Friday, July 2, 2010

Interview With Troy Cheek

Jumping in Pools is proud to present number 99 in our ongoing interview series. Today we are interviewing Troy Cheek, the owner/operator of, which is an excellent source of musings and resources on topics such as what's on Troy's mind, Atari paraphenalia, and information on one of the best RPGs of the last 30 years, A Bard's Tale. We encourage you to check out the site and bookmark it-- you can literally spend hours wading through the archives. We first noticed the site after Troy's excellent review of the Star Trek fanfic, Hidden Frontier, in which former MCS teacher Bryan Pisano played Captain Nostrom.

1. When/why did you start
I got involved with the World Wide Web back in the 1990s.  I'm not sure of the exact date, but Windows 95 running on a Pentium 133 was considered state of the art.  The Internet Archive Wayback Machine has copies of my first site, Catfish Corner, which it grabbed in 1999.  That copy references visitors from before 1997, so it's been at least that long.

I started that first site simply because my ISP of the time, Wingnet, provided website hosting free with their dialup service.  I used it mostly to try to keep up with family and friends.  As time went on, I added professional and technical writings, original fiction, webcams, and even lists of links to other related sites.  Back then, search engines weren't what they are today.  Lists of links were actually once considered a valued contribution to the web.

Some time around 1998, I separated ISP from webhost and started (archive copy) for mostly technical writing and original fiction, though it still had a Catfish Corner section for personal stuff.  While the personal stuff is mostly real life, I do admit to "enhancing" the stories to make them more interesting.  The current live version of is a bit cobwebby at the moment as I am moving my web presence to over on Google Sites.  In addition to attempting to locate or re-create every bit of web content I've had on the other sites, I still continue to write new material.

2. What has been the response to your efforts?
For the most part, response has been favorable.  I've reconnected with old friends with whom I had lost contact.  Many people have written in to tell me that they enjoyed the site or found some part of it informative or entertaining, which is about all anyone could ever hope for.  Almost every single person who has taken the time to write in has been polite about it, even if they're writing in to tell me how wrong I am about something.

On the other side, I did get responses concerning what I thought was an obvious joke (archive copy) about pop star Britney Spears.  They went something like this:  "You are one pathetic individual. If your life is so non-existant, why don't you contemplate suicide? I would, if I were you."  I guess you should never test the limits of Britney fans.

3. What is the most rewarding part of running your site?
The most rewarding part of running any site is the feedback from the readers.  I don't have a huge following and sometimes the search engines seem to forget about me, so any feedback is always welcome.  My favorite emails are the ones actually complaining that the site was too engaging, that they'd stumbled across it by accident and had wasted entirely too much time being entertained by it before they could tear themselves away.  Others complain that they came looking for one particular bit of information but then ended up reading everything I'd ever written on a subject.  That's what makes all the time and effort worthwhile.  That's what keeps me going.

4. What is the best RPG that you've played?
It's hard to decide which role playing game is the best.  I spent an incredible amount of time in the 1980s playing games from the Bard's Tale series.  Although I've not played it in years, it's probably still my favorite.  I've also spent entirely too much time trying to win Angband.  Almost every game I've played lately has had some elements of role playing, even if that wasn't the main point of the game.  I also find myself adding role playing elements to games which don't have any.  "Sure, the game allows you to do this, but what if, for moral reasons, my character simply decides not to?"

5. What is the most intense science-fiction narrative that you know of?
Star Trek and Star Wars both have their moments, especially in the "expanded universe" of the novels, games, and other tie-ins.  For a while, I was quite taken by Babylon 5.  David Gerrold's novels (any of them, but particularly his unfinished War Against the Chtorr series) can be a major mindfreak.  Recent television series such as Defying Gravity, Flash Forward, and Chuck have really grabbed my attention.  Ultimately, the answer is going to be "whichever series/movie/novel/project I'm in the middle of right now."

6. Anything else you'd like to add?
Only that it made my day to be asked to participate in this interview.

If anyone wants to learn more about me, my current website is, my slightly older material can be found at, and the very embarrassing material dating from the early days of the World Wide Web is at Catfish Corner.

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