[7RQ] Cyberpunk / Star Wars / Greenwich


The danger of having a clear-out over the holiday weekend is that you might stumble across some early work you literally haven’t seen in more than 20 years…

My first professional writing was published in ARCANE, a role-playing game magazine that ran from 1996-97. After debuting with a spec submission in issue #7 I became a regular contributor, with several pieces including two cover features published over the ensuing issues. I still remember exactly where I was when I heard that first ever article had been accepted; mainly because I hooted for joy and immediately phoned my mom to tell her.

So here’s some nostalgia for you. Thanks to the kind efforts of old friend Kelvin Green, I’ve added scans of all those old articles to the Non-fiction section of my website. Revisiting these is a weird feeling: while the pretensions of youth are easy to see, I can still see my own style very clearly in this stuff, most of which I hadn’t read since it was first published.
Archive of old ARCANE features: http://antonyjohnston.com/work/nonfiction/index.php#arcane
Kelvin Green, artist and fellow RPG nerd: https://twitter.com/thekelvingreen
But what did I actually stumble upon last weekend? Ah, well. That was an unpublished piece — I wrote it in early ’97, but sadly ARCANE folded before I could submit. I’m not entirely sure they would have published it anyway, as by then the mag had swung rather heavily towards a focus on collectible card games, whereas I wanted to write things like…

…I mean, I'm nothing if not consistent.

Finding this printout immediately filled me with equal measures of nostalgia and dread — and sure enough, some of it is laughably ’90s, but there you go. I searched for an electronic version, but couldn’t find it anywhere in my archives; I suspect it was lost in The Great Exploding iMac Incident of 2001, so thank goodness for hard copies.

I mentioned this discovery online, and it turns out quite a few of you wanted to read it. So I slapped it on the scanner, and OCR’d the whole thing for your viewing (and GMing) pleasure. There’s a plain text version up on Pastebin; I’ve also made a lightly formatted PDF version that you can grab from my website.
Cyberpunk Random Scenario Generator: http://antonyjohnston.com/work/nonfiction/index.php#arcane (scroll down)
System note: I played R Talsorian’s CYBERPUNK 2020 almost exclusively, and this scenario generator is written with that game world in mind. But it has no actual stats or rules, so will work with any system — apart from SHADOWRUN, perhaps, but that serves you right for playing SHADOWRUN.


NASA has launched a new orbiting camera specifically to find exoplanets, and it recently snapped its first glorious test shot. As someone with a tattoo based on the Hubble ‘deep field’ image, I can’t wait to see the kind of images this thing returns when it’s fully operational. https://www.engadget.com/amp/2018/05/19/nasa-tess-spacecraft-first-photo/

Am I a good source of opinion on SOLO? I’ve been a STAR WARS fan since the very first movie in 1977, and like so many other boys growing up, my favourite character was always gunslinger Han, not goody-two-shoes Luke.

On the one hand, that makes me hopelessly biased. On the other hand, shouldn’t I therefore have noticed more explicit ‘fan service’? Because, aside from a few obvious callbacks, I really didn’t (and that was a good thing). In fact, something I liked was how Han wasn’t yet fully formed; instead we got to see him studying, experimenting, and learning the things that would come to define him as the charming scoundrel we all know and love.

The movie plays on people’s general love of its main characters (and the Millennium Falcon), for sure. But that doesn’t guarantee fans will like it. Just ask any number of people who’ve filmed disastrous remakes and prequels.

What I know is this: I enjoyed it a lot. It was exciting in places, funny in places, it truly felt like STAR WARS, and Donald Glover is perfect as Lando. I’d love to see more non-Jedi “rogues on the outer rim” stories like this, and I’d happily watch Alden Ehrenreich as Solo again.

Now if only they’d cap the budgets of these “non-saga” movies at $75 million and use them as talent incubators, maybe everyone in LA wouldn’t be falling over themselves to label every new SW movie as a flop…

SPIRIT’S PAST: new single by Afrofuturist spiritual hard rockers Vodun from their sophomore album, WAR CRY. I was at the launch gig of their debut POSSESSION, and it was an amazing night of volume, riffs, and fire. See them live if you can.


I'm running a workshop on writing graphic novels at the Greenwich Book Festival in a couple of weeks' time, using the ALEX RIDER graphic novels to explain how I go from prose to print, and encouraging the audience to create their own characters and stories. It's mostly aimed at kids, but adults (with or without their children) are also welcome — so long as they're willing to join in 😉