Much like the parents of ye olden times who wouldn’t name a child until it first ran a multi-year gauntlet of smallpox exposure, famine, and spear-related accidents, I tend to save the introduction/mission statements for any given new project until I can grasp a sense of its viability.
And believe you me, I’ve got plenty of stillborn corpses left rotting in my virtual back forty.
Before I bore you to death with excessively verbiose backmatter, I think a brief timeline is in order:
1981: A classmate at Linscott-Rumford Elementary brings in a copy of Space and Beyond, a sci-fi adventure novel that allows to the reader-protagonist to choose the course of the tales events. A nine year old me then proceeds to wheedle his parents into buying him his own copy of the book.
1983: My fugitive grandpa mails me twenty bucks as a Christmas present, which I used to buy a pound of peanut M&M’s and the Be an Interplanetary Spy book featured above.
1984: My semi-hippie junior high English teacher takes pity on my sad rat-tailed, geeky self and gives me some Dungeons and Dragons Endless Quest books he’d picked up somewhere.
1985: While scoping out Stephen King novels at the local Bradlees, I stumble across the Citadel of Chaos, the second installment of the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks.
2008: My local comic book shop decides to liquidate its massive inventory of used books. I decide I can let this month’s car payment slide for another two weeks and scoop up near-complete sets of old Choose Your Own Adventure and Lone Wolf books at a buck a pop.
2012: In a moment of boredom, I decide to mine my neglected assortment of COYA-style books for easy Truncheon Thing content.
And thus You Chose Wrong was created to showcase some of the more ignominious fates which awaited those lads and lassies who failed to navigate the not-so-hidden pitfalls of these flowcharts in YA fiction trade dress.
While COYA/Interplanetary Spy/Fighting Fantasy books have occupied a permanent and cherished place in my nostalgia cortex, I didn’t realize just how influential they’d been to my younger self until I began to prepare material for this project.
Not only did I fill a series of spiral bound notebooks with (terrible) superhero sketches modeled after the various get-ups worn by Interplanetary Spy’s protagonist, but I learned the ins and outs of BASIC programming while crafting rudimentary COYA-style text adventures on my old Commodore 64.
Fighting Fantasy ended up being a direct gateway into “real” role-playing games, but not before I’d stripped out its simple system of stats and dice rolls in order to create solo adventures to try out on my little brother and a couple of friends.
In short, COYA-style books were a major catalyst in my transition from a proto-geek to the fully stocked, self-loathing model before you today. In addition, they also taught me a lesson that served me very well over the years — “Be sure to mark your place before committing to even the most remotely risky action.”