But having only written one fantasy gamebook by himself, why was it Steve Jackson abandoned an alternative Tolkien-esque past for a gleaming, rocket-fuelled future with Starship Traveller? “I liked to try new things out,” says Jackson. “Sorcery! had a new magic system, Starship Traveller was the first SF adventure.”
Set in the distant future, Starship Traveller had the hero become the commander of the eponymous starship and its crew. After their interstellar vessel is sucked through a black hole into an unknown quadrant of space, the hero has to search the local star systems for the coordinates to another black hole and the way home.
As well as keeping a track of his own attributes, the reader had to keep a note of the attributes of his officers. Starship Traveller also added the stats WEAPONS STRENGTH and SHIELDS so that the reader could re-enact battles between spacecraft.
Jackson: “I was a big Star Trek fan. Always preferred it to Doctor Who. Mr Spock was my hero. I liked the episodes where Kirk & Co landed on a planet where they encountered alien races and philosophies. Never liked the deep space battle episodes. Starship Traveller was unashamedly based on Star Trek. And the long dedication was a listing of the entire Games Workshop staff as it was at the time. Some of the GW department heads appeared in the adventure too. ‘Bran-Sell’ was a reference to Bryan Ansell, who ran the Citadel division and later became GW Managing Director. There was a race called the Dar-Villians; a reference to GW’s Sales Manager Peter Darvill-Evans. Fioral was Albie Fiore, who ran the Production Dept. And lots more.”
Both the cover artwork and the internal illustrations were by Peter Andrew Jones, a first and last for the Fighting Fantasy series. But would Jones have liked to do more internal illustrations? Jones: “The budget was so tight on that job I'd have done more if asked but it would have been difficult.”
In recent years, Starship Traveller has entered the 21st century, re-imagined as a digital version published by Tin Man Games.