Christine Morgan

An Autobiography

 

I was born March 30, 1967, but my real life didn't begin until several years later. 

I had a fairly typical childhood for the fat kid with glasses (would have had braces too, if  we could've afforded them). School wasn't bad and my lessons came easy, but to and from was always a nightmare. I still shudder sometimes to think of how the boys would jeer at each other, "Here comes your giiiiirlfriend!" when I got on the bus.  Brrrr! 

My best memories of those years were of the times I spent alone, creating worlds and stories for my toys. My dolls and stuffed animals had complicated lives that would have made a soap opera character blink. 

This early training was to serve me well. One day in 1981, when I was fourteen, my mother came home and told me about a new game some of her friends were starting. A role-playing game, and would I like to give it a try? 

I would later learn just how rare female gamers were (a ratio of something like 40 to 1 at the first convention I attended, Orccon '83). And female gamers that had been introduced to the hobby by their mothers? At that time, I was probably the only one. 

The game was AD&D, pretty much the only gig in town back then. I still have my first character sheet, a druid named Kayla, and I take her out every now and then to marvel at my silly handwriting and the fact that I was proud to have that +2 leather bikini! 

That was the beginning of something that was to become the single most major influence on my life. Gaming saw me through some troubling family times, led me to new friends, gave me a focus for my imagination, taught me to deal with myself and with others. It helped bring me out of my shell, helped me feel good about myself because I knew that while I might not be pretty and I would probably never be thin, I was creative and I loved it. 

In the meantime, I was also writing. Until my senior year of high school, I had planned to major in English and become a teacher, possibly even a writer. I spent long hours at the yellow desk in the corner of Mom's kitchen, banging away on the Smith-Corona that had been a birthday present. My teachers grew kind of tired of my endless fantastic tales about dragons and werewolves and vampires, but they never managed to discourage me. 

That senior year, I took a psychology course, and realized that I could major in what I'd been doing all along: listening to my friends and helping them solve their problems. My career plans changed, and I envisioned myself as a child and family counselor, helping kids like me learn to cope with the problems I myself had faced. 

My first few months at college, far from home, were a lonely time. Until, that is, I found the Humboldt State University Fantasy Gamer's Guild (and even then, they looked at me funny when I dashed up to their booth at the Campus Club Fair and asked to join -- female gamers were still quite the rare breed). 

Through the Guild, I met some of the best friends I'd ever had and will ever have. I met both of the men I would eventually marry -- long story! And I took the first real steps toward what would eventually become my first book (see The Making of Curse of the Shadow Beasts). 

My last year of college was nothing if not eventful, and not entirely in a good way. My mother had recently undergone surgery for thyroid cancer, and, lucky me, I was diagnosed with the same thing! 

The operation was in March of 1990, and because the cancer had grown partly around a vocal cord, they had to stretch and scrape and do all sorts of nasty things that I'm glad I was unconscious for, with a slight but still scary chance that I would lose my voice permanently. Thankfully, that didn't happen, though I did have just a hoarse whisper for the next few months and it took most of a year for it to get back to normal. 

In the meantime, I was supposed to be getting ready for graduation -- one of the last classes I needed for my general education requirement was an acting class, and passing that with no voice was a challenge indeed! My personal life was also in complete upheaval -- I was in the middle of divorce proceedings. All in all, I'm amazed that I graduated. 

But I did, with a B.A. in psychology, in May of 1990. That July, I moved to Seattle with my future husband Tim, whose father had been one of my professors (which meant that when Tim and I married in 1992, his dad invited all his colleagues in the psych department, making me very glad I'd gotten decent grades!). 

In August of 1990, I landed a job as a counselor at Cascade Hall, a residential treatment facility for chronically mentally ill adults. That job, which I intended to keep for a year or two, stretched into (as I write this, in June of 1998) coming-up-on eight years, in various shifts and job titles. 

I had seen the face of gaming change a lot in the years since 1981. New games were on the market, including GURPS, which firmly established itself as my game of choice nearly as soon as it came out. I was seeing more women at conventions (though there was still never a line in the ladies' room; one of the few events where that'll happen!). 

In 1994, two things happened to change my life dramatically. 

The first was that Tim and I added to the new generation of gamers. Our daughter Rebecca Jaenyth was named after two characters from a previous game -- Jaenyth, though we lie and pretend it's some weirdWelsh spelling of Janet, was taken from a published GURPS adventure, Harkwood). The summer before she was born, I attended Origins with a shirt reading "-96 point disadvantage" with a down arrow, a play on all those "baby" shirts. 

I worry sometimes that Becca will be the oddest kid in school. Not many others have parents who spend several hours a week around the gaming table. She's already learned to help roll dice for the monsters -- Mommy's little orc helper. And I imagine not many other kids her age have the word dungeon in their vocabularies, have five toy castles, and know that Medusa turns people to stone. I sometimes wonder what kinds of notes her teachers are going to send home. 

The second thing that happened that fall came two days after Becca's birth, which was when the animated show Gargoyles debuted. I was instantly and powerfully pulled into that wonderful, darkly romantic world. No show had ever had such an effect on me, not even my previous favorites (Twin Peaks, Brisco County Jr., and Alien Nation, in case anybody's curious). 

I was soon to discover that I wasn't the only grown-up so strongly hooked on that show. Thanks to the Internet, I soon met hundreds of like-minded folks. And I encountered something else -- fanfiction. After a few brief forays into some fandoms (mostly erotica, I must admit; I'm gifted with a knack for naughty stories), I settled into writing Gargoyles fanfic with a vengeance. More than 40 stories later, I am still going like a certain pink drum-banging bunny! 

It is partly due -- no, let's be honest -- largely due to fanfiction that I have been able to improve my writing. Facing the challenge of writing with characters that are not my own, getting feedback from an audience of readers who know those characters as well as I do ... it has had a tremendously beneficial effect on me. And on my writing.  Curse of the Shadow Beasts is a good book, a heartfelt book, but it is only the beginning. The second and third in the trilogy are better, and the books yet to come will hopefully be better still. 

My dream is to see this land of my imaginings become a series dozens of books long. I want to write the sort of fantasy novels that I would like to read, in which old characters are not forgotten ... or, just when they're about to be, they turn up anew. I would dearly love to see a gamer's worldbook (preferably GURPS, naturally) based on my novels. And, well, of course as long as we're dreaming here, I'd really love to have it made into a movie! 

If you're still with me, Reader, thank you! A lot of people have helped Curse of the Shadow Beasts become a reality, but it's all for nothing unless the book is read and enjoyed. I've found that I write to please myself, I write because I have to ... but having someone read what I've written, read it and have it touch their heart ... that's what it's all about.

-- Christine Morgan
Seattle, WA, 1998