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Thursday, 4 February 2021

A madeleine cake moment

 

When I was a teenager discovering the works of H P Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, August Derleth and all those old boys, I became obsessed with the dream of collecting Weird Tales (it had to be a complete set, obviously; dreams cost nothing) which then seemed about as hoarily remote as an Akkadian epic on unearthed pottery fragments.

Weird Tales in fact folded only a few years before I was born. Those classic authors who now seemed so far off that they brushed shoulders with Homer? They died less than four decades before I read them. Derleth in fact was still batting.

Four decades. To a teen that's like the lifecycle of Asimov's Foundation, so it was with a slight shock that I realized it's been just as long since Jamie and I first got drawn into the orbit of White Dwarf and Games Workshop. For a while Jamie was writing The Dice Men, a book about that era, for Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. (I think he's off the project now, but you can still read an excerpt by him on the crowdfunding page till Unbound remember to delete it.)

I'm back on the Grognard Files this month talking about those far-off days. All the secrets, all the dreams. As Dirk remarks on the podcast, it's basically Games Workshop: the rock & roll years.

13 comments:

  1. Looking at that photo, I realised that the guy on the back row on the right, behind the three women, was Albie Fiore (I think I'm right). My recollection of Albie was that he was a genius. Only person at the company who could actually lay out pages on the typesetting machines. I never realised he was a setter of the Guardian's cryptic crossword, or contributed to the Crystal Maze. He was also very likeable and tolerant of the likes of me. Passed away a dozen years ago.

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    1. Yep, that's Albie. A really nice guy and talented with it.

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  2. On the subject of Games Workshop, I got around to looking at your FF works, Paul. I can't say how well the books played as I didn't go through them in that level of detail, or how they compare to the others in the series (or rather the second half of the original series at least), but I thought the quality of your writing has stood up well. Magehunter was probably the most interesting I thought. I never knew Wizards didn't eat fish, so you learn something new every day! :) Some pretty decent artwork as well, including from Russ Nicholson and Bob Harvey (who did the original The Way of the Tigers).

    When I get a moment, I'm going to compare The Keep of the Lich Lord FF to The Keep of the Lich Lord FL, Dave!

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    1. Looking forward to that, Andy. And yes, I rate Paul's FF books as by far the most interesting in the series.

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    2. Magehunter is actually the only one I enjoyed reading myself, though as with all of them, it signally failed to achieve the ambitions I had for it. But it was written at the point when I had finally started to glimpse some of the things that gamebooks could do -- with Heart of Ice being one of the key teachers in that regard.

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    3. I liked the way some of them tried to deviate from the (I'm guessing) pre-requisite constraints of the series. That said, flicking through the few Amazon reviews of Magehunter, someone else thought the opposite it seems. Oh well, you can't please everyone! It's a pity every time there's a re-release of the series, yours and other later titles haven't had a second airing anyhow. Even dedicated enthusiasts will think twice at £250!

      Completely off topic, Dave, I know you've said you don't watch TV, but having missed the first ten series, I'm currently chuckling through repeats of Taskmaster. Not my usual cup of tea but well worth a viewing if you haven't caught it.

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    4. The only Taskmaster I know, Andy, is the one in the Marvel Comics. I don't think you can mean him as ten seasons would stretch him a little thin, but I reckon he'll do as the (or a) villain in Black Widow:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hy8TFrVVJNQ

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  3. It's a little disconcerting when you happen to glance down and see the gaping abyss of time beneath you isn't it! I was a tad dismayed, when we sat down at the start of 'Lockdown' to start re-watching Buffy (with our son, for the first time) to discover that Giles was now younger than me... fortunately, during 10 months of our time, we have raced through the seasons in Sunnydale, where over 5 years have passed, and so our wise mentor Giles is older than me again, and all is well with the world...

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    1. Oh, excellent choice of viewing, John; it almost makes the lockdown worthwhile. Hope your son enjoyed it. I expect the budget visibly increased over the seven seasons. I need to rewatch that and Farscape (which probably doesn't stand up as well as Buffy) and at least I'm still younger than William the Bloody...

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    2. Yes he certainly did! (James, not Spike). I am pleased to report that the show, through its excellent writing, has stood the test of time - special effects and action sequences are all generally good, especially once you get on to Season 2. James was more amused by archaic devices such as public payphones rather than any ropey desktop-generated CGI! So well worth a re-watch, along with its companion show "Angel" and yes - we've got a long way to go before either Spike or Angel are younger than us!

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  4. Dave, John, funnily enough I had started watching Buffy last month, having missed it first time around. I got up to episode six, went to download more episodes and they'd removed the box set off Sky. I'll have to wait for the repeats. Probably a few years too soon for my son though.

    Incidentally, Dave, are there any (publishable) pearls of wisdom you'd pass onto your twenty something self, if such a thing were possible (other than invest in Marvel)?!

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    1. That's easy, Andy. I'd have made Dragon Warriors D6-only, as Oliver suggested. I wouldn't have bothered with the tactical maps and complex rules in Blood Sword. And I'd have joined DeepMind when I was given the chance back in 2010.

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    2. That was pretty clear cut, Dave. On the flip side, had you joined DeepMind, we most likely wouldn't be having this conversation now. Every cloud! I note than in 2013 they published research on an AI system that could surpass human abilities in games such as Pong, Breakout and Enduro. Clearly they weren't watching me play Enduro, ironically must be about 40 years ago!

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