This made for a lovely start to my year: an in-depth, considered and very flattering review by D F Chang of my four Critical IF gamebooks. "Compelling characters, perfectly plotted, amazingly written..." I didn't bribe him to say that, honest. Mr Chang's comments on Once Upon A Time In Arabia are more than fair, and three out of four A-ratings is nothing to gripe about. I just came across the video by accident, but you can bet modesty won't stop me sharing it every place I can.
Mr Chang raises a few interesting points, some of which have been addressed in earlier blog posts but this is a good opportunity for a recap. There were six Virtual Reality gamebooks but I only wrote the four that were republished as Critical IF; Mark Smith wrote Green Blood and The Coils of Hate. I wrote Down Among The Dead Men first, then Necklace of Skulls, then Heart of Ice, and finally Twist of Fate -- which was retitled Once Upon A Time In Arabia for the new edition.
Mr Chang has some valid criticisms. He doesn't like 'Necklace of Skulls' as the wizard's name. My only defence is that the nobles and kings of the Maya tended to be called things like that, if we interpret their names literally: Bird Jaguar, Sky Witness, Centipede Claw, Shield of the Sun, Curl Snout. It was anyway fashionable to translate them like that in the '90s, rather than attempt to recreate the sound of the names (K'inich Kan B'alam, for instance) which are even more deeply lost in the mists of time.
I agree that my inspiration was flagging when it came to the Arabian book. Or maybe I was trying too hard to recreate the picaresque feel of the Tales of the Arabian Nights boardgame, where the goal is likewise to scoot all over the world in order to achieve riches and honour. Probably I lavished too much energy on Heart of Ice and had nothing left to spare for the final book, and the deadline didn't permit me to take a break and recharge. That's why, when editing the new edition of Twist of Fate, I took the opportunity to change the lame title and rewrite the introduction to the story.
But how marvellous it is to hear of readers still getting pleasure from books I wrote twenty-five years ago and more. I'm nearer the end than the start of my writing career, but that reward never gets old.