Hi all. We finish off this year’s April A to Z with Alexander Ballingall, editor at the wonderful Fighting Fantazine, a free online zine containing interviews with prominent gamebook personalities, a mini gamebook (around 200 paragraphs) and many many other articles on gamebooks. Did I mention that all this is free? And if you love it loads, you can buy print copies of issues 10-12 (and probably more issues soon).
So after this interview, get on down to the website and have a read of all the zines. It also has a forum for you to join. On with the interview…
How did Fighting Fantazine come into existence?
Through the discovery of the existence of the old 80s Warlock magazine in 2007 when I found online FF fandom. My first response to that was to have fun formatting the mini adventures into 5 compilations (see illustrations). This lead me to thinking that a fan magazine along the lines of Warlock might be possible. Dave Holt (former admin of the official FF website from 2002~2011) had attempted in 2003 to launch something similar (mini a mini FF or AFF adventure) with The Salamonis Gazette, but my feeling is that as the entire contents of the one and only issue were made solely by him (or taken from FF sources), trying to do multiple issues was probably too much. Instead, I used the Titan Rebuilding Yahoo! group to canvas for ideas, potential contributors and support for launching the magazine. Once I had enough people on board willing to write/draw for the magazine I took it from there.
What is your aim with Fighting Fantazine?
To provide a place where gamebooks of any shade or ilk can be celebrated. Yes, it started off as a FF-only magazine due to that being familiar ground for me, but I’ve been trying to slowly broaden the scope of the magazine since. Issue #14 due out later this year will feature our first Lone Wolf mini adventure (Dreams of Darkness by S.P. Osborne) and we hope to present interviews with non-FF writers/artists in the future. Also to this end I try to encourage submissions looking at gamebooks from all angles, from the silly to the serious.
How have gamebooks changed since the first issue of Fighting Fantazine back in 2009?
Firstly, I think people are becoming more aware of just how many gamebooks are being written/published. Our news section has grown from two pages to begin with to ten now and is starting to struggle to contain it to even that. Secondly I see the rise of the app format as hugely liberating for the concept and is encouraging new ideas.
What is the best thing about editing Fighting Fantazine?
We all have our own narrow viewpoints on the world, so editing the magazine allows me to see how other people view gamebooks through what they submit as material to the magazine. Plus, digging for previously unseen art or book submissions is fun when conducting interviews. We’ve some in our next issue, issue #13.
How do you see Fighting Fantazine evolving?
I’m hoping that with the broadened scope of the magazine, fans of other gamebook ranges (Lone Wolf, Tunnels & Trolls, Gamebook Adventures, Choose Your Own Adventure, Destiny Quest, etc.) will feel comfortable submitting material and the magazine can grow from there (probably not in the size of issues, 104 pages is enough I think, but in terms of frequency). We’ve also evolved into a print version as well, with issues #10 through #12 available on our new site store for purchase.
How can people support Fighting Fantazine?
The big thing is contributions. I really need more people submitting written material to the magazine, whether it be fiction, articles, etc. I’m also keen to see material that approaches gamebooks from side on like the Nathan Penlington interview in issue #12.
What spoils a gamebook for you?
Uninformed choices. Long series of references that end with “Do you want to go west or east?” with nothing to give the reader a clue (or red herring) as to which direction they might take.
What makes a gamebook stand out for you?
An interesting tale/plot spiced up with intriguing choices that play out in a variety of ways. I like multiple endings from death through to failure to middling to okay to completely successful. I like books where the reader has to pay attention to what is going on rather than skipping to the bottom of the paragraph and making the next choice. Some of that is an age thing, because as a kid I was always in a rich to reach the next decision. So probably a balance between choices and plot is best.
What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook?
That balance between story and mechanics. Not some much dice rolling, figuring out stuff that the plot suffers, but not so much linear plotting that the reader feels no agency or control over what is happening.
What is the most exciting thing about writing a gamebook?
Trying to anticipate what readers would like to do given the choice as opposed to the choices I’d like them to make.