Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently—it is holy–
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not—unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people’s hopes are dead!
–Father Abram Joesph Ryan
R.A. Montgomery (1936-2014)
This is a sad weekend for children of the 1980s: favoured television producer Glen Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.) lost his battle with esophageal cancer yesterday, and Friday it was announced that beloved Choose Your Own Adventure creator and author R.A. Montgomery died earlier this week at his home in Vermont. He was 78.
Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure Series was a staple of my childhood reading habits. I can remember spending much of my weekly “library time” in elementary school staring at the shelf of CYOA titles, reading the back of each one, studying the cover art, and trying to decide which adventure I would go on. Eventually, I would take what I learned from reading and studying these books and their structure, and apply it to computers. I learned how to program in BASIC at a young age, and my earliest attempts were making rudimentary adventure games with a similar decision-making mechanic.
Even in adulthood, I have picked up the occasional CYOA title. A hardcover edition of my favourite, The Race Forever, stands in a prominent position in my physical library. I read it from time to time, between jobs or projects. I still haven’t memorised all the outcomes yet. I want to introduce my nephews to the series, but I fear that with as many distractions as they have now, the fun of imagining yourself in an exotic location with a desperate mission, making split-second decisions based on a few paragraphs of text (and occasionally peeking to see if one leads to “The End”) might take a backseat to Playstation 4.
It’s characteristic of democracy that majority rule is understood as being effective not only in politics, but also in thinking. In thinking, of course, the majority is always wrong.