Sunday, September 25, 2011

What made me weird, part one

This post is inspired by an old post at Coilhouse, one of my favorite blogs.

I started using a computer when I was three. Back in the 80s this was the exception, not the rule. My parents had a PC Jr, one of the first computers with a monitor that could display any kind of color. My dad taught me how to use MS DOS to access the games on the PC Jr. My favorite of these games was called Rogue.

In Rogue, you played a little adventurer, represented by a tiny smiley face icon. You navigated your adventurer through randomly-generated dungeons; fought monsters, represented by letters of the alphabet (T for Troll, Z for Zombie), all of which had different abilities and strengths; collected gold, potions and equipment; and ate delectable things such as slime mold (viable nutriment in Rogue) to keep your character alive.

I now know that Rogue is considered the first "graphical adventure game" and is kind of a big deal in computer game history. I did not know this when I was three. Mostly I knew that I wanted to get to the fiftieth level of the dungeon and slay the M(inotaur). Because who doesn't want that?

Once, I made it to perhaps the twentieth level, which was a big deal since normally I died every five minutes or so. But it was late and my parents made me go to bed. When I woke up I found that someone had turned the computer off! I wanted to cry.
Dejected, I pushed the power button on the CPU. The little indicator light turned off. I pushed it again; the light turned on.

My dad appeared.
"Sara!" he said. "I just turned the monitor off! I left the computer on!"
And that's how I learned that monitors work separately from the CPU.

Pee-wee's Playhouse.
I think this one explains itself.

Dungeons and Dragons.
My parents have been playing D&D (and later AD&D) since before I was born. If I recall correctly they started back with the original D&D box set where you had to color in the pips on the dice with a white crayon.

As a small kid I thought all adults played D&D whenever they had friends over for dinner. I always wanted to join in but for the very most part I would just listen on the sidelines until I got bored or confused. It was probably too hard for me to play anyway, at least when I was very small. The game is much simpler now, but Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was a different story, with its THAC0 charts and all its innumerable tables and obscure conditional rules.

The first time I actually played a game of AD&D was when I was seven. My friend Tracy was the DM. I took my fighter through a dungeon and in the deepest depths I fought and killed a white dragon. Righteous.

Later that week I went to a novelty store at the mall and bought a necklace to symbolize this victory. The pendant was a dragon-ish looking claw holding a clear marble. I remember thinking very specifically that the marble was the dead dragon's eye. I wore the shit out of that necklace.

The Monstrous Manual was particularly formative for me.

I started reading when I was two. I read all kinds of everything. I especially loved fantasy novels. I read fast and constantly. I read on the playground during recess. (I was not a particularly popular little girl.)

My original job aspirations were astronaut (because space) and author (because books). Then I found out how you use the toilet on a space shuttle and that pretty much killed my space aspirations.

After that I basically assumed I was going to grow up and become a writer. I lost track of that goal for a long time, but I've come back to it as an adult. Even though I'm unpublished I feel I am finally doing my younger self justice.

The kinds of books I read (mostly fantasy) made me want to see things differently. I wanted to look around myself and find secrets and magic. I wanted to believe that there is something more to the world than what is apparent to our eyes and ears.

I still do.

Two books stand out particularly well in my memory. The first is the book pictured above, Wise Child by Monica Furlong. Thinking back, I'm all but sure that this book made me stop being Catholic and turned me into the weird pseudo-pagan-but-not-really I am today. (I identify as Panentheist. Say that five times fast. I'm not Atheist but I'm a-religious.)

The second is Oddly Enough by Bruce Coville, a collection of short stories, one of which ("The Language of Blood") most likely generated my deep and abiding love for vampires.

1 comment:

  1. Wise Child was one of my most favorite books in the world. I haven't read it in years but I think I might go pick it up again. As to the rest, me too! D & D, SCA, fantasy novels when I was seven, Ren Faires, and a Pagan-Unitarian-Druid mother with a nominally Christian Taoist father. I'm weird and I love myself for it! (Think we can get that on a t-shirt?)