Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unexpected Treasures from 1988.

 I've been reading for a very, very long time. Long enough that I can't remember a time when I couldn't. Very early on, I was fascinated by “swords and sorcery” epic fantasy, even more than science fiction. I have a very clear memory of seeing a picture of Gandalf battling the Balrog and not knowing what it was, but feeling that it was awesome. So I read the Hobbit, and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and then one summer, something amazing happened. Amazing things didn't happen in 1988 in Cicero, IL very often, and certainly not to pudgy curly-headed Irish kids who wore thick glasses.

Not this. This didn't happen. Not to me, anyway.

As kids, my brother and I would ride our bikes down the alley maybe more often than the street out front, and one summer day we found several boxes. I never really knew much about the person who put the boxes out by the garbage to be thrown away (I have a vague recollection of thinking someone said he was a pastor who moved out of the neighborhood.) This mystery person will certainly never know what they did for me. Inside the boxes were dozens of fantasy and sci-fi novels. C.S. Lewis, “choose your own adventure”, Twistaplot, even most of the collected Lone Wolf books and Steve Jackson's Sorcery! Whoever it was who threw the boxes of books away, they affected my life profoundly.

I think now that this series was the best part of those boxes.

I frantically dragged boxes down the alley to save the precious contents from the rain that was starting to fall, and looking back on it, I'm not sure I got them all. I wonder what treasures might have been ruined by water hours after I'd decided that I'd gotten “enough”. The trove of books in the boxes was in uniformly good condition, and I sat in the basement that summer sorting them into piles to be looked at later. I'd read some Narnia and Tolkien already, and I'd gotten a bunch of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” from the Scholastic Book club at school, but there were a LOT of those “adventure game/books” that I'd have never known existed otherwise.

Yeah, I still did the standard stupid kid stuff, played with toy guns (which was dangerous, because back then, toy guns looked real, and in my neighborhood there were more than a few young people out there with the real thing) set off fireworks, begged my Dad to go with me to put my allowance into Ms. Pac-Man, Elevator Action or TRON a quarter at a time... but there were those books. I'd already been an unusually bookish kid, winning a toy dog who wore a “Sherlock Holmes” kind of outfit for 1st place in the 1981 MS Read-a-Thon  competition at the Cicero Public Library. I was the winner by over 25 books.

Some of these were really pretty hard. All of the gaming from my childhood had a difficulty level modern gamers wouldn't tolerate.

I can honestly say that those particular books, that particular summer before we owned a computer, and when I only owned 2 games for the NES, shaped me into who I am today. My first Piers Anthony was in there, so was my first exposure to something called the Mail Order Hobby Shop. A catalogue was in the bottom of one of the boxes for the mail-order game supply business set up by TSR, inc. I'd known about and played Dungeons and Dragons nearly three years before, but inside the catalogue was a whole new world. I excitedly showed my find to my mother, but she was no help there. She thought video games were a waste of time and money, that I wouldn't like Lord of the Rings because you had to “read between the lines”, and D&D was “that game that the people at church think is Satanic.”

This was the catalogue from the summer AFTER this story takes place, which exposed me to my first Gen Con.

I'll give my parents credit, though. They didn't forbid me any of the activities that, once I got a taste for them, I chose to devote a lot of time and thought into, even if they didn't understand or really approve of them. I got more fantasy novels from garage sales, ordered a set of Lord of the Rings miniatures from the 1989 version of that catalogue, and even got my Dad to take me to Toys 'R Us to buy my own D&D Red Box, and later taking the longer drive to a mall game store for the Expert Set. (That is definitely a subject for another article, maybe two)

Yeah, looking at these covers hit me with serious nostalgia while writing this.

Oh yeah... those books? Though I lost a bunch along the way, since that summer was almost 25 years ago now, I still have about a third of them, paperbacks sitting proudly on our shelves.
Best Blogger Tips
  • Stumble This Post
  • Save Tis Post To Delicious
  • Share On Reddit
  • Fave On Technorati
  • Buzz This Post
  • Tweet This Post
  • Digg This Post
  • Share On Facebook
Blog Gadgets


Banacek said...

My mom thought D&D was satanic too until one of her friends told her that only smart kids play it, then she was ok with it.

The Angry Lurker said...

Some of that brought back reading memories for me, good post and reminder to an Irish kid in catholic Ireland at the time.

Erika said...

I wish I had the imagination to get into that kinda thing.... I've tried before with shit like Warhammer and it just doesn't capture me in the ways I wish it would. =/

Ray Rousell said...

Great post, it bought back memories for me too! I had "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain"

Jay.CA said...

i nostalgiad.

Lemmiwinks said...

great post. following you

Christophe said...

I have purposely never watched that movie or show or whatever with the giant white dog dragon, because it creeps me the eff out.

Justin said...

Wow, that's a pretty awesome find. I wish I'd started reading earlier on, I would probably be a bit smarter, ha. I enjoy reading now though. The most I read back then were a couple Goosebumps books.

Noock said...

Certainly nice find. I think culture at 80's relied more on own imaginary than today, and it was good thing, as today most of youth cultural pieces (games,movies- no more miniature board rpg or books) are given fully completed "already imagined", so they don't really have to rely on own brain work.

Moob said...

i should look into this

Post a Comment