This time next week, PortCon 2018 will be only a few hours away from starting… and I’ll be there in attendance! As has been the case for the last couple of years, I’ll be a member of the staff and game-mastering four roleplaying games I’ve designed and written specifically for this year’s convention.
I really love doing this and participating in the many aspects of the con as a participant and as a staff member. It’s great fun. However, I need to change the way I approach crafting the games. Each year I’ve done this so far, they’ve become a HUGE disruption to my writing. I have some ideas that might remedy that for next year, and I’ll start exploring them once the dust settles after this PortCon.
I was fully aware of the tendency for RPG crafting to eclipse my fiction writing — and tried taking steps to avoid it — but I can forgive myself for failing at that task and for things getting out of hand again this year. This is because several of the roleplaying scenarios I’ve cooked-up have inspired me to outline material that I’ll be reusing in future fiction projects. One has even inspired a novel outline.
PortCon’s theme this year is “Spooky”, so I decided to create a couple games based on the works of HP Lovecraft. Now, my regular readers know that I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s work and that I’m even currently working on a story utilizing his Cthulhu Mythos mixed with the themes favored by his friend and fellow author Robert E. Howard that I’m calling Shadow of the Black Tower.
The two games I ended up creating this year were Whispers on Weldon Island — a Lovecraftian horror-mystery — and Hattie Hooch, a scenario that mixes Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror with prohibition era gangbusters investigation and action. Both of these scenarios are set in 1929, and take place in my home state of Maine in the United States. And I’ll admit that it’s cool to be writing Lovecraft Mythos stories in the same decade when many of old HP’s best tales take place.
I began to love where these stories were headed. I crafted the fictional locales and histories that the events occur in… places like Hattie Cove, Barsby (based off my hometown of Boothbay Harbor) and Monqueg Island… and after a while I realized that I was creating settings and characters that I would definitely want to use in some formal short stories or novels somewhere down the line.
Moreover, Lovecraft wrote many stories set in New England, but very little of what he wrote took place in my home-state of Maine in the northernmost part of it. But like Lovecraft, I love my little corner of New England and know its history well. That’s made the process of working in these fictional locations amidst the real ones both a lot of fun and has allowed me to give them believability and local character. By creating my own locales and placing them in in Maine, it’s also like I’m filling out the unexplored north of New England not often detailed in HP’s stories of Lovecraft Country.
In particular, one of the character ideas I had for Whispers on Weldon Island really caught ahold of my imagination and joined forces with the plot of the game to create a larger story. I’ve been immersed in Lovecraft lore for months and months between this project and Shadow of the Black Tower, and things all sort of combined to inspire me to write a novel outline of the idea.
The overall premise of the RPG adventure version of Whispers on Weldon Island and the novel idea I have outlined are largely similar, but the main character of the novel doesn’t appear in the roleplaying session. Many of the supporting characters will be present in both versions, but my protagonist — and her unfolding story that is the heart of what I want to say with the book — is not.
It’s a mystery and cosmic-horror tale with a subdermal touch of existential dread, and thus, it has many of Lovecraft’s classic themes. However, the novel also has a twist building throughout that I think will climax in a way that will surprise the reader and make the story’s themes my own, rather than simply being a rehash of Lovecraft’s.
I will also be respectfully challenging and refuting some of HP’s themes that I disagree with in it — something not dissimilar at all to what I’m doing with Shadow of the Black Tower, which I am writing currently.
The main protagonist being a woman is one such challenge, although elements of her background resonate strongly and intentionally with concepts found in some of Lovecraft’s most memorable characters and stories. Meredith is a character that came into my mind very strongly and with a clear voice right away… and I want to write this book because of the strength of the story she told to me.
So there is ONE thing that I’ve been working on over the past few months. ;-)
I definitely won’t be starting on the novel version of Weldon Island anytime soon: My plan post-PortCon and the 4th of July holiday is to finish my draft of Shadow of the Black Tower — now a novella of 17,000 words and counting with a number of chapters left to go before it’s finished. After that is in edits, I’m returning to my novel, Vivian’s Last Cigarette, to finish the third and then fourth drafts of it and restart the beta reading process.
It’s been too long. Come July, it’s time to get things FINISHED!
Have a great week everyone, and keep writing!
~Jason H. Abbott
I miss these kinds of updates. It’s nice to compare notes with other writers from time to time. Looks like you have a full plate. Good luck!
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Thank you, Ben. Like I said last week, I think the blog has been missing something since I stopped doing regular updates and it feels good to be doing them again. :-)
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I love my local SF convention, and work on programming every year. It’s a supportive community who knows about my writing and encourages me. It also helps me keep connections with other SF writers in my area.
Role-playing actually taught me a lot about character creation, too. How powers have to be balanced by disadvantages, and how you can use things the character care about to draw them into scenarios.
Plus, who doesn’t have time for having fun?
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