publisher or network executive twiddles their thumbs, unhurried as only a regular salary can make a person, while the writer or artist frets about where she (or he) will find the next mortgage payment.

Not knowing whether to commit to more Way of the Tiger, Mark and Jamie had pitched another series, Duel Master, and got an offer from Armada. So by the time the alarm clock went off at Knight Books and somebody remembered to phone up for a discussion about a chat about some thoughts regarding a possible book 7, Jamie was already deep into designing the rules and complex structure for Duel Master. Mark finished off Inferno, dumped Avenger into that web, and typed two three-letter words that stuck a generation of schoolkids on tenterhooks for twenty-seven years. He left the tiniest of get-out clauses, a faintly glimmering "unless" in the final sentence, but the truth is Mark and Jamie never expected to be coming back.

Never say never. All these years later, Fabled Lands Publishing got hold of the Way of the Tiger rights and enlisted the editing team at Megara Entertainment, headed up by Richard S Hetley, to fix some of the logic problems in Inferno, refurbish the text, and now we have an all-new edition to please the most demanding fan. (Not only that, author David Walters has permission from Mark and Jamie to continue the series and looks set to do that brilliantly, starting with book seven, Redeemer.)

The new edition of Inferno is on sale now. The cover took some thinking about, and in the end we didn't use any of the designs above. Initially we were going with the giant spider painting by Mylène Villeneuve, the artist for the other five WOTT covers. It's nice and sinister, but the problem comes when you see it in thumbnail, as it would appear on most online bookstores, whereupon the tiny figure of Avenger is lost and all the customer would see is a picture of a spider. And, as you can see, to use that painting we'd have needed to add a blank strip at the bottom, otherwise the text of the title would have obscured Avenger anyway.

So we turned to the rising star of Megara's art stable, Sébastien Brunet, who did the cover art for the new edition of the Blood Sword gamebooks as well as the interior illustrations in Inferno. But the first stab at using his picture (above right) didn't work. The conventional direction of movement implied the dragon/serpent trying to get somewhere and the swordswoman Cassandra trying to stop it. That may be the scenario in the story, but the cover becomes more dramatic when it's flipped the other way round. On top of which, it always looks odd when artists insist on having warriors fight left-handed. (Unless the author has specified that. I bet a hundred WOTT fans will now tell me Cassandra's a southpaw.) So finally we come to the cover above left, which is the one you'll get if you part with your hard-won oban. But don't empty the piggy-bank completely, as the coming weeks will see the re-release of Falcon 1: The Renegade Lord, a beautiful (and multi-platform) app version of Necklace of Skulls, and The Keep of the Lich Lord (formerly Fighting Fantasy Gamebook #43) as a Fabled Lands adventure. Christmas is indeed coming early.


28 comments:

  1. I just ordered Inferno. BTW, have the previous copies of Usurper finally sold out? I really kind of want to get the version where I'm credited for the mistake I caught.

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    1. Thanks again for that, John. Can you remind us what the mistake was, for the benefit of readers who bought a copy of Usurper before the correction?

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  2. As I recall, it occurred when Avenger infiltrated the palace. If Avenger has met and received a yellow lotus from Golspeil, there will be a Werewolf waiting to attack him. When that occurs, the player was asked if he had the Shin-Ren skill. If he did, he got to make the first move against the Werewolf before it changed. However, if Avenger has Shin-Ren he cannot get (or, really, keep) the yellow lotus, which avoid the Werewolf fight completely. I recommended a couple of simple fixes and the one you guys went with was replacing the question about Shin-Ren in the Werewolf encounter with a Fate Roll. If Fate smiles on Avenger, he gets to get the jump on the Werewolf. If not, ol' fur'n'fangs gets to wolf out first. That's the way I recall it, anyway.

    I was asking because I really want to get the corrected, credited version to show people I know. However, as much as I like Avenger, I really don't want to risk getting a second uncorrected version.

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    1. Now I remember :-)

      I'd give it a month or two for Amazon to clear their stock of the uncorrected edition. Though these books are print on demand, Amazon seem to order up a dozen copies or so in advance.

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  3. Just discovered your blog, really interesting stuff here! I shall take a look carefully! :-)

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    1. In the words of Roy Batty, we're so happy you found us, Miguel. There's a lot of reading to catch up on :-)

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  4. As an afterthought, here's something I should have mentioned in the post: Way of the Tiger had a review on Amazon that marked it down by a couple of stars for having "a stale, rancid grease odour" and "off-colour yellow pages". Well, the choice of cream rather than white paper was deliberate. White is the usual choice for non-fiction, but WOTT leans more towards "book" than "game" so we decided on the cream paper option. And Jamie and Tim and I have all given the books a good sniff and there's nothing off-putting or even detectable in the smell. Just thought I'd better mention that because it's hard enough to get anybody to give reviews and ratings on Amazon these days, and when the only rating a book has is 3 stars, that really jeopardizes the chance of future reprints.

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  5. The only time I've ever noticed a smell to a new book was in 1990 with the TORG RPG tie-in book series. It's hard to describe the smell but I always thought it was the smell of possibility and therefore a good thing. I have noticed no odor in my WOTT books and thought the page color was fine.

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    1. BTW, I've just made several 5-star reviews of the various WOTT books, so I hope those cancel out the ones by the tasteless and unobservant.

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  6. I don't know if Cassandra is left-handed. I think she goes both ways. Yes, I'm 12. I hope we eventually get to see a warrior-woman face-off between Cassandra and Force-Lady Gwyneth.

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  7. Thanks for those great reviews, John. (Jamie would thank you himself, but he's too busy writing Wrong Side of the Galaxy 2 at the moment to look at the FL blog.)

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  8. Mein Gott in Himmel... Here I am scrimping for all Blood Sword books and some little leftover for Heroscape stuff and you jump another one on moi with Falcon 1...

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    1. OK, one crumb of comfort for you, Godwin - because we're getting a new cover from Peter Andrew Jones for Falcon 1, we're having to hold back publication until he gets a break in his regular work schedule to do that for us. So breathe easy, Falcon 1 may not be out until December.

      Though, having said that, Keep of the Lich Lord is less than a month away...

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    2. Ye gads, if you reply "Yes" to Jiminy's query about the technical illustrations by Nic Weeks then I HAVE to buy Falcon 1 as well!!! Those drawings inspired my circuit board illustrations when I was in Secondary 2 doing an English project and decided on a "science feasible" theme. Guess I have to tighten the ol' belt and eat air if I include Darklord book 3 and The Wrong Side of the Galaxy in my book list...

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  9. It really is awesome to see Bloodsword back on general sale (plus fixes!).

    The Falcon reprints are also very welcome. Speaking of which, I have two questions:

    Firstly, will the Falcon ship/suit technical drawings from the front of the books be reproduced in the new books?

    Secondly, will the Falcon internal section illustrations be reproduced?

    Also, it has been mentioned earlier in this thread there is a Way of the Tiger: Usurper errata-corrected edition. What is the status of the other FL-published books - is there a version list anywhere?

    One final question; does Keep of the Lich Lord include the additional sections and fixes that were added to the iOS version?

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    1. Taking those in order...

      All drawings from the original Falcon books will be in the reprints.

      A version list would make sense, wouldn't it? If only I'd kept a list. Maybe I'll start a page on the blog and readers can chip in with reminders of errata that were corrected - and point out any that haven't been.

      Megara gave me the text for their iOS version but it wasn't in order and didn't come with a list of changes, so the answer is no. There are a lot of changes but they're all by me and Jamie.

      And wait, you said "fixes" for KotLL? Let me know if there are any errata in the original FF book - I just have time to fix them before publication day.

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    2. Thanks for the quick answers, Dave!

      In terms of KotLL errata, the only ones that I am aware of are those listed on the corresponding FF Wikia page. They seem fairly minor. I presumed that those had been corrected?

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    3. FF Wikia page, huh? I'm very glad you mentioned that!

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    4. Looking at that Wikia page, here's a trivia point. They say:

      "Like the inn mentioned above ("Intertextual References"), another is also the title of a book by one of the authors, in this case Dave Morris' Down Among the Dead Men."

      That's dead wrong! Down Among the Dead Men wasn't published until 3 years later, and that part of KotLL was written by Jamie anyway. Most likely he was just aware of the expression meaning drunk under the table, ie among the "dead men" (empty bottles), and that made sense because the inn was opposite a cemetery.

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  10. The Falcon news is exciting, as much as anything because I love this series and saw such potential in it for going on (even in just in fan-fic like FF does).

    One thing I did feel let the series down though (other than the downbeat conclusion to book 6) were the internal illustrations. Geoff Senior just isn't that good an illustrator to my eyes; his style is very comic book-like, and didn't convey the grandeur of the Falcon world. The selection of panels to illustrate (albeit likely not his fault) was also sometimes odd; there are few, if any, panoramic establishing images of the Eiger Vault or any of the principal locations. Mechanus also doesn't really come across as the technological marvel that it is described as.

    Which is a long way of saying that I'd be happy, nay endorse, replacing the old internal illustrations with new ones. Nic Weeks' diagrams notwithstanding though of course, as they were excellent.

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    1. I have to agree, Mike. I don't think it was Geoff Senior's fault - it seemed like some of the least interesting scenes were chosen (at least in the first book) and often they ended up not even facing the section they illustrated because the publisher failed to use filler pics.

      I'd like to have seen the series continue. The premise was a lot more unusual than Way of the Tiger. But, as so often, unusual didn't sell. At least, not back then - but here's Falcon's chance for a second lease of life.

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    2. I never saw the Falcon ending to be all that downbeat. It's a lot like Admiral Kirk's "demotion" to Captain at the end of Star Trek 4. Now Falcon gets to do missions his way while his friend and boss, whose life he saved, covers for him with the bureaucracy. Plus Falcon is still officially the same rank since the demotion wasn't entered into the record. It might be a bit of an ego-slap at first, but this probably one of the best possible outcomes for Falcon.

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    3. Interesting take on that, John. I don't know the series well enough to comment, but I will say that it was the era of the downbeat (cf Avenger being flung into that web and "The End") so I suspect that's what Jamie and Mark were going for.

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  11. Hi Dave, any clue on the release date for Redeemer!? Can't wait! :p

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    1. Actually, Jon, I thought it was already out. I'm sure I saw something about a review of it going online soon. Other than that, you'll have to ask Megara, I'm afraid.

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  12. I have had the luck to collect most of the original editions of Way of the Tiger, except for Inferno, which I got as the re-edition version. I've found the WOTT series quite suspenseful, all the more now because of the end of Inferno. My question therefore is: When will we be seeing the final volume of the series, Redeemer, in the bookstores?

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    1. I think it's already on sale as a full-color hardcover, Daniel. Take a look at the Megara Entertainment website for more details. (Fabled Lands Publishing only has the rights to books 1-6, so unfortunately we can't release a paperback edition.)

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