2008-10-20

Autumn

Like i suppose it does for many people, the advance of autumn always puts me in the mind of death. Having halloween on top of autumn doesn’t help the matter. We should think about moving one or the other to, like, July.

From the midpoint of September, there’s a particular crispness in the air and the relentless approach of darker days that tells you the year is winding down. There’s a feel to the season reminding you that everything ends at some point. Sure, past history suggests that things will start up again at some other point later on, but as with the stock market, those who trust solely to past performance are inevitably in for a letdown.

I don’t like death. Especially in the wake of the spring that’s just passed, i don’t like thinking about it. I don’t like being reminded of death every year at this same time, and in this same grandly metaphorical way. I've always maintained that if there is a god, death would make a premium subject for a massive class-action suit. I get the need to keep populations in check and all that, but at least for the semisentient creatures like ourselves, there should be other retirement options.

2008-10-12

Parvum Opus

I hate to be the one to say it, but thank god.

I have to confess that i stopped reading “Opus” about three months into the most recent revival, as Breathed’s inability to actually make a point, his penchant for forgoing humor in favor of “social commentary”, and his enormously irritating habit of recycling the content of his old strips was too soul-crushing in the end.

I found “Outland” weaker than “Bloom County” by an order of magnitude, then found “Opus” weaker than “Outland” by the same order. As a pale shadow of a pale shadow, “Opus” made me wonder what the hell could happen to a person to divorce them so completely from their own genius? I'm still awaiting the verdict on the same question for Woody Allen, but i confess that i’m too afraid to see any of his recent films to properly research the matter.

2008-10-08

Vision

As a sometime screenwriter, i’ve been known to rant in mixed company from time to time about the endless blood war known colloquially as “auteur theory”, and why you should soundly slap anyone using the term in a non-ironic context. I was having one such conversation recently, and was surprised to have the person at the other end tell me that they assumed i was down on film directors because of my belief in the sanctity of the screenwriter. And that surprised me, insofar as i’ve always tried to be clear that i actually worship the vision of the film director.

Good directing is a thing that i'm constantly in awe of by virtue of the fact that i'm in awe of the specific and particular creative spark that it takes to do it at the highest levels. On a purely mechanical level, i know how to direct. I know how it's done, i know the technology, i know scene composition, i know how to work with large groups of stressed-out people and inspire them to do their best work. But the reason i've never had any aspiration to direct is because i don't feel the joy of it like i think you have to feel in order to do it well. With writing, on the other hand, i do feel that joy. And as a result, i think i do all right at it.

I've always been of the opinion that to make a great film, writer/director has to be a single creative unit. Sometimes that happens if both roles are filled by the same person; sometimes that happens if two people in each role can work closely together; sometimes it happens when a great script gets given to a great director who truly wants to make the film that the script inspires. However, most often (especially in the American system, unfortunately), it's a hit-and-miss proposition because the two roles are so rigidly separated, and because relatively few directors are capable of maintaining a connection to story throughout the process. Not that they don’t understand story, because the vast majority of directors do. They have to, because without an understanding of story, you’d never walk out of a theater and say “That film inspired me.”

Directing is an extremely expensive, extremely risky balancing act, wherein one person has to manage to meld the dozen different and often contradictory creative arts that filmmaking comprises. The problem is, only one of those arts — the art of story — needs to be laid down ahead of time. You can find the perfect shot on the day. You can seek out a perfect performance or a bit of improvisation that totally nails down a scene in the moment. You can devise the perfect formula for maximizing the drama inherent in an exchange a sequence, a shot in the editing room. But you can’t build story in rehearsals, in the camera, on the set, or on the AVID, because story is the one part of the vision that has to come first.

2008-09-19

Adam Smith

Adam Smith apparently said:

“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health,  out of debt,  and has a clear conscience?”

I fail on all three counts.

2008-09-05

Whither Cerebus?

I have this habit of being in the middle of some Really Important Thing (typically work) and suddenly having the weirdest recollections of books, music, films, actors, writers, random people pop into my head and force my fractured senses to break off from whatever they’re doing to ask “What the hell ever happened to [fill in the blank]?”

Wikipedia is a dangerous drug for people like me.

Did you know that really whacked-out German performance artist Brother Theodore was aided in his flight from Nazi Germany as a young man by Albert Einstein?

You do now.

And because of my unrepentant ability to be distracted by really trivial shit, a thought popped into my head late last night because i was apparently threatening to actually get some solid writing done for a change. The thought in question was this:

“What the hell ever happened to Dave Sim?”

Dave Sim, if you don’t know (and you should know if you don’t know), is the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark, a sort-of-fantasy, sort-of-superhero series that almost single-handedly defined the concept of creator-controlled comics. I interviewed him once back in the day, always enjoyed Cerebus back when i was reading comics, but then lost track of that and a lot of other things i used to be interested in during the dark years of having small children about the house. About the last thing i remember reading of and about Sim was the widely discussed and disastrously misogynist polemic he devoted an entire issue of Cerebus to back in ’94 or ’95, and which subsequently cost him a bundle in credibility and sales.

The idea with Cerebus was that the book had a fixed length. The comic was supposed to run for 300 issues, then end with the aardvark’s tragic death. I wasn’t sure of the math off the top of my head, but i thought i could recall that that creative endgame should have actually passed a few years back. But if so, wouldn’t i have heard something about it? And if not, why not?

A couple of Google searches later turned up the revelation that Cerebus 300 came and went four years ago, and that the reason i didn’t hear anything about it is that Dave Sim appears to have surfed that initial wave of anti-feminism (his phrase) up and onto a long beach of being a bit of a... well, in the interest of not crossing the line into libel, let’s go with “radical intellectual”.

Understand that i’m all in favor of free speech but i’m not so much down with accepting hate speech for the sake of free speech. That is, i’m apparently one of the few people in the world who thinks that there is a line between the two and has no problem with that line being drawn. I respect Dave Sim’s right to speak and write his mind, just as i’m sure he respects my right to listen, read, or not as the inclination strikes me.

Here’s Dave Sim writing his mind:

No one wants to be a woman.

If, prior to our life on this earth, we were presented with the option of being male or female, a short description of the functions of the male versus the female genitalia (with emphasis on menstruation, menstrual cramps, PMS, labour pains, yeast infections, et al) would most certainly result in so vast a number of us choosing the male “equipment” (what, is this a trick question?) that it is difficult, if not impossible, to envision any woman being born into this world at all.

To me, it seems less a case of penis envy (Sigmund Freud having lived in altogether too chivalrous a time period for such “plain talk” as I offer here) than it is one of vagina abhorrence from the standpoint of the “would-be tenant” in contemplating a role as “owner-proprietor”. Alas, for reasons known only to our Creator, (almost exactly) half of us come out on the losing end of the coin toss. If things seem pretty “even steven” (leaving aside the fact that a penis, self-evidently, constitutes an anatomical “presence” and a vagina, self-evidently, an anatomical “absence”) over the course of the first ten or eleven years in the life of a boy and a girl there does, alas, “come the day...”

It would take a very hard-hearted individual, indeed (someone like myself, for instance) to find anything amusing in the level of Mortification at the Sheer Cosmic Unfairness of It All with which a young girl must greet the news that every twenty-eight days or so for decades-upon-decades stretching as far into the future as a ten- or eleven-year-old can possibly conceive - that a “little friend will be coming to visit”. A “little friend” who (it seems) will be just as catastrophic and humiliating a mess as the one who has (just now) paid a first most unwelcome social call.

No one wants to be a woman.

Taxing the limits of my own not-inconsiderable imagination, I have no doubt that had I a “little friend” who paid me such “visits” - in a desperate attempt to cling to what remained of my sanity in the aftershock of the full extent of the horrible news “sinking in,” I am certain that I would very quickly set about the business of manufacturing a fairy-tale world for myself in which I was - in all other regards - indistinguishable from a gender which does not...

...leak?


(From The Comics Journal. There’s a whole series of things there to read, or not; see above.)

Blogger Andrew Rilstone has written an ongoing and better analysis of Sim’s late-career intellectual escapades and sanity than i could ever come up with. There are likewise plenty of places supporting Sim’s views, i’m sure. Maybe he’s got a blog, i don’t know. I don’t have the time, inclination, or knowledge of Sim’s work to add to any of it. I’ll just say the following, as a one-time reader and fan.

Everybody is a complete fucking idiot from time to time. The trick is to focus your creative energy on the moments in between.

Dave — Sorry you apparently couldn’t figure that out.

2008-08-14

Tomb of Tenure


A followup, of sorts. Dave has gone and the demilich Acererak has been destroyed to the benefit of all good and free peoples, blah, blah.

In the aftermath of all that, i tripped across the following just this morning.

The one thing i’ve always loved about D&D is how it can encompass so many variant play styles.

2008-08-12

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

Some twenty-six years ago, i had a group of friends that included Dave, and that group of friends and i would regularly descend the stairs into Dave’s basement, as was our wont of a Saturday night, where we would engage in a heady mix of sociological ontology and moral debate, of intellectual strategizing and…

All right, screw it; we were gamers.

One of those nights some twenty-six years ago, Dave ran us through a little adventure titled The Tomb of Horrors, about which you already know everything that can be known, or you probably actually stopped reading this piece at the word “gamers”, above.

What, you didn’t stop? Seriously? Well, here, then.

Our first foray into the tomb, Dave was DM, and in that role, was responsible for the worst mental and psychological ass-kicking that we as a group of players had ever endured. And i bring this up because twenty-six years later, Dave has dropped by the palatial Craig-Gray estate from his homeland in distant and mysterious Toronto, and claims to remember so few details of the tomb that it’s the adventure i’m running tonight for him and the girls (the older and the younger; yeah, my wife games; suck it up).

I’m not an overly nostalgic person, but this has been a good night. Dave is one of the key players in an online play-by-post game i run, but life being what it is, this is only the second time that he and i have gamed face to face since 1986. (Yes, i’m as old as you think i am. Get over it.)

We’re playing the Bruce Cordell-penned v3.5 update of the adventure (available as a free download at the Wizards of the Coast website if you’re curious). Because of the dungeon's killer nature, and because the twain of the online campaign and the home campaign can’t meet without a certain amount of time travel and teleportation involved, we're using pre-gen characters, which is actually always a good idea where the tomb is concerned.

Because two of our players (those daughters o’ mine) are of a bright-eyed age where i don’t want to expose them to the true demoralizing futility that is the tomb at its worst, those pre-gen characters were set up as having been charged with delivering a rod of resurrection to the local king before they crashed on the tomb isle. They've only had to use it once so far, but the group has now collected and shared out complete and multiply redundant sets of fingernail and hair clippings for those embarrassing moments when you find yourself reduced to a pile of ash.

We finished the first half of the adventure tonight — up to the false tomb (spoiler alert, though i guess i’m supposed to say that first, aren’t i?), which provides an unsatisfying nonclimax and the obligatory sense of wondering why there's all those big blank areas on the map. We broke only because the girls needed to sleep. Kids these days…

2008-07-27

Five Minutes and Counting

Yeah, so you know that novel i was saying i wouldn’t be able to talk about it for a while? Turns out, i can talk about it.

The book is/was called Black Damask, and i got the call on from Wizards editor Courtney Marabetta last week that said it had been canceled. More accurately, it’s not that they’re canceling my book. It’s that the entire line of Ravenloft books of which my novel was a part was canceled last week, which just happened to be the week after i’d actually finished writing the book and was feeling pretty damn good about it.

(I need to get some script notes on my life. All these ironic reversals are starting to flatline my protagonist arc.)

Here’s a secret, though.

As you progress as a creative person, this kind of shit pisses you off for less time each and every time it happens. Because it does happen, and it will happen, and the first time it happens (a story rejected, a script turned down for development, a promise broken by agent, manager, producer, or publisher), your mind, heart, and spirit will be toast for a month. It’s an excruciating process, wherein all the self-doubt and fear about the worth of you and your work that have plagued you since the first time you picked up a pen, a camcorder, a guitar, or whatever your chosen weapon — all of it sucker-punches you, steals your lunch money, pulls your pants down in class, makes fun of your haircut, and bangs your girl/boyfriend while you watch, over and over again. One month.

The second time it happens, you expect it to feel easier. However, it doesn’t. Same sucker-punch, your lunch money and your comic collection are stolen this time, and your girl/boyfriend is talking loudly about all the things your self-doubt is doing to her/him that you could never manage.

I suspect that this second bout of getting screwed over is the one thing that destroys more creative people than anything else. Because in being forced to consider the future as an endless process of taking this same torturous beating time after time after time, they simply pack it in.

Here’s the thing though. If you pay really close attention, even though the feeling is the same, you’ll notice that the scouring of your psyche clears up in only about two weeks this second time around.

It happens again, and again. You’re back to normal in a week. Then three days. A day. A half-day.

Eventually, you get to a point where any of this shit — dealing with an asshole producer, rejection by an agent, a bad review, someone declining to fund your script or buy your book even as they drop money on shit that’s not as good as what you do — will bother you for a total of five minutes.

You’ll feel yourself sink into the white-hot sauna of rage and despair that all creative people keep prepared for this sort of thing. And you’ll sit there for five minutes. And then you’ll be done. Because as a creative person — as, dare i say it, an artist — you realize that every minute you spend pissed off and hurt by the shit that happens to you because of your pursuit of your art is taking you away from your art.

You never stop feeling it, but at some point, you learn that it doesn’t matter.

For myself, when my five minutes were up this time out, i started jotting down a couple of pages of notes detailing how i can move the multiple-world/planar story of Black Damask from the Ravenloft milieu to the unified world of the Endlands, a shared fictional world of my own devising that i should probably talk more about here at some point.

I threw down ideas. I found connections between Black Damask in its present form and a dozen different aspects of its new fictional world that i never would have otherwise thought about. I discovered connections between this novel and another novel i’ve been outlining for longer than i care to admit, and which i’m now further inspired to start. In reaction to these five minutes of dread, horror, and unbridled rage that are the lot of every creative person’s life, i immersed myself in the free-flowing energy of my own creativity, and i am stronger now than i was before.

And at the end of the day, that’s what keeps you going. Start the clock.

2008-07-04

Distinction


Working for myself/at home, i find that i too quickly lose the distinction of what "work" actually means, as opposed to "life". Sometimes that's in a bad way, as when deadlines keep me from doing things that i know are more important. Sometimes, it's in a good way, as being able to balance the need to let things in and let them happen and be processed with the usefulness of being able to let the work and the writing distract me.

It just feels a little easier being able to compartmentalize things so that it's not "I need to be about work for the next ten hours, then i'll grieve", but to be able to spend the time doing what's most productive or comforting. The danger, of course, is in getting too deeply into not processing it, but i don't think that's too much of a risk for someone as insanely introspective as i've turned out to be.

2008-06-24

“So far, this is the oldest I’ve been.”


Okay, the people that i care about, the people that have inspired me, need to goddamn well stop dying.

Like right fucking now.

The thing that gets to me about the passing of someone like George Carlin is that there will never be anyone else like George Carlin. Having seen the example of Carlin, no comedian or social commentator will ever be able to be anything except a pale copy of the masterpiece that was his mind.

We all dwell in the shadow of genius, and the chill that comes from dwelling in shadow is setting in…

2008-06-13

Summing Up

The death of Gary Gygax in March managed to deliver the much-needed kick in the ass required to get back into the habit of trying to chronicle my thoughts and work in a more or less regular fashion. The death of my mom last month (preceded two weeks before that by the death of a writer i once worked with, who was only a couple of years older than me and a whole hell of a lot more talented) has just about scuttled the enterprise in short order.

Another attempt at summary sees things much the same as they’ve been summarized for friends in emails and phone calls lately. I’m just now moving past the bit of emotional breakdown that developed in the aftermath of the acceptance of the events of last month, and getting back on track after the extended family finally cleared out to leave me able to focus on the nuclear family once more.

I'm running in a bit of screenplay mode these days, having worked on a feature draft for a broadcaster in Toronto this month. That's the first screenwriting i've done since we left Vancouver in 2004, so it's been kind of a kick to get back into. It's a romantic comedy about a guy given six weeks to live. (Yes, i said “comedy”.)

Aside from that, everything is all novel, all the time as i try to finish up a new book that i can’t talk about yet. (I find it really annoying when other writers and game designers do the “Can’t tell you about the awesome cool project i’m working on” crap, and had always vowed to avoid that trap myself. Another failing on my part.)

Also, more D&D editing and design, including “Heathen”, which turned out to be the very first adventure published in Dungeon Magazine for 4th Edition (and is available as a free download at the Wizards website). When it was pitched to and accepted by Chris Thomasson at the beginning of the year, he didn’t mention that it would taking that particular slot in the 4e batting lineup, so seeing it first up is quite the treat. Heathen is liberally inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, though i think the original probably still has more literary cachet. However, i have better cover art than Conrad ever did (by Steve Argyle, who is freaking amazing).

I've got another adventure in hand for Dungeon, plus an
actual D&D adventure penciled in for work next month, by which time the novel will hopefully be done, even though i still won’t be able to talk about it.

As the bard sayeth, words, words, words.

Until right now, i don’t think i ever really appreciated how much my being able to write has done for my ability to work through the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to (also as the bard sayeth). At the same time that they provide me with an income and a sense of purpose, words, words, words are getting me through the process of healing the hole drilled through my heart last month. I’ll have to remember to thank them.

2008-05-26

Remembering

Yesterday morning, my mom died after a long, brave, and debilitating fight with Alzheimer’s. She would have been 69 this June 21st, the first day of summer.

I know the appropriate response to these sorts of events in our culture is to raise a glass or two, but as i don’t do that sort of thing, i’ve encouraged a number of friends to feel free to get completely loaded on my behalf.

I was with my mom at the end, as was her husband Dave. We had moved her up to an extended care facility here where we live just two weeks ago, from the facility she’d been in for the last year or so, close to where she and Dave had lived. We did this largely because we knew that she was coming to the end and we wanted her closer. My sister and her husband were over from Saudi Arabia, where they both work. The move went well, and gave my mom a chance to be together with her whole family for the first time in a long while.

And though we were hoping to have had more time with her, i think she knew that she was ready.

The somewhat convoluted details of my upbringing, my extended family, and my parents’ split in the seventh grade mean that very few of the people that have meant and continue to mean the most to me actually got to meet my mom. This is unfortunate, as she was a pretty cool person. She was an only child and a former tomboy, whose body was proudly covered in the youthful scars of having fallen out of (and in one story she loved to tell, being impaled by) one too many trees. She became a registered nurse straight out of high school, at a point in cultural time when a woman having a career was not only abnormal but actively frowned upon. Her example was a thing she took from my grandmother. My mom worked all her life even as she managed to raise a family and, much later, to take care of my grandmother when she was sick with leukemia.

My mom loved to travel. She loved the ocean. She loved to laugh. Through the seven years of her illness, right up to the end, this was the one thing — the only thing — that kept me going. The fact that even as this modern-day curse took away her memory, her speech, her physical strength, and finally her life, it couldn’t steal her laughter.

Nothing in this world, no force of life or fate or hatred would ever be strong enough to steal my mom’s laughter. Of all the things i take from her, of all the things i’ve learned from her, this is the one that means the most to me. This is the thing that i’ll never let go of

The tragedy of my mom and of all the countless people who have suffered what she suffered is that at some point, even as she was still laughing, she lost the ability to remember that she’d aways laughed. So i remember it for her, and i laugh for her, and i laugh with her, and i’ll never stop.

2008-05-11

Open Your Eyes


You watch enough films, you read enough books, you expose yourself to enough art, and eventually, you develop a sense that you’ve seen, read, and experienced pretty much everything, and that anything new is always and eventually fated to be written off as just some variation on something that’s already been done by somebody else.

And then you see something like this.

2008-04-14

A New [Censored] Hope

I wrote my first screenplay in the tenth grade. I wrote the first screenplay i got paid actual real money for a few years after that, and have been bashing away at trying to expand my knowledge of screenwriting and its peculiar art and craft ever since then. However, this particular approach never occurred to me.


Reading the article, i’m overwhelmed by the sudden reimagining of so many of the classic scripts that were the source of so much of my own understanding of the form…


EXTERIOR: SURFACE OF THE DEATH STAR.

The three TIE fighters zoom down the Death Star trench in pursuit of Luke, never breaking formation.

INTERIOR: LUKE'S COCKPIT.

Luke looks anxiously at the exhaust port. He’s fucked. He knows it.

INTERIOR: DARTH VADER'S COCKPIT.

Vader's targeting computer swings around into position. Vader takes careful aim, ready to take Luke's X-wing fighter right up the ass.

VADER: I have you now.

He pushes the fire buttons.

EXTERIOR: SURFACE OF THE DEATH STAR.

The three TIE fighters move in on Luke. As Vader's center fighter unleashes a volley of laserfire, one of the TIE ships at his side is hit and FUCKING EXPLODES!

INTERIOR: LUKE'S X-WING FIGHTER -- COCKPIT.

Luke looks around -- Who the fuck is out there?

INTERIOR: DARTH VADER'S COCKPIT.

Vader is shitting bricks as he looks out from his cockpit.

VADER: What?

INTERIOR: MILLENNIUM FALCON -- COCKPIT.

Han and Chewbacca grin from ear to fucking ear.

2008-04-11

Life is Good

Some days, it’s hard to remember that life is good.

Some days, one finds oneself forced to question whether the effort is worth it. Some days, work is an insurmountable maze of ever-cycling deadlines and blank pages that refuse to get filled. Some days, home is a semi-spastic morass of laundry piling up and gardening that needs doing and mice chewing their way into the basement and dying in the furnace ducts. Some days, the world is a fairly fucked up Gordian Knot of death and deception and dismay.

Some days, your daughter is home sick from school.

Some days, you discover an excuse to forget all the other shit for a while.

Some days, you curl up on the couch alongside your sick daughter home from school with a large jug of orange juice, then you watch an entire season of Scrubs back to back.

Some days, it’s easy to remember that life is good.

2008-04-01

Fool Me Once


Nobody loves a good April Fool’s joke more than me. Actually, most people probably love a good April Fools’ joke more than me, because i hate April’s Fool’s jokes.

This, however, is very cool. And with Terry Jones and everything.

Once our civilization falls and alien archivists get to root around through the crumbling remnants of our vast media archives, they’re going to have absolutely no freaking idea what was going on.

2008-03-15

Time

I’m forty-three years old. It’s not my birthday or anything; that’s in December. Today is just one of those days when you wind up feeling your age in a way you can’t avoid.

Most of my mid-life angst is creative-based. I have too many fucking things that i need to write and not enough time to write them in. When i was younger, the angst was also largely creatively fueled, but the problem them was having the time but not the focus. Now i’ve got the focus but not enough hours in the day to bring the focus into focus, as it were. I expect that if i ever found the time alongside the focus, i’d probably lose the energy, or my typing fingers would spontaneously fall off, or something. Life is like some kind of quantum jigsaw puzzle whose pieces disappear at random, then reappear just long enough for you to figure out exactly where they need to go before they disappear again.

Here’s what i think this particular bit of thoughtful depression comes down to. When you’re younger, you can pretty easily make yourself believe that given enough time, you can accomplish anything. As you get older, you get more and more acutely aware of the fact that you’re not ever going to have enough time.

In the end, you feel the pressure that tells you it’s time to let go of old things whether you want to or not, and this pressure makes us crazy. Or at least crazier. Every new day brings with it the rational voice that says it’s time to face up to the realities of where you are and what you can do, and to stop worrying about the shit you can’t affect anymore. Every day brings the overwhelming desire to just kind of turn away from another one of your dreams.

And you know what? Fuck rationality. Hang onto the dreams. Live forever. I’m not entirely sure how to make that last one happen, but i’m going to give it some thought.

2008-03-04

What Dreams Are Made Of

It's been long enough since i felt the impetus to get a blog going again that i had begun to idly wonder what it was going to take to finally inspire me.

I wish i hadn't found out.


Across the RPG industry, scores of people are attempting to summon up words regarding what this day means to them. Most of them are going to make the point that if not for the work of Gary Gygax, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. I, too, can state the conspicuous — that if for not Gary Gygax’s vision, his passion for game play, and his belief in the value of this new thing called roleplaying games, my life would look very different today.

But for me, it’s not just a matter of saying “If it wasn’t for Gary Gygax, I don’t know where I’d be right now.” If it wasn’t for Gary Gygax, I don’t know who I’d be right now.

Throughout our lives, there are a number of key moments that define our state of mind and imagination. In my own life, I have the same number of linchpin turning points as anybody — points that mark my journey along the increasingly complex social and intellectual pathways that brought me to the point where I stand right here, right now. But though those points all carry the same amount of potency as we pass through them the first time, one realizes in looking back at it that very few of them are really all that irreplaceable. For the most part, their value lies in their transformative power, but most transformation is subtly self-directed in the end. We become what we seek to become, searching mostly for impetus, not innovation.

Like many geeks of my generation, Star Wars was a monumentally important moment in my life, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that Star Wars was mostly about meeting a previously established need for vicarious wonder. If George Lucas had never made Star Wars, something else would have happened to take its place. Likewise, if I’d never read Harlan Ellison or Philip K. Dick, some other pair of authors would have shown me the upper limits of what speculative fiction can do because exploring those limits was already a predefined hunger in me.

But in all the world, there is nothing that ever could have or ever would have taken the place of what Dungeons & Dragons did for me. What it did to me. What it made me.

Like I'm guessing is true for pretty much everyone else sharing their thoughts on what this day means, Gary's work changed my life.

As I suspect is secretly true for a smaller number of us, Gary's work saved my life.

I'm one of those fortunate enough to have had the chance to follow professionally in the footsteps of Gary and the other giants who built this hobby, this game, this shared world of imagination. When I do so, every word I write, every assessment and adjustment I make as an editor is built on the singular memory of sitting in a darkened bedroom on a winter night in 1981, opening a thin paperback volume with a dragon in blue on the cover, and having my life changed.

Everything I do in this industry is built around the vain hope that somewhere, sometime, a 15-year-old kid will read something I've worked on and feel what I felt that night.

From the AD&D Players Handbook:

"Enjoy, for this game is what dreams are made of!"

See you in dreams, Gary.