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Interview with Pagan Publishing President A. Scott Glancy

Posted on February 6, 2006 by Flames

How did you get your start as an author?

I was inspired to write for CoC because I enjoyed playing the game. In the early 1990s I was going to law school and since I’d already tried sky-diving to break up the ennui, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try writing. I was sending stuff in to GDW’s Challenge magazine, which was publishing a fair amount of CoC at the time, but wasn’t doing much more than generating rejection letters. I was also kicking around the idea for a Delta Green-like agency for CoC based on the UFO mythology of the Men in Black. This was years before the movie came out. As I imagined it, government involvement would be more of an impediment than a resource for the players, one more obstacle to be overcome or an uncertain ally at best. GDW rejected my MiB article, so I submitted it to The Unspeakable Oath and it turned out John Tynes was working along similar lines, except John wanted to put the players inside the government conspiracy with his Delta Green concept. We put our heads together with Dennis Detwiller and managed to create the final Delta Green product out of a synthesis of our ideas. Later I came out to Seattle and joined the Pagan Publishing team full time. Over the years, as John Tynes moved out of the paper and dice game industry and into computer games, he turned more and more of the company’s operations over to me. Unfortunately that meant less and less time for writing as more and more time was used to handle the day-to-day operations of the business. Some days I get to write. Some days something I’ve written actually gets published. And on those days the rush of adrenalin comes back just as strong as it did the first time I saw something of mine in print.

What have you learned about writing and the industry since then?

Well, I’ve learned that the gaming industry is a tough market. The margins on individual projects are very narrow and a small business like Pagan Publishing can ill-afford a publication that flops. If you get a flop it takes you years to climb out of that hole. I’ve also learned that it’s tough to get paid. Whether you are a writer or a publisher, it’s tough to get paid.

And, of course I’ve learned that writing is a lot like f*cking. It’s only fun for amateurs. The moment you have to depend on it to pay the bills it stops being fun and starts being work.

What advice do you have for hopeful authors out there?

If you are talking about writing Call of Cthulhu role-playing game material, my first bit of advice is start writing. Once you have started, the next this is to finish writing. Don’t get bogged down in fiddling with a project, editing and rewriting it until it is never completed. Don’t get distracted by starting a new project before the old project is finished. Once you finally put a manuscript to bed- play-test. Then re-write it. Then play-test it again. Then re-write it again. Then send it in- to us, to Chaosium, to World of Cthulhu… If you don’t write it, it won’t get done. And if you don’t play-test, believe me, it shows. Scenarios, like battle plans, never survive first contact with the Investigators.

I’d also highly recommend doing as much research as possible in the original source material; the stories of Lovecraft, Campbell, Howard, Long and others. Don’t just read the previously published CoC scenarios and game material. The best game scenarios and source material we’ve received has been well-founded in the fiction.

As to writing fiction, well, I’m not really qualified to give any advice about that. I’ve only had two short stories published and both appeared in Pagan Publishing products. The only advice I can give is if you want to be sure of being published, own your own publishing company.

How did you first get into the Cthulhu Mythos?

My first introduction to Lovecraft was when a friend of mine whose father owned one of the old Arkham House collections directed me to the passage in The Dunwich Horror where Wilbur Whatley’s demonic corpse is disintegrating into a fetid pool of filth on the floor of the Miskatonic University library. That description really knocked me back. I was maybe ten years old at the time and it completely redefined what I thought of when it came to ‘monsters.’ Somehow the Wolfman, Dracula and the Frankenstien monster just weren’t going to cut it anymore.

I think the first time I ran across the Lovecraftian mythos while gaming was during a game of Traveller. A vengeful player turned referee was getting me back for a time that I dropped a bunch of vampires on him during an earlier Traveller game, so he upped the ante with Cthulhu. Suffice to say it was an eye opening experience. It wasn’t long after that when I picked up my own copy of the 3rd edition Call of Cthulhu rules. But what really sold me on CoC was the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign. Here we had the Call of Cthulhu mission statement: world-spanning conspiracies, exotic locals, loathsome cultists, mind-shattering perils, and the only thing standing between civilization and the doom of mankind is your weenie little Archeologist with his 12 hit points, base handgun skill, and not enough SAN points to fill a Dixie cup. After that I knew that character classes, alignments, and levels were for pussies.

Do you have a favorite Lovecraft tale?

That’s a tough one. I really like the classics, like Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shadow Out of Time, At the Mountains of Madness, and The Call of Cthulhu. But I think that the one story that always gives me the creeps is The Thing on the Doorstep. Lovecraft tales are full of unnatural survivals, wherein ruthless and desperate people try to cheat death, but the one in The Thing on the Doorstep is particularly vile. The same themes were very nicely exploited in the recent horror film “The Skeleton Key.”

What can you tell us about your work on Delta Green?

I’m sorry but you are not cleared for that information.

Okay, cheap joke. I can tell you anything you want to know about my work on Delta Green. So… what do you want to know?

What can you tell us about your Delta Green tale “Once More From the Top.”?

“Once More From the Top” was the story that I wanted to write for the first Delta Green fiction collection, Alien Intelligence. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to quickly crank out the far simpler tale “An Item of Mutual Interest.” It took me a great deal of time and effort to work out the narrative structure. I wanted the story to stand firmly in both the past and the present of the witness to the raid on Innsmouth. A memory like that should never fade.

I was always surprised that no one else had written a short story about the government raid from The Shadow Under Innsmouth. It seemed like a natural idea; a great way to combine the creeping tension of Lovecraft with the balls-to-the-wall action of Robert E. Howard. “Once More From the Top” has been favorably compared to Robert E. Howard’s writing by some readers. The only higher compliment was when an ex-marine who read it presumed that I must have been ex-military myself because I captured the voice and action of the soldiers so well. I’ve never served in the armed forces, but if I can convince a real veteran that I’m speaking from experience then I know I’ve done my job as a writer.

The other thing that inspired me was the story of the First Crusade. All the politics and atrocities aside, the first crusaders suffered tremendous privations, endured enormous hardships and, for the most part, were financially ruined by the First Crusade. Those who survived gave up the better part of their lives to wrest Jerusalem from Islamic power. They believed in a cause that transcended the temporal world. For them, the Crusade was a battle for God’s kingdom on Earth. One has to wonder if they would have sacrificed so much, and born so many pains, if they had known that less than ninety years later arrogant and bumbling Christian leaders would end up handing it all back to Islam. Their sacrifices would mean nothing because their victory would be squandered.

The comparison to Delta Green seemed obvious. First time out of the gate the federal government scored a victory against the agents of the Mythos when they rooted out the cult in Innsmouth. Seventy years later, that victory has been squandered by successive administrations that simply did not want to know about the threat posed by the Mythos. Those in charge stuck their head in the sand and left it to the renegades in Delta Green to deal with the problems they wouldn’t acknowledge.

It should be noted that the ice-cold killer, Cpl. Charlie Paskow, USMC, is based on my fellow Paganista, Blair Reynolds- a good man to have at your side when it all goes down.

Any chance you will be writing more Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green fiction?

Yes, I am writing a number of fiction projects. There is my own Delta Green novel, tentatively titled Delta Green: Those Who Win. It is a sequel to JohnTynes’ Delta Green: The Rules of Engagement and will follow ex-Navy SEAL, Delta Green agent and federal fugitive Forrest James as he tries to make amends for the mistakes he made and lives that were lost during the previous novel. His quest leads him to infiltrate Delta Green’s longtime rival, Majestic-12. But it soon becomes unclear whether he is infiltrating the shadowy government agency, or if they are using him for their own sinister purpose.

At some future point I’d like to edit some of the Delta Green fanfic into another fiction collection.

What can you tell us about the new edition of Delta Green?

There isn’t terribly much to tell. We have tried to keep everything the same since we did not want to create a product that customers would feel compelled to buy simply because we’d changed a few lines of text. We are simply adding d20 Call of Cthulhu rules and stats to the core source book. Delta Green has always been cannibalized for other game systems; be they GURPS or Conspiracy X or whatever, so I’m sure that whatever rules we include they will just get shredded and reassembled into whatever homebrew Referees, Keepers, and Game Masters are using these days. Mostly I just want to get the product back out there. Too many people have been waiting too long to get themselves a copy of Delta Green.

Will we be seeing a new version of Delta Green: Countdown to go with the new book?

Nope. Delta Green: Countdown was simply too big. We needed to break it up into two books so that it would be more economical to print. If we do reprint it, with or without d20 stats and mechanics, it will be reprinted as two volumes.

What’s next for you?

After the D20 edition of Delta Green is done, the next project to be done is a reprinting of the three Delta Green: Eyes Only books in a single volume. I also have a further Delta Green book in mind called Targets of Opportunity, which will be a sourcebook with new opponents and allies for Delta Green. We also have a Delta Green project called Agents, Friendlies and Bronsons which will be a collection of useful NPCs for Keepers to use to spice up their Delta Green games.

Another big project that will be coming out this year will be Mysteries of Mesoamerica. This project will be an area background and anthology of scenarios centered on southern Mexico and Central America of the early 20th century. It’s not a campaign, but if you play through them in chronological order, any set of investigators qualified for the first scenario will be qualified for the others. We’re hoping to use this as the flagship for a series of books that will concentrate on regions of the world that offer unique venues for Call of Cthulhu scenarios. We hope to create a Mysteries of Mesopotamia, Mysteries of the Old West, and Mysteries of Mongolia.
We are also going to take a crack at doing on-demand and pdf publishing of our out-of-print stuff so that folks can stop paying those ridiculous E-bay prices.

For more on A. Scott Glancy and Delta Green visit the Pagan Publishing Website.

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