F is for...
You turn right. Unfortunately, you have disturbed a flesh-eating ghoul.
If you wish to crap your leggings, TURN TO PAGE 261.
If you wish to offer the ghoul some provisions from your backpack (or your body), TURN TO PAGE 32.
If you are thinking, 'Damn, should have turned left', then flick back to the PAGE you no doubt are still are marking with one finger and pretend this never happened.
Fighting Fantasy books. Looking back at these influences, it seems apparent that from even an early age I was a reader who wanted a degree of control over the characters and narrative. Between my love for the Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Fighting Fantasy books of my childhood, it appears obvious that I would want to take complete control of the reading experience as an author in my own right. Fighting Fantasy books were gamebooks set in a fantasy realm in which you controlled a character and could make decisions regarding how the character progressed through the story. Your character had recorded ratings for different skills (like combat) that were used to determine the outcome of certain situations as you progressed. The idea was not only to enjoy the story but also to be part of it and through a certain degree of luck and skill, get through to the end alive.
The significant difference between Fighting Fantasy books and Choose Your Own Adventure books was the introduced element of chance. A reader didn’t simply live or die on the basis of a decision. Dice introduced an element of luck that added an extra dimension to the experience of reading and narrative outcome. With these books you could choose to take items that might or might not have significance later on, choose skill sets that might benefit you and actually get legitimately lost on your journey, if you weren’t careful about the decisions you made. Another great addition were maps and an established background: a realm or range of interrelated realms in which a significant number of adventures took place. They also expanded to include classic science fiction and dystopian settings. I spent many hours with these books and found them to be highly enjoyable. Part game, part story – in which you are the hero.
While the Fighting Fantasy series were incredibly popular – a publishing phenomenon, really – an honourable mention should go out to some of the other series that helped to popularise the format. I especially liked the Golden Dragon series (that had their own punchy style), the humorous and engaging Grailquest (about a young hero called Pip in King Arthur’s kingdom), Lone Wolf (that developed a large, committed following) and The Cretan Chronicles (adventures in Ancient Greece).
I’m glad to say that the phenomenon remains with us today. My publishing company produced a gamebook only last year called Hive of the Dead by my esteemed Black Library colleague CZ Dunn. Jonathan Green, author of the popular Pax Britannia series, is the writer of many popular Fighting Fantasy gamebooks including his latest, the fun and inventive Night of the Necromancer. Jonathan has also moved with the times and made the transition to gamebook adventures as Apps for the iphone and ipad. His first one of these is called Temple of the Spider God and is already proving popular.
I leave you, however, with my top 5 Fighting Fantasy books from the Eighties. Honourable mentions go to Sword of the Samarai, The Citadel of Chaos, House of Hell, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Midnight Rogue, Battleblade Warrior and Freeway Fighter. See if you agree.