Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Book That Ignited Brewin's Love of Reading and Writing

There is a book that I credit as being the one, more than any other, that makes me the writer I am today, that opened my eyes to a whole world of fantasy, and what was at the time an entirely new genre. A book whose authors were my childhood idols, a book I must have read over twenty times. A book whose influence was so profound, that my first novel’s last third pays homage to its genre, and is actually featured in a chapter of my second novel (including extracts). A genre that I now work in to produce titles of my own and those of others, and where I have the amazing privilege and honour to be working for one of the original authors himself: a dream that my childhood self would simply have been unable to believe.

That book is The Warlock of Firetop Mountain:

My much-loved copy with the original cover from 1982 when I was seven and the book was first printed.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, was the first title in the Fighting Fantasy series. The Fighting Fantasy series has been translated into 23 languages, sold over 15 million copies, and spawned numerous computer, board and role-playing game adaptations. American readers may be less familiar with this series’ prevalence during the eighties, but they can be thought of as Choose Your Own Adventure or Goosebumps books (two series’ which have sold about 600 million copies between them) but with dice.

Fighting Fantasy books were essentially an interactive fiction series (where the reader is the protagonist and makes choices to determine where the story goes) but with dice mechanics, rules for combat, a character sheet and items, spells etc. -“Dungeons and Dragons lite” if you will. And of all the many “gamebooks” (as the genre is now called) published since, particularly during their heyday in the eighties, none have been more successful than the Fighting Fantasy series.

The Fighting Fantasy series, where YOU are the hero!

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and subsequently the gamebook genre in general, ignited my love of reading and writing like nothing else. Over the next few years I’d collected over a hundred gamebooks and was writing my own. It was also my “gateway drug” to role-playing games, particularly Dungeons and Dragons, which I was only able to understand and play two or three years later.

It is a crazy confluence of fate that over the past two and a half years I have been working with the Melbourne-based indie game developer, Tin Man Games, that produces “digital gamebooks” (a series known as Gamebook Adventures) that are very much in the spirit of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I have edited, redesigned and (partially) rewritten the first four titles in this series, and have written the eighth title, Infinite Universe. Not only this, but Tin Man Games now has the digital license for the Fighting Fantasy books. In this digital age of smart phones and tablets, gamebooks are making a comeback J

 About the Author

Brewin' (with or without the apostrophe) is the pseudonym of Andrew Drage. He graduated in 1998 with a first-class degree from La Trobe University, majoring in zoology, philosophy and statistics. He has worked as a Senior Research Scientist at the Insectarium of Victoria in his native Australia, publishing on ant behaviour and sampling methodologies.

His debut novel, Evermore: An Introduction, was published to critical acclaim in 2001, and has been republished twice since. The Dark Horde, is his second fiction novel, published for the first time in 2012. Based in Melbourne, he is also a respected IT developer and analyst, and has been editor and designer for the first four books of the highly acclaimed Gamebook Adventures interactive fiction series. This role has culminated in the creation of his own work, Gamebook Adventures: Infinite Universe, released in 2012 on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Find him at: http://www.thebrewin.com/

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  1. Brewin was a comic book fanatic, but that is probably the best reading around I wasn't into them.I was a library person who browsed around to find the books I would like to read. So to each his own.

  2. I've never been a D&D guy, or read this series, but I get how something like this can ignite a passion for writing. These days, it's non fiction that has that affect on me. My writing is really research intensive and deeper I dig, the more I want to know and write about. For example, in a YA fantasy I'm working on called The Dream Palace, the protagonist is a young autistic girl who can't speak much in the real world but can in her dreams. I did a ton of dream research which let me back to something I had done when I was younger but hadn't even thought about for a long while -- lucid dreaming, where you attain waking consciousness within your dreams. Talk about an eye-opener! Thanks Brewin:)

  3. It's great that your early love of interactive fiction led you to the path you're on now. Great post!

  4. Wow, I could never wrap my head around the Dungeons and Dragon and admire those who do. Great that your profession is you passion.

  5. Thanks guys! I didn't even mention that Warlock of Firetop Mountain had its thirty year anniversary a month ago, for which Ian Livingstone, one of the two authors of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, was written and released a new Fighting Fantasy book, Blood of the Zombies, to commemorate the event: and sent me a signed copy as a gift (and without me asking!) -Tin Man Games are due to release the digital version any day now (for which I helped out a little on the playtesting).

    Through the world of gamebooks and role playing games I found my path through this "real world". Running role-playing games with friends (where I was almost always the one creating the story as the "Games Master" or "Dungeon Master") was the medium through which I have told hundreds, probably thousands of stories. Like writing itself, you never know what your characters are going to do really, and can (and will!) take you on exciting new and unpredictable twists.

    Along with my love of "heavy metal", and the fact that I've always written stories and games in my spare time (and often just for the hell of it), it's never been on my agenda to "fit in" or "conform", I've always just been Brewin' ;)

    ...And funny you should mention lucid dreaming Richard. I tend to do that with most dreams I have: except I chose not to control them. For me, every dream is an adventure where I play a "hero" in some fictional setting. Sometimes I succeed in these adventures, but other times I fail. -It doesn't matter as I "know" it's all a dream anyway and I just enjoy the ride (and sometimes I've been known to change or skips bits of the dream if I'm bored or not in the mood haha).