Playing with Mental Toys: Introduction from Blue Daunia Issue #1

The following is from the Introduction of  Blue Daunia  Issue #1:  Dark Tides of Illunstrahd.  To me, it illustrates the usefulness of flights of childhood fancy as they relate to the ongoing process of the creation of narrative fiction.

By the middle of childhood, somewhere amid the 1980s, I had amassed a sizeable collection of action figures from various movies, cartoons, comics and other genres.  A vast majority are probably still buried somewhere deep within the confines of my old bedroom and its small closet in my childhood home, and without knowing the exact number of the toys, I would comfortably put the estimate at somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 80 pieces, possibly more.  The sizes of the figures among the various intellectual properties were largely incompatible: some were just over three inches tall, while others neared the realm of my sister’s Barbies, and they ran the gamut of all sizes in-between.  Some of them only had articulation at the shoulders and hips, while others could be made to assume all manner of action poses for kung-fu goodness.

I had my fair share of neighborhood friends, and a great many hours were spent outdoors, playing the usual range of action-heavy games of make-believe and sports alike.  Metabolisms and imaginations soared sky-high in those days, and yet I was perfectly content at home as well, left to my own whims and flights of fancy at times… and that’s where the action figures got their time in the spotlight of my youth.

I mentioned the varying sizes and intellectual properties of my collection, but I’ll have you know that this never once posed a problem for me, because hardly ever did I see fit to use the figures as part of their intended worlds and stories.  On the contrary, I invented my own worlds and stories, my own universe, in which these beings existed and in which they came to life with all the strengths and flaws and quirks and mannerisms I could bestow upon them.  Sure, Luke and Han were occasionally allowed to be Luke and Han, if that was my momentary whim, but the vast majority of my time spent playing with the figures was spent creating new personas and new worlds.

It’s not that I didn’t love the hell out of the movies and shows and books these figures hailed from.  It’s just that I took these forms of storytelling to heart as lessons just as much as entertainment, if not more so.  Each new struggle on the screen was a lesson in intrigue through character limitations, each unfolding conflict in a comic book was a lesson in dramatic pacing and plot development and revelation, and every episode and issue, whether self-contained or to-be-continued, was a lesson in how to use the episodic structure to enhance continuity, canon, and bit-by-bit worldbuilding.  I took the figures and truly made them my own universe (or two or three), size and shape be damned.  Long story short:  I didn’t just play with action figures, I created with action figures.

And here, decades later, although the figures themselves are long buried and forgotten, I’m still doing it.  That’s what the following pages are.  That’s what they’re all about.  The story you are about to read, and its (hopefully numerous) continuations, are nothing more than a grown man “playing with action figures” in a certain manner of speaking.  I am a writer today not only because of the countless movies, books, television shows and comics I have consumed, but because the resulting toy lines, for all their cash-grabbing reasons for existing, allowed me to consume these properties in the most creative and enjoyable way possible.

My only hope is that you enjoy the result as much as I enjoyed the creation, because I genuinely and thoroughly loved the process… and because it really was just a form of playtime.

Author: Benjamin Brunson

Benjamin Brunson (born 1975) started writing at the age of 7, when his father encouraged his pounding out of stories about a certain movie archaeologist on a family typewriter. He grew up in an era when action movies were iconic, and comic books were a mere 75 cents and available at every grocery store and corner gas station. His imagination was further fueled by a mother who introduced him to books and reading at an early age, eventually gifting him with copies of Treasure Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That same mother would also bestow upon him a deep love and respect for the ocean and a good storm. Brunson would go on to participate in a creative writing magnet school program in his high school years in Montgomery, Alabama, where he became co-editor of the program’s literary magazine under the tutelage of Jerry Lawrence. At Auburn University, he majored in English and Literature, and quickly landed a spot as the film critic for the campus newspaper. The professors he would encounter in his collegiate career, namely Dr. Oliver Billingslea and Dr. Suzie Paul, would inspire him and help shape and steer his lifelong dream of creating fiction. In 2003, a major television network would cancel Brunson’s favorite sci-fi show about a group of ragtag misfits who, aboard a cargo spacecraft, took on various odd jobs in order to cull out a living and keep on flying. Feeling as if a deep void had been created in his life from the loss of the show, Brunson channeled his love for the ocean and began scribbling the notes for a handful of newly created characters and locations. These notes would, fourteen years later, form the basis for his monthly oceanic adventure saga, Blue Daunia.

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