Last evening, some gamer buddies and I met at a Stockholm pub.
An unfamiliar forty-something man approached our table and asked me: “Are you Anders Blixt?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Thanks,” he said, shook my hand and walked away.
Such encounters happen rarely, but to me they are diamonds.
I have designed role-playing games for more than forty years. It’s a mundane and solitary profession: I spend hours in front my computer trying to turn my visions into gameable texts. All the action, so to say, takes place at a closed screening inside my mind. When my part of a product is complete, after much commenting by others and many revisions by me, I hand it over to the layout artist. With some trepidation, I assure you. I may be a veteran designer, but I still write occasional duds.
Creating role-playing games has not enriched my bank account. Nowadays I am retired with a state pension that pays my bills. Earlier I had to do muggle jobs. But my writing games has enriched the lives of thousands of people. Many times, I have heard comments like: “My adolescence was miserable, but your games made me endure it.”
These days, when I am in the Indian summer of my life, I look at what joy my toil has kindled and I feel contented. I have used my talents and endurance to encourage and strengthen others. That’s what counts. Or to paraphrase the Norse poem Hávámal: “We are all mortal, but our deeds will be remembered.”
deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn,
at aldrei deyr:
dómr um dauðan hvern.
Let me be like Bach, creating fugues
Till suddenly the pen will move no more.
Let all my themes within — of ancient light
Of origins and change and human worth —
Let all their melodies still intertwine,
Evolve and merge with growing unity,
Ever without fading
Ever without a final chord …
Till suddenly my mind can hear no more.
Beatrice Tinsley (1941-81),
Ph D, professor of astronomy at Yale University
Read more about her successful career as a cosmologist — link >>>
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
By Robert Frost
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Excerpt from Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. Artist: Yuri Shwedoff. Click on the picture for a larger version.
This map outlines the essentials of Leigh Brackett’s fantastic Mars. Heinlein’s poem below explains what that world is like.
And you find more of my thoughts on the subject in a series of posts here — link >>>
As Time and Space come bending back to shape this star-specked scene,
The tranquil tears of tragic joy still spread their silver sheen;
Along the Grand Canal still soar the fragile Towers of Truth;
Their fairy grace defends this place of Beauty, calm and couth.
Bone-tired the race that raised the Towers, forgotten are their lores;
Long gone the gods who shed the tears that lap these crystal shores.
Slow beats the time-worn heart of Mars beneath this icy sky;
The thin air whispers voicelessly that all who live must die —
Yet still the lacy Spires of Truth sing Beauty’s madrigal
And she herself will ever dwell along the Grand Canal!
By Robert Heinlein
The sated day is never first.
The best day is a day of thirst.
Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path –
but it’s the way that is the labour’s worth.
The best goal is a night-long rest,
fire lit, and bread broken in haste.
In places where one sleeps but once,
sleep is secure, dreams full of songs.
Strike camp, strike camp! The new day shows its light.
Our great adventure has no end in sight.
This poem could be a creed for us role-players, regardless where we live and what we play. It was written in the 1930s by Swedish author Karin Boye (1900-41), and has been translated into English by David McDuff. Ms Boye’s crystal-clear poems about rootlessness and finding your own path through life have accompanied me on my journeys since I was a teenager.
The Swedish original is available here — link >>>
and a German translation here — link >>>
Picture by Flavio Bolla at DeviantArt. Click on it for a larger version.
I walk through the dry hills
I hold the little girl’s hand
I wrestle the wildfire
I share the pain
Because if not I, who?
If not now, when?
In 2008-09 I served six months as a civilian specialist in a European Union non-military undertaking in Kabul. When I came home, I summarized my experiences in the six lines above. Some years have passed, but the memories of that war-torn country still burn bright.
People have many times asked me why I, a well-established middle-aged professional, chose to accept something as hazardous and arduous as that assignment.
When I look at my kids growing up in our quiet corner of the world, it hurts to know that such childhoods are a privilege enjoyed by far too few. The American writer Chaim Potok spoke of “sacred discontent”, i.e. the emotion that propels the common citizen to stand up against injustices by putting himself on the line: “This just can’t go on.” I want to teach my kids the difference between what is important in life and what is fluff. And I can only do that by walking the walk.
För sisådär 25 år sedan valde jag ett motto att sätta under min egendesignade vapensköld. Efter lite funderande skrev jag: Alltid i rörelse. Jodå, det stämmer fullt ut, både kroppsligen och själsligen. Jag är en vandringsman, även när jag till synes har en fast boning.
Som ett tecken på denna attityd har jag skrivit fantastik (SF och fantasy) i olika former alltsedan jag 1968 hittade Heinleins Rymdkadetten i folkbiblioteket på vår lantliga västgötska ort. Mina första försök var skoluppsatser i svenska i tredje klass och när jag hade nått gymnasiet trakasserade jag lärarna i svenska, engelska och tyska med korta noveller i Tolkiens och Arthur C Clarkes efterföljd.
Vad är då så attraktivt med de två genrerna? I diktsamlingen Passad formulerade Harry Martinson vad det innebär att vara fantastikförfattare:
Jag har planlagt en färd,
jag har inrett ett hus
på nomadiska kuster inåt.
Sjustjärnans brödfruktsgren lockade evigt.
Oåtkomlig i vintergatornas trädgård
var den gren av skådebrödsfrukter.
Men nya visa upptäcktsmän jag mött
har pekat inåt
mot det nya Gondwanas kuster.
Och de har sagt mig
att gömda vågor alltid vandrar där,
att hav av gåtor alltid strömmar där
kring inre resors obeskrivna öar
och jag har lyssnat till dem
en ny passad – ett nytt Gondwanaland.
I mitt författande söker jag detta Gondwanaland. I min ständiga rörelse mot det okända vill jag utforska det kosmos som inte finns här och ge det en litterär substans som gör det synligt i vår verklighet. Och de visa upptäcktsfarare som jag mött heter JRR Tolkien, Chaim Potok och Ursula LeGuin.