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So now it's official and you all know. If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about go and read, handkerchief at the ready, for One last thing by Steve Darlington.
In honour of our departing editor and instead of the highlights I'd like to present a piece that goes some way to explaining our, or at least my, feelings at such a time. A time where Steve moves off to pastures new and we have to some how manage without his tireless badgering of lazy staff members, his championing of the Basic Roleplaying System and his dogged hunting down and slaying of those who misuse an apostrophe.
So here is, Steve Darlington: the man, the myth, the monotreme.
You are all familiar with the jovial editor of the fanzine from his world famous History of Roleplaying in 9 parts that was the mainstay of the early issues of this zine. It has now been translated into at least 5 languages and is a point of reference for all those who would explore the early days of roleplaying, in a time before 3e.
But what of the man himself? What makes him stay up all hours of the night wrestling with a piece on "Why Synnibar Kicks Ass" written in the finest gibberish or review yet another long since forgotten roleplaying system, such as Ghostbusters, for the good folks at RPGnet?
If you poke around the Internet armed only with a trusty search engine, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.
Although he may deny it, his dream of being and editor started in about 1989. For this was when, after such disasters as Platypus Cove (more of which later) and Secret Valley that Australian television first showed that forgotten masterpiece of teenage programming, Press Gang.
Press Gang, from England, is the everyday story of the teenagers who run a school newspaper. In it, Spike, played by a young Dexter Fletcher, whom you may recall from Mutiny on the Bounty or Bugsy Malone, was the smooth sophisticated American assistant to the glamorous Editor Lynda Day, brought to life on the small screen by that boys' pin-up Julia Sawalha. Now whilst many young lads would have identified with the easy charm and devil-may-care-attitude of Spike (perhaps a future inspiration for the leather jacket and implausible accent for the character in Buffy), Steve was more drawn to the no-nonsense, story-at-any-cost bravado shown by Lynda.
In order to feel closer to his heroine he did two things.
Firstly, he started to write fan fiction, including some of the raciest Press Gang/Star Wars crossovers ever produced, perhaps even the only. He also grew his hair. And whilst the mullet was starting to prove unfashionable in most of the western world, he preserved with those mousy ringlets until he too could strike fear into a sub-editor with a swish of his locks in the same way that Lynda did.
Secondly, a more tellingly for you, Dear Reader, he started to forment the germ of an idea that would lead him to becoming an Editor like his darling Lynda. The editor, in fact, of the best roleplaying fanzine in the known world, Places To Go People To Be!
At this stage Steve needed some direction for his plans and this came in the shape of Arcane. For all you who don't remember when White Dwarf was more than a mere product catalogue for grey plastic soldiers, Arcane was a full colour English roleplaying magazine that ran for 20 issues between December 1995 and June 1997 (for more reminiscing see last month's highlights). Its untimely demise was as ever in this business due to unprofitability but this unfortunate incident was all that Steve needed. Girding his loins, he closeted himself into his room until February 1988 when he emerged shouting "Phoebe Cates" and brandishing the blueprint for the first issue of this zine.
Gathering around him a team of social outcasts, misfits and drunks off the streets of Brisbane, he soon had them marching to a different beat. With a swish of his curly locks, Ray "Tequila" Smith became Serverman, capable of creating at a glance validated HTML from badly laid out Word documents, and Brett "Panhandle" Matthews was transformed into SubEditor, a scorching writer and political wheeler-dealer.
Under his direction not only has Places To Go People To Be gone from strength to strength as a centre of excellence for roleplaying writing but it is also translated into French and soon Dutch. Steve has used it as a springboard to make his name known to a sizeable proportion of the roleplaying community, and mostly for the better, as a straight talking guy with an honest pen and an eye for a decent turn of phrase.
I joined the staff in February 1999, year two of the zine. Steve knocked my first piece into shape and has always been willing to help me improve my copy. Sometimes against my better judgement but he usually has the last word. I have certainly enjoyed my time here and I'll try to make sure that the zine carries on in the same tradition as Steve for many years to come.
But what of the monotreme I hear you ask? As a youngster, Steve was left with a poor impression of this wonderful creature by the appalling Platypus Cove mentioned earlier. In order to rehabilitate and promote the image of this other antipodean native, he has taken to using the sobriquet "The Platypus of Death", referring of course to its poisonous spurs. Whether he has also taken to wearing flippers and a bill and fighting crime in Queensland's capital city has yet to be settled.
So there you have it Steve Darlington, the man who gave me my break, taught me most of what he knows and now trusts me to run his fanzine for him.
God help us all.
Steve Dempsey is Editor-in-Chief of PTGPTB.
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