Yesterday on on Tor.com, I published a long-in-the-making article that has me internally (and externally) screaming with delight. It’s the story of my introduction to fantasy through Magic: The Gathering, an immensely popular trading card game that has endured for 25 years. Recently, the game’s creator, Wizards of the Coast, has made an effort to revamp the game’s fiction (delivered via online short stories and, soon, novels) by hiring some legitimately great SFF authors. I mean, look at this list: Cassandra Khaw, Martha Wells, Kate Elliott. That’s some serious clout.
So, I caught up with the authors, and creative director Nic Kelman, to discuss the past, present, and future of Magic’s storytelling, which encompasses one of the largest and most intricate fantasy worlds ever created.
Here’s an excerpt:
If someone asked me how I got into fantasy, I’d bring up the summer of ’96. I was 12 years old and had just graduated elementary school. Enjoying one of the longest summers of my life. One day stands out vividly above the rest. It was hot, sunny—brilliant and full of possibility, in the way that only summer vacation can be. I was with my dad, driving to southern Vancouver Island so that he could meet with someone who worked for his online scriptwriting workshop. The drive was about an hour, but it felt shorter. I wasn’t looking out the window, or chatting with my dad; instead, my nose was buried in my mom’s battered copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
I was in the car with my dad, but I was also in Middle-earth alongside Bilbo, Gandalf, and the dwarfs. This might not seem like a remarkable introduction to fantasy, but it was for me. I grew up treating fantasy with disdain—dismissing it for being full of unicorns, princesses, rainbows, and the sort. (Who’d’ve thought that 20 years later I’d be looking for exactly those things in the books I read?) Instead, I was a remarkably loyal science fiction fan. However, Tolkien’s novel of loyalty and adventure, danger, magic, and friendship showed me the error of my thinking, and convinced me that, hey, fantasy is cool. I became a voracious fantasy reader after that—an obsession I still live with today.
However, my roots as a fantasy fan go back farther than that—which I’m only realizing as I write this article.
Rewind a couple of years to 1994. Spearheaded by Ms. Lukyn, the fourth grade teacher, a new game was spreading like wildfire in my elementary school. Magic: The Gathering was a Trading Card Game (TCG) that pitted two Planeswalkers against each other. The players took on the role of these wizards and faced off in combat by casting fireballs, drinking healing salves, and summing great beasts like Shivan Dragons or Sengir Vampires. It was easy to learn, cheap to start playing (or, the teacher had spare decks), and it ignited youthful imaginations. How else on the school grounds could you step into the robes of a wizard?
You can read the whole thing—all 4,000 words of it—on Tor.com. Whether you’re a existing fan of Magic: The Gathering, a lapsed fan, or just love fantasy fiction, I think you’ll enjoy it.