The Escapist turns three years old this summer, and during those three years we've profiled game industry giants, interviewed superstars, chronicled the rise and fall of countless studios, lauded our favorite games, examined cultural trends in exhaustive detail, reviewed innumerable titles and introduced the world to a fast-talking Brit with a chip on his shoulder. But the one thing we've never done is fiction - until now.
It may be tempting to wonder why The Escapist, the bastion of high-brow cultural commentary on games and media culture, would bother with fiction. After all, until this very day, our bailiwick has been very much the non-fiction genre. Why waste our (and your) time with pulp and fantasy stories? Why indeed?
As seriously as we take our videogames (And we take them pretty damn seriously. To wit: we're currently running the equivalent of a betting pool pitting developer against developer in the industry's first ever such tournament.), we're still well aware they're an occupation of the mind. Great games transport us to other worlds, allow our minds to momentarily roam free of the constraints of the real and give us an escape from the mundane trivialities of our every day existence. It's a good feeling, and the rush of exploration and relaxation that comes from losing ourselves in a deep, engrossing game is transcendent. But games didn't invent these feelings. They just borrowed them from fiction.
Games have existed since near the dawn of time, but before people played games, they told each other stories, and both games and stories have often served the same purpose: not only to entertain, but to inform. The best stories show us mirrors of ourselves, bringing our fears and desires into stark relief and shining a light on what it means to be human. Through exploring the worlds and minds of fictional characters, we often learn more about our own.
As the "are games art" debate rages on, and the forces of obfuscation trundle slowly toward the realization games have more to say that "A, B, B, A," we could do worse than draw inspiration from fiction. Moby Dick, Peter Pan, A Tale of Two Cities, Ulysses, A Farewell to Arms, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Lord of the Rings. These are stories so iconic, their echoes have reached well beyond the life spans of their creators, touching us in innumerable ways, not only through the modern retellings of these stories, but through the works they have inspired.
Good fiction asks more questions than it answers and leaves the reader wondering if what they read was really fiction, or some fictionalized version of the truth. And the best fiction inspires future leaders, informs science, breaks cultural barriers and changes our world in ways we may not even realize. We can't think of writing we'd rather include in The Escapist.
Earlier in the year, we asked our best and brightest to send in their huddled masses of words, unsure of what to expect and not entirely certain we'd get anything at all. We needn't have worried. The response was overwhelming - enough to populate multiple issues - and choosing only the best five among them was an arduous task. The five we selected range from serious to silly, gritty to grotesque and science fiction to fan fiction, but all share one common trait: We think they're brilliant examples of stunning short fiction. We hope you'll agree.
Tom Rhodes' "The Curl" is a brisk science fiction tale in the tradition of the hard Sci-Fi epics of the mid 20th Century; Stephen Failey's "The Saboteur's Approach" is a taut, psychological duel of wits set in deep space; Will Hindmarch's "Griefer" brings us a shocking look at the place of gaming in the near future; Spanner's "The Fifteenth Shot" spins a tale of an alien invasion of Tokyo; and Wendy Despain's "Crunch Time" is a modern day horror tale reminiscent of early Stephen King.
As a combined whole, we believe these five stories represent the best previously unpublished fiction available and we're proud to have the opportunity to present them to you as part of our first-ever Fiction Issue. Enjoy!