April A to Z – B is for bloggers – an interview with Mark Lain

Hello!  Today we have one of our many gamebook playthrough bloggers, Mark Lain, who writes over at the Malthus Dire blog.  It’s always great to read about play throughs as the writers can offer great new perspectives on a gamebook.  So take a look at the blog to find out what he thinks about the Fighting Fantasy books he’s played through.
What inspired you to start your blog?
The release of Blood Of The Zombies was where it all started. When I played it there were so many ideas swimming in my head about how it fitted into the FF cycle, what moves had been made to drag FF into the 2010s, the impact of video gaming on peoples’ demands from games, etc that I just felt the need to get it all down on paper. Lots of people were pontificating on BOTZ so I posted my thoughts in the Facebook group and response was positive so I then did a write-up of WOFM and it kind of went from there. Marsten Eccleston had the idea of turning my early Facebook reviews into a Blog and his support was vital in encouraging me in the early days
What spoils a gamebook for you?
If it’s boring, simple as. Either through plodding plot, lack of anything of real interest to do, or just absence of any real imagination. If the writer can’t be bothered to create something vivid and exciting, then why should we bother to play it?
What makes a gamebook stand out for you?
Depth of setting and concept. Exciting and elaborate encounters. Evidence of meshing the real world with a fantasy world eg: inclusion of real-world medieval folklore. Imaginative scenarios. Originality, but not to the extent of some of the more experimental efforts that often just go off the rails very quickly. Series-linking to create an overall “world” where the books are set.
What future projects do you have that you can talk about?
I’d like to work through all the FF books and all the related releases (Starlight, Warlock mag mini-FFs, boardgames, computer games, novels, etc) and do a write-up for each. From there, who knows… I’d like to try to cover the wider world of gamebooks – there’s a post coming soon on figure painting, for example.
What is your wish for gamebooks?
That they continue to be supported by the fan community and that more will appear sooner or later. For as long as we champion the cause, there’s no reason why the medium should disappear, Given how many fans gamebooks have, and how many of those are either writing new adventures or writing/blogging about what’s already out there, there’s no reason why publishers should think the genre is dead. The success of the recent Android apps speaks for itself.
What advice would you offer to someone who thinks that they want to write their own gamebook?

Do it! I’ve almost written a few in the past but have never actually had the self-discipline to go through with it. I get an idea that seems good, but can never finish it off properly – I used to GM a lot of tabletop RPGs using D&D and FF rules but I always ended up cruelly slaying all the players because I got bored with a given concept before I could really nail the ending!
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