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Vampire Retrospective: Brian Petkash

Posted on November 7, 2011 by Flames

The Vampire Retrospective Project continues today with an essay from Brian Petkash. Brian tells us about his short time working at White Wolf, which in part led to him working with the National Association to Protect Children and becoming a teacher.

Fate is a curious thing

    One doesn’t know what is planned out ahead of time, of course—God or the three old ladies or the oracle or the Flying Spaghetti Monster isn’t that open—but with hindsight it’s easy to see the willful hand, or paw, as it is in this case, of the cause-and-effect chain of fate.

    I had played roleplaying games in high school, but only D&D, and a game my friends and I created that was a bastardized version of D&D—we thought it was clever, but it likely wasn’t even close to clever. I wasn’t even aware other roleplaying game companies existed, much less one focused on horror.

    Going to school for a marketing degree, my dream was to work for a comic book, or similarly creative, company. I instead got my first marketing job with a small flash card company. The creativity there was somewhat . . . lacking.

    But that gig got me to Book Expo America. And BEA is where White Wolf and I broke bread. Really. That’s how I met two of the earlier White Wolf employees, Wes Harris and Stephe Pagel, eating lunch. Taking a break from the floor of trade show madness, I was sitting alone at a table for four in the maddeningly overcrowded food court; people even had to eat sitting on the floor. Not so these two. They came right up and asked if they could join me.

    Great guys. We enjoyed a nice talk over the kind of nasty-tasting pizza and French fries one expects at a food court. We shared discussions about comic books and vampires and RPGs and Harlan Ellison and werewolves and Collectible Card Games. By this time, I was also working nights at my local comic shop and was vaguely aware of the CCG Rage. But I really didn’t know White Wolf from Cain.

    A year later, that chance meeting led to my being hired by White Wolf to handle one arm of their sales and distribution.

    And I learned about White Wolf. I learned about Vampire. I learned about Werewolf. I learned about the World of Darkness. And I was taken in by it all. Here I was, working with some of the most creative—and drunk, let’s not forget the drunk—minds I had ever met, and selling their incredibly artistic and wonderfully written books. It was terrific.

    But it’s the people with whom I worked that stick with me and who, in one form or another, remain my friends even twelve years after I left. (My wife at the time was not fond of my “career path” and, partly at her urging, I left White Wolf after two-and-a-half years.)

    Fred Yelk, Mike Krause, Dean Burnham, Greg Fountain, Chris McDonough, Justin Achilli, Steve Wieck, Stewart Wieck, Ken Cliffe, Brian Glass, Rich Thomas, Pauline Benney, Chad Brown, Sarah Timbrook, Josh Timbrook, Robert Hatch, Paul Lepree, Andrew Bates, Mark Rein-Hagen. It was a helluva group to work with (and I know I am likely forgetting more than a few). Good friends, all, though I know I do not keep in touch like I should.

    White Wolf’s flexible hours, an innovative policy for any company in 1997, allowed me to get involved in working with kids through Georgia Council on Child Abuse. Working with kids would later become an increasingly important part of my life, but it was at White Wolf that it got its start.

    As a sales guy, I got to interact a lot more with the “outside” world than most. That interaction led to my developing four of the best friends a guy could ever have: Jon Leitheusser, Lou Bank, Lys Fulda, Danny Procell. These four have taken care of me over the years, through a variety of personal and professional changes. And it is through two of them that I was able to fulfill two huge dreams: I did indeed get to work in comics and, more important, I get to help kids through my involvement with PROTECT, the National Association to Protect Children, which in no small way influenced my decision to become a teacher.

    I learned a lot from my time at White Wolf. Yet, when you’re in the middle of a period in your life, it’s hard to recognize what it is you’re learning; Fate doesn’t provide back-of-book advertisements to let you know what’s coming your way later. It’s only when you get some distance and take a hard look back that you can see the subtle and not-so-subtle paw that guided you along.

    One of the first selling points I learned was that Vampire was simply about telling stories. But ultimately what I learned was that the story of your own life is one only you can write.

    Brian Petkash – 2011

    If you are interested in submitting an essay for the Vampire Retrospective Project please review the Submission Guidelines and let us know if you have any questions.

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