Thursday, 7 February 2013

How I stopped being a Fighting Fantasy writer, part 2

And then there was the contract, most enticing: clause 15 on page 8:

15. The Publishers undertake that the name of the Proprietor/Author shall appear on the title-page and on the cover or binding and jacket of every copy of the Work published or licensed by them and (etc).

I defy anyone to find a copy of Clash of the Princes that fulfils that clause.

At the time that was the most important element of the whole contract to me, since it meant that I would be able to escape the umbrella of iron that the Penguin/Jackson/Livingstone team had lowered over my name and that of every other writer on the series. The hope sprang into my heart that I might actually be able to make a name for myself and help to develop my own career. I will confess that I had felt slightly peeved when Steve Jackson came to my home town to promote the Fighting Fantasy series and the implication in the local media was that Seas of Blood - which was the latest in the series - had been written by a couple of blokes called Steve and Ian. Though I will also confess that I had a very enjoyable evening at that time with Steve drinking cocktails in a bar on South Terrace, where there was much bonhomie. His handler, a nice girl from Penguin Australia, even asked me if I minded Steve and Ian taking all the credit. To which I replied in the negative, and claimed (truthfully) that I felt as if I had won the lottery and this attribution of authorship thing was neither here nor there (I was drunk, of course). And mainly I blamed the idiotic local media for not actually opening the book, leaning across the radio desk, and asking, "Hey, Steve, who's this Andrew Chapman fellow with his name floating unattached to anything on the title page?". But I was livid at this breach of contract by Penguin in the case of Clash of the Princes.

So I wrote Penguin a letter. I don't have a copy of that letter, but it must have had a testy tone. I remember Martin and I showed it to Martin's father before we posted it. Presciently, he observed, "You should post it if you never want to write for them again."

Ah, if only youth had listened to the wisdom of age. But bridge burning was my thing back then, and so I posted the letter and burned that bridge down to the waterline. No doubt that poisoned pen did some damage, but the books were also duds, particularly compared to the other three I had written. Also, I have no doubt that better writers with better ideas had come on board the series by this time. My advantage of being first (or nearly first) out of the chocks had blown away in the wind along with the smoke from the burning bridge.

Thus, indeed, Martin's father's warning came to pass. I was no longer a Fighting Fantasy writer.

On an end note, though I think Clash of the Princes is pretty well the worst idea I have ever had (with the possible exception of joining the Australian Public Service) I was gratified at least to read this nice review which I discovered as I started thinking about writing on this topic.