The Alexandrian

Welcome to the Alexandrian, the homepage of Justin Alexander. By trade I’m a freelance writer, and this is to become not only a site of news and updates, but also a repository. Here you’ll be able to find my reviews, my politics, my stories, and my thoughts. Over the next few months you’ll see this page begin to fill up with a lot archival material.

To get things started, let’s start at the beginning. The seeds of my professional career as a freelance writer were laid in the summer of 1996. I had been out of the loop when it came to roleplaying games for a couple of years. But that summer I was stuck in Mankato, MN and was bored out of my mind. Seeking some social contact, I returned to my old Usenet haunts of rec.games.frp.misc and rec.games.frp.dnd. There I heard about a nifty new game called Feng Shui. Intrigued, I hopped on my bike and rode down to the local hobby store. There I not only found a copy of Feng Shui, but I also noticed Heavy Gear from Dream Pod 9. It was, without a doubt, the absolutely stunning artwork of Ghislain Barbe which drew me to the latter. And if it hadn’t… well, then my life would be different.

To see the ball really start rolling, we need to fast forward a bit to the Spring of 1998 when I submitted a review of The Paxton Gambit, a Heavy Gear supplement, to RPGNet. The review was originally written for and posted to the Heavy Gear Mailing List. RPGNet had been around for a couple of years at that point, but the site was just beginning to get noticed by the larger RPG community. One of the people who noticed was Phillippe Boulle, who — at the time — was an editor at Dream Pod 9. He, in turn, posted a message to the Heavy Gear Mailing List asking that fans of the game go to RPGNet and post reviews of their favorite Dream Pod 9 products. When I saw Phillippe’s message, I took the review I had already written, popped over to RPGNet, and posted it.

That was a lot of fun. So the next week I wrote up a review of Amber Diceless Roleplaying and posted that, too. After that, momentum took over and, before I knew it, I had a couple dozen reviews and had become firmly ensconced. The quality of my reviews (if I may speak immodestly for a moment) had garnered me a reputation in my niche.

But the niche was growing. RPGNet itself was becoming well-known in the roleplaying industry and community, it’s reputation burnished by the hundreds of reviews being posted by enthusiastic amateurs. And among the horde of enthusiastic amateurs there were a dozen or so of us who contributed a constant stream of detailed, high-quality reviews.

By the end of 1998 I was able to flip my newfound, and quite unexpected, name recognition in industry circles into a couple of freelance contracts. Ironically, the first of these was with Dream Pod 9: I sent a query letter to Phillippe Boulle with a half dozen carefully thought-out and cleverly presented ideas for Heavy Gear supplements.

He hated all of them.

But, fortunately, just before sending the letter I had jotted down a random thought:  “After reading the half-page of information in the Terra Novan Sourcebook on Saragossa and the Saragossa People’s Front for Independence I was fascinated. Wouldn’t it be great to explore the political structure of Saragossa, as well as diving into the past of the Saragossa Conclave? Such a book should definitely include the design for a series of adventures with the SPFI conflict as a backdrop.”

He liked that one. And hired me to write it. In another bout of supreme irony, that book never saw publication (although some of the material was eventually rewritten for Storm on the Horizon, the fourth Heavy Gear storyline). The Paxton Gambit had apparently flopped and the format, which served as the basis for the SPFI supplement, was cancelled. But by the time that happened, I’d already flipped my unpublished professional credit — along with my growing rep as an RPGNet reviewer — to pick up a few more contracts.

So that’s how I got started: RPGnet. Heavy Gear. And my reviews.

But if you go to RPGNet today, you won’t find any of my reviews there. What happened? Well, that’s another story for another day.

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