Sure as a loaf of fresh bread grows smaller, the morning of youth passed into the lunchtime of life. I got an unusual girlfriend, a separated divorcé who had been dating a friend, and suddenly the new D&D players stopped coming by. One by one the other players got married and started families themselves or moved too far away to play, until I found myself writing alone. Fantasy adventures by yourself seemed to lack a certain charm. The new girlfriend was above playing such nonsense, and, turns out, was not really a divorcé. In fact, she wasn’t even separated. But she certainly fed my young man’s other fantasies.
I joined the SCA for a time. It was enjoyable, and one summer I even served as an armoring apprentice to an SCA blacksmith names Tom Justice (Baron Eldred). The SCA is good for imagination, costuming and getting bruises, but it did nothing for my creative writing. Whatever physical fighting skills I possessed were pure fantasy.
In the early 1990s, I discovered a gathering place called Compuserve, and there was a forum called the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Players forum. It was filled with interesting people! They wrote in turn based adventure stories in online threads, some free-form in a gaming system called GURPS. I was home.
On that Compuserve forum, I fell in with some of the most gifted writers I had ever known in a group called STS, or Star Trek Ships. Oh, to be certain, it was pure fan-fic. A European named Tardis ran things skillfully, and a wonderful Captain Zkena Blood hired me on and that gave birth to Tejj Gelk, the Klingon engineer, and service aboard the Albatross, her Orion Free Trader.
I had a 3D modeling program called Truespace, and spent hundreds of hours building the Albatross ship in 3D, inside and out. My modeling eventually including other ships, DS-9, Intrepid class, Runabouts, you name it. I’d make short animations that took days to render on my 486s, and made beautiful jpgs of ship life and alien scenery from the forum stories.
After months of participating, an Intrepid Class ship full of players lost their game master, and I crazily volunteered to take over, with absolutely zero notes on what the other game master’s plot was heading for, only what had already been written and posted. The Captain was a Doctor in Chicago, the First Officer lived in California and the Ship’s Doctor lived in New York. It was incredible fun writing adventures for them, and with them. Super folks, who still inspire me two decades later.
I began to record Star Trek tv shows, especially DS-9s and Star Trek Voyagers for Tardis and send them to him. He never responded back.
I was somehow appointed to the STS Technology Council, where we’d offer opinions of some of the many game thread’s various technical questions. Some folks figured anyone who could knock off an Okudagram as I could must be an engineer at heart. No, far from it, but I did my best with a library of books and fan material. Finally, I became the voice and traffic cop of DS-9 in game.
During this time the married girlfriend turned into the bipolar lady I shouldn’t have ever dated. She was back to her dying husband. I was dumb, it was stupid. But there it is, and I can’t take it back now. There was always a lot of passion, but not what I know now as love, and she HATED my attachment to D&D, SCA, and online STS friends.
When we finally split up, and it was like the movie Fatal Attraction in reverse, and I learned first hand the dangers of being in love with someone bipolar. I went bankrupt when my bank accounts were cleaned out, I lost my apartment, my aquarium fish all died mysteriously, and my computer with its backup hard drives was trashed.
Hundreds of hours of 3D modeling. Hundreds of pictures, and scores of animations way too big for floppies. Most of my writings. All were suddenly gone, and the ex-girlfriend knew everything I did online in STS. It was also on her computer. She had briefly followed me into the SCA years before, hating all the medieval nerds and making fun of them behind their backs, but putting on a deceiving show in front of them, and I knew as angry as she was at the break-up she’d not stop until I left STS or she had disrupted things there to the point of embarrassment. So I asked STS for prayers and walked away.
On my final visit to the old apartment office, they gave me a box they had stuck in their MIA box pile for the past months. It was a box from Tardis in Europe and was filled with blank VCR tapes. He had responded, after all.
I still often wonder if I’d have been stronger and trusted my STS friends more had I known he sent that box.