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Yelm's Light


So...a few weeks ago I learned that one of the seminal fantasy authors, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, had passed on into other realms.  Earthsea being one of my early fantasy influences, and never having done much with it other than reading it, I determined to create a campaign using the setting.  Doing some preliminary research, I soon realized that the Heroquest 2 core rules would be a fine system with which to run the game, and would eliminate a lot of time spent in reinventing the wheel just to be able to play it.  Now I'm around 800 pages into the initial research phase, with over 100 pages of notes.  Suffice it to say that there will be no shortage of material for this project.  It balloons beyond where I thought it would go.

But that's putting the cart slightly before the horse.  Let's go back into the mists of time to the '70's, the land of disco (bleh), Rocky, the Bicentennial, gas lines, and Watergate.  My father was an avid reader, and, like many readers he was a packrat.  He had stackable strawberry crates filled with paperbacks, including fantasy, mythology, fiction and nonfiction, sci fi, and a veritable library of the sci fi periodicals...Analog, IASFM, that sort of thing.  (Not particularly good for preventing aging, but then the books weren't nearly that old then.)  And, of course, he had a full set of Tolkien's books from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion.  One week I was home from school, in sixth grade or so, I think, with chickenpox.  Feeling like crap and having nothing better to do, I rummaged through his boxes and pulled out his Tolkien books and, in the space of that week I'd read them all.  Thus began my fascination with reading, and fantasy and sci fi in particular.  I was soon devouring every book in sight.

Flash forward a few years.   My grandparents had given me the princely sum of $150 for my birthday (it really went a long way then, especially for a teenager).  As far as I can remember, it's the first time I'd ever even held more than a $20 bill in my hand.  So what did I do?  I blew it.  Only I blew it on something that would last...mostly, books which would become the core of my fantasy collection.  There was a bookstore about a half mile from home, and I walked back with a large box filled with paperbacks, some new, some used.  Stephen R. Donaldson, Roger Zelazny, Fritz Leiber, Piers Anthony, Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Robert E. Howard, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia A. McKillip...  I still have most of them in somewhat less open-to-the air boxes, or replaced some of the more treasured ones with hardback collections.  And among them there was a set of three thin, grey books with interesting art and enticingly simple but evocative and thought-provoking storytelling.  You guessed it, the Earthsea trilogy.  I read and reread them over time, as I occasionally do with my favorites.  This was roughly the time that my interest in RPG's developed, as sort of a natural offshoot of my reading.  But I wouldn't do anything with this particular combination for 40 years.

Back to the present.  Having decided on a course of action, I hunted the internet to ensure that there weren't any books that I was missing.  I went rummaging through my book boxes for the trilogy, and the few continuations that Ms. Le Guin wrote later.  This was a project in itself; I have a lot of books and, though they're categorized and the boxes marked, I still had to dig through stacks of boxes to get at them.  It took me several hours to find them all, mostly because there was a book of short stories (Tales from Earthsea) that I knew existed but wasn't with the rest for some reason.  Which brings up another interesting vignette.  I finally found that book sitting with some others in a box, all of them in mint condition.  (In my collection, if a paperback is in mint condition, it means I haven't read it.)  As nearly as I can figure it, I bought those books on one of my occasional binges to replenish my reading list, and moved soon after.  The books went into a packing box and I forgot about them, and there they've sat for over 15 years.  You can imagine my delight at finding an unremembered and unread gem.  I'm just opening it now for the research, and am looking forward to exploring new territory.  As it turns out, that short-story book looks to be the most important to the project; it has a fair bit of background material that Ms. Le Guin wrote in working on the newer novels.

And now, a note about research.  There is no more drudge-like drudge work.  Book to word processor, back to book, back to word processor...  It does tend to limit my enjoyment in reading this time.   The fun stuff won't really come until later, when I integrate the notes with the system.  But work is work, a set of obstacles to be pushed through.  Part of the motivation for this blog is that if I write about it, and people read it, it puts an onus on me not to procrastinate or, worse, let things go altogether.  So, that's where I am right now.  Further entries will touch on processes, difficulties, and other related things.

Reader beware:  Here there be spoilers.  If you haven't read the books yet, and have enough interest to be reading this blog, shut down your computer, get into your car or go to Amazon or whatever your favorite online bookseller is, buy them, and read them... and wait until then to look at any future entries of mine.

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