This piece was originally published on my blog in December, 2020. I’ve made some slight adjustments to make it suitable for the Newsletter format.
This was a very difficult year for all of us, and nothing will ever change that. While navigating all the challenges 2020 presented, however, it has also been one of the most successful years for me from a creative, professional, and fan writer stand point. I picked up an agent, continued pouring words into two books I’m super excited about, started TWO fanzines, and wrote some of my best-ever articles and essays.
This is also the first year in a long time that I have no eligible fiction. Which is weird. However, I’m eligible for some awards, and so is most of my work individually and collectively. I’m very proud of my work in 2020, and I hope you’ll find some value in it, and also hope you keep me in mind when filling out nomination ballots.
I am personally eligible for Best Fan Writer awards. This is the category I think best represents my body of work in 2020 across all the various different platforms, magazines, and publications.
I started two fanzines this year, both of which are eligible for Best Fanzine: Insert Cartridge, which is about retro games, Japanese RPGs, and gaming as an adult, and Astrolabe, my newsletter about SFF, fandom, books, gaming, and general geek culture. (I’m guessing y’all already know about Astrolabe -Ed.)
Let’s get to some of the highlights, shall we?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve picked up writing about gaming, and I created Insert Cartridge to compliment the pieces I’ve published for sites like Input, Kotaku, and EGM. Since launching this blog, I’ve invited several other writers on board, making me not just a writer, but an editor once more, and I’m proud to have published work that explores everything from the Golden Age of Japanese RPGs, to Mass Effect‘s FemShep as a gateway for female gamers, to the queer potential of the Suikoden universe.
My most prominent piece of fan writing this year was something I’ve been wanting to write for half a decade. Timeless: A History of Chrono Trigger is exactly what it says on the box. It’s a long, personal exploration of the legendary Super Nintendo Japanese RPG and the people who made it. I wanted to really dig into its history, but also explore why it’s become such an important and influential game to so many people. I’m very proud of this piece, and if you read one thing I’ve written this year, I hope it’s this essay.
More of my stories from Insert Cartridge:
- Weaponized Nostalgia: Final Fantasy VII Remake
- Exploring Suikoden’s heart and the excitement for Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes
- Where are all the idyllic Lord of the Rings games?
- Pick a Pile: SNES Vs. PlayStation JRPGs
- The 8 Craziest Japanese RPG Fan Theories
Insert Cartridge isn’t just a home for my writing, and I’m pleased to have published several great pieces from other writers. Here are some of the highlights:
- The Queer Potentiality of Suikoden by Charles Payseur
- How Mass Effect’s FemShep Launched My Re-Entry Into Gaming by K. Cruz Swift
Not content to launch just one fanzine this year, I also have a brand new newsletter called Astrolabe! You’re reading it right now! This irregular newsletter covers gaming, SFF news, books, fandom, and all whole bunch of other geek stuff. I published nine separate issues of Astrolabe in 2020, and a handful of supplementary pieces.
- Astrolabe #1: SFF goodies, a thousand shattered gods, Beyond Oasis impressions, and some big personal news
- Astrolabe #3: Personal journeys, the story of a writer, oceans and seas of stars, and a bunch of SFF goodies
- The Transformative works of Xan West by Nicole Field (Guest Essay by Nicole Field)
- Astrolabe #4: Making money (or not) in SFF as a non-fic writer, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a new app for your Super Nintendo
- Astrolabe Gaiden: How I write and revise non-fiction
- Astrolabe #7: The Fall of Shannara, Phantasy Star, And How Terry Brooks Changed My Life
- The Fireside Incident
My original plan was to release four issues last year, and I more than doubled that. I’ve wanted to start a newsletter for a number of years, and I’m immensely grateful to everyone who took a chance by subscribing, and to those who share each new issue with friends, families, and fellow readers. If you want more, you can read all back issues of Astrolabe for free.
In addition to my work on Astrolabe and Insert Cartridge, I also published various essays across several different sites. Here are some of the highlights, including a review of retro Japanese RPG Breath of Fire IV, a primer for Terry Brooks’s legendary Shannara series, and a review of Ryan Van Loan’s kick ass debut fantasy.
- The Rise and Fall of Shannara: The Last Druid by Terry Brooks (Tor.com)
- Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV (Nerds of a Feather)
- The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation (Nerds of a Feather)
- Blazing High Seas Adventure: The Sin in the Steel by Ryan Van Loan (Tor.com)
- Shine Bright: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (aidanmoher.com)
Additionally, I had a number of professional pieces this year. I was paid pro rates for the following essays, so they don’t count toward my qualification for Best Fan Writer, but they can be individually considered for Best Related Work. I’m particularly proud of “Magic: The Gathering’s digital history, from first build to end step” for GamesBeat, which is a long, heavily-researched and reported history of digital Magic: The Gathering. It’s most intensive and complex piece I’ve ever written, and I would love for more readers to discover its story.
Another highlight piece for me slid in right under the wire at Input. “AI is about to transform the future (and past) of video games” is a look at how enterprising fans are using AI technology to restore old Japanese RPGs and beating billionaire corporations at their own game. To help me tell this story, I spoke with Gaël Honorez who created Moguri Mod for Final Fantasy IX, Video Game History Foundation co-director and founder, Frank Cifaldi, and retro game fan Marc Lauzon-Bragg.
A couple more:
- Personal Canons: There Is No Universal Canon (Here’s the Thing)
- You’re playing games like ‘Super Mario’ all wrong. This app can fix it. (Input)
I’ve so far covered a portion of what I wrote in 2020, but you can find even more here on my website, and the totality of my Twitter feed (@adribbleofink) can also be considered part of my fan writing.
With the rest of the world, my creative output crashed to a halt in spring 2020, but slowly recovered over the early summer, and now I can confidently say I’ve produced some of my strongest work as a professional and fan writer in a year when almost everything else seems to be going wrong. How will I look back on this year? I don’t know. It’ll be easy to forever think of 2020 and remember all the hardship—but there were silver linings, and that sort of perspective reminds me of how much I can overcome when I believe in myself, and surround myself with friends who believe in me, too.
Thank you so much for reading. Now, here’s to kicking some ass in 2021.
There are lots of ways to support Astrolabe and my other work. Check ‘em out!
- Patreon: http://patreon.com/adribbleofink
- Ko-fi: http://ko-fi.com/aidanmoher
- Paypal: http://paypal.me/AidanMoher