Just before I hit puberty – in that short window, where one is awakened to the possibilities of the imaginative universe but not yet imbued with a proper sense of social shame – I developed a brief thing for Middle Earth. I say ‘a thing’ but what I mean is a habit. By ‘habit’, I mean addiction. And by ‘Middle Earth’, I mean Warhammer.

Though my love affair with Elven culture was short-lived, while it lasted it was intense. Elves ruled me.

In my school, sectarian lines were set in stone and hard to cross – one was either a sexually literate, conversationally aggressive proto-Alpha, or a personal-computer-fetishist and Wizard, Fourth Level. Simply put: there was no middle ground, no third way.

I, myself, never sat comfortably in either camp – on the one hand I had a guilty love of fighting, and was wont to commit the occasional act of casual violence; on the other, I found elves mesmerising. Just the smell of spray primer, or the merest mention of Tethlis the Slayer, seemed, somehow, to complete me. It’s a special communion between boy and War Griffin.

It was a sad day when I discovered that Warhammer was not ‘OK’ . But I had to make a decision and, well, polyhedral dice and stippling brushes lost out to girls and drugs. It was inevitable, sometimes you just have to give in to the pressures of near-adulthood. Yeesh. Still miss it.

Next time you pass by an outlet of Games Workshop, walk in. It’s a fucking experience. In fact, it’s nature, red in tooth and claw – nothing comes close to watching a load of geeks deep in an Ork-frenzy for sheer exhilaration. It’s Real Politik – those guys know what they want, and they’ll tear each others eyes out to get it. Further, if you get a chance to talk to a member of their passive-aggressive, controlling and hormonal staff, do that too. It’s about as close as you’ll ever come to understanding how awkwardness can sometimes intersect neatly with anger, and how those two qualities, working in tandem, are ideal for incubating a world-class sociopath.

Memories of My Elf Year were brought sharply back into focus today when I read this article – Destroy All Monsters – by Paul La Farge, in which he makes a pilgrimage to play Dungeons and Dragons with its inventor, Gary Gygax – dying of cancer and a shadow of his former self. Read it now. It’s funny and touching and sweet.

While you’re in a reading mood, have a look at this excellent short story from one of the world’s most underrated literary talents, Sam Lipsyte. It’s phenomenal. And it’s about D&D.

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