The Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project
No retrospective on Dungeon Solitaire would be complete without a discussion of the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction project. We are probably the only independently designed and published game to have its own fiction series, and the Labyrinth of Souls novels stand on their own as an amazing creative body of work.
The LoS Fiction project would not have been possible without my long-time mentor and friend, author Elizabeth Engstrom. When I was putting together the Labyrinth of Souls rulebook, she offered to help with editing. While she was going through the manuscript, she got interested in this idea of dungeon delving. It’s no surprise if you look at her body of work: a collection of horror and dark fantasy novels going back to the 1980s. When we spoke, she said, “You know, I could write a novel about this sort of thing.” She paused for a moment, and then said, “We could all write novels,” referring to our group of writer friends.
My first thought was, That’s nice to say, but nobody is going to want to do that. However, Liz kept bringing it up, and pushed on it until it seemed like a real possibility. She mentioned it to Christina Lay, a fellow writer and editor of ShadowSpinners Press. Eventually, we pitched the idea to bunch of writers in the back room of a brew-pub, and the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction project was born.
For me, the most important thing on my mind was how to pitch dungeon-delving novels to such a diverse group of writers. I didn’t want the books to be shared-world novels exactly. Nor did I want them to be conventional d&d-style fantasy. That wouldn’t do. And I didn’t want to restrict the creativity of the authors we were going to have in the room. What I really wanted was to give them the freedom to create the kind labyrinth story that only they could create. So here’s how we pitched it to them:
“The Labyrinth of Souls Novels will be 35-45,000 word fantasy novels containing a journey into a strange underworld as a central feature of the story. The Labyrinth of Souls is more than an ancient ruin filled with monsters, trapped treasure, and the lost tombs of bygone kings. It is a manifestation of a mythic underworld, existing at a crossroads between people and cultures, between time and space, between the physical world and the deepest reaches of the psyche. It is a dark mirror held up to human experience, in which you may find your dreams … or your doom. Entrances to this realm can appear in any time period, in any location. There are innumerable reasons why a person may enter, but it is a place antagonistic to those who do, a place where monsters dwell, with obstacles and illusions to waylay adventurers, and whose very walls can be a force of corruption. It is a haunted place, ever at the edge of sanity.
“All this is for your imagination to realize within the context of your story. “Fantasy” in this case can mean dark fantasy, high fantasy, historical fantasy, science fantasy, weird fantasy or supernatural horror, but all should be tinged with the darkness that envelopes the vast reaches of the labyrinth. It is suggested that you read the Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls rulebook, look through the artwork, and even play the game for inspiration. But don’t limit your imagination to the scope of the rulebook or a game. Just as in the game, the player must imagine and interpret the various encounters and actions of their adventure, so too you must interpret how the labyrinth manifests itself within your story. Although Dungeon Solitaire is a narrative game, game narratives and fiction narratives differ. For a novel, of course, the usual rules of good fiction should apply.”
As you can see, the possibilities are broad, and it’s been an incredible journey to see what each writer has come up with. There are eight book out now and more on the way — and all are very different. There are stories set in modern worlds, medieval worlds, post-apocalyptic worlds, and even the afterlife itself. There is adventure, mystery, noir, comedy, horror, and even talking animals. Whatever you like, you’re sure to find something to enjoy. It’s an eclectic mix, and yet all the stories are united by the overarching theme of the Labyrinth of Souls.
The authors who have contributed are an amazing group, incredible veterans with decades of experience and published works, award-winning writers, and talented first-time novelists. I can’t thank Elizabeth Engstrom and Christina Lay enough for making Labyrinth of Souls Fiction a reality. I could not be more proud to have helped inspire these books … and to have one in the lineup alongside so many writers that admire.