Saturday, May 23, 2020

TSR R&D staff, Spring 1997

So, a little more of TSR history, this time a list of all the designers and editors and the product groups they were in at a specific point in history. The timing is at the time of the WotC acquisition, circa April 1997, so folks who were laid off in December 1996 like myself are not included. Nor does it take into account the rpg people already on staff out in Renton, like Jonathan Tweet, Kij Johnson, Mike Selinker, and Jennifer Clarke Wilkes.

Of the thirty-one people listed here,* eight decided not to make the move out to Renton in August 1997, and a few more switched to working off-site from back in the Lake Geneva area. These latter drifted away over the course of the next year. Things are complicated by some people, like myself, who were laid off in December 1996 then rehired by WotC in September 1997.

--John R.

*out of a total of eighty-four TSR folks invited to make the move from the old regime at  Lake Geneva to join the new at Renton.

TSR designers & editors, at time of WotC purchase (circa April 1997)

Group I
Thomas Reid
Karen Boomgarten
Bill Connors
Dale Donovan
Julia Martin
Cindi Rice
Steve Schend

Bill Slavicsek
Rich Baker
Jim Butler
David Eckleberry
Kim Mohan

Group III
Harold Johnson
Carrie Bebris
Anne Brown
Steven Brown
Sue Cook
Miranda Horner
Bill Olmesdahl
Ed Stark

Group IV
Steve Winter
Michelle Carter
Monte Cook
Bruce Cordell
Jon Pickens
Keith Strohm
Ray Vallesse
Skip Williams

Bruce Heard (scheduler)
Roger Moore
Sean Reynolds (online)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Dr. Havard's 10%

So, here's a passage I cut from a draft of my recently published piece on Tolkien's failure to finish THE SILMARILLION.

Tolkien’s papers were disorganized to an extraordinary degree, and this trait grew on him in his final years. Yet we should also acknowledge that his internal vision of the legendarium seems to have been much more comprehensive and focused than the physical evidence records. Dr. Humphrey Havard, fellow Inkling and family friend, told me that he thought Tolkien had only ten percent of his legendarium written down. All the rest was in his head. 

I believe Havard based this on the fact that, he said, you cd ask Tolkien about anything in his mythology (I assume by this he meant any name, place, character) and he cd tell you all about it.

This may explain the curious phenomenon mentioned by Christopher Tolkien that his father treated the final chapters of The Silmarillion as finished, requiring only relatively minor revision to reach final form (HME XI 247). The real Silmarillion was in Tolkien’s head, and he seems not to have realized how little of it was recorded in a physical medium (like pen on paper).

I thought this a good explanation back in 1981 which explained a lot of what we knew at the time of JRRT's literary remains. Recently, having worked my way through a lot (not all) of the material in the last three volumes of THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH, I'm rethinking things. It now seems apparent that JRRT wrote down a huge amount of material relating to his legendarium, far more than was known in the decade following his death, many times including multiple drafts of given texts. Also, we have now quite a few examples of his thinking on paper, of ideas emerging in response to questions he'd been asked.

So while I think there's some truth to Dr. Havard's observation, and that JRRT had an enormous amount of carefully though out material about his legendarium in his head, I'm no longer inclined to consider it the whole truth.

Any comment much appreciated.

--John R.

P.S.: Coincidentally, there's quite an interesting article about Dr. Havard in the recent issue of VII, just out from the Wade Center at Wheaton.

Harold Johnson's group, spring 1997

So, this might be a little easier: a group drawing of the folks in Harold Johnson's product group in Spring 1997: post-layoff and pre-WotC. This full page version includes the names of all nine  designers and editors, along with (I assume) the lines they were working on.


--John R.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lake Geneva, spring 1997

So, here's something not as completely different as I'd planned. Today I was going through an old binder and found the following image of nine designers and editors working at TSR between the Xmas layoffs of December 1996 and the purchase of TSR by WotC around April 1997.

Now here's the challenge for any of you grognards out there: can you identify all nine of these faces and match them with their names?


Literary Faces (X)

So, what better way to end than with my favorite picture of my favorite writer?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Steve Winter interview

So, this past weekend I tracked down Peter Adkison's Fireside interview of Steve Winter. Steve was my boss (and a good one too) for most of the five years I was at TSR. Perhaps not surprisingly the part of the interview that interested me most was Steve's account of the decade between his being hired at TSR in 1981 and my own arrival in 1991. After TSR and the Lake Geneva office shut down in 1996-97, Steve and I both worked at WotC and Hasbro, but not I think at the same time.

It's always astonished me that Steve's name isn't near the top of the list when people get together to discuss industry greats, but then he always has kept a low profile. Anyway, I'm glad to have had the chance to watch this and will have to check out other entries in the series;

--John R.
--current reading: THE HOLLOWING by Rbt Holdstock; SYLVIE & BRUNO by Lewis Carroll

Literary Faces (IX)

So, feels like a good time to wind down and wrap up this little 'Literary Faces' series. And for the penultimate entry here's a real challenge: an author we don't have any depictions of at all. And this despite his being widely read from his day to our own. We only know what he looked like from the following description on a Wanted poster:


 a middle siz'd spare man, about 40 years old, 
of a brown complexion, and dark brown coloured hair, 
but wears a wig; a hooked nose, a sharp chin, 
grey eyes and a large mole near his mouth.

 Any guesses?