Emails from the Edge

    Right before I begin, I have a bit of administrivia for you. For those who would like to meet me in person, I will be a panelist at the Ad Astra convention in Toronto, February 23-25. This is a literary convention, and promises to have quite a few rather good fantasy and science fiction authors present. The website is www.ad-astra.org; if you’re going to go, I suggest pre-registering now.

    And now, as promised, dear readers, here is the feedback issue. Since I started this column, I have received a steady stream of letters, from congratulations on a good column, to lengthy discussions of the issue in question.

    And, before I start displaying some of them, I just want to take a moment and compliment you. The letters I have received, with very few exceptions, have all been intelligent and insightful, the sort of things that make me proud to have you as readers.

    (There are two exceptions worth mentioning, and I will not give names here. The first was the young man who wanted me to email him a copy of Demonsbane and anything like it. For future reference, when it comes to fiction, I am a professional, and we pros don’t do stuff like that. The second was somebody who sent me a story of his own to edit; for future note, I will NOT read unsolicited stories and give opinions. Nothing against you (I have no doubt that all of your stories are wonderful), but there are legal reasons. So, if you want a comment on your story, go to a writer’s circle or bother your best friend; sending it me to will simply mean that I have to wait a while for it to download and then immediately delete it.)

    I wish I could answer all the mail I get in this column, but as I seem to be averaging between 15-35 letters per column, that is difficult. So, here is my best shot, with the best letters I have on-hand…

    Column number two, “The Royal Circlet and the Hacker,” generated some letters, every one of them positive. It seems that I was right in my assessment on that one, or at least that is what the audience thought. The stories about how people got around their cheating habits were truly heartwarming.

    One caution, however: while it is alright to push cheaters towards playing legitimately, I have seen stories on other forums about people who found cheaters, and then went out and stole all of their belongings when they were left in town. This is neither funny nor fair; converting cheaters is one thing, but harassing them in this way is simply wrong. As a rule, the gentle touch is always the better one.

    Column number three, “Revelations from the Exorcist,” received some very interesting feedback, a veritable flood of email, in fact. Rick Bebbington, an interactive artist, wrote:

    It is unfortunate that people nowadays have, as you put it, ‘the attention span of an avocado,’ but it may not be for that reason alone. People are under more and more pressure to maximize what they get pout of every second of their lives, always running around, getting as much done as possible. People don’t seem to think they have the time anymore to play a game that requires play sessions of more than 10 minutes. I, for one, enjoy games that are slowly rewarding, and have the pace of evolution. The sales of Diablo show that it is perfect for those that just want to play for an hour, or for 6.

    A consideration, Starcraft, which was on the top 10 list for at least 2 years, requires not only a long attention span, but a high amount of attention paid to every detail of the battle. Perhaps I’m wrong.

    Actually, Rick is absolutely right. Real-Time Strategy Games, such as Starcraft and, my personal favorite, Warcraft, require a fairly long attention span. I remember hours of fun with a friend of mine at university as we would team up against a group of computers (sadly, we would usually lose; I said Warcraft was my favorite, I didn’t say I was GOOD at it…).

    Another letter, which was a joy to read, came from Nate Smith:

    Hi Robert, I recently read Revelations from The Exorcist on Diabloii.net, and I must say that I overwhelmingly, however respectfully, disagree with you.

    If ever there were a game that required a significant attention span, it is Diablo II. Hundreds of hours of gameplay have been invested in characters by people across the world, none of which have yet reached the magic level 99. This is a fact that is also compiled by the numerous skill tree developments, and infinite item possibilities. I started playing towards the end of September and despite developing four characters over level fifty, eight or ten more between levels thirty and forty, and virtually ending my class/study schedule, I find I am still hopelessly addicted to Diablo II.

    Nate has some very good points, and it is true that Diablo II has more to offer than Diablo I did as far as long-term achievements. However, and I say this as a fellow Diablo II addict, the core of the game is not the skill tree, but the quests and the monster-killing. There is more to offer, but the basic game is still based on the same premise.

    Column number four, “Films for the Diablo Fan,” brought in relatively few letters, all of them with film suggestions. As they were all rather good movies, here is the compiled list: “Braveheart,” “Dragonslayer,” “Willow,” “Clash of the Titans,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” and the infamous “Army of Darkness.” Special thanks here to Mark Devries, who suggested most of them.

    (One more film to add to the list; not quite a Diablo-style movie, but worth watching none the less. It is a little film from New Zealand titled “The Navigator.” A group of Medieval peasants, searching for an escape from the Black Death, follow the visions of a young boy through a cave into a modern-day metropolis. A bit off the beaten track, but better than most.)

    Column number five, “Millennial Thoughts,” brought in some very interesting letters. Zach Dickinson had a very good question he sent me:

    You mentioned a great many fantasy writers of present times in your latest installment of Garwulf’s Corner, Feist, Norton, etc… These are wonderful writers to be sure, I’ve read a few here and there. However, I also noticed that you mentioned no writers from Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. This is not the first time I’ve seen this. Other websites, books, magazines never mention a Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms writer when speaking of great fantasy writers.

    My question is, Why?

    Well, to be honest, there is a stigma against authors who specialize in licensed worlds (such as Forgotten Realms, or Diablo). When an author deals with a licensed world, she or he must play using somebody else’s rules. And, speaking as an author, I can tell you all with great authority (and, as usual, an even greater ego), that you can do more and say more when working with original material. That’s one reason why the next book you see from me (once my agent sells it) will be set in my own fantasy world.

    Eamonn O’Brien wrote to me regarding my fond recollections of Roar:

    You mention the serious Roar as being the best of the Xena/Hercules stories. I just wanted to mention that it took poetic licence with Irish myths and legends to the same extent and with the same total disregard for authenticity as the Xena and Hercules series do to the Greek and Roman myths. I am Irish myself and perhaps hypocritically I kind of liked Xena and Hercules even though they were terribly unauthentic and riddled with anachronisms. However both series happily passed themselves off as a bit of harmless fun. Roar on the other hand tried a veil of authenticity which made its slaying of the Irish myths very annoying to me.

    Granted, Roar did take poetic license, as Eamonn states. However, I personally found series such as Xena more offensive, not necessarily because of what they did with mythology (some amount of bastardization always occurs with Hollywood; they can’t even plagiarize properly), but because they routinely insult the viewer’s intelligence. One thing I very fondly remember about Roar is that it always told intelligent stories.

    Just before I begin with the flood of letters that came in regarding Garwulf number six (“Walking with the Dead”), I have one question I am just dying to know the answer to:


    I propositioned an entire city with a population of around four million, and barely anybody even batted an eyelid! Granted, it’s wonderful that everybody got the point behind that issue, but it would have been nice to hear a bit of moral outrage. I mean, come on! I can’t be allowed on a power trip every column!

    Right…now that my rant is done…

    It seems that I actually managed to change quite a few people’s lives; many of the letters I got from this column were very heartfelt, and I want to thank everybody for sending them to me. Quite literally, informing a writer that they’ve changed your life is the highest compliment you can pay to us authors.

    Other letters had some astounding insights. Gary Wilkins, in the middle of a very touching letter, wrote: “I have a question for you – can you as easily recall your happiest, or most content moment?”

    That is one of the best questions I have ever been asked. You see, it is so easy for us to remember the bad times, those horrible experiences that affect us, in some way or another, for life. But too often we forget those wonderful moments that bring the beauty of the world out and truly make life worth living.

    As a matter of fact, I can remember several. Most clear in my mind are the day I received my Bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University (for those who aren’t Canucks, Queen’s is a school along the level of the Ivy League universities), and the day I received the final galleys for Diablo: Demonsbane. I remember going over them again and again, repeating the words “I wrote this.” There is one other really clear moment, but that one is private.

    Matt Whitehead wrote a wonderful letter with some remarkable ideas, that I believe speaks for itself. Here it is (minus the preamble):

    The Human Species is a species. Slightly more complicated, than say, the cockroach species, but it still has instincts.

    The ‘dead’ people you were referring to are basically people who live by their instincts. They live that way because they know no other, and often showing it to them won’t help, because most refuse to see it.

    But there’s an interesting fact. The ability to ‘live’ is actually genetic. It’s carried with base intelligence (different than knowledge, which you can read out of a book, or wisdom, which is insight you develop as your life unfolds) and the topic is covered loosely in the book ‘Dune.’ (Which you may be familiar with, being an author)

    But the people you called ‘dead’ aren’t quite as dead as you’d think. How else would some of them be able to come ‘alive’ again?

    And now for some general letters. Yuan Wang, after a very complimentary letter, asked me if I would tell him a bit about myself. No doubt he isn’t the only one interested, so here I go:

    I’m in my mid-twenties, and currently living in the Toronto area (although quite possibly about to be driven off to Kingston by a ridiculously high cost of living). I have had an interest in Medieval Studies ever since an acquaintance put a seven hundred year-old broadsword in my hands at the Royal Ontario Museum. I now have a degree in Medieval Studies with a specialization in Beowulf. And, ever since the New Year, I have been a professional writer.

    And, finally, to Patricia Cordiner, who wrote me what is easily the shortest reader letter I have ever received: you’re welcome.

    And that’s it for this issue. Keep writing, my dear readers. I am listening.

    Coming next installment: Staring at the Top Rung, in which your intrepid author pays attention to the ladder rankings…and gets whiplash.


    Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner was written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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