LINKTales Volume One: Unfinished Novels and Unplayable Games


Hello, my name is Lee. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of me before. I’ve been an unpublished author for an embarrassingly long time. I won’t bore you with details or excuses. However, the series of stories you’re about to read have been germinating and festering in one form or another since my high school days. I’m forty this year. That should give you a notion of the time frame involved.

The story behind the Link Continuum goes back to high school, but it’s long and boring and I’m tired, so you get the Coles Notes version instead.

After the band folded in 1998, I took stock once again and figured I’d go back to fiction writing. It wasn’t as sexy, but at least I could play all the parts myself without putting anyone’s nose out of joint. So I dug out my old notes from before the band started in ‘93, and sorted through them to see what still read like a story folks wouldn’t piss themselves reading. Most of it seemed a bit dodgy, but I quite liked the LINK stuff. I started brushing up my notes for The Sunday Afternoon Matinee, and found myself also liking the off-brand LINK stuff featuring the stories Hero, Full Moon Memoires and The Gas Mask Chronicles  graphic novels. But I also spent some time on the LINBeing Trilogy, and before I knew it, I was a writer again.

Or so I thought. I missed the bit in the script where I was going to take a detour into professional graphic design, which kept me largely diverted from the main plan for the better part of the last decade. I did put in some work on the Sunday Afternoon Matinee scripts, but very little art and absolutely no prose writing got done except what I wrote for LINKWorlds.

Rod Brazeau approached me with his plan to start making a Roleplaying Game (RPG) series from some of the old ideas we’d been discussing when we were back in school together, and wondered if I had any ideas to contribute. He had a few ideas of his own, and wanted me to help him flesh them out, and maybe work them into the old LINK canon, which he kind of saw as being ours, and in a real way, he’s right. I dreamed up LINK and most of what’s been called LINK over the years, but it was with him that I worked out a lot of my early ideas of roleplaying games and of comics and graphic novels as well. He was my writing partner in high school, and though we’d been separated for over a decade, it seemed a good time to get reacquainted.

We started with a pet project of his, as he had his heart set on doing a western adventure RPG, only in the LINK vein. Not sure how I got him to agree with that notion, because it lead to more headaches along the way than anything else, really. Not that LINK: West was a bad idea; just that it needed a lot more time to sort out and perfect than we had, given that Rod had already gotten us a printing deal. We had three or four months of mostly uninterrupted (but unpaid) time to crank out half a gaming manual, the other half of which would consist of a slightly altered pre-written, licensed gaming mechanic (for which Rod paid a Princely sum for the right to use) based on what our printers, Guardians of Order (GoO), had decided to market as their licensed indie gaming line. We went through three mechanics changes during production, and managed to get the deadline pushed back a couple of times, but in the end, we made it. Sort of.

It was a pretty exciting time, but in so many ways, it was a doomed venture from the start. We tried to do everything ourselves in the space of a few short months, and in the end, we both sort of burned out and handed in a far inferior product than the one we’d set out to create. Rod had been a pretty capable project manager, but as an art director, he left a lot to be desired, and the reviews confirmed it. Far too many of both of our pieces were cobbled together from heavily processed photographic sources to give them a sort of authentic 1800s photographic feel, but really, they just looked like hell.

To top it off, the rules system we were lumbered with was an extremely poor fit for what we were doing. Rod tried his best to make it work, but we had almost cartoonish superhero power sets listed to explain some of the supernatural effects that certain classes of players would develop during the course of their adventures, if they should accidentally become tainted by Darkness. When well-intentioned players actually figured this out, they all ran off willy-nilly into the desert to get infected and come back super-powered cowboys. It was a disaster.

The book sold out in pre-order and had to go back for a second run to meet the demand, but when it finally hit the shelves, the other shoe dropped: inferior, highly compromised product + lackluster, non-commital promotion = critical flop.

After another year or two, GoO was out of business (not our fault), and our book disappeared into the abyss of Amazon’s back catalogue system.

And that was pretty much the last anybody heard of LINK, save for Rod and I, who every few years would get together with a six pack and some tacos and hash out whatever plans we may have for a glorious rebirth of the LINKWorlds line. Actually, I believe Rod is overdue. See, he’s got other projects keeping him busy, including a movie blog website to manage and his own attempt at a gaming universe minus my influence. *shrug*

But in the meantime, I’ve got stories to tell. A lot of them. And really, I’m not as interested in RPGs as I used to be. Most folks are more interested in interactive digital media these days, and the old schoolers prefer playing board games or classic RPGs like D&D, or Big Name IPs like Star Wars or The Dresden Files.

I HAVE been giving a great deal of consideration to interactive digital media, such as laptops, tablets and eReaders, in the past year or so, and have coem to think that I’d like to adapt some of these ideas to them. There’s a fair bit of technical difficulty involved there, but I suspect it’s the only way forward for LINKWorlds. Food for thought, anyway.
Meanwhile, here are several bits of prose fiction, some previously printed, most not, as well as copious notes that I have taken down over the last two decades whilst trying to piece this veritable saga together. Conventional wisdom states you should never give away the secrets behind your repertoire of tricks, but some of these ideas are long past due for a refresher, so they’ll most likely be in a completely different form if and when they finally see proper publication.

There is so much left to do, and so much more to come. I barely scratched the surface of my rough plans with these projects. I just hope I get it all sorted out and written before the Darkness takes me too.

Lee Edward McIlmoyle,
Somewhere in Limbo (a quiet suburb on the outskirts of the Centrifuge),
Sipping cold tea, IMing sporadically, and checking my Twitterfeed,
Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

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