Since finishing Sam J. Miller’s incredible debut novel, The Art of Starving, a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve often found that the best way to let go of things, or, rather, to move on, is to talk about them out loud.
The Art of Starving is the story of Matt, a gay teenager who mistakes his anorexia for super powers. As we follow Matt along a path that threatens to tear him apart, the relationships between him, his family, and fellow students become ever more complex, layered, and interesting.
I’ve long been a fan of Sam J. Miller’s short fiction. All authors write about other people, but Miller is one of the rare breeds of writer, the best of the best, who pours himself into every word he writes. Not just because some of the elements and story beats from The Art of Starving match experiences from his own adolescence, but because each word, each phrase, every theme seems to reveal a piece him. There’s so much passion, energy, and emotion packed into his stories. The Art of Starving is no different. It’s not always an easy book to read—in fact, most of it is heartbreaking, gut-punching—but you feel so keenly attached to Matt that it’s impossible to put down.
Listen, I don’t play Pathfinder. Haven’t played a game. Sure, I’ve read the manuals, but I don’t have a playgroup with the consistency necessary to get a game up-and-running, let alone a campaign that would allow us to really get into what makes tabletop gaming great.
Yet, I’ve scoured the Inner Sea World Guide from cover-to-cover, and I’ve read a huge stack of the tie-in fiction line, Pathfinder Tales. These days, I feel as comfortable in its world, Golarion, as I do in the Four Lands from Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, or Middle-earth.
Why do I love it so much?
So. Much. Variety—From the dozens of cultures, countries, social groups, religions, races, ethnicities, etc. to the *humongous* world that would swallow most other secondary worlds without even noticing, to the emphasis on diversity and endless possibility, Pathfinder’s world of Golarion excites my imagination so much that it’s directly informed my own worldbuilding for the Patchwork Priest series.
Adventure around every corner—Golarion is wide as an ocean, and deep as the Marianas Trench. It’s created in a way that its every corner invites creativity and adventure. Court intrigue, temple pillaging, barbarian raids, fallen spacecraft (yep, you read that right), and murderous death cults. Sure it’s tropey, but that’s never bothered me before, and there’s just so much of it. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Golarion’s got you covered.
Inclusivity—Paizo, the creator of Pathfinder, is at the forefront of creators developing inclusive gaming spaces and worlds. Pathfinder goes out of its way to allow players to be whoever the want or need to be to get the best experience possible. A good example of this is the change in Pathfinder 2.0 that’s removing “race” and replacing it with “ancestry.” Small changes can have huge impacts.
So, am I excited for Pathfinder 2.0 despite never having played a game? Damned straight. The greatest roleplaying universe is about to get so much better.
Now, I can go back to praying that Paizo will revitalize the Pathfinder Tales line to coincide with the launch of Pathfinder 2.0 (and let me write one of the dozen stories I’ve outlined starring Toma and Illindrial.)