The Delicious Darkness

People who know me would not consider me someone who necessarily dwells in darkness. I’ve got a wry sense of humor, look a bit on the preppy side (as my daughter likes to tell me), and generally have a positive, upbeat outlook on life. However, when it comes to my writing and my work in the game industry, things are not all sunshine and daffodils.

I enjoy the darkness.

Today, we’re not going to talk so much about tips and tricks, but I’m going to share why I feel drawn to settings rich with grime. Places where the dirt and grease of deals gone awry and people are duplicitous and agendas are complex and convoluted.

We’re definitely entering “ramble territory”, so kick back, hold on, and enjoy the ride. I’m certain a pastiche of vignettes is coming…

As a kid, I wanted to be a cartoonist more than anything. I spent countless hours drawing and creating paneled strips. They were of the humorous, Sunday morning paper variety, and people found them funny. In fact, as I went on, the jokes evolved, but the drawing didn’t. It wasn’t that I couldn’t draw–I could–but I didn’t have the patience necessary to draw things as nicely as I needed to with the speed I needed to to seriously consider it as a vocation. If I had stuck with, I’m sure I would’ve found my groove, but I learned I was drawn more to the writing side of things, and so firmly decided I wanted to be a writer. This was all decided by me before the age of 11.

I read broadly, selecting at random whatever books we had in our voluminous bookshelves, and the library was deep. I was the youngest of five, and my older brothers had a penchant for science fiction, fantasy, and, over the years, many classics had found their way onto the shelves as well, as my siblings, and myself, got a continuous influx of books. Even before I was of reading age, I recall my brother reading such stories to me as The Most Dangerous Game and The Gold Bug. Even then, I started asking about the authors, and was fascinated anyone could create these marvelous stories. I soon learned I had my favorites, and often requested stories by Edgar Allen Poe and stories in the pulps. One of my brothers collected the old, digest pulps, such as Weird Tales, but I was not yet ready for them.

I did watch The Twilight Zone and I watched The Night Gallery when it was on, even though I was not supposed to (as it gave me nightmares). I was drawn to what made us scared of things which were not real, but a part of me always liked to entertain the possibilities of the realities of such things being real. I had a steady diet of horror books, and read the big Edgar Allen Poe anthology when I was able to read, and such books as Le Morte D’Arthur and I recall fondly, as I write this, I especially enjoyed Alfred Hitchcock books and the horror comics which somehow constantly found their way into our household and into my hands. I also saw my brother reading Lovecraft’s books, so I began absorbing those as well…

During all this time, I was playing roleplaying games. The traditional kind. Swords & Sorcery and all that sort of thing. My brother’s games were full of the fantasy found in someone steeped in the work of the masters such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Robert E. Howard and Tolkein and Leiber and Moorcock and they were fun and different from the stuff off the shelf (which came out after we were already exploring our own worlds). Darkness crept into his games as well, so I took it as part and parcel of the roleplaying experience.¬†Things always got twisted, no matter what genre or system we used.

As you can tell, I was already a prime candidate for creating worlds a bit skewed. Something which shows up in my own works. ¬†This may be an odd place to suddenly suspend today’s topic, but I want to reflect upon this a bit more before continuing. We’ll pick it up here tomorrow.

Now, with dark deeds of my own to commit, I bid you, dear reader adieu!

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