It Has Been Quite an Adventure
November 14, 2014 6:52 AM   Subscribe

R.A. Montgomery, the original publisher and author of the Chose Your Own Adventure series for childen, passed away on Sunday, November 9th, at the age of 78. (previously and previously)
posted by SpacemanStix (61 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by dazed_one at 6:55 AM on November 14, 2014


He just needs to go to the spot he saved with his left index finger and he gets another chance.
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posted by sourwookie at 6:58 AM on November 14, 2014 [43 favorites]


To have a moment on silence, turn to page 27.

To reminisce about lazy Sundays in the 80s, turn to page 53.

To make an intelligent comment on the influence these books have had on videogames and interactive fiction, turn to page 97.
posted by empath at 6:59 AM on November 14, 2014 [75 favorites]


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Hoping he is now in Ultima.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on November 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


I loved those books. They got me into reading at a time when I was young and thought reading was stupid and pointless. Those books made a game of it. I've loved reading ever since.

I bought some for my son a few years ago, but they didn't take. He loves reading, but he didn't get into the "game" of those books. Too many computer games, I guess.

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posted by bondcliff at 7:04 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Melismata at 7:05 AM on November 14, 2014


My grade school friend used to just read these straight through and then do book reports on them.

Even then I didn't understand how a book report could be done on a choose your own adventure, let alone when reading through multiple endings with little-to-no context.
posted by glaucon at 7:06 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


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posted by arrjay at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by davros42 at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2014


The End
posted by condour75 at 7:11 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Even then I didn't understand how a book report could be done on a choose your own adventure...

"My book report, by Jorge Luis Borges, Junior."
posted by wenestvedt at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2014 [25 favorites]


I absolutely loved these and all other gamebooks, like Fighting Fantasy, when I was a kid.

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posted by josher71 at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Cash4Lead at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2014


It looks like the obituary was written in the same font as the books.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:22 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


"Cause of death was not disclosed."

Obviously, he turned to page 73 and was eaten by a giant squid.
posted by phong3d at 7:24 AM on November 14, 2014


I had a strong preference for these books in my youth. It seems obvious to connect these to both interactive fiction and graphic adventure computer games. I spent a fair amount of time playing the C64 version of The Cave of Time, though it didn't compel my interest like the Sierra or Infocom games.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 7:27 AM on November 14, 2014


These could certainly be macabre. I remember as a child being aghast at a The Cave Of Time ending where you were enslaved for the rest of your life building The Great Wall. Certainly made a 9 year old me stop to think what things were like for others.
posted by sourwookie at 7:28 AM on November 14, 2014 [13 favorites]


He created a cultural touchstone and, arguably, a new form of literature.

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posted by kyrademon at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


May god carry you safely to the Grotto!
posted by symbioid at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2014


Huh. I didn't know he was a real person. I had assumed R.A. Montgomery was a collective pseudonym, like Franklin W. Dixon or Carolyn Keene. Guess I missed a memo.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:03 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Turn to comment 5817024.
posted by alasdair at 8:07 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the day, and a couple of years ago I got the surviving ones from my Mom's house and re-read some of them. You know what? They really hold up. I have to admit that they had a big influence on my own writing. House Of Danger, Prisoner Of The Ant People, Space And Beyond, War With The Evil Power Master--classics all. But my favorite of his was Escape. It's a dystopian, proto-Hunger Games story set in a near-future US that has broken into three countries, and you must get from the evil totalitarian country to the good democratic country. It's a well-realized setting with believable tech and harrowing escapes on every page. And I just found out there's a sequel! Totally buying it. Thank you, Mr. Montgomery.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:20 AM on November 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've been really excited by the resurgence of choose-your-own adventure fiction, between Twine games and iPad games like 80 Days, Sorcery and so forth. So thanks, Mr. Montgomery.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Must resist urge to buy a 50 book lot of CYOA off ebay for my 18-month old daughter.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 8:21 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Rock Steady at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by ZeusHumms at 8:36 AM on November 14, 2014


Must resist urge to buy a 50 book lot of CYOA off ebay for my 18-month old daughter.

Send me the link and I'll let her have them when I'm done with them.

My kids! When MY KIDS are done with them.
posted by Etrigan at 8:39 AM on November 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


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posted by cjorgensen at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2014


He contributed to my love of reading. These weren't the first books I read for fun, but they are the first books I remember reading for fun.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:50 AM on November 14, 2014


Oh, man, The Cave of Time!

As a kid in the 1980s I read a lot of these -- until I realized that it was easy to remember the page numbers of bad choices and just…not choose them again. I just wish that I could have applied this lesson about Not Repeating Mistakes to more areas of my life a lot sooner than I did.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:55 AM on November 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


You Chose Wrong

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posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:58 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Sheppagus at 8:59 AM on November 14, 2014


In Projects.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2014


I read lots of these, but the only one that I can recall any details from is Journey to the Year 3000.

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posted by audi alteram partem at 9:20 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Chrysostom at 9:51 AM on November 14, 2014


Thinking of Space Vampire will always remind me of that summer that was so hot I had to sleep on the floor of my parents room because they had the air conditioner and how I settled in to read it when we all went to bed.
posted by Brainy at 10:08 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by juv3nal at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2014


I hope his passing was peaceful, unlike what happened to me on literally every single page of The Worst Day of Your Life.
posted by maxsparber at 10:16 AM on November 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just flip back to the last page you were on and choose another path!

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posted by stoneweaver at 10:32 AM on November 14, 2014


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posted by JamesD at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2014


The great philosopher-poet, who created a synthesis out of the mutually exclusive branches of the free will-determinism paradox - thus finally and completely solving one of the greatest mysteries of existence. The reputation of the Swedish Academy is forever stained by its failure to award R. A. Montgomery and Edward Packard each Nobel Prizes, and those who have not tarried in the infinite, fractal corridors of their masterwork, Sein und die Höhle der Zeit, know nothing of metaphysics.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by kaiseki at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2014


Thinking of Space Vampire will always remind me of that summer that was so hot I had to sleep on the floor of my parents room because they had the air conditioner and how I settled in to read it when we all went to bed.

I can still see the children's section of our small town public library that had the vertical and rotatable wire racks, and they would always have these books stocked there. I would check them out a handful at a time with other kinds of books, and one of my most vivid memories was staying over night at my grandma's house on a Friday night and reading them in the spare bedroom before falling asleep. I can still remember the sounds and smells and how awesome it felt to open a full backpack full of books for a respite of fun nighttime reading.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


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posted by tonycpsu at 1:40 PM on November 14, 2014


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posted by drnick at 2:08 PM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Kevin Street at 2:23 PM on November 14, 2014


Space And Beyond was the one of these I had. Upon investigation of its many paths, I discovered a couple of interesting things.

1. Born on a spaceship between planets, you are given the choice of which planet you want to be your home world, between that of your father (the planet Phonon) or your mother (Zermacroyd). A couple of the Phonon endings end kind of boringly early (On you go to Phonon. The end.) But there is no ending that gets you to Zermacroyd. If you choose Zermacroyd, you might get a good end in some way or other, but it won't be one that gets you to your intended destination.

2. One of the plot threads that develops late (it might be called the major plot of the book, I think there are more pages devoted to it than any other) has you up against a space plague that's ravaging some world. In one important place you are told, as an alien, you might be immune. If you think you're immune, turn to page [x]. If you think you're not, turn to page [y].

If you think you're immune, you are... but no choice that branches off from that point has a good ending! If you think you aren't, then you're not, but the best ending in the book, where you cure the plague and are hailed a hero, is a branch off of one of those pages.

Formulate whatever theory you want about what Montgomery was saying about the nature of belief, intent and fate. Me, I think he was just hilariously trolling a generation of kids.
posted by JHarris at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


Holy crap! I'm writing this from a bookstore. I went to the shelves and found that it carries sixteen CYOA books, including the very one I commented about, Space And Beyond, which is #3 in the series and the earliest one on the shelves. Not a bad legacy, Mr. Montgomery!

A search for "r a montgomery" shows a picture of a friendly-looking man with glasses. He seems like he was a good guy.
posted by JHarris at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by Gotanda at 3:48 PM on November 14, 2014


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posted by Pecinpah at 5:26 PM on November 14, 2014


I still remember getting my first Choose Your Own Adventure book as part of one of those RIF free-book days way back in fifth grade or so, and then devouring as many others as I could get my hands on. Rest in peace, R.A. Montgomery. You made being a preteen geek in 1980s small-town Arkansas a bit less shit.

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posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:06 PM on November 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by LobsterMitten at 8:50 PM on November 15, 2014


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At least Edward Packard still seems to be with us. His and Montgomery's names meant you were in for a real treat. We devoured these things from the school library in the 80s.

Before moving on to Fighting Fantasy, of course. Via Time Machine, Falcon and all those others.

Space And Beyond, which is #3 in the series and the earliest one on the shelves.

Have they renumbered it?
I have the 12th printing from August 1982 (the first was January 1980) and it's #4. #3 was apparently By Balloon To The Sahara!
posted by Mezentian at 10:21 PM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


It does say #3 on the spine. I don't think I still have my original copy (which would probably be missing its cover by now anyway), so I have no way of telling if it's renumbered. This page identifies it as #3, but it's also of recent printings. This page on the Choose Your Own Adventure Wiki (you ever doubted there was one?) mentions it was by a D. Terman (other searching fills in the D. as Douglas), and also refers to it as #3. Here's a review of it, not particularly favorable.
posted by JHarris at 1:14 AM on November 16, 2014


Oh, how could we have missed this. R. A. Montgomery had a blog! Here's the beginning of his last post, from August of last year:
When I graduated from college in 1958, electric typewriters were not yet in use by anyone I knew. So when I told an old college friend recently about Kickstarter and how we planned to use it to try to crowd fund some CYOA interactive cartoons via the internet, he had a hard time wrapping his head around it. "Do the investors get part of the company?" "No, no, it's not like that. They are backing a project," I explained. "So do they get a share in the royalty stream?" "No, not that either," I replied. Peter, who made his money managing other people's money on Wall Street (very successfully) was seriously perplexed. “They get the chance of seeing something that they believe in come to life and say ‘I was part of that’,” I added. “And depending on their pledge, we might send them a signed copy of the script, an 80s time capsule and/or a copy of the final cartoon," I explained. "Really?" he asked. "Yes, really," I answered. "That's crazy," he announced confidently. "Actually, it's not so crazy,” I said. “Kickstarter has been around for three years and in 2012, they gave three times as much money to the arts as the U.S. government."
In case Lore Sjoberg ever fixes it (a configuration error has crippled it), here's a link to the Brunching Shuttlecocks' classic Choose Your Own Damn Pokemon Adventure.
posted by JHarris at 1:19 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Weird. I think we have a mystery here!
The CYOA site is selling the vintage By Balloon To The Sahara! (numbered #3) (renamed Danger in the Desert), so I guess they're prioritising stuff in the re-issue.

There were more than 200 of the damned things, not surprising.

Oddly, while looking on my selves I found one of RAM's prose attempts, which seems to be based on his Escape/Beyond Escape CYOAs.

The book is set in the year 2015 (why, that's a year away) and the US has been torn into three nations: Turtalia, Dorado and Rebellium.
(Thanks, Obama!)
posted by Mezentian at 1:48 AM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


The last link there is a guy who has been reviewing the CYOA books, but he also was supposed to conduct an interview with Montgomery and had done Packard.
posted by Mezentian at 2:17 AM on November 16, 2014


Wikipedia identifies Douglas Terman as an author of military novels, who wrote thaat one CYOA. He died in 1999. From the page:

Terman was the author of one of the early Choose Your Own Adventure books, By Balloon to the Sahara. The book is dedicated to his only child, Christine M. Terman. Terman is also notable for his other military-themed fiction. He wrote from his own experiences, and included many of his friends and loved ones as characters in his books, such as "Walrus".

Terman had military experience during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

posted by JHarris at 2:54 AM on November 16, 2014


Back at the bookstore, I picked up Space And Beyond and flipped through it a bit. I noticed some interesting things:

The book has been greatly revised. There's a fun Star Wars-style slanted introduction page at the beginning. Phonon and Zermacroyd are not the planets you have to choose from, but Kenda and Croyd. The choices seem substantively the same, but the text has been revised. The illustrations are entirely different. Apparently, the plague plot wasn't as expansive as I remembered, but the ending page is still there. The book has a page informing kids that they can visit CYOA.com for more information on the series.

Most interestingly, there is a tree-diagram on the back-cover of the book, with no textual explanation, with different branches colored differently, and a few branches connected to others by dashed lines. Unless I miss my guess, that's a sneaky way of communicating how the book is laid out! I saw a chart like that on the back of another of the books too. Very clever, I wonder how many kids will see the chart and recognize its significance?
posted by JHarris at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Xeni Jardin posted a short retrospective on R. A. Montgomery over on BoingBoing. Especially notable for containing the words Time Grouches.
posted by JHarris at 4:18 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


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