Interview – Myke Cole
Sometime guest reviewer, Sam Strong (@MrSamStrong) recently interviewed author Myke Cole (@MykeCole) on behalf of The Eloquent Page. Before I hand you over, I’d just like to thank to Myke and Sam for the great interview. Thanks guys.
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Arguably the best known of all role playing game (RPG) systems, Dungeons & Dragons has spawned many clones, transferred itself into every kind of media imaginable and has become nothing short of legendary. The other week, Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, claimed that D&D has literally destroyed lives. In response to this, Myke Cole, author of Control Point and Fortress Frontier (and hopefully the next one in the series real soon), tweeted and people responded:
This struck a chord with me. The idea of imagination, focused through an RPG, as a transforming force is very powerful. I dropped Myke an email and asked if he’d mind answering a few follow up questions. Here are his responses:
SS: What was your first RPG experience?
MC: Playing the old basic D&D boxed set with my brother in my mom’s basement. Yes, it’s true, I actually played D&D in my mom’s basement. My brother didn’t have anyone to play with, so I was the guinea pig, and he quickly graduated to playing with his older friends, leaving me scrambling to find fellow players. That quest led me to fandom, and a sense of tribal identity that has defined me ever since.
The irony? My brother stopped playing shortly afterward. For me, it became a calling.
SS: Who was your favourite character to play and why?
MC: I always played (and play) Fighters and Paladins. In March of 2011, Ethan Gilsdorf interviewed me for a piece on salon.com (you can read it here – http://www.salon.com/2011/03/09/dungeons_and_dragons_comes_back/). The point I made there was that the first step to reinventing yourself is imagining who you want to be.
I was, like most nerds, a scrawny weakling who got the crap kicked out of him. I wanted to change that. Imagining myself as a warrior lit the path to becomeing one in real life.
SS: What was the moment you realised the transformative power of imagination?
MC: My mother (a professional in the museum field) had a curator colleague of hers submit an exhibit treatment on knights to me for comment (it was for a Children’s Museum). I was terrified, but I pretended to be a scholar, like my mom was, and wrote a detailed essay on where I thought the problems were. He enthusiastically told my mother that I’d provided more cogent feedback than several scholars in the field. It was then that I realized that if you pretended to be something hard enough, you could actually be it. It made me see that the impossible was possible. Everything that came after was a product of that revelation.
SS: Has your career involved role-play as a learning tool? If so, how?
MC: ALL careers involve role-play. Here’s an example: When I was first deployed to Deepwater Horizon, I was put in charge of a communications center on the Gulf Coast in Alabama. I had no clue how to run a comms center. But I was an officer, I couldn’t show that to the men and women who were looking to me for leadership. So, I faked it. I pretended a confidence and expertise I didn’t have, and worked my ass off to learn my new job. After a few weeks, the confidence and expertise was real. But I had to run on faith and role-play until then. That’s true of any job.
SS: How has your experience with RPGs enabled your writing?
MC: It is the foundation of it. RPGs taught me to imagine, kindled my love of fantasy, gave me a place in it. RPGs were my first connection to the fan community that became my social circle for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be a writer without RPGs. I wouldn’t be anything I am without them.
SS: Do you treat your characters as players with you as the GM?
MC: No. One of the challenges of GMing RPGs is that people are agents of chaos. They don’t follow your plotlines. They look for ways to break the rules. That can be a lot of fun in a gaming environment, but a novel has to stick to its general outline, or else you get a mess that won’t pass muster with your editor. I’ve had my characters run slightly riot and take my books in a different direction, but not in the madcap way that sort of thing happens in an RPG.
SS: And because I have to ask, what’s your preferred alignment?
MC: My entire professional life has been in service to this country: in the military, in intelligence, in law enforcement. I plug into institutions and work to uphold them, even as I push for reform. I made a vow when 9/11 changed the world: that I would put myself in whatever crucibles the nation required, so others might live. It’s been rocky at times, but I’ve kept that oath, and intend to keep it until my body is too weak or frail to keep going. There’s no drama or hyperbole when I tell you that I am ready and willing to lay down my life in the service of this nation.
Lawful Good, brother. Lawful Good.
SS: Thanks for your time,
MC: My pleasure. Thanks for thinking of me.