Not all those who wander are lost

Stuart Williams's Adventure Trail (Crash Annual 2018)

Stuart Williams’s Adventure Trail (Crash Annual 2018)

Some of you may recall that I started writing professionally way back in 1987, when I became a freelance computer journalist (home computer hack!), plying my trade during the early years of the home computer revolution, when, to be honest, computing was not only very DIY, it was a lot more fun than it is today.  Now, the previously exciting and often exotic diversity in the field has long been strangled by the duopoly of Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh operating systems (albeit challenged a little by Linux).

Anyway, I wrote for a number of magazines for a good few years, especially UK-based titles such as Amiga User International and Micro Computer Mart.  Then, as old-school home computing began to give way to corporate conformity, I had to concentrate on other work to earn a crust.

Wind on till about fifteen years ago, when my interest in all kinds of writing began to undergo a major revival, and I began writing on numerous topics – local history, astronomy, computers and more.  I eventually published four local history books and more than a hundred related articles in newspapers and magazines. Around that time, I also took up online journalism – both hyperlocal, with the founding of The Bloxwich Telegraph (in 2006, at first as The Bloxidge Tallygraph) and associated sites, and eventually back to home computing, only this time around it was the emerging collectors’ hobby of ‘retro computing’ and ‘retro gaming’, with my own magazine site Retro Computing News as well as writing for various other websites and even a return to the later incarnation of Micro (Computer) Mart.  I also got back into writing in various genres of speculative fiction, but that’s another story for the time being.

Off on an adventure

Anyway, in more recent years I have returned to my roots once again and taken up writing about a very retro aspect of computer gaming – ‘adventure’ games, a type of game which is often referred to as ‘interactive fiction’, so it’s perhaps no surprise that such things would be of particular interest to me as a genre fiction writer. I’d played these games avidly throughout my early years as a computer user (from 1982 onward), and still do, but I’d not done all that much writing about gaming as I was generally more of a technical writer, with Amiga User International referring to me as their ‘comms guru’ back in the day. Of course, in these days of the internet and retro computing, that kind of writing is not much in demand, so I determined to go back to writing about games, and to specialise in retro adventure gaming journalism.

Retro writings revived

So it was that I eventually began writing on the subject for a magazine website called Retro Now!, and later with a dedicated ‘Eight Bit Adventurer’ column for a print publication, Eight Bit magazine, and to set up an associated blog.  People seem to have liked what I’ve written so far, because last year I was invited to write an adventure column for a new series of annual books based on the highly popular Crash ZX Spectrum games magazines of the 1980s, and so Stuart Williams’s Adventure Trail was born, published in the Crash Annual for 2018 late last year by Fusion Retro Books working with the former editors of the original magazine.  Since then, the ball has rolled on, and I’ve also revived (as the new incarnation of the White Wizard!) a similar, now eleven page, adventure gaming column for the same publishers’ annual-based revival of the ZZap! 64 magazine for Commodore 64 fans, which is due out in September before the next Crash Annual.  And there is even a possibility of more work for another publication, details of which are yet to be announced.  Interesting times indeed!

Time and space

Of course, all this latest writing is pretty time consuming; apart from collecting old computers and software to write about, which has taken up a lot of space, it’s required a lot of research, the writing of editorial content (I’m credited as Adventure Editor in both these series of annuals), games reviews writing, news gathering and writing, the sourcing and creating of images and, last but certainly not least, communicating with and interviewing major adventure games industry figures of the past in the USA and UK, which has been particularly exciting and rewarding. After all, we don’t often get to know our heroes in life, do we?

My retro adventuring revival has also led to my making a lot of new friends around the world and to meeting many interesting people with common interests, so what more could I ask?  In fact, I’m starting to think that the old saying that when one door closes, another opens may not be too far off the mark. I have spent many years wandering, it’s true – but maybe I’m not quite as lost as I thought I was.

Stuart Williams

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