Thirty-eight years ago today, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson shook up the gamebook scene with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which combined the interactive stories of Choose Your Own Adventure with the dice-rolling of Dungeons & Dragons. To mark that publishing milestone, gamebook author Jonathan Green has organized International Gamebook Day, of which he says:
"We have interviews, read-throughs, giveaways and other things planned throughout the day, but please feel free to post on the event page on Thursday yourself. If you are an author, post links to your books. If you are artist, feel free to post images of your illustrations and links to your gallery. If you are an editor, post stories of your experiences commissioning gamebooks. And if you are a fan, post links to and images of your favourite series and photos of your collections."You can find it on Facebook and and on Twitter at @GamebookDay. I expect most of it will be about Fighting Fantasy, but if you're interested in some of the series that I've worked on then here's one I made earlier:
Thanks, Dave. I'm on holiday today looking after my son, so will check it out, although I only use Facebook once in a blue moon. Are you planning on making an appearance today? Good to see four of your books feature in the titles. Plus Avenger's leggies! I do have Jonathan's You Are The Hero, which I enjoyed. I vaguely remember you have a very fleeting appearance in it.ReplyDelete
I had wanted to ask you after your FF comment yesterday, but had promised to end that post so didn't. So, I'll ask it here instead! Was there anything more to your Penguin's FF disdain comment? I know they published the series under Puffin, their children's label.
On a related note, has Jamie finished the Games Workshop book yet, do you know? I complete forgot to support it. I assume it will get a wider release at some stage.
Oh, and I thought you'd be interested to know my son has your liking for comics. He's created his very own Superhero, Bashman. His notes read; he can shoot lava and fire from his eyes. Sharp hands, pointy fingers, wings to fly. He is a robot in the day and a person at night.
His artwork isn't quite up to Leo's standard yet.
I was thinking of a time when Jamie and Min (that's Mark Smith) went to a party to mark an FF anniversary -- presumably 1992 -- and they came back and said how all the Penguin execs had seemed quite embarrassed by the FF series. It had made them millions but they were sniffy about it.ReplyDelete
That's how publishing was in those days. In the mid-80s, after doing the six Golden Dragon books for Grafton Books, I went in to find a new exec in place of Angela Sheehan, who had commissioned the series. I pitched the new fellow a follow-on series while he wandered around the office in his red braces trying out his new golf clubs. After a while he said, "I'm sure it was amusing to do a few of these gamebook things, but I can't see why we would ever consider doing any more of them." Just the royalties from French editions of GD would have paid his salary for a year.
Enjoy your hols, Andy -- and stock up on those comics for the rainy days.
Sharp hands and pointy fingers are always useful!ReplyDelete
Very true, Nigel!Delete
Thanks, Dave. Grafton's loss was Knight's gain, then (if memory serves)! I'll be starting my son on Mirabilis when we've got through The Dark Lord. He'll be disappointed when he realises there is no book 3 though (although I do have The Pearls That Were His Eyes)! As I was putting a few books away, I've also clocked I've missed doing a review of a minor classic, A Minotaur At The Savoy. Let me read it again and leave that one with me!
I just turned on in time today to see Jamie's interview today, of which The Dark Lord was discussed. Very interesting! Having near completed book one, I've also realised my impressions were more Warlock than Dark Lord!
I see Ian Livingstone is coming up. Now, Mr Livingstone, about Eye of the Dragon...
Not seeing why I shouldn't get in on the act, I've added the talk that Paul, Jamie and I gave at MantiCon a couple of years back. Mind you, I only wrote half of one FF book.Delete
Quite right, Dave. Did you ever get them new specs by the way?! :)Delete
I'm not on Facebook, and didn't hear about this until Dave mentioning it... and it's Friday already here anyway, but let me know if anything interesting emerges.ReplyDelete
And where's this "Penguin disdain" comment that appeared yesterday? I mean, I see the one above, and I'm well aware of the disdain in which we were held (even to the extent of deliberately employing people so that they didn't have to talk to us). But I'd like to see what else was said.
I don't blame you for being confused, Paul. Andy has been keeping the lights on in the Fictoplasm post from several weeks ago. Here's the remark that future generations will remember as kicking off Penguingate:Delete
I see the curse of my clumsy language has struck again! Ironically, in trying to draw a line under that post and to stop bothering Dave, I've just inadvertently increased its life cycle and done the exact opposite. Still, the government will be thankful to you for Penguingate Dave, should keep them out of the front line news for a few days.Delete
A glance reveals that it was less Penguingate, and more James's Gate. Which sounds like a desanctified location in Dublin.Delete
Paul, I must admit I've probably only read your FF entries once as a skim read 25-30 years ago. All the original FFs still sit pristinely on my shelf (and as a completist, I must admit to having purchased the newer ones). I think I stopped reading FF properly just before half way through the series. Golden Axe, Mad Max and Klax took over. I'll give your FFs another whirl.Delete
I got rid of hundreds of books about 20 years ago, a lot of them worth a bob or two now. Included in them were Bloodsword, Fabled Lands, Virtual Reality, Duelmaster, Combat Heroes, Fatemaster, Car Wars, Terrors Out Of Time (I might not have that one quite right), Legends of Lone Wolf, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance.
That scene with Morgan Freeman near the end of The Shawshank Redemption springs to mind. I want to go back and talk to my younger self, tell him how it is, but I can't. I won't ask you to stamp my damn form.
Ten years ago I'd have said, you're better off without them. But now that Magehunter is up on eBay for 300 quid, I can see that my books clearly have some value, even if none of it derives from their quality...Delete
Please tell me that Virtual Reality is worth a bob or two (especially the ultra rare version of Heart of Ice that I have a box of sitting in my office).
Without me wanting to add to fuel to the Penguingate fire, Paul, didn't Dave once say on here that 300 quid was about what you got for writing the books in the first place? I suppose if you decide to flog it at that price, you'll at least have in effect got paid twice for it! I suppose in a sense I found my redemption by repurchasing Bloodsword, Virtual Reality (as Critical IF) and The Fabled Lands, so at least Dave got paid twice for them as well.Delete
I think I've told the story somewhere on here before, about a week after I'd got rid of all those books, I discovered e-bay and Amazon and ascertained that I'd effectively thrown away a minimum four digit figure. I I ran back to the shop to discover the vast majority gone. I brought the few that were left for a few quid each. When I got back home, I peeled off the price stickers the shop had put on and the cover came off with them. I felt sympathetic for the person that picked up all the other books knowing how much they were worth, for them to suffer the same fate.
Looking at e-bay, the prices of Virtual Reality don't seem that high unfortunately. Also, The Walls of Spyte original can be picked up now for £100, where a few years back you would have to pay circa £500. I can only attribute the drop to Dave having released the new version, therefore changing the supply/demand economics and effectively costing you your retirement fund. Oh no, I've now started The Virtual Affair!
I've just clocked The Hunger of Sejanoz is on there for a grand. Off now to my study with a calculator!
Oh, and I further bit of petrol, Paul. Put in Magehunter, the book comes up, put in Magehunter Paul Mason, it doesn't! On a more serious note, have you written anything else out of interest?Delete
I thought it was well known that all the Fighting Fantasy books were by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson?Delete
Written anything else? I did the first novel in a projected series about the Chinese detective Judge Bao (I'm a great fan of van Gulik's Judge Dee books), got within a hair's breath of having it accepted by St Martins, and then that went pear-shaped. A real writer would have plugged on regardless. I'm not a real writer, and frankly I get a lot more pleasure nowadays (well, before coronavirus) by standing on stage blasting out Radiohead, The Cure, The Arctic Monkeys etc on guitar.
I think it wasn't until Sword of the Samurai came out and was mentioned in Warlock as Jamie and Mark's, I had assumed up until then they were just prolific, Paul!Delete
That sounds like a dream job to me. I prefer a bit of Radiohead, The Auteurs and Depeche Mode myself, and no, I'm not that Andy Fletcher. Like my namesake, I have little musical talent (think Ross on the keyboards in that episode of Friends). Although come to think if it, having won a musical talent competition at school, I was offered lessons on any musical instrument I wanted, which I turned down (I should have said electric guitar). A sliding doors moment perhaps. If I ever write a book, I'll have this blog to thank for being a creative outlet.
Does your band have a name out of interest, and do you do any material of your own?
My JOB isn't playing music. My job is banging my head against a wall when Japanese students feel that politeness demands that they be twice as dense as British students. I was just saying that the free time that I could have devoted to writing is instead devoted to music.Delete
I'm in three 'bands', a Radiohead tribute trio that's dormant, a duo called the Mr Benns which is waiting for the venues to reopen, and plays 'upbeat', mostly indie stuff from the 70s to the 2000s, and I'm also just the spare guitarist in the dadrock band of a colleague of mine, which plays the old chestnuts like the Beatles, Stones, Bowie etc.
I do material of my own, but it's strictly for my own amusement. Ironically, just about the only writing I do nowadays is for the Frank's APA zine which James Wallis founded back in 1990 and which is about -- you guessed it -- music.
Ah, I see! It could be worse, Paul, it could be music headbanging. It sounds like we have the same musical tastes anyway, and possibly the same appreciation of 70s children's animation as well, Mr Benn have been the ringtone on my phone for many years.Delete
If I do ever read your gamebooks and think you're doing yourself a disservice, I'll suddenly appear as if by magic, and let you know.
I reckon both of you are going to enjoy Roz's new novel... More for the lat '80s/early '90s music side of it than the Mr Benn references.Delete
Oh, and the Bao novel is brilliant and deserves to be a long-running series... Not that I expect you'd want to write them, Paul.
I thought my Bao novel was good when I read it and enjoyed it, but I reread it again not so long ago and found it rather cloying. But at least it was better than the novel I worked on to try and get a bit more 'populist', which riffed off the Lucy Blackman murder, and was just sick.ReplyDelete
I'll look forward to Roz's novel for sure. It's hard to do music well in a book, though. My mate* David Mitchell just got eviscerated in Private Eye for his attempt to do a book about a band in the sixties.
On Mr Benn I was shocked to discover that it was set in Putney, where I used to live, and Mr Benn actually lived just round the corner from my friend Adrian. And by relentless sleuthing I worked out that the fancy dress shop was actually the one on Lacy Road, opposite the Jolly Gardener pub which I used to go to every week after my Japanese classes (the ones that stopped me playing in the Thursday night Tekumel game -- and look where they got me!).
*'Mate' here means that I met him once before he was famous, and we chatted about, amongst other things, how he read fighting fantasy when he was a kid.
Ooh, my ears are burning! I saw that David Mitchell had made a defensive remark about the difficulties of writing about music. But there are plenty of writers who do it phenomenally well - the music press was full of reviews that were works of art in their own right, probably a much richer imaginative musical experience than the actual tracks they were reviewing.ReplyDelete
Lovely to see that clip from the convention in Germany. Can't believe that was 2018.
Paul, if you ever merge your current band with your dormant band, you could call them Mr Bennds. I didn't tell you Thom Yorke was my mate did I? Well, a friend once sat next to him on a plane, so I'm sure it counts. I missed going to see Radiohead by the skin of my teeth on their Bends tour, it sold out seconds before. I booked Gene with Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy supporting instead. Not a bad substitute. You'd have at least one customer for your novel by the way, if you decided to self-publish. I'd perhaps go as far as Penguin 80s rates to read it.Delete
Roz, I'm really looking forward to the new novel, your other work is superb. I thought it was about mountaineering though, so I'm intrigued as to how the 80s/90s music scene fits in (unless I'm getting muddled as per usual). It's a shame Mr Benn isn't in it though. I liked your Mat Osman of Suede interview by the way, Dog Man Star is a classic.
Re music reviews, if I could be so bold; I hardly listen to any music these days, but Martin Rossiter's "I must be Jesus" and Peter Murphy's "I Spit Roses" are worth a listen. I've also relatively recently purchased Psurroundabout Ride by The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC). I've already got it in another version, but some things are so good you have to buy them twice.
Just make sure to keep applying that principle to gamebooks, eh Andy? And if Jewelspider turns out to be so good you have to buy it *thrice*...Delete
I don't think David Mitchell can have read the sleeve notes to With The Beatles. Ringo's "loose-skinned Arabian bongo", Paul's "lean, hollow-boned rhythm from the claves", and so on. Mitchell doesn't know what he's talking about.
"Mr Bennds"? Now you mention it, we have been looking for a new name, as we lost our vocalist, and may be replacing him with the Mr Benns vocalist.Delete
I haven't read the book, so can't be sure whether Mitchell knows what he's talking about or not, but the Eye accused him of packing his novel with famous names, so Rick Wakeman is spotted in a cafe, and takes no further part in the proceedings, etc. One bit I found dodgy was portraying Steve Marriott (now deceased) as a Savile-enabler.
I have no doubt Roz will avoid these pitfalls, not least because she's describing a real, experienced time rather than reconstructing a purely mythic age.
And if we're recommending bands, I'll put in a word for Rollers/Sparkers, one of whose members wrote for Frank's APA until recently, and whose album Interior Ministry is pretty much the kind of music I'd be making if I had the time and the talent.
I've never read any of Mitchell's books (not that David Mitchell, anyway) but I saw an interview in which he obviously felt the need to make excuses for the latest one, as he said, "If you try to describe music, however inventive a writer you are, it’s a bit like a description of someone else’s dream: you’ve got about four sentences and then it starts to get boring. There’s one scene where a friend suggested that you can’t hear the music but you can describe the faces of the people hearing it. That’s a clever idea. Many of the scenes are ways out of the tight spot that writing a novel about music put me in.”Delete
I can only assume he's never read NME. But I thought, "He's an experienced writer, so he won't do anything as cheap and lazy as putting famous people in walk-on parts." But he went on to say, "One reason I included real musicians was to push my characters who had real-life counterparts into their own space, so Elf meets Sandy Denny and Jasper encounters Syd Barrett. Also, they’re such damn interesting people. For me, having David Bowie as this nervous early failure both demythologises them and amplifies their achievements as artists."
Trust me, Roz's novel is a lot better than that.
Ho ho, Andy.... good question! And it's about time I answered it. I'm writing my newsletter right now, which I hope will clarify....Delete
Paul. I'm no doubt preaching to the converted, but just on the 1% chance you've not heard them, the B-sides to The Bends and Ok Computer singles were particularly good. Bishop's Robes, Talk Show Host, Banana Co, Palo Alto, Fog, etc. Try as I might, I couldn't find Rollers/Sparklers anywhere on the internet.Delete
Dave. If you keep doing 'em, I'll keep buying 'em! If you ever get round to doing Falcon, I'll pick those up even though I already have them. I suppose I should have purchased the first one in order to increase the chances of the second one. On the subject of Jewelspider, I had gone on with the intention to leave a one off contribution. More in recognition for quality entertainment services to the Fletcher family over 35 years than for Jewel Spider itself (having never done RPGs). However, how it's set up lends itself to smaller amounts over longer periods. Would you see any of the money if I contributed to Mirabilis Patreon again which seemingly has more options?
Roz. I'm not being thick then, that makes a change! Re your comment about the 2018 talk, has it been that long? If you'd have asked me how long ago it was I'd first listened to the two songs above I mentioned, I'd have guessed three years ago. I looked on Amazon and I purchased them early 2013. Weird. I used to not understand how my Dad's musical tastes ended at Wings and just realised I had the same stop "event" in 1997. Nothing predicts the future like the past!
Yesterday, my son split his milk while we were finishing off the first Dark Lord book. He said loudly "It was the MILK OF EVIL. MWAH HA HA HAH!" Today he threw himself in front my my lawnmower to save a Ladybird. I thought it perfectly incapsulated the books.Delete
Moving onto the second Dark Lord book brings back a few memories. On my honeymoon, it was the only book I took with me, thinking I'd have no chance to read anything. We encountered weather and flooding of biblical proportions and ending up having to stay a lot of the holiday in the hotel. We had loads of gripes with the travel agency Thomsons. The irony of being stuck in a hotel moaning about Thomsons, stuck with a childrens book by the author Jamie Thomson struck me as hilarious, to the point I set out to write a book called Dear Thomson, which was going to be in the form of an increasingly unreasonably series of complaint letters to the travel agency. I just wasn't quite qualified to write it. I found my book of (barely legible) notes the other day, read them and threw them away. Not because they weren't any good, just because they the important bits are ingrained in memory.
I'd like to read the Dear Thomson book, Andy. Maybe Jamie would collaborate with you on writing it. You write the complaints, he can write the increasingly outrageous replies.Delete
The Mirabilis Patreon has always gone straight to Leo. I haven't had access to it for a long time so haven't been able to do any updates, but it was clearly never going to raise enough to get even one issue completed. Maybe if I change the story to being about a secret society of assassins that was founded by Benjamin Franklin and now operates out of a Westchester mansion, it would get more readers. Hi ho.
The converted it is: I've played Banana Co live, in fact (solo, as it happens: I need to learn to sing some time). But I'm one of those annoying Radiohead fans who doesn't think they went downhill after OK Computer, and who even enjoyed Ed's solo album.Delete
Rollers/Sparkers (no 'l') are on Bandcamp. Funnily enough I was writing in Frank's APA about the "stop" event a little while ago. I reckon a similar thing happens with rolegames (in my case, involuntarily) and novels. I wasn't berating those who had reached the point of deciding not to bother with new stuff, either. Although many of the excuses given are rubbish (the ones that externalise, blaming the alleged declining quality of stuff rather than the truth, which is one's own reaction to it), I think there are perfectly good reasons why people might abandon chasing the new.
I'd also be up for a Dear Thomson book. Makes me realise we missed a trick in Warlock, all those years ago.
Dave. In which case I'll sign up to Jewel Spider and perhaps keep it running longer so I can catch up with what everyone else has paid!Delete
Paul. I've found Bandcamp and Rollers/Sparkers. I'll but that once I've worked out the buttons. I was looking for Frank's APA but the blog only seems to go up 2012, am I looking in the right place? I agree with everything you said. There are a few exceptions to my "stop" moment. I suppose the problem with Radiohead is, how do you follow an album like Ok Computer? I thought Kid A was good and would put In Rainbows as their second best album. That said, with some groups I think the quality does decline significantly, Depeche Mode being point in case. Most of what they did after Songs of Faith and Devotion just seems music by numbers and going through the motions. I've just remembered I actually quoted some of True Love Waits as part of my wedding speech, though it was rather the meat in a joke sandwich as much as my liking for the song.
Thank you both for you kind comments re Dear Thomson. The Jamie idea sounds lots of fun, but the ship has sailed on that book I think. It was a case of write it there and then, or don't write it all. The fact they changed their name from Thomson to TUI shortly afterwards wasn't helpful either! The ending was going to be Thomson's actual reply to my genuine complaint letter, which ended something like, politely go and do one and we look forward to you travelling with Thomson again. The final letter was going to be my reply (unsent - probably) with "You're pulling my something or other aren't you", or words to that effect. I did have a light bulb moment a few weeks ago though, so I know the book I'm going to write, although like Paul's own music material, it will likely be for own amusement.
Dave, I've just signed up to Patreon and noted how long it's actually been going for (and I've just missed the last pay date). I don't know whether it's possible to set up another "ad hoc" tier which is your best calculation of the fourth tier x however many months you think the project is (say $200 or whatever). I'll sign up to that for a month and then opt back out, or some such.Delete
p.s. Flicking through the older posts I noted Talos! Weird!
No worries, Andy. I'm just grateful to have your backing at all -- seeing as you're not a roleplayer it's more than generous!Delete
Andy: Frank's APA is the last gasp of the great fanzine explosion of the 1980s (it was actually started by James Wallis in 1990). So any online elements -- and I'm told there is a Facebook page -- are peripheral. The actual Frank's APA is a fanzine, that's still on paper.Delete
Thanks, Paul. That would explain it. The Dukes of Stratosphere work is produced by John Leckie by the way, who said something like it's his favourite of those albums he's worked on. Recommendations don't come higher than that! If you haven't listened to it, I guarantee it will give you a lift and you won't be let down.Delete
Speaking of Jewelspider, how’s it going? Been a little while since the last Patreon message. The snippets you’ve released so far have been superb...ReplyDelete
There's a new Patreon post on Friday, Nigel. The big picture of the rules is complete, but now I'm dealing with all the niggling details. It's like doing a jigsaw, thinking it's nearly finished, and then noticing that the remaining pieces and the remaining holes are totally different shapes. But I'll get there...Delete
Once I'm happy with the rules, the next bit will be working through the source material. There's a scenario by Oliver that I'd like to fit in but it's really more DW than JS.
Looking forward to it Dave. An OJ scenario? As they say in the classics “shut up and take my money!” :-)ReplyDelete
If I can read his handwriting... :-)Delete
Must be written in Lughwyd!ReplyDelete
Back when we worked on Questworld (one of several projects for Games Workshop that they lost interest in halfway through) even Oliver couldn't read his own handwriting -- or so he claimed. It just occurred to me that was his ploy to get me to type it all up :-)Delete