Roman Sturgis Take care of each other and make good decisions.

January 7, 2010

The Current Writing Project and a bit of memoir

Filed under: Blog — Roman @ 9:15 pm

This post is also available as a 6.5 min podcast here:

I am working on a new story that is somewhere between Scent of a Woman, The Diamond Age, and Harry Potter. Post-cyber punk in a New England boarding school setting. I find myself drawing on early stories about boarding school, science fiction, and fantasy. The Alliance of The WarAngels, my high school gamer clan, will know what I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, in high school, my closest group of friends which could be best be described as the chess playing wrestler thespians, formed a group called the Alliance of the War Angels in 1997. (Hence my original e-mail handle, ATWRomulus. Romulus was the second founder of Rome, and at the time, a cool nickname, I thought.) If you want to really embarrass me one day, you can go look at our old site, which is still up at atw.valkan.com

The most important aspect of this group’s founding was that it became the way we communicated over the summer, because we all lived in different parts of the world. Pre-ubiquitous cell-phone-slash-Skype, we all stayed in touch by writing an on-going D&D story on a message board throughout the summer, until multi-player online games became accessible.

Super Dorky, I know.

Anyway, a lot of pent up adolescence wrapped in healthy doses of Braveheart, Macrosse Plus, and the Matrix is sitting dormant, waiting to be mined. And that is what I am trying to do now.

Back in the day when MP3 was a brand new format, I had no real exposure to music. I think my library consisted mostly of loosely copywrited cassettes I got in the Dubai Duty Free on my way to and from school in the mid 1990’s. Michael Jackson’s Dangerous comes to mind. As well as Nirvana Unplugged. By my senior year, my friends and I were trading music via MP3 (pre-Napster), and Chris had even set up a short-wave radio station, powered through a laptop, that broadcast classical and techno during study hall. (I still have my first Paul Van Dyke song, ripped from a friend!)

Other accomplishments include our school’s first intra-net. Wanting to play multi-player games in study hall, we duct-taped Ethernet cable on top of the sprinkler pipes to wire three rooms in one dorm, and a fourth in the dorm upstairs. That allowed us to play video games during study hall and late into the night. We even had red light bulbs in our desk lamps so that the prefects and dorm parents couldn’t see the light coming through the cracks under our doors. Yes, I was THAT guy.

I remember the school’s physics teacher stopping by one day to check out our gear. He couldn’t give a flip that we weren’t studying; he thought it was so neat that we had taken the initiative to wire a network. The year after I graduated, the whole school was wired, complete with a nasty firewall. I tell you, we were trend setters!

Our weird Venn diagram consisted of chess club, wrestling, video gaming, school plays, and late night walks around campus. We didn’t do anything half as bad as the jocks were doing in the dorms. In other words, we were mostly virgins and not cool enough have access to drugs or alcohol. Since we went to school six days a week, Sundays were sacred, and much needed down time. Sunday activities consisted of sleeping in after gaming until late in the morning, meeting in the dining hall for brunch, and then a long walk out towards the reservoir, “questing” along the way. (If it was raining, we’d hole up in someone’s room and listen to Rusted Root while playing winner-stay-in chess until dinner time.) Questing was essentially a form of Dungeons and Dragons that we invented for ourselves that did not involve the pesky inconvenience of rolling dice to make every decision. In other words, we could hike for ten miles and keep a narrative going.

We considered ourselves a fellowship, not unlike the characters in the books we loved, but basically we were a tight knit group of friends that played together. Living under the same roof and competing on the same sports teams re-enforced this bond. Testament to how strong this friendship was, I remained close to the guys after I quit the wrestling squad, and unhooked myself from video games. I think of both of these as binary life-changing decisions. I know plenty of guys who failed out of college, or just barely made it, because of their gaming habit. The guy living in his parent’s basement.

Up until senior year, my perhaps somewhat delusional goal in life was to join the Marines. It’s okay to laugh. This was directly inspired by our wrestling coach, Bill Shann, who was also the head faculty in the IIIrd form boys dorm. Stories about Shann’s discipline were legion. He was an incredible role model in a lot of ways. At that time in my life, I thought that was the best thing I could do. Who knows, in another life, maybe I did. Some of my ATW brothers did go on to serve in the military.

When Shann left after my second year, it was as if the inspiration for enduring such grueling wrestling work-outs, evaporated. And make no mistake, wrestling was a major commitment that totally overwhelmed November through March. Not being naturally gifted with a lean physique, cutting weight was a chore.

One can lose two or three pounds of sweat in an hour or two if motivated, I learned. But it left me exhausted. After Shann left, I wanted to leave, too. I did not know it at the time, but this opened my mind to a new passion.

The following year we got a new drama teacher, Les Baird. I took his class last minute, and my life was permanently set on a new course. It’s amazing how impressionable youngsters are. Next thing I knew it was time to fulfill our whole purpose for being at prep school, that is, apply to colleges, and I was contemplating taking a year off after high school while deciding on what major to pursue. I knew I loved acting and writing fiction, but I knew both were long shots. I avoided math and science, focusing instead on the arts, especially a Storytelling class senior year, which meshed well with the theater I was increasingly involved in with a devotion similar to wrestling.

I applied to Texas A&M and ultimately ended up on the island campus in Galveston, which is another post, but which was also the best first year of college I could ever have expected. By the end of my first semester at A&M, the bonfire had collapsed and I was applying to Emerson, convinced that I should pursue the creative writing dream. At the time, I was being paid under a few different names to write for The Nautilus, our school newspaper that had more funds than interest. And I had continued to write for our online quest board. The Alliance of the WarAngels was my first regular writing gig. Throughout high school I spent many summer nights writing fantasy stories about our characters, using a 56k modem connection. During the day, I worked at the Hammock Shop General Store in Pawleys Island, SC. That was 1995-1999. Today, I work at the Litchfield Bookstore, right down the road from the Hammock Shops, and spend my nights writing science fiction. I suppose the more things change, the more they stay the same.

2 Comments »

  1. good start..

    Comment by rob — January 8, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  2. Keep these posts coming. Absolutely enthralled. God… I miss being young.

    Comment by Rev — January 10, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress