Early in High School I picked up a paperback novel by the author Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was the Tarzan series, and that took me to 40 exotic places I had never been, and stirred my imagination about Africa.
My family developed emotional problems, and I escaped even further into author Jules Verne, and he took me places I’d never even dreamed of or imagined. His book Mysterious Island was to have a profound effect on me.
I only discovered I had a knack for writing late in High School. One of the other English teachers called me the best student writer he had never taught. Authors like Johann Wyss, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Conrad and James Michener fed my island dreams. Mysterious Island and the Robinsons had me wanting to pioneer a life instead of a consuming existence, and it being the only island paradise I could reach without a passport, I decided I would run away to Hawaii. Oh, I had USGS maps of Kauai and Maui and survival books and a footlocker of equipment and seeds ready to go. In my Junior year I wrote a term paper on Hawaii. My term paper was so good my teacher accused me of plagiarism and gave me a 70, and that was only because she couldn’t prove it. Of course she couldn’t prove it; I had written the damn thing myself.
For my senior year term paper I decided take a different route, and wrote about the old model railroad train set I had built in my bedroom. From the elaborate backstory of how the fictional railroad came about, to the actual planning, building and construction, and then even how to run the trains on it in a quasi-realistic fashion. There could be no possibility of plagiarism. Got a 100.
After that I lost my family, in one way or another, and became very angry at them, life, and mostly myself.
Don’t get angry at yourself. It’s just not helpful, and forgiving others either begins or ends with forgiving yourself.
So my broken folks took me to a Fox that was a medicine man, and he tried to help me stop being mad at myself, stop being a jerk to my friends and stop trying to end my own life. He had obvious success with the later, and debateable success with the first two.
One of the things he suggested was for me to write down my feelings in a diary. Now, as self absorbed as I was, or still am, I can’t see why that didn’t work like a charm, but it didn’t.
But then a yule miracle occured, and from a dusty store shelf I got a Dungeons & Dragons original box set on an odd random chance. This was the late 1970s, and things were a bit different back then. Low and behold, I found I could write fantasy. My friends kept coming back, asking for more adventures. We were half a dozen boys and girls playing D&D every odd weekend.
The fantasy writing for the games was carthadic. It gave me something I was recognizably good at, and something to look forward to tomorrow for, which helped keep me from checking out of life prematurely. Every once in a while we’d roleplay Gamma World or Star Trek RPG instead, but mostly it was D&D.
Life after school is about as different as life inside and outside a house during a storm. We began meeting for a couple of days about once a full moon to play our ongoing D&D campaign. My cabin was filled with drawings, plants, tents, odd lights, hundreds of linear feet of Japanese timber bamboo and colorful fantasy maps that stretched all the way up the two story walls.
One young lady who visited said “I was obsessive.” She was being kind.
I would take a fortnight between games to write a mini-book about the upcoming adventure, then send it to the other players to read up the week before. I even had to start turning new people away from joining our popular game. This went on for nearly a decade, and while every other aspect of my adult life seemed a losing struggle, roleplay fantasy certainly did not.
When desperate and swept along, one clings to the passing rocks life offers.