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You Are The Hero
A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
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You Are The Hero by Jonathan Green - First Edition 2014"I don't like the way that all the sentences start 'You.....' "

Those aren't my words! They were written by Mrs. Simms–my English teacher back in 1984. She was passing judgement on my second year story-project - a 22-page epic including four appendices and a drawing of a sword with runic inscription!

"A very imaginative piece of work.  Are all the ideas your own?    B+/A-"

Hmmm.... very perceptive Mrs. Simms. I must confess now, thirty years later, it was a hodge-podge of names and ideas I had liberally stolen borrowed from Fighting Fantasy, Tolkien's Middle-earth and J.H. Brennan's Demonspawn series before adding a few nuggets of my own and thoroughly mashing them together for a romp through The Dungeon of Death.

I dug it out of a box today, along with a several exercise books full of notes and story-outlines detailing a plan to draw together threads from all my favourite fantasy worlds into one great epic set in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth. I am sure that there was once a huge hand-drawn map too, but sadly it is long gone.

Tolkien and Middle-earth have stayed an almost constant obsession ever since, but reading my old stories again brings back that tingle of excitement and reminds me just how inspirational Fighting Fantasy was to that 13-year old boy. YOU are the hero and YOU can decide how the story develops. The natural next step for me was - YOU can write your own tales. I did try my own gamebook too, but it was beyond my meagre talents.

It is now three years since I found my way back to Firetop Mountain and rediscovered the gamebook bug. Building a collection of old favourites and new delights has been a double pleasure: bibliographic list making and of course rolling those dice again, pencil at the ready. Along the way I have visited many websites and found a few copies of old gaming magazines to find anecdotes and snippets of Fighting Fantasy lore, but have always thought that a full and detailed account of the series' history was needed.

Enter Jonathan Green and YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks.

"An Adventure 30 Years in the Making
Fighting Fantasy gamebooks have sold over 17 million books worldwide, in over 30 languages. But when Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone sat down to write The Warlock of Firetop Mountain they had no idea this one book would go on to spawn another eighty or more titles, and have an immeasurable impact on a generation of children growing up in the 1980s.
Part history, part celebration, YOU ARE THE HERO chronicles more than three decades of Fighting Fantasy. Written by Jonathan Green (author of seven Fighting Fantasy titles), this mighty tome will appeal to anyone who ever wiled away a washed-out summer holiday with only two dice, a pencil, and an eraser for company."

Detail from a cover illustration by Chris Achilleos for 'The Trolltooth Wars'
Detail from a cover illustration by
Chris Achilleos for The Trolltooth Wars
The book is a hefty volume of 272 pages and the wraparound cover illustration by Martin McKenna brings together Fighting Fantasy cover stars such as Zagor the Warlock, the Lizard King, Razaak the Sorcerer, Shareella the Snow Witch and the Night Prince, Zanbar Bone. Inside, the book can only be described as sumptuous. Green's text is accompanied by page after page of colour illustrations and pen-and-ink drawings that bring back memories of evenings battling dragons, orcs and other denizens of Fighting Fantasy.

You Are The Hero traces Fighting Fantasy, from the early days of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, through the birth of Games Workshop and their meeting Geraldine Cooke of Penguin Books, to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain being accepted for publication by Puffin Books. All of the original series gamebooks are covered, as are all of the spin-off series, such as Sorcery, Advanced Fighting Fantasy and First Fighting Fantasy, and Warlock, the Fighting Fantasy magazine. The decline of Fighting Fantasy in the 90s and its rebirth with Wizard Books in 2002 are also covered, as are the many non-gamebook spin-offs such as board games and video games. The book closes with an examination of the legacy and future of Fighting Fantasy.

I was introduced to Fighting Fantasy way back in 1983 and was questing across the lands of Titan until about 1986 when fantasy and science fiction novels drew me away. Coming back to FF thirty years later, You Are The Hero is the perfect guide to what I missed. Whether you have the time to read it cover to cover, or just want to dip in to find out more about your favourite gamebooks, You Are The Hero is an indispensable read.

A supplementary volume, You Are The Hero: Part 2, was published in September 2017 containing material unavailable when the original book was published along with details of developments in the Fighting Fantasy field in the intervening years.

You Are The Hero
A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
by Jonathan Green
Published by Snowbooks, Haddenham, 7 September 2014
Hardback - £40.00 - ISBN 978-1-909679-38-2
Paperback - £25.00 - ISBN 978-1-909679-36-8

Tales from the Black Lobster Tavern - a foreword by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone
How to Negotiate this History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

Chapter 1 - The Origins of Firetop Mountain - A Fateful Meeting
Chapter 2 - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - The Magic Quest Begins
Chapter 3 - The Phenomenon of Firetop Mountain - Fighting Fantasy Outsells Roald Dahl
Chapter 4 - The Art of Firetop Mountain - The Monster Makers
Chapter 5 - The Archmage of Firetop Mountain - Steve Jackson's Sorcery!
Chapter 6 - The Expansion of Firetop Mountain - From Scorpion Swamp to The Riddling Reaver
Chapter 7 - The Cartographers of Firetop Mountain - Mapping the Fighting Fantasy World
Chapter 8 - Firetop Mountain in Space! - Fighting Fantasy Boldly Goes from Starship Traveller to Sky Lord
Chapter 9 - The Magazine of Firetop Mountain - Warlock Magazine
Chapter 10 - Beyond Firetop Mountain - Branching Out
Chapter 11 - Tales of Firetop Mountain (Part 1) - From Sword of the Samurai to Vault of the Vampire
Chapter 12 - The Chronicles of Firetop Mountain - From The Trolltooth War to The Zagor Chronicles
Chapter 13 - Leaving Firetop Mountain - What Steve and Ian Did Next
Chapter 14 - Tales of Firetop Mountain (Part 2) - From Dead of Night to Siege of Sardath
Chapter 15 - The Dungeoneers of Firetop Mountain - Advanced Fighting Fantasy
Chapter 16 - A Decade of Firetop Mountain - Ten Years and Coming
Chapter 17 - Tales of Firetop Mountain (Part 3) - From Island of the Undead to Revenge of the Vampire
Chapter 18 - The Young Pretender of Firetop Mountain - The Adventures of Goldhawk
Chapter 19 - The Fall of Firetop Mountain - Puffin Pulls the Plug
Chapter 20 - Lost Tales of Firetop Mountain - The Gamebooks That Never Were
Chapter 21 - The Gamesmasters of Firetop Mountain - Fighting Fantasy Board Games
Chapter 22 - Return to Firetop Mountain - Rise of the Wizards
Chapter 23 - Tales of Firetop Mountain (Part 4) - From Eye of the Dragon to Night of the Necromancer
Chapter 24 - The Silver Peak of Firetop Mountain - Fighting Fantasy's Twenty-Fifth Anniversary
Chapter 25 - The Fandom of Firetop Mountain - Fan-sites, Fanzines and Fanatics
Chapter 26 - Le Sorcier de la Montagne de Feu - Foreign Editions
Chapter 27 - The Technomancers of Firetop Mountain - The Rise of the (Fighting Fantasy) Video Game
Chapter 28 - The Phantasmagoria of Firetop Mountain - Fighting Fantasy Goes to the Movies
Chapter 29 - Thirty Years of Firetop Mountain - From Blood of the Zombies to You Are The Hero
Chapter 30 - The Legacy of Firetop Mountain - And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth
Acknowledgements - You Are The Heroes

You Are The Hero: Part 2
A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
by Jonathan Green
Published by Snowbooks, Thame, 1 September 2017
Hardback - £40.00 - ISBN 978-1-911390-44-2
Paperback - £25.00 - ISBN 978-1-911390-45-9

Forward, Adventurer - a foreword by Mike Reddy, Senior Lecturer on Games Development, UoSW
The Adventure Continues
How to Negotiate this History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

Chapter 1 - The Convention of Firetop Mountain - Celebrating a Cultural Phenomenon
Chapter 2 - The Scribes of Firetop Mountain - Writers of Wrongs
Chapter 3 - The Illuminators of Firetop Mountain - Art For Art's Sake
Chapter 4 - The Sculptors of Firetop Mountain - Miniature Marvels
Chapter 5 - The Troubadours of Firetop Mountain - The Way of the Minstrel
Chapter 6 - The Fanzine of Firetop Mountain - The Keepers of the Flame
Chapter 7 - The Curators of Firetop Mountain - Fighting Fantasy Collectors
Chapter 8 - The Upgrade of Firetop Mountain- Demons of the Deep Datasphere
Chapter 9 - The Sequential Art of Firetop Mountain - From Derek the Troll to The Trolltooth Wars
Chapter 10 - The Broadcasts of Firetop Mountain - Channel Warlock
Chapter 11 - The Masters of Firetop Mountain - Legends in Their Own Lifetime
Chapter 12 - The Rebirth of Firetop Mountain - Rise of the Scholars
Acknowledgements - You Are The Heroes


You Are The Hero Part 2 cover art by Chris Achilleos
You Are The Hero: Part 2 cover art by Chris Achilleos

Text © Neil Holford and SFandFantasy.co.uk 2011-2022 --- Images and quoted text remain copyright of the publishers, artists and authors