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Hard Science: Science Fiction Gaming

The Stars are Right . . .

by James Maliszewski
December 28, 2001  
To say good-bye. It's true. After three and a half years as RPGnet's not-always-timely-but-I-hope-always-interesting science fiction columnist, I've decided to hang up my virtual shingle and bid this column a fond farewell. Why?

There are quite a few reasons, but almost all of them boil down to one thing: time. When I first asked Sandy way back in the summer of 1998 if he'd be willing to take me on as a regular SF columnist, I was a newlywed graduate student trying to find a way to avoid completing his thesis. I had been a regular reviewer on RPGnet for about six months and my reviews were generally well received, so I figured I'd try my hand at something more substantial. Hard Science was the result and it too was generally well received (with a few notable exceptions, as long-time readers no doubt remember).

Times change, of course, and we change with them. I have shelved my grad school plans for the time being (never really wanted to be a professor anyway) and am the father of a wonderful two year-old daughter. I'm also a full-time freelancer, doing work for a lot of different companies these days. Needless to say, I'm a pretty busy fellow and, quite frankly, I just don't have as much free time to devote to this column as I once did. It's sad to say, because it makes me look rather mercenary, but time is money for me. I can only spend so much time on volunteer projects like Hard Science, if I'm to keep up my hectic pace of paid work.

As anyone in this biz can tell you, you're not going to get rich as a freelance game writer, but you can do well enough if you can produce a steady stream of work so that, at any given time, there's always a product or two of yours coming out (since payment is often tied to release dates rather than completion of the draft). That said, I'm always writing something for one company or other and that leaves me very little free time that isn't already taken up by spending time with my wife and daughter, gaming with my friends (yes, I still do game regularly), and all the other little things we must do in our daily lives. Hard Science has fallen way to the bottom of my priorities these days (as you'll notice by its extreme irregularity) and RPGnet deserves better.

I say that RPGnet deserves better and mean it very sincerely. Back in 1998, I was just another fan boy who wanted a venue for his views of the gaming world. Sandy took a chance and I'll be forever grateful for that. Not only did you, the readers, respond well to my musings, but I was noticed by folks in the gaming industry. Through my columns and interviews, I made contacts and generally good impressions. This soon led to work for a number of companies and even bigger things, as I'll soon explain.

Over the years, RPGnet has had its ups and downs, of course. I'm sure we all remember those dark days with some dread; I know I do, because I nearly folded up my SF tent back when it looked like RPGnet would no longer be the kind of place that gave me my first break in this business. Thankfully, I stuck around long enough to see the site revitalized and returned to some semblance of its former self.

Is RPGnet the same as when I first posted reviews years ago? No, but few things stay exactly the same forever and that's a good thing. That's why I don't feel as bad as I might about giving up my duties as SF columnist. Sure, there's a little sadness and a bit of regret. In a perfect world, I'd be able to keep pace with all my work and family duties and be able to write this column. Sadly, that's just not possible.

The freelancer's world is a fast-paced one of necessity; you snooze, you lose. At this early stage in my writing career, I need to keep writing 10,000 words a week or more if I'm to get to the point where I'm more than just another hack churning out reams of drivel for less money than pulp writers were making in the 1930's. Deep down, I've always known I wanted to be a writer and now I've made my first furtive steps toward achieving that goal. Sure, game writing isn't Tolstoy, but it's a start.

But what other career allows me to sit at home in my bathrobe all day and write about Chinese telepaths and kobold assassins or play around in George Lucas's sandbox? It may not be where I want to spend the rest of my life, but, for now, game writing is where I am and I intend to enjoy myself while I'm here. Alas, that means I need to devote even more time to it than I already am.

Fortunately, my departure does not spell the end of Hard Science. A friend of mine and a member of my gaming group, Dave Martin, will be taking up the reins of the column in the New Year. Unlike myself, Dave isn't a squishy liberal arts type, but a genuine scientist - a medical biophysicist, if that means anything to you. I suspect his take on matters science fictional will be different than mine, but, as I said, that's a good thing.

After three and a half years of my social scientific meanderings, I'm sure you'll be ready for something a little more solidly grounded. I hope that you'll give Dave a warm welcome and the time he'll need to establish himself in his new sinecure. I know very well that it takes time to find the right voice and subject matter for a column like this.

What does the future hold for me? I'll keep plugging away at my various writings. Chances are that you've already seen my name in a few products on the shelves of your friendly local gaming store. 2002 will see more of the same, although I'll be expanding into new game lines as well. If you're really interested, you can always check out my personal webpage for the latest information on my writing projects.

Chief among them will be the much-awaited (by me, if no one else) release of my SF RPG, Fourth Millennium. I can't reveal all the details at the moment, but, suffice it to say, that a number of deals have been struck and the game will see a Summer 2002 release to a gaming store near you. Fourth Millennium embodies a lot of the design principles I've discussed in this column over the years, so if you're the type who generally found yourself agreeing with me, you just might like the game. If not, I'd still recommend looking at the game, but do so with the knowledge that Fourth Millennium is a quirky setting that goes against many dearly-held gaming clichs. I won't say it's the perfect science fiction setting, but it is certainly close to my perfect science fiction setting. Take that for what you will.

Unfortunately, there's not a whole more to say. I'd like to once again thank Sandy for giving me this forum for the last few years and I'd like to thank the readers of RPGnet for their indulgence. We may not have always seen eye to eye on everything, but I genuinely appreciate the comments and feedback I received. They made me a better and more confident writer, which I honestly believe has helped me succeed as a freelance writer. In a way, my success is yours as well (but I'll still be keeping the money for myself, if that's OK). I owe RPGnet a lot. This is a good place and I hope it stays that way for many years to come.

James TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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All HARD SCIENCE columns by James Maliszewski

  • Esprit de Temps January 30, 2002
  • The Stars are Right . . . December 28, 2001
  • Three Perfect Settings May 29, 2001
  • Cyberpunk Done Right April 24, 2001
  • A Night at the Opera March 30, 2001
  • There's No Place Like Home December 4, 2000
  • Second Anniversary Extravaganza September 18, 2000
  • Philosophy for Geeks July 18, 2000
  • I'll Play Short Round! May 2, 2000
  • Requiem March 8, 2000
  • Last Column (of the Millennium) December 23, 1999
  • Aliens Among Us November 2, 1999
  • Personality Conflict September 28, 1999
  • Keep the Faith August 31, 1999
  • Worlds Enough and Time July 20, 1999
  • The Future is Small May 4, 1999
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Game March 23, 1999 (prereleased before GTS'99, though!)
  • Apocalypse Never February 16, 1999
  • Millennial Angst October 26, 1998
  • The Importance of Setting September 8, 1998
  • The State of the Genre Report July 28, 1998

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg