“Love is easy, and I love writing. You can’t resist love. You get an idea, someone says something, and you’re in love.” – Ray Bradbury
1996. I fell in love. No – I’d been in love for a long time, but during the summer of 1996, between college semesters, I realised it.
There was an early dream I shared with my brother. One of making video games. We grew up in the “bedroom programmer” days of gaming, before that mode of game development seemed to fade under the shadow of big development teams and publishers – before the shadow withdrew for a new dawn of “bedroom programming” (indie development).
In 1995, I went to college to learn how to code like my brother. Although, he didn’t learn that way. Not in a classroom. He taught himself from the age of about 8 years old, on a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k computer, in our bedroom. Now, he‘s a freelance games programmer; he’s contributed to such bestsellers as Hotline Miami 2 and King of Fighters XIV.
Me? I gave that dream up. It wasn’t for me. I loved playing video games, sure. I’d spend hours with them, and I loved games even more when their mechanics moved away from blasting descending lines of pixelated aliens toward world-building and narrative. Story. Well, that made sense. I was a reader. Always had been a reader, and a listener. My parents and my brother read to me in my toddler years (I recall being scared by Roald Dahl and his Witches, when I was in my primary years, then checking every woman for weird eyes and square feet).
I was a reader. And I was a writer. Well, my favourite school lessons were those that allowed me to write my own stories. But, in an emerging world of bright, animated pixels and bleeping sound effects, it was easy to lose sight of a big part of myself.
Until 1996. That summer. I could have been outside playing with friends, or I could have been glued to the computer – again. Instead, I was reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Small Gods, to be precise, on this day of revelation; this day of falling in love all over again.
The idea seemed to hit me like a tortoise on the head, dropped from the clutches of an eagle (for more on eagles dropping tortoises, read Small Gods): I looked up from the pages of that wonderful book and I thought, “I could do this.” So, I did. That very same day. To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, I jumped off a cliff and hoped to build my wings on the way down.
The dream of being a games programmer simply vanished from conscious thought, as quickly as most dreams do upon waking. Here was a new dream – no, a new life – of writing stories for others to read and enjoy.
1996, and I was in love with words again. I still am. Always will be. And I’m sharing this journey here, with you – so pull up a seat, grab a coffee and take a look at the menu: