[Flag] Issue 2: August 1999
Rising Sun
"For the next Age of Magnamund..."

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Lone Wolf--A Social Problem?
by Simon Osborne.
edited by Lawrence Ritchie.
Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.

It was with a heavy heart that I read paragraph 300 of The Hunger Of Sejanoz and realised that the New Order series of Lone Wolf was being cut short by four books. It was depressing to note that the Legends series finished just as it was getting good, but now that I as Lone Wolf, or a Grand Master, can no longer adventure in and explore the fabulous world of Magnamund, I am forced to relive past glories, some of which I calculate I have read more than fifty times. But it isn't just Lone Wolf.

The Fighting Fantasy series introduced me to the concept of gamebooks--a world of your own imagination. They were going strong, rattling them off like there was no tomorrow. The various authors wrote fifty in ten years, the fiftieth book being a direct sequel to the 1st. And they planned to make the 100th book in 2002 to be a direct sequel to book 50. This isn't going to happen. The series ground to a halt over the next four years and finally finished at book 59. Book 60, Bloodbones, was, as far as I know, never published.

These two long-running gamebook series have ended prematurely. I am sure that you agree, we have explored less than 20% of Magnamund. So why are gamebooks so unpopular these days? When I read my first Fighting Fantasy book (c. 1987) they were just becoming en vogue in my school. Soon everybody was reading them--and here comes the first in a series of reasons why I think gamebooks are so unpopular these days: we were discouraged from reading them by our teachers.

It truly is hard to believe that teachers, supposed luminaries of education and thought, regarded these books with contempt. I was told on more than one occasion that I should be reading "proper" books. We were limited to reading one gamebook to one proper book. Regardless of the fact that the school had such a low budget, most of the books in our "Reading Room" or Library were woefully out of date, or just plain old excruciatingly dull. Who wants to read about some dumb girl who gets lost in London (for example) when you could be battling orcs and saving the planet?

This contempt was not all-encompassing, though. Do you remember those small, white-spined books called Choose Your Own Adventure published by Bantam? In those, you became an "ordinary" person getting involved in saving Robin Hood or surviving in the wilderness. Our teachers loved those. Perhaps it was a combination of the facts that (i) there was no combat involved; (ii) the inside page of the books, where you normally get an extract from the book as a taster, had quotes from teachers who said how much they loved the series; and (iii) girls enjoyed reading these books.

Please do not take me for a misogynist because of my citing reason (iii). But throughout the whole schooling system, I found that both the teachers and the curriculum--even the teaching style--is geared up for girls. An experiment was carried out on a BBC TV programme (called QED I believe) where a normal mixed-gender class was split into male and female classes. The girls were taught the "normal" way while the boys were taught in a more "masculine" way--the books they read and studied were more adventure oriented, while the girls' books were more character oriented. The result, amazingly, was that while boys underachieve in the current schooling system, in a specially developed system they actually out-achieve girls. This is, of course, not the fault of women. But I do place some of the blame on female teachers who tried to stifle my creativity and love of the art-form that is gamebooks. Perhaps you would like to examine my writing style and usage of the English language. Do you think gamebooks have retarded my command of the English language?

The second reason for the drop in sales is because the market is flooded. As an avid collector / reader of gamebooks / RPG systems I have come to the conclusion that gamebooks came to their peak in 1986. It was in this year that more gamebooks were published than in 1988 to 1992 put together. Those of you who are also gamebook connoisseurs may know the names of Jamie Thomson, Dave Morris, Mark Smith, Oliver Johnson and others. But even Joe Dever was at his peak. In this year he wrote Lone Wolf 7--Castle Death, The Magnamund Companion (I would dearly love to have a copy of this!), the Combat Heroes series, consisting of four books, and he edited the four World Of Lone Wolf gamebooks about Grey Star the Wizard.

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