Thursday 7 April 2011

F is for Fighting Fantasy

I can still remember the first time I saw The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It was the summer of 1982, I was eleven years old and I was in Waterstone's in Bath. There was a display on a table, and in the middle of it all was this weird thing that wasn't just a book and wasn't just a game - it was a bit of both. My life, I can honestly say, would never be the same again.

With hindsight I was the perfect demographic target for the book and having devoured Warlock - Russ Nicholson's art and all - I picked up The Citadel of Chaos, then Forest of Doom, then Starship Traveller... Eventually my parents lay off buying every new release for me but I never fell out of love with the series and when I had money of my own I would pick up the occasional title from time to time.

But I wasn't only reading Fighting Fantasy adventures, I was writing them as well. I filled notebooks with them - many of them unfinished - and then I started writing 200 reference adventures. And I didn't stop. I couldn't! So what else was there for me to do, other than to write to Puffin Books and ask how I submit an idea for the series.

In July 1990 I left school and in the long summer break before I started at university, I started to write my pitch for a proper FF gamebook. And so Outlaws of Kaan* was born. It was duly submitted, I received feedback, I re-wrote it, I receive feedback... but it wasn't really getting any better so I dumped it and started again.

In the summer of 1991, having completed my first year at uni, during the summer break I worked as a gardener** in the mornings and tackled a completely new idea for an FF book in the afternoons. I cannibalised some of the best bits from my Outlaws of Kaan pitch (although some of those ideas didn't appear until my second book***) and duly submitted the first draft of the first quarter of Spellbreaker.

It took two re-writes and another year but having just finished my second year at uni, I received a letter commissioning me to write Spellbreaker. I was over the moon, to say the least.

Nineteen years later, I have written seven Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and everything else I have ever written was, in some way, a consequence of this initial success. I have written another five adventure gamebooks for different franchises since then too.

Next year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Fighting Fantasy series and, at this time, I don't know what will mark this momentous date.**** But whatever comes of the original Jackson and Livingstone series, its legacy is alive and well today and I, for one, have not turned my back on gamebooks - not yet and not by a long shot!

* Which should have been called Outlaws of Kaad, but that's a story for another time...

** It was more ground clearance than gardening really.

*** And some even made it into my fifth!

**** Although I know what I would like to happen.


Steve Parker said...

Enjoyed this post, Jon. You were ahead of the game, mate. Sorry to hear about 'Go Go Crazy for Those Bones' getting pulled despite selling well.
I'm sure you took it better than I would have! ;)

Jonathan Green said...

It was rather a case of, 'Oh well... Right, what's next on the agenda?'