Monday, February 15, 2010


My birthday's today and that's got me in a nostalgic mood. Related to the matter of this blog, it's got me thinking about how I developed the various hobbies and interests I have now. Some of the pivotal incidents have been forgotten in the years since, but here's a selection of what I do remember:

Gaming: In my very first post I discussed how I got into gaming in the early eighties. I don't remember exactly when I played that first game, but I do remember the character I used. In fact, I've still got the character sheet. It's worn enough to look like it might be a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls or the like, and its now in a plastic sleeve to preserve it for posterity. The homemade, blue-ink pin, imitation of an official AD&D character record gives his name as "Grimlin" and relates that he's a 13th level elven fighter. His equipment list is extensive and written in precise, cursive script that I don't think I could replicate today. Among the notable items: Medusa's head, a "magic hawk", a "mirror of souls", a "lazer [sic] gun", and a "ring of ion shield." My memory doesn't extend to what sort of adventures my cousin Tim, my first dungeonmaster, led us on to acquire those items, but the list itself tells me they must have been epic.

The first rpg I played, besides assorted editions of D&D, was the second edition of Gamma World. Again, my cousin was the gamemaster. Probably because I was a little older then, I remember not only my character (a mutated humanoid with four arms named Ace Beta) but my brother's (a mutated armadillo named Norg), too.

Fantasy Fiction: I don't remember the first fantasy novel I read, but I can narrow the list. It could have been The Hobbit, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or the first volume of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, The Book of Three. I'm sure the first Sword & Sorcery I read was Conan, but I can't remember whether I first borrowed Conan the Barbarian or Conan of Cimmeria (the Ace reprints of the Lancer paperbacks) from Tim. Fafhrd and Gray Mouser came close on Conan's heels. I'm certain I first read the Ace edition of Swords and Deviltry--again borrowed from my cousin. Clark Ashton Smith entered the picture when I discovered the the Ballantine Adult Fantasy edition of Zothique in a used bookstore in Albany, Georgia.

That find--and other Lin Carter edited Ballantine adult fantasy series titles (like James Branch Cabell's The Silver Stallion)--led me to develop a serious used bookstore habit that went on for years, and to some extent, continues--though the pickings have gotten leaner in actual bookstores with the rise of ebay, so it's seldom worth the effort. Still, in 1999, it was well worth it, and I was making a lot of interesting discoveries while travelling around on my residency interviewing tour. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I found a Powell first edition of Karl Edward Wagner's Darkness Weaves, and a Warner edition of Bloodstone in a bookstore near the UNC campus. This was an interesting coincidence, because Wagner had attended UNC. It gets even weirder because I was going to be interviewing there for a psychiatry residency position, and would wind up touring a hospital where Wagner had worked as a psychiatrist.

Fantasy Comic: There's no way I remember the first comic book I ever read, but I do know the oldest fantasy comic that I bought off a spinner-rack. That would be Warlord #73.  I'm sure I had read other fantasy comics, or at least perused them at the grocery store, but that was the first one that persuaded me to buy it.

So that's a sampling--and probably enough nostalgia for one birthday.  I've yet to stop finding new authors, books, or games to discover--or old ones new to me.  Enough for another thirty-seven years, and more. 

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