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Critical Hits

When You're Not Writing, There's Not Really Much To Say

by Dave Smith
Mar 03,2004


When You're Not Writing, There's Not Really Much To Say

Well, Critical Hits is done. First draft is, anyway; now it's time to do revisions and such, as I gibbered* about last month. Since I haven't done any writing lately, I can't discuss the process thereof, and since I haven't edited, hunted for a publisher/agent, or any of the other shitwork you have to do to if you want to even pretend to be a "serious" (har!) writer, there'll be no discussion of said topics.

But I'm not get unpaid to twiddle my thumbs, am I? There's got to be something to write about, even if it's not writing. How about "things that Dave finds interesting and have at least a tangential relationship to his writing"? Sounds good to me, so sit back and let me throw random things at you. Verbally, of course.

Port of Ravens Bluff (TSR, 1991)

I loved this supplement when I bought it, and if it wasn't packed away somewhere, I'm sure I'd still read it at least once a month. Ravens Bluff, if you're not aware, was the official city of the RPGA, and was one of the few places in the Forgotten Realms that had a vein of humor running through it. My most memorable AD&D campaign was set here, consisting of myself and my buddy Brad. (Yeah, I DMed and played simultaneously.) If you can find this, buy it; I think you might be able to pay Wizards of the Coast to download it, too.

Probot (Southern Lord, 2004)

By the time you read this, this album will be on the shelves, and if you like heavy metal, you should buy it. Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame, wrote a bunch of metal songs and had his (and a lot of my) favorite '80s metal singers handle vocals. How can you go wrong when Cronos, Tom G. Warrior, Lee Dorrian, King Diamond, Wino, and others are all on the same album? Answer: you can't. When I write, I listen almost exclusively to metal, and this album is already in heavy rotation.

Ultima VII (Origins, 1992)

This is the best Ultima ever. I remember not being able to play it when it came out, since I had a Tandy 286 and the box had a sticker that said "386 power." The plots are cool, the graphics were amazing, and the level of interactivity with the environment was, and still is, unreal. To top it off, you can run amok with a freakin' Hoe of Destruction!

Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium)

I bought this in either 7th or 8th grade, and to this day, it's one of my favorite role-playing games. It also introduced me to the man hisself, H.P. Lovecraft, for which I am eternall grateful. One day I want to write a novel with HPL as a character.

Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges (various editions; first American, 1962)

I can't write short stories to save my life, and while I think of myself as a fairly intellectual guy, Jorge Luis Borges crushes me on both accounts. Ficciones is a collection of disgustingly erudite, bizarre, mindblowing short stories about dense philosophical issues and literature. If I could find a copy in Spanish, the language the stories were originally written in, I'd finally have the motivation to reclaim my rotting grasp of that language.

Galaga (Namco, 1981)

I was two when this was released, and 19 when I started playing it. If I had every quarter I ever spent on Galaga in the Lowman Student Center at Sam Houston State, I'd be able to buy my own Galaga machine. During that year of friendlessness and retro gaming, I wrote a short story that, while never completed, ended up providing a couple characters for Critical Hits. One day, I might turn that short story into a novel.

College (Mary Washington College/Sam Houston State University, 1997-2001)

Ah, college. Four years of languor, constant internet and library access, classes, and general evasion of the so-called and much-loathed "real world." While I could complain about parts of the education I received in those four years, the good things about attending college outweigh the bad ones, and frankly, if I hadn't gone to college, I never would've decided to become a writer. Class wasn't much a stimulus, but everything outside of them was. You should go to college to avoid certain responsibilities for a few years and, as Minor Threat used to say, "flex your head"; if you're going to college to get a job, don't. Higher education is already going down the tubes, and if you're getting a four-year degree just to become a middle manager, you're not helping anything.

Brant Bjork (appearing on wax/CD since 1990)

Brant Bjork used to play drums for Kyuss and Fu Manchu. These days, he's makin' solo albums, all of which are essential. Jalamanta, Brant Bjork & the Operators, Keep Your Cool: testaments to takin' it easy (see below) and enjoying life. Mr. Bjork is also a musician of the highest caliber, playing all the instruments on the aforementioned albums and creating grooves that will make anyone bob their heads and give 'em an itch to either hop in the car and cruise through the neighborhood with their buddies or chill out with a cold drink on the porch and watch the sun set. An afternoon at the computer writing is well-rewarded by putting on one of Brant Bjork's albums and opening a beer.

The Suburbs (most of my life)

Sure, they can be boring, and they embody some of America's most banal aspects, but they're where I come from, and I like to write about them. Not as remote as the country and not as hectic as the city, suburbia is a great place to cruise, daydream, and practice deviant behavior in the privacy of your own home. Ultimately, I'd like to see hordes of cool, intelligent folks swarm into the burbs and claim them as their own. When "suburban" is no longer synonymous with "complacent," America will a better place.

Takin' It Easy (1979-present)

Nothing beats doing nothing. It's amazing how much I get done when I do nothing, though a lot of folks would argue otherwise. If they'd just do nothing for a while, they'd see that inactivity is as productive as they say it isn't. Case in point: I wrote two novels while not doing much of anything at all.

Critical Hits, and to a lesser extent, Axis Mundi Sum, is a step toward laying down some ideas I have about a lot of the ideas mentioned above. While I recommend everyone reading this to check out the albums, books, games, places, and (in)activities I've listed, I don't expect anyone to feel the same way I do about them. If you want to write, take your own life into account, and write about what you dig. Even if you don't write, figure out what means the most to you, and indulge in it. How's that for writerly wisdom? If I could expand platitudes like that into full-length books, I'd be a hit with the self-help crowd, and I could retire to the suburbs and become just like everyone else there. Wait, that's not the plan.

Seeing as how I've said what I wanted to say, I'm going to call it quits. As always, check out my first novel, enjoy your next gaming session, thanks for reading, and take it easy.

Dave Smith
dave at axismundisum dot com


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