Regardless of whether or not you pay much attention to who writes the stories that appear in DargonZine, I’d like you to take a moment to join me in recognizing one of our heroes: Mark Murray.
After six years with us, Mark has decided to leave the project, and his stories which appear in this issue will be the last he sees through to publication. I’ve already written quite a bit about Mark’s history with the project in DargonZine 11-9′s Editorial, which highlights several of his accomplishments: being one of our most prolific writers, as well as contributing to the project by establishing our new writer mentoring program, helping create new maps of Dargon, and hosting our 2000 Writers’ Summit.
But beyond all these things, I’d like to celebrate a different kind of contribution that Mark has made. At a time when our new writers sometimes feel that their creativity is hindered by the rules we’ve adopted and a huge body of existing knowledge about Dargon, Mark represents an eloquent counter-argument. In a short time, he’s been remarkably successful at introducing new characters and places to Dargon, integrating them with the rest of the milieu, and encouraging other writers to make use of those new elements. But what’s noteworthy isn’t the quantity of things he’s written into the Dargon milieu, but their consistent quality. His characters are interesting people whom we’d like to hear more about, and they’ve become integral members of the Dargon cast.
There are lots of examples that should be familiar to you. Mark’s most extensive storyline has been the long-running series about Raphael and his curse-bearing wife, Megan. Along the way, we’ve also been introduced to Anam, the wolf they befriended, their streetwise sidekick Lylle, and the memorable team of Merrif the wizard and Niatha, his magical familiar.
Mark also has written a series of stories following two young boys, Matthew and Ben, as they learn about life in Dargon, and in doing so Mark has created the widely-known brotherhood of urchins called the shadow boys.
He has, interestingly enough, given us both Dargon’s best and worst taverns. These inns have been widely used by other writers, and thus should be readily recognized. Spirit’s Haven, where Raphael and Megan stayed for a time, is run by a kindly woman named May. At the other end of the spectrum is the Shattered Spear, whose owners Jamis and Jahlena are notorious for their dealings in prostitution, extortion, and many other types of unsavory behavior.
Most recently, Mark took the point in creating a town called Northern Hope, which was founded by refugees fleeing their Beinison-occupied homeland. Mark’s “Undermined Hope” in this issue, as well as his “Beginning Morals” which appeared in our previous issue, are the first two stories to use this location, setting the groundwork for another way for our writers to collaborate and learn from one another.
So although Mark wrote a lot and undertook a number of side projects to help DargonZine thrive, I think the thing that really makes him one of our heroes is his demonstrated knack for coming up with memorable characters and places, and his enthusiasm for sharing those creations with DargonZine’s readers as well as his fellow writers. Dargon is a vastly richer place because of the contributions his stories have made over the years, and we’ll miss his presence going forward.