Origin of the idea of a series of books

Origin of the idea of a series of books

I've been wondering lately, do we know where the idea of releasing books that were meant to be read together (such as a trilogy or longer series) came from? It's my understanding that really old literature was generally stand alone; books might be related, but it wasn't intended that you read them in any specific order. Even recently this has been common; there's L Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books for one. The Chronicles of Narnia weren't imagined as a series, and C S Lewis couldn't care less what order you read them in. J R R Tolkien saw the Lord of the Rings as one book in three parts, not a trilogy. However, these days, if books exist in the same world, there will be a "first", "second", "third", etc. almost every time.

If I had to make a guess, I would probably suggest the serialized nature of radio broadcasts as a factor. Does anyone know for certain?

Edit: As noted in the answers/comments, this question was phrased rather poorly. My intent was to find where the modern tradition of publishing books in numbered series came from.

James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales are among the earliest examples of serial publishing. This was not originally planned as a series, nor did Cooper set out to publish a set number of novels. However, the profitability of these novels led Cooper to revisit the main character and his family several times over.

The incentive to publish serially increased in the 19th century, as books began to develop a mass consumer base. Before this, authors might revisit a written work or character for artistic reasons, but now authors and publishers would publish works in a series in hopes of maintaining their large and profitable readership. This is similar to the dynamic that had developed centuries earlier around popular characters in plays (like Falstaff, who Shakespeare revisited twice). Of course, plays had developed this dynamic first because they had developed a mass audience first. No mass audience and no commercial publishing would remove many of the incentives for authors to write serialized novels.*

The contemporary model of a pre-announced number of books intended to cover a predefined story progression within a given world is often attributed to E.E. Smith's Lensman series of the 1940s and 1950s. Incidentally, the Lensman was a work of science fiction, and may have set an important precedent in this genre. Book series are popularly associated today with sci-fi and epic fantasy.

* And in most cases, the pressure for sequels and series is more commercial than artistic. Publishing houses know that most novels lose money, so their revenues depend on funding as many surefire hits (i.e. sequels) as possible. Hollywood works the same way.

Rabelais wrote five consecutive novels about the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel. This was between 1532 and 1564. A bit later Shakespeare wrote Henry VI part 1, 2 and 3. A thousand years earlier Sophocles wrote Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonnos. And some 500 years earlier Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. All of this is long before James Fenimore Cooper.

The story of Scherazade and The 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights is the classic example of the captivating quality of a serial.

Doomed to marry the Sultan one day, and be executed the next as punishment for his first wife's adultery, Scherazade concocts the most brilliant scheme to survive. In (presumably) the afterglow of being deflowered, Scherazade begins to relate a wondrous tale to the Sultan, but falls asleep at the cliff-hanger before she can finish it.

Desperate to hear the end of the tale, the Sultan grants a stay on the execution for a single night so that the story can be completed. Scherazade manages to wind that into a second story that again she cannot finish before falling asleep, leaving the Sultan desperate to hear the ending.

This goes on for 1001 nights, Scherazade each night so entrancing the Sultan with the bewitching nature of the tales she relates, and the cliff-hangers that she is able to endlessly concoct. Finally, after nearly 3 years, the one thousand and one nights of the title, the Sultan relents and permanently revokes the death sentence.

This tale is precisely the classic notion of an endless serial, which serialized novels simply attempt to instantiate in a different medium. OP asks for the origin of the marketing concept of publishing a serialized story; a set of novels on a single storyline that will captivate the reader and entice additional sales because the reader simply must find out how the story ends. The earliest origin of that concept I believe to be not the 1001 tales themselves, but the backstory behind them - the story of Scherazade, and the 1001 Tales of the Arabian Nights.

The Bible is an example of such series of books. The books have mostly chronological order and share characters. They are intended to form a compact story and should not be treated alone.

The first part is "Torah", written by Moses. As Wikipedia says,

According to dating of the text by Orthodox rabbis, this occurred in 1312 BCE;[19] another date given for this event is 1280 BCE.[20]

Even if its authorship is disputed, it in my opinion does not affect the answer.

Then several authors added their parts, forming the Old Testament.

Then, about 1st century AD the process of writing was finished. Also, some other authors tried to include new things, however it was not commonly accepted.

It looks there will be no official sequel to the Bible, as the Bible itself says:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. (Revelation 22:18, NIV)

The story of Amadis de Gaula may have first been told in the 13th or 14th centuries.

The earliest known printed edition was printed in 1508, revised by Garcia Rodriguez de Montalvo, who wrote the fourth volume. It was so popular that Montalvo and other writers wrote books V through XI published from 1510 to 1546, so this could count as an early novel series.


Amadis de Gaula was a medieval romance of chivalry, and hardly the first.

Earlier medieval romances include the Vulgate Cycle.

The Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend written in French. It is a series of five prose volumes that tell the story of the quest for the Holy Grail and the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. The major parts are early 13th century, but scholarship has few definitive answers as to the authorship. An attribution to Walter Map is discounted, since he died too early to be the author.

The Vulgate Cycle adds an intriguing dimension to the King Arthur tradition, perpetuating Christian themes by expanding on tales of the Holy Grail and recounting the quests of the Grail knights. During this period, material takes on even more historical and religious overtones with tales that include and deal both in the death of Arthur and Merlin (drawing all the way back to Nennius's Historia Brittonum).

The Vulgate Cycle combines elements of the Old Testament with the birth of Merlin, whose magical origins are consistent with those told by Robert de Boron, as the son of a devil and a human mother who repents her sins and is baptized. Merlin is transformed into a prophet and given the ability of seeing future events by God.

The Vulgate Cycle was subject to a 13th-century revision in which much was left out and much added. The resulting text, referred to as the "Post-Vulgate Cycle", was an attempt to create greater unity in the material, and to de-emphasise the secular love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere. It omits almost all of the Vulgate's Lancelot Proper section, but includes characters and scenes from the Prose Tristan. This version of the cycle was one of the most important sources of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.


So it took me just a few minutes to look up and copy data about two medieval series that could be considered to be book series. Depending on how closely one considers them to fit the definition of a modern book series, they could be the first novel series ever, or possibly centuries later than the first ever novel series.

J.K. Rowling reveals actual birthplace of 'Harry Potter' book series idea

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J.K. Rowling blew fans' minds when she revealed the true origin of her bestselling "Harry Potter" book series.

The 54-year-old author responded to a user on Twitter who asked if The Elephant Cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland was actually where she came up with the idea for the magical fantasy story.

“I was thinking of putting a section on my website about all the alleged inspirations and birthplaces of Potter. I’d been writing Potter for several years before I ever set foot in this cafe, so it’s not the birthplace, but I *did* write in there so we’ll let them off!” Rowling explained.

She went further into detail about the "spot where I put pen to paper for the first time."

“This is the true birthplace of Harry Potter, if you define ‘birthplace’ as the spot where I put pen to paper for the first time.’ I was renting a room in a flat over what was then a sports shop. The first bricks of Hogwarts were laid in a flat in Clapham Junction,” she confirmed.

J.K. Rowling attends the HBO Documentary Films premiere of "Finding the Way Home" in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Then Rowling explained writing and coming up with the idea were two different things.

“*If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train. But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited because it’s so far from the truth," she wrote.

Rowling also revealed where she came up with the idea of Quidditch -- the sports game in the series where competing players fly around on broomsticks.

The complete 'Harry Potter' book series. (Amazon/Scholastic )

“This building is in Manchester and used to be the Bourneville Hotel (Pretty sure it’s this building. It might be the one along). Anyway, I spent a single night there in 1991, and when I left next morning, I’d invented Quidditch.”

Rowling continued, “I sometimes hear Hogwarts was based on one or other of Edinburgh’s schools, but that’s 100% false, too. Hogwarts was created long before I clapped eyes on any of them! I did finish Hallows in the Balmoral [hotel], though, & I can’t lie, I’d rate it a smidge higher than the Bournville."

The "Harry Potter" book series has gone on to sell more than 500 million copies worldwide. It was adapted into a major motion picture franchise, multiple amusement parks around the globe, and a spinoff play on Broadway.

In 2017, Forbes estimated Rowling, who was a single mother who lived on government assistance when she began writing "Harry Potter," has a net worth of over $650 million.

Where did the story of ebooks begin?

W hat was the first ebook? Debate rages … When Peter James published his thriller Host on two floppy disks, in 1993, it was billed as the "world's first electronic novel", and attacked as a harbinger of the apocalypse which would destroy literature as we knew it. Now it has been accepted into the Science Museum's collection as one of the earliest examples of the form, as the spotlight of academia begins to shine on the history of digital publishing.

"I got absolutely pilloried," says James. "I was on Today accused of killing the novel, I was a front-page headline on papers in Italy – 99% of the press was negative … one journalist even took his computer on a wheelbarrow to the beach, along with a generator, to read Host in his deckchair."

The 1993 floppy-disk edition of Host by Peter James

The digital version of the novel (it was also published physically) went on to sell 12,000 copies, according to James, and two years later, he was speaking on a panel on the future of the novel at the University of Southern California, together with Apple founder Steve Jobs. "I said ebooks would catch on when they became more convenient to read than the printed novel," said James. "It was astonishing the amount of outrage it caused."

And Host – about a scientist who downloads his brain into a computer and has his body frozen – has now become a historical artefact, accepted into the Science Museum's collection as a very early electronic novel.

It is not, however, the first ebook, a title which is "open to some debate", said Angus Phillips, director of the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, particularly around "how you define an ebook, a term which has only become common recently in the light of dedicated devices such as the Kindle".

"We have moved away from thinking of it as simply a text available on a computer or on the internet. If you look at those, Project Gutenberg has been going since 1971 and by 1989 it had posted its 10th ebook," said Phillips. In the 1980s, meanwhile, the "CD-Rom revolution … saw reference books moving to electronic editions", with the Grolier Encyclopaedia published in this format in 1985, and the OED in 1989. "By 1994 you had Dorling Kindersley publishing a range of multimedia titles for a consumer market," Phillips said, also pointing to the collection of texts on diskette, If Monks had Macs, which appeared in 1988.

The 80s also saw the launch of computer adventure games based around stories, such as The Hobbit (1982), through which the user progressed by typing in instructions, said Phillips, while Stephen King's The Mist "was adapted into an all-text interactive fiction game and published in 1985," said Nick Montfort, associate professor of digital media at MIT. "So when people write about King's The Plant as that author's first ebook and first electronic publication, there is actually an earlier precedent."

And poet Robert Pinsky brought out Mindwheel in 1984, an interactive fiction game which is "explicitly labelled an 'electronic novel'"," said Montfort. The first existing print publication to be sold in large quantities in an electronic edition, meanwhile, was the Bible, he believes, "released in several versions by Franklin, as a stand-alone hardware device, in 1989".

But the MIT professor said that "when you start looking to see what's first in digital media, you often find a lot of early projects that were important in different ways and that have already been forgotten", adding: "Whenever you have a new media 'first', like the first video game, first ebook, etc, the category did not exist to begin with. So you have to ask what exactly you mean by video game, ebook, et cetera."

Dene Grigar of Washington State University Vancouver is researching early electronic literature for the project "Pathfinders: Documenting the Experience of Early Digital Literature".

She says that "the first electronic based work that constitutes a novel or book" is Judy Malloy's Uncle Roger, published in 1987 as a serial novel, collected by Malloy and released "as a database narrative that ran on computers like the Apple IIe". Malloy describes it as a "work of comedic narrative poetry".

Malloy "is the pioneer", said Grigar. The academic, president of the Electronic Literature Organization, has been collecting e-literature since 1991, when she discovered Michael Joyce's Afternoon: a story, published by Eastgate in 1989/90. Today, she is the owner of 28 vintage Macintoshes dating back to 1983, so she can read all of the works she owns.

Joyce's Afternoon, meanwhile, known as one of the first works of hypertext fiction, is the next project for Grigar's Pathfinders to document and preserve. Afternoon is "the story of Peter," says Eastgate, "a technical writer who (in one reading) begins his afternoon with a terrible suspicion that the wrecked car he saw hours earlier might have belonged to his former wife: 'I want to say I may have seen my son die this morning.'"

Grigar is now preparing to open an exhibit of electronic literature at the Illuminations gallery at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, and curated an exhibition on the topic at the Library of Congress last April. "Digital book environments are the future," she said, "so absolutely there is a growing interest in them".

The Disastrous Backstory Behind the Invention of LEGO Bricks

When it comes to all things Danish, modern furniture, beer and pastries stand out, but arguably the country’s most famous export are tiny toy bricks. In 2016 alone, over 75 billion of the colorful plastic bricks were sold, and the 85-year-old company behind them reigns as one of the world’s most iconic toy manufacturers. But if it weren’t for a series of fires𠅊nd an ingenious woodworker—LEGOS may never have been built.

The LEGO story started in a Danish woodworking shop in the days before electricity. At the time, Billund was an obscure village, and Ole Kirk Christiansen was just a simple carpenter with ambition. As a young man, Christiansen turned his love of whittling and playing with wood into a business and, in 1916, he opened his own shop.

At first, Christiansen’s shop produced furniture like ladders, stools and ironing boards. But in 1924, just as he was looking to expand his successful business, his sons accidentally set a pile of wood chips in the shop on fire. The flames it produced destroyed the entire building𠅊nd the family’s home.

Inside the original Lego workshop when it was producing wooden toys. (Credit: Lego/Handout/Corbis via Getty Images)

Others might have given up with a total loss, but Christiansen saw the fire as an excuse to simply build a larger workshop. Tragedy continued to strike, however. In 1929, the American stock market crash plunged the world into depression, and Christiansen’s wife died in 1932. Bowed by personal and financial disaster, Christiansen laid off much of his staff and struggled to make ends meet.

Little did he know that those tragedies would lay the foundation for one of business’s great comeback stories. Since times were so hard, Christiansen made the hard decision to use his wood to create inexpensive goods that might actually sell. Among them were cheap toys.
The decision didn’t pay off𠅊t first. Christiansen actually slid into bankruptcy, but refused to stop making toys when his siblings tried to make it a condition of a bailout loan. But his love of toys pushed the company ahead, even when it limped. He even renamed the company to reflect its new direction: leg godt, or “play well,” became LEGO.

Christiansen may have been a good ironing-board builder, but it turned out he was a brilliant toymaker. He refused to cut corners for the toys his company produced. Soon, his prototypes for ingenious models of cars and animals and his adorable pull toys gained a national fanbase. His bestseller, a wooden duck whose beak opens and closes when pulled, is now a coveted collectible.

Wooden toys produced by Ole Kirk Christiansen’s company. (Credit: Lego/Handout/Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1942, as Germany occupied Denmark, another fire threatened Christiansen’s livelihood when his entire factory once again burned to the ground. But by then, he was established enough to not only bounce back, but to be forward looking. When World War II ended, many traditional manufacturing products used to produce consumer goods simply weren’t available. As a result, many manufacturers looked to advances in plastics to create cheap alternatives.

The Long Road to &aposA New Hope&apos

Lucas and Kurtz shopped around a 12-page treatment of Star Wars to various Hollywood studios. United Artists turned them down. So did Universal. However, 20th Century Fox, encouraged by the early buzz from Graffiti, decided to give the duo some money to flesh out the script.

But going from a rough outline to a final script would take years. In fact, early drafts of Star Wars would be unrecognizable to even die-hard fans: Luke Skywalker is a grizzled old general, Han Solo is a frog-like alien, there’s a main character named Kane Starkiller and the dark side of the force is called “the Bogan.” 

Lucas struggled to rein in his space epic. The story was too dense, tonally imbalanced and its elaborate scenes would be prohibitively expensive to shoot. His friend and mentor, Francis Ford Coppola, expressed misgivings about early drafts. Even Lucas’ partner Kurtz described the second draft as “gobbledygook.”

But with each round, the story improved. In the second draft, published in 1975, Luke Skywalker is a farm boy, not an older general, and Darth Vader is the menacing man in black we’re familiar with today. The third draft introduced Obi-Wan Kenobi and played up the tension between Leia and Han Solo.ꂬknowledging that he had trouble writing dialogue, Lucas brought in help from writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (although the director rewrote most of their changes). For Lucas, Star Wars was finally coming into focus. On January 1, 1976, he finished the fourth draft of the script, the one eventually used when production began in Tunisia on March 25, 1976.

Lucas and Kurtz originally budgeted $18 million for the film. Fox offered them $7.5 million. Eager to begin shooting, they took the offer and the rest was history.

Released in 1977, Star Wars ushered in a new era of movie-making with its special effects, fantastical world-building and engrossing blend of myth and fairy tale. Although the final budget was $11 million, the film grossed more than $513 million worldwide during its original release, setting the stage for a franchise that would span decades and create generations of fans across the world𠅊ll connected by a common love for a galaxy far, far away. 

The Many Origins of Spider-Man: A History

Alan Kistler looks at the many origin stories of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, from "Amazing Fantasy" to Japan to Broadway across the various medium's the webslinger has graced.

50 years ago, Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man was introduced in an 11-page story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The tale was featured in the final issue of Marvel Comics' "Amazing Fantasy," a cancelled anthology comic book series, and it took readers by storm. In 1962, the new age of a cohesive Marvel Universe was still in its infancy, with characters such as the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and Ant-Man running around. Spider-Man was a new type of hero, a teenager who was not a sidekick nor did he belong to a team of similar heroes who supported him. His personality and backstory won over many fans, prompting Marvel to give him his own series, "The Amazing Spider-Man," in 1963.

Today, the web-slinging wonder is an iconic hero recognized around the world, featured in his own comics and as a member of the famous Avengers team. But over the past five decades, there have been many adaptations and reinterpretations of just how he got his powers and what motivated him to become a hero. To keep things as simple as possible, we won't be delving into alternate realities such as "Spider-Man Noir" or "1602" and will be focusing on the comics that were meant to be a more official take on Peter Parker. So join CBR News on this journey through the history of the many origins of the one and only Spider-Man.

"Amazing Fantasy" #15 -- 1962

The story that started it all. Peter Parker is a teenager living in Forest Hills, Queens with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May Parker. He attends a local high school inexplicably called Midtown High, where he's a gifted science student on the fast track to a full college scholarship. Though confident enough to ask girls out on dates, he faces constant rejection since he's seen as a nerd.

Attending a demonstration on radiation, Peter is bitten by a glowing, radioactive spider that promptly dies. Feeling ill, Peter wanders out onto the street and narrowly avoids an oncoming car by making a superhuman leap into the air. On instinct, he lands on the side of a building and clings to it. Peter discovers he has gained the "proportionate speed, strength and agility of a spider." He can also will any part of his body to cling to surfaces, thanks to what Mr. Fantastic later calls "bio-magnetism" (an enhanced version of spiders clinging to surfaces by tiny claws and electro-static force).

Peter decides to test out his newfound powers by taking part in an amateur wrestling competition, donning a mask just in case he loses. Peter quickly beats pro wrestler Crusher Hogan and wins the competition prize money. A TV producer (later said to be a TV agent named Max Schiffman) witnesses the event and convinces Peter to perform on late night TV. He suggests Peter keep the "mask angle" since a secret identity is "great showmanship."

To enhance his act, Peter designs a flashy costume and builds wrist-worn "web-shooters" that fire a special "liquid cement" of his own design. Later stories name the liquid cement "web-fluid" and reveal that it dissolves after about an hour. Initially, Spidey's costume is red and black with blue highlights to give it depth. After just a few issues, the costume's coloring uses such strong highlights that it becomes a red and blue suit.

Minutes after his television debut as the "Amazing" Spider-Man, the web-spinner sees and ignores a thief that runs past him and escapes the building. When a security guard asks why Spidey didn't trip or grab the guy, the teenager displays newfound arrogance by proclaiming that he is no longer concerned with anyone but himself. Catching criminals isn't what he's paid to do.

For days (or weeks), Spider-Man continues to impress studio audiences and play to packed rooms. But one night, Peter finds police at the Parker home. They explain his Uncle Ben surprised a burglar who then shot and killed him. The burglar got away but police have cornered him at the old Acme warehouse at the waterfront. Enraged, Peter dons his Spider-Man outfit and confronts the burglar directly. After knocking the killer out, Peter sees his face and realizes in horror that it's the same thief from the studio. Guilt-ridden that he could have prevented his uncle's death if he hadn't been selfish, Peter realizes that "with great power there must also come -- great responsibility."

Peter leaves his TV career behind and becomes a hero. His guilt evolves into a sense of true altruism and responsibility, and he becomes the wisecracking "friendly neighborhood Spider-Man" rather than a cynical vigilante. In his next comic book appearance, "Amazing Spider-Man" #1, he displays a "spider-sense" that detects certain transmissions and warns him of incoming danger and nearby enemies. Along with his agility and reflexes, it makes him incredibly tough to hit in battle. He later even creates special "spider-tracer" homing devices that his spider-sense can detect and lock onto, helping him track down enemies.

Suspicious of Spider-Man, publisher J. Jonah Jameson begins a smear campaign. Knowing Jameson is willing to pay for photos of the web-slinger, Peter begins a second career taking photos of himself and then collecting paychecks from the same man who thinks he's a menace. Initially, he sells photos to Jameson's NOW Magazine, and then to his newspaper the Daily Bugle.

A few issues later, Peter loses his glasses and never replaces them. Decades later, it is said that Peter never truly needed his glasses, which were a very weak prescription, and only wore them because Aunt May feared his constant studying would strain his eyes.

The years go on. Peter dates Jameson's secretary Betty Brant, splits with her and then attends Empire State University where he meets his two major loves: Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson. As time passes, more facts are revealed about Spidey's backstory and origin. In 1968, "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #5 reveals his parents Richard Laurence Parker and Mary Teresa Parker (nee Fitzpatrick) were agents for the CIA who were then killed by enemies of the U.S. A later story adds that Richard and Mary worked under Nick Fury and even encountered the mutant called Wolverine on one mission.

"Spider-Man" Animated Series (1967-70)

The first animated adaptation of Spider-Man starred Paul Soles as Peter and introduced the now-famous theme song by Bob Harris and Academy Award winner Paul Francis Webster. Although this song revealed that Spidey had "radioactive blood," the hero's backstory was not revealed until the second season. The episode "The Origin of Spiderman" (they forgot the hyphen) revealed a story very similar to the classic tale by Lee and Ditko, with minor differences. Peter is already in college before he gets his powers. He owns a motorcycle and doesn't wear glasses, though otherwise he's still the science enthusiast and mocked as a nerd.

The radiation demonstration is now actually part of a class. Peter's own professor is conducting the demonstration and the lab is in the school. After being bitten -- but before he avoids the oncoming car that prompts a superhuman leap -- Peter runs into a couple of thugs and displays his new powers. A similar version of this scene is later incorporated into some comic book retellings of Peter's origin.

In this cartoon, Peter doesn't attend a wrestling contest and immediately decides to be a TV performer. The next few days are spent creating web-shooters and a flashy costume. Moments after he arrives at a TV studio to audition, he sees and ignores a thief being pursued. That very night, he returns home and finds police outside his home where a burglar struck with deadly results.

Another difference is that Peter does not first meet J. Jonah Jameson as an amateur photographer. Instead, he originally takes a job as a copyboy at the Daily Bugle in order to make ends meet, musing that he might become a star reporter. For reasons never explained, he switches to being a photographer. During this cartoon, Peter's main love interest is Betty Brant, who is depicted as a redhead.

Spider-Man: The Manga (1970-71)

Initially written by Kosei Ono, with art by Ryoichi Ikegami, this manga adaptation of Spider-Man gave us Tokyo teenager Yu Komori as the main hero. Despite his youth, Yu is gifted in science and is allowed to conduct his own private experiment with radioactive materials to help study for a test (. ). While working, Yu is bitten by a spider irradiated by his experiments. He quickly realizes his newfound abilities and then creates a costume and web-shooters seemingly just for the heck of it.

After his first battle ends with the villain's death, Yu is guilt-ridden and wants to give up the life of a costumed hero. Time and time again, however, he dons his costume to deal with another strange menace, although his battles tend to end in more loss of life. Yu was not a wisecracking hero and was prone to periods of depression and cynical musings.

"Spider-Man" Live-Action TV Series (1977-79)

After Spidey had made numerous appearances on the live-action children's educational program "The Electric Company," CBS decided to try him out in his own show. A two-hour pilot starring Nicholas Hammond was broadcast in 1977, followed by eleven episodes in '78-79, and then a two-hour special in the summer of 1979.

The pilot features Peter Parker as a college student who works part-time as a photographer for the Daily Bugle. In the college lab, Peter is conducting his own experiment when a spider wanders in and is irradiated. Thus, like Yu, Peter is indirectly responsible for his own powers when the spider then bites him. Minutes later, Peter discovers his wall-crawling ability when he narrowly dodges a car heading toward him at about 10 mph, driven by a hypnotized driver (just stay with me).

Realizing what happened, Peter experiments with his new powers, first at home and then on the side of a building in broad daylight. As you do. Several people on the street witness his blatant display of power, though he's too far away for anyone to see his face. Later, Peter is at the Daily Bugle and claims he also saw the mysterious "Spider-Man" that people are talking about. To make the story sound more impressive and explain why he couldn't see Spidey's face, Peter claims the wall-crawler wears a special gymnast-like outfit that gives him great freedom of movement and protects his identity. He also gives a basic explanation of Spidey's powers and adds that the guy can somehow even shoot webs. Jonah demands proof and Peter promises to bring in photographs that he took of the strange figure.

Peter then goes home, quickly sews a red and blue costume, and then invents a web-shooter with alarming speed, all in order to verify his earlier lies at the Bugle (obviously, he never saw a single sitcom where kids learn that fibbing only leads to further complications). His single web-shooter doesn't shoot any kind of webbing or liquid cement so much as it seems to just fire long ropes and web-style nets. And what about the spider-sense? Rather than a buzzing or reflexive alarm to oncoming attacks and nearby foes, this show has Peter receive brief psychic visions revealing the presence and actions of nearby threats.

After making his costume and weapon, Peter discovers a plot by a new age guru who is using hypnotism to hold the city for ransom (hence the not-at-all dramatic near car collision earlier). After defeating (and then apparently befriending) the guru's ninja warriors and stopping the criminal, Peter finds he rather likes this new double life and decides to continue as a superhero. Who needs Uncle Ben's death as motivation, right? Uncle who?

Despite the fact that he was hired as a consultant, Stan Lee stated he did not care for this interpretation of the wall-crawler.

Toei's Live-Action "Spider-Man" TV Series (1978-79)

Though it was broadcast in Tokyo for just under a year, this live-action series included a TV-movie and 41 episodes. Starring Shinji Todo, this show featured Takuya Yamashiro, a popular motorcycle racer in his 20s. Takuya meets the warrior Garia, last survivor of Planet Spider, a world destroyed by Prof. Monster and his evil Iron Cross army. Now, Takuya must continue the fight against the villain.

Garia injects Takuya with his blood, granting him the super-powers of a man from Spider (or a "Spider-Man," if you will). Takuya gains spider-powers and a psychic sense keyed to warn him about the actions of his enemies, but unfortunately is now also sensitive to cold temperatures just as some spiders are. With Garia's high-tech alien bracelet, Takuya can instantly summon his "Spider-Protector" costume. The bracelet also fires webs, summons the Spider-Machine GP-7 (a flying race car), and controls Garia's spaceship, "Marveller," which can also transform into the sword-wielding mecha called "Leapardon." Because giant robots aren't intimidating unless they also have giant swords.

As a superhero, Spidey (who sometimes introduces himself as a "messenger from Hell") becomes quite popular among the public and inspires hit songs such as the "Spider-Man Boogie." To ensure that no one connects him to the hero, Takuya begins acting meek, even cowardly at times. When his heroic activities lead to repeated absences from motorcycle races, he decides to earn some extra cash by assisting his girlfriend Hitomi, a freelance photographer.

"Spider-Man" Marvel Productions Animated Series (1981)

This Spider-Man animated series launched the new Marvel Productions. The cartoon starred Ted Schwartz, and displayed Peter as a college student who has also been a superhero for more three years. Peter lives with his Aunt May, balancing classes with his activities as Spider-Man and his work as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle. J. Jonah Jameson's secretary Betty Brant is again shown as his girlfriend. The cartoon is pretty faithful to the character personalities of the original comics, the character designs, and the nature of Spidey's powers.

A few episodes referenced that Peter's blood was radioactive and the hero's backstory was given more detail in the story "Arsenic and Aunt May." In the episode, the villain known as the Chameleon learns Spidey was a TV performer who allowed a thief to get away and then that same thief later killed a kindly old man named Ben Parker.

"Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends" (1981-83) Animated Series

Starring Dan Gilvezan (who also voiced Bumblebee in the original "Transformers" cartoon), this carton made Spidey the leader of a superhero trio. His teammates were Bobby Drake AKA Iceman (a founding member of the X-Men) and brand new character Angelica Jones AKA Firestar (whose design was based on Mary Jane Watson from the comics). The team was collectively known as the Spider-Friends and they not only worked together and attended the same college, they lived together in Aunt May's house.

The cartoon gave Spidey greater resources. After saving the life of Tony Stark AKA Iron Man, Spidey and his pals asked the wealthy inventor to secretly outfit Aunt May's house with high-tech crime fighting equipment and state of the art computers. Lesson: it helps to have rich friends who don't ask too many questions.

Peter finally explained his origin to his teammates during the second season (which was convenient, since that was also when they each had episodes explaining their own backstories). He explained that he was raised by Ben and May after the loss of his parents. Similar to previous TV adaptations, this version of Peter never wore glasses and seemed a little bit older when he got his powers. The rest of the origin was nearly identical to the original Lee/Ditko story, even lifting dialogue and images from the comic.

There were still a few differences from the comics. In this animated series, the first power Peter discovers is his spider-sense, which alerts him to avoid the famous oncoming car. Another revision was Peter's explanation that he wore a mask as a TV performer not just because of showmanship but because it helped him overcome his natural shyness. This TV show also had Norman Osborn physically transform into a green-skinned creature when he became the villainous Green Goblin, whereas the comics always had him wearing a goblin mask and costume. This transformation idea would appear again nearly two decades later in the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comic books.

"Spider-Man the Animated Series" (1994-98)

Airing on Fox following the success of the 1990s "X-Men" cartoon, the new Spider-Man animated series starred Christopher Daniel Barnes in the title role and was the first adaptation to introduce Mary Jane Watson as Peter's love interest.

Unlike previous cartoons, this show dealt with new standards of censorship. For one thing, Spider-Man was generally not allowed to directly punch an enemy. The words "murder," "kill," and "death" were prohibited, so Uncle Ben's fate now had to be implied. And when a version of the super-villain team the Sinister Six was scheduled to show up, the name had to be altered to the Insidious Six because the word "sinister" was too violent.

The new theme song (performed by Joe Perry of Aerosmith) mentioned Peter's "radioactive spider blood," but his origin was not addressed initially because the cartoon had been set-up to follow a live-action movie directed by James Cameron. For various reasons, that film never materialized. When we meet Peter in the show, he's already in college, has been Spider-Man for a few months, lives with his widowed aunt, and is working as a photographer for the Daily Bugle, a division of J3 Communications.

Many of the show's stories revolved around a device known as the neogenic recombinator, which used radiation and experimental technology to accomplish biological engineering and transgenics (transferring traits from one species to another). The machine was seen irradiating and mutating a spider during the opening theme song, the same spider that bit Peter.

The machine was the creation of Dr. Farley Stillwell, who in the comics was responsible for creating the villain Scorpion. The machine was also used in experiments by Dr. Curt Connors, who in the comics experimented on himself and became the monstrous Lizard. The cartoon's idea that the Scorpion, the Lizard and Spider-Man all got their animal genetic traits from the same basic technology was applauded by several.

A few episodes into the first season, Peter had a flashback revealing he had been a professional wrestler before Uncle Ben's death inspired him to be a superhero. In the show's third season, Peter's origin is shown in full. After attending a demonstration of the neogenic recombinator and being bitten by the mutated spider, he has a bizarre waking dream of transforming into a giant spider with a human face. After the dream passes, Peter leaps out of the way of an oncoming car, blah blah. After realizing his powers, Peter immediately makes a costume and web-shooters to become a TV performer. After his debut, he gets an offer to become a professional wrestler and takes it. Weeks later, a thief robs the wrestling arena and Spidey dismisses a chance to stop him. You know the rest.

There were several other differences from the comics. Here, the lesson "with great power comes great responsibility" is not one Peter comes up with himself but is something Ben told him. Another difference is that Peter credits his web-shooters to the spider. As he explains it, the bite not only passed on the spider's powers but also an instinctive knowledge of how to create webs, which is how he was able to develop web-fluid so quickly.

Yeah, I think it's weird, too.

"The Ultimate Spider-Man Anthology" (1996)

In the 1990s, a few prose anthology Marvel tie-in books were published that often had the word "ultimate" in the title. "The Ultimate Spider-Man Anthology" was a collection of prose stories based on the mainstream comic book version of Spidey that could fit into continuity if the reader desired.

The opening story was a retelling of Spider-Man's origin by Peter David and Stan Lee. Most of the elements were familiar, but this story shows that the spider which bit Peter becomes radioactive thanks to the experiments of Dr. Otto Octavius, the very same experiment that turns him into Doctor Octopus. Doc Ock blames the spider for the explosion that fuses his metal arm harness to his body and mind, and by extension holds Spider-Man responsible.

Another change is that Peter develops his web-fluid a few years earlier in the hopes of patenting a super-adhesive, but shelves the design because he can't prevent it from dissolving after an hour. When he later decides to become Spider-Man, this design flaw suddenly becomes an advantage.

"Spider-Man: Chapter One" (1998)

A strange attempt to modernize Spider-Man's origin and early days, this series borrowed the idea that Spidey and Doc Ock were created in the same accident and was written and drawn by John Byrne. In this case, Peter is watching Dr. Octavius conduct a demonstration on how to control radiation. But the instruments are so sensitive that the presence of a single spider causes the entire building to explode. Dozens of people are killed or suffer permanent injuries from the blast. Octavius survies, now Dr. Octopus. Peter is alive and barely conscious as the now-radioactive spider bites him.

Peter spends weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Months after the accident, Peter is walking down the street, musing on his newfound health, energy and stamina, when he narrowly dodges an oncoming car by making a superhuman leap.

The story then follows the Lee/Ditko origin, except concerning the burglar. After several weeks of being a TV performer, Spidey is leaving his bedroom window in full costume and is spied by the burglar. The criminal assumes that Spidey is casing the house, which he himself has been doing for a few weeks since meeting Ben in an electronics store. Why the burglar would jump to this conclusion and why he's taking so long himself to rob the Parker home is not clear.

That night, after performing on live TV, the web-slinger is leaving the studio when the burglar runs past him. Apparently, the guy followed Spider-Man to the studio and took the opportunity to rob several dressing rooms. The burglar quickly greets Spidey, mentions that he is a fellow criminal, and asks the masked wall-crawler if he can help his escape. Spidey has no idea what the guy is talking about, but continues to ignore him even as a nearby police officer (not a security guard this time) yells to stop the thief. The burglar gets away at a rather leisurely pace, evidently finished with his conversation.

A few hours later, Peter comes home to the familiar scene of police outside the Parker house. But now when he confronts the burglar, the criminal once again happily greets the web-slinger, explaining that he had attempted to rob the Parker home because he saw Spidey casing the place earlier. He decided to impress our hero by robbing the house himself and then offering him half of the earnings in exchange for a partnership in crime. Spidey is consumed by guilt, realizing the true nature of power and responsibility.

This new take on Spider-Man met with a great deal of criticism. Many felt it overcomplicated the origin and diminished the impact of Spidey recognizing the burglar by having the criminal pause their confrontation to explain his actions. The "Chapter One" series made other changes to Spider-Man canon, but following its final issue it was very quickly ignored and then officially dismissed as not having a place in official continuity.

"Ultimate Spider-Man" Comic Books (2000 - Present)

The Ultimate anthologies were done. After the success of the new live-action "X-Men" film and with a live-action Spider-Man film in the works, Marvel decided to create a new fictional universe for folks who enjoyed the movies but were afraid to jump into stories that had decades of history behind them. This new parallel universe would be separate from the mainstream Marvel reality and would update and/or completely revise many characters to make them seem fresh and cutting edge. These comics were published under the Ultimate Marvel label and took place in a separate Marvel Universe than the original "616" version.

In the opening arc of "Ultimate Spider-Man," Peter is a high school nerd with glasses and is best friends with Mary Jane, a fellow nerd and neighbor he's known for years. He's also pals with rich kid Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn, whom he didn't meet until college in the mainstream comics.

While attending a class field trip to Osborn Industries, Peter is bitten by an escaped lab specimen, a spider injected with the strange OZ formula, Osborn's attempt to create a new breed of super-soldier. The chemical alters the spider and its venom, giving Peter his strange powers. Peter's spider bite is witnessed by many and Osborn fears that the boy will soon die, which could lead to the police discovering the OZ formula. He sends an assassin to kill the boy by running him over, but Peter dodges the oncoming car and Osborn realizes the teen now has super-powers.

Peter realizes his great new power. Even his vision, which was weak in this reality, is suddenly perfect. After winning an amateur wrestling competition, Peter becomes a professional wrestler as Spider-Man, never leaving to become a TV star. Like the 1990s cartoon, it is Uncle Ben who first gives the lesson about power and responsibility. Eventually Peter makes web-shooters to complete his set of spider-abilities.

In this reality, Spidey leaves the wrestling arena when he is accused of thievery. Then, in a bad mood, he allows a thief to escape even though he could easily trip the guy. A subsequent conversation with his uncle leads to an argument and Ben stating that power brings responsibility, a lesson he was told by Peter's father Richard. Peter ignores this and leaves angrily. When he returns home, Ben is dead, having been killed by a burglar, the same thief from earlier.

In this reality, after becoming a superhero, Peter joins the Daily Bugle as a part time web-site designer and IT guy (Get it? Spidey deals with web-sites). His parents' history is also altered. Now, Richard is a scientist whose research actually leads to the creation of Venom and to Peter's own web-shooters.

Recently, Peter's Ultimate Universe career as a hero ended when he was killed in battle. Young Miles Morales has become the new Spider-Man of that reality, having gained similar powers from another spider specimen of Norman Osborn's.

Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" Movie (2002)

Sam Raimi ("Evil Dead") directed the first feature film iteration of "Spider-Man" starring Tobey Maguire. Peter and Mary Jane are next-door neighbors who have known each other since early grade school, though MJ doesn't consider Peter a terribly close friend. Harry is again Peter's pal in high school. In this adaptation, Peter is a bit of a science nerd, but is nowhere near the gifted scientist he is in the comics and cartoons. He also begins his photography career early, working for the school newspaper.

A class field trip to a college lab includes a display of over a dozen genetically engineered "super-spiders." One of these spiders, a red and blue one, escapes and bites Peter, somehow transferring its traits to him in the process. Fortunately, none of the other spiders escape to bite people and give them powers.

Peter develops familiar abilities, but with a few differences from his comic book counterpart. First, Spidey's hands (and, presumably, his feet) have tiny, microscopic talons that allow him to cling to surfaces rather than crediting the ability to bio-magnetism. Secondly, Raimi saw the spider-sense as merely incredible awareness and reflexes rather than a psychic ability. So while Peter is able to dodge some attacks, it doesn't warn him if an enemy is standing nearby. Finally, Raimi felt audiences would think Peter was "too smart" for them to relate to if he were intelligent enough to create web-fluid and web-shooters so the filmmakers opted to have Peter develop natural spinnerets instead.

As in the classic origin, Peter decides to test out his powers in a wrestling competition, this time against a man called Bonesaw McGraw. But in this movie, due to a technicality Peter does not get the prize money despite winning his match. Feeling cheated, he is only too happy to do nothing when a thief robs the prize money and gets away. So in this version of events, Peter ignores the thief out of a (perhaps justifiable) sense of revenge.

Leaving the wrestling arena, Peter expects to meet Uncle Ben nearby but finds that he's been shot by a carjacker. Ben dies and Peter tracks down the criminal (now known as "the carjacker" rather than "the burglar"), whom he recognizes as the thief he allowed to escape. The killer meets an untimely end and Peter decides to become a hero. He then creates a very professional and expensive looking costume, apparently just because this is the kind of thing a superhero is supposed to wear.

In the sequel "Spider-Man 3," it was revealed that the villain Sandman had actually been holding the gun and that his partner, the thief, had jostled him and caused Ben's death by mistake.

MTV'S "Spider-Man, the New Animated Series" (2003)

MTV's "Spider-Man" cartoon was a CGI series meant to follow the new live-action film by Raimi. As such, Spider-Man's origin wasn't explained and viewers assumed that it lined up with what they had seen in the movie with Tobey Maguire. The series starred Neil Patrick Harris as Spider-Man and Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane.

Unlike the movie, Peter regained his "psychic" abilities in the series. But while his spider-sense seemed to warn him of nearby trouble that warranted his attention, it didn't always alert him to immediate and oncoming danger.

"The Spectacular Spider-Man" Animated Series (2008-2009)

Showrunners Greg Weisman and Victor Cook intended "The Spectacular Spider-Man" to be an updated version of the original Stan Lee and Steve Ditko era with some elements and characters from later Spider-Man eras mixed in. The show starred Josh Keaton, who currently voices Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" and Jack in "Transformers Prime." It is one of my personal favorite superhero adaptations ever.

For the first time, a cartoon series depicts Peter as a teenager in high school when he becomes Spider-Man. The show picks up three months after Uncle Ben's death, just as Peter is about to enter his junior year. Peter's best friends in school are Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborn. Peter's high school, Midtown, High is now actually located in Midtown Manhattan rather than Queens. It is also now called Midtown Manhattan Magnet High School, affectionately referred to by the students as "M-cubed."

In this cartoon, Peter gains his powers during a class field trip during his sophomore year. The field trip is nearly identical to the events of the Raimi film, except that the lab is run by Dr. Curt Connors. The genetically engineered spider is part of his research into transgenics, which will later turn him into the Lizard. In this cartoon, Dr. Connors' research also leads to the villains Electro and Kraven getting superhuman powers. So now Spidey and three of his enemies were created by the same basic science.

The penultimate season one episode "Intervention" revealed the rest of Peter's backstory through a dream of sorts. It's very similar to the origin in Raimi's film, except that Peter makes web-shooters and a costume before he attends the wrestling competition against Crusher Hogan.

"Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" Broadway Musical (2011-??)

Okay, there were technically two versions of this musical. During previews, constant technical difficulties and heavily negative reviews led to the show going on hiatus for a while, during which a new director and choreographer were hired and the script was reworked. It's still the most expensive Broadway production in history.

In the first version, a Geek Chorus (not making that up) explains Spider-Man's origin to the audience. Peter is a high school science nerd who works as a photographer for the school newspaper. While on a class trip to the labs of Dr. Norman Osborn, Peter's bitten by a genetically altered spider that is, apparently, actually the Greek mythological figure Arachne who has chosen the boy to be her avatar.

After using his abilities to win cash in a wrestling competition, Peter returns to Queens and sees school bully Flash Thompson getting carjacked, Peter ignores the incident, figuring that Flash deserves it. But Ben Parker is nearby and runs out to stop the criminal. The carjacker starts driving, colliding with Ben. Peter looks over to his uncle, who reminds him to "rise above it all," and then dies. The phrase "with great power comes great responsibility" is never used.

Peter blames himself for Ben's death, as his uncle wouldn't have gotten involved if he had stopped the carjacking himself. That night, Arachne gives him a costume, red to symbolize every innocent whose blood is shed and blue to symbolize sorrow. Peter then begins his career as Spider-Man and stops acting as a photographer for the school newspaper so he can instead sell pictures to J. Jonah Jameson.

In the second version, most of these events remain the same (except the Geek Chorus is removed). The main difference in origin occurs when Ben asks Peter to spend some time with him. The teenager refuses, determined instead to use his powers at a wrestling competition so he can cash in. After winning the prize money, Peter returns home to discover that Uncle Ben was shot and killed by a carjacker. Although Peter never meets the carjacker in this version of the story, nor did he have an opportunity to stop the criminal earlier, he does blame himself for Ben's death. Peter thinks that if he had stayed home instead of leaving to make quick money, this death could have been averted. He makes the decision to become a hero, realizing that great power brings great responsibility.

"Ultimate Spider-Man" Animated Series (2012-??)

In the newest animated series to star the wall-crawling hero, Peter is voiced by Drake Bell, who actually played a parody character based on Spider-Man in the film "Superhero Movie." When the series begins, Peter is in high school and has been operating on his own as Spider-Man for about a year. The first episode involves him accepting an offer to start working with the high-tech counter-terrorist organization S.H.I.E.L.D. Spidey gets training and access to S.H.I.E.L.D. resources, including a web-motorcycle and improved web-shooters. In exchange, he is also on call for various missions and lends his experience to a group of teenage superheroes who also become his new high school classmates.

The cartoon is fairly new and the first season is still airing on Disney XD, so I won't say anything further lest I spoil you all.

On July 3, we'll see yet another version of Spidey's backstory and early days in "The Amazing Spider-Man," a live-action movie reboot directed by Marc Webb. After 50 years and so many incarnations, the web-slinging wonder is showing no signs of slowing down. Here's to the next 50 years!

Alan Kistler is the author of the "Unofficial Spider-Man Trivia Challenge" and the "Unofficial Batman Trivia Challenge," now available in bookstores.

Origin of the idea of a series of books - History

The Legend of Zelda is aptly named, as the series has truly become a legend within the gaming industry. Every new generation of gamers have been given the opportunity to fall in love with it through their current Nintendo console. Or if they’re purists, going back to the original NES game. However, the fundamentals have pretty much always remained – a boy in green whose quest is to stop an evil wizard and save the princess. You don’t mess with perfection.

The question is- where did the inspiration for the Legend of Zelda come from? What inspired Nintendo to create a series that would subsequently exhilarate millions of gamers worldwide, many of whom would engage in a lifelong love affair with the franchise? This may sound familiar, but it really did all start with a young boy…

His name was Shigeru Miyamoto, and if you’re a seasoned gaming fan you more than likely recognize the name. If not, he’s the guy responsible for a couple of small indie franchises you’ve probably never heard of- Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, F-Zero and Star Fox… Yep, one guy. It’s not surprising from this that he’s known as the “father of modern gaming”. He is also responsible for one of my favourite quotes of all time

Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock and roll.

In addition to the aforementioned series that he has under his belt, Miyamoto is also the principal creator of the Legend of Zelda. And I wasn’t joking when I said that his journey towards one of the greatest series of all time began when he was a boy.

Miyamoto himself has stated that his primary inspiration for the character and the game flow was derived from his explorations of the hillsides surrounding his childhood town of Sonobe, Japan. Much like Link himself, Miyamoto would adventure through the forests, caves, lakes and small villages. As he said,

When I was a child, I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.

Yet another memorable moment of adventure for Miyamoto was when he discovered a cave entrance and explored its interior with the aid of a single lantern. There presumably wasn’t an old man inside handing out wooden swords.

As for the titular name, it was derived from none other than the great Zelda Fitzgerald. For those of you unfamiliar, she was the extremely free-spirited and highly publicized (in her day) wife of literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald, creator of The Great Gatsby, among a myriad of other works.

So why did Miyamoto choose this name for his princess? Apparently he thought it sounded “pleasant” and “significant.” He certainly wasn’t wrong about the latter.

But what about Link? Well, his depiction was inspired by Peter Pan – the other green clad boy that never seems to grow up. Miyamoto said he wanted his protagonist to be recognizable. And what better way to do that than to use a similar depiction to arguably the most well-known boy in children’s entertainment?

As for the name, that came from the series taking place in the past, present and future, with the main character being the “link” between them.

So there you have it, it started with an adventuresome boy who loved exploring, who then became a man who created a game about a boy who in the process of exploring has adventures. Seems to have worked out. To date, depending on what source you want to go with, the Zelda franchise has sold somewhere between 70-80 million copies of the various games in the franchise.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy our new popular podcast, The BrainFood Show (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Feed), as well as:

Dummies for Dummies

There’s something distinctly democratic about the how-to guide, whose schtick is selling confidence to the amateur. You don’t need to be an expert, or spend years apprenticing under one, the genre promises. Just read these instructions, and voila, you too can make a quilt or write a screenplay or repair a Honda Civic.

This year marks the 25 th anniversary of the “For Dummies” brand, the black-and-yellow king of the modern how-to. Today there are 1,950 Dummies titles and counting: Jazz for Dummies, Canadian Wine for Dummies, The Internet for Dummies, Homeschooling for Dummies, Sex for Dummies, Congress for Dummies. Is your house a mess? Buy Feng Shui for Dummies. Have cancer? Try Chemotherapy and Radiation for Dummies. Are you a dummy? Critical Thinking for Dummies could help. The blurb on the cover of Iguanas for Dummies says it all: “If you only get one book on iguanas,” says a noted reptile veterinarian, “this is the one to choose.”

The punch lines write themselves, but so do the checks. According to the publisher, 300 million books are in print, and the brand adds about 200 new titles a year.

Carrying around a Dummies book always makes me feel like, well, you know. But I swallowed my pride to become a fan of the series long ago. My husband and I are using Home Buying Kit for Dummies to guide us through the process of buying our first house right now, and I recently checked out Vegetable Gardening for Dummies from the library to start planning a tomato patch in our new backyard. I used the Dummies guide for personal finance in my 20s, and in a burst of crafty ambition that ultimately fizzled, Window Treatments and Slipcovers for Dummies. I think of Dummies guides like an analog Wikipedia: the perfect place to start when all I know is that I know nothing.

A Dummies book promises a few things. It is a reference work, and not a tutorial that means you can skip right to the bits you need without getting bogged down in material you don’t need. It is written by established experts—Sex for Dummies is by Dr. Ruth!—in a light, jokey tone. The text is broken up into small chunks, with bold headings and marginal icons (“Tip,” “Warning,” etc.) ensuring the reader rarely encounters two uninterrupted paragraphs without handholding.

Most importantly, a Dummies book assumes the reader is starting with zero knowledge on the topic. This is not a universal quality in the how-to world I still regret purchasing a guide to growing herbs that casually suggested I needed to install a 4-foot-long fluorescent tube fixture. (Really?! And also: Where? And finally: How?) Glimpsing that book on my shelf still makes me seethe with annoyance and inadequacy. A Dummies book pulls this off without talking down to the reader, or judging her for not knowing that she’s supposed to pinch off the flowers blooming on top of her basil plant, duh.

I’ve never mustered enough interest in technology to use a Dummies guide for hardware or software, but back in 1991, the Big Bang of the ever-expanding Dummies universe was DOS for Dummies. At the time, computers were landing in the offices of non-technophiles in greater numbers, and PCs were being marketed for home use. The existing guidebooks were terrible: heavy, confusing, and alternately jargon-y and patronizing. Books for beginners existed, but they usually just slapped a condescending first chapter onto an impenetrable manual. IDG, the publisher of tech magazines like PC World, was getting into the book business and saw an opening. The book was an immediate hit, and over the next two years, IDG produced another 17 computer-based titles. From there, they expanded into other topics, starting with personal finance. The rest is history.

That is the official Dummies origin story, per the company’s website and a conversation with marketing director David Palmer. But talk to Dan Gookin, who wrote DOS for Dummies, and you get a saltier version. “There was a lot of ego involved, and a lot of petty bullshit that always happens when you have something that’s a success,” he told me from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he is a city councilman. “They would have wrapped that title around newsprint and it still would have sold.”

His version of the origin story goes like this: In the late 1980s, he was shopping around a book proposal for The Idiot’s Guide to DOS, patterned after the popular 1969 hippie-tinged guidebook How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot.* Meanwhile, at a conference he met an editor from IDG who told him about a title rattling around in his head based on his uncle’s complaint that no one would write a book on “DOS for us dummies.” The editor read Gookin’s proposal and had just one big suggestion, in Gookin’s recollection: “This level of user doesn’t want to learn anything. They want to get the answer to the question, close the book, and move on with their life.”

Gookin wrote DOS for Dummies in about a month on an advance of about $6,000. The main note from the publisher on the first draft was that it was too short. (Gookin: “It’s Mozart being told there aren’t enough notes.”) Some bookstores refused to carry the finished product because the title sounded insulting to readers, and Gookin says the publisher orderered cautious print runs of just 5,000 over and over for months. But skyrocketing sales numbers changed everyone’s minds.

In Gookin’s view, the brand faltered as it grew. “For a while in the late 1990s, they would put out any piece of shit that had ‘For Dummies’ on it, and the thing would sell,” he told me. He recalls a meeting in this era with the series’ then-publisher and several top early Dummies authors, including tech writer David Pogue, at which the writers begged the publisher to maintain the integrity of the brand. “Dummies books are special,” Gookin recalls saying. Wiley bought Dummies from IDG in 2001.

The family of Windows for Dummies titles, including the original DOS book, is still the series’ best-seller over time. Gookin has now written about 30 individual titles, not counting those that have gone through multiple revised editions. He recalls getting one royalty check for $250,000 and driving it straight to the bank, where he was told the check was too big to accept. He claims DOS for Dummies broke the royalty calculation software at IDG. “Historically speaking, yes, I made an absolute trashload of money,” he said.

So, presumably, has Wiley, although the company declined to share annual sales figures. There have been a few changes over the years—Rich Tennant’s single-panel cartoons were a staple until 2012—but mostly the brand has simply grown. There are now Dummies apps, products like “The Complete Home Haircut Kit for Dummies,” and vanity Dummies titles commissioned by corporate clients for trade shows and marketing. Dummies.com features supplementary videos and other content, much of it accessible only to those who buy the books. The books have been translated into more than 30 languages, including French brand recognition for Pour Les Nuls rivals that of Dummies in the United States.

The books are undergoing a spruce-up this spring. Over the next few months, typefaces will be refreshed, and the “Dummies man”—the series’ cheerful triangle-head emblem—has acquired stylish thick-framed glasses and thicker, wavier hair. More substantively, the basic Dummies format will become more visual, relying less on verbal instructions and more on diagrams and illustrations.

The Dummies man may have gotten a hip makeover, but it remains to be seen how he’ll fare over the next quarter-century. The technological revolution that inspired the series has also spawned its most threatening rivals why pay $20 for a book when there’s so much free advice online? For one, because trust and simplicity go a long way when one is embarking on an intimidating, potentially expensive new project. And also because it’s still easier to hold a book than an iPad when you’re brewing beer or breeding dogs you don’t have to worry about dropping a book, hauling it into the garage or the garden, or turning its pages with hands covered in mud or cake batter.

Correction, April 4, 2016: This article incorrectly identified the decade in which Dan Gookin was shopping a book proposal. It was the late 1980s, not the late 1990s. (Return.)

The Origins of 𠆋ig Data&apos: An Etymological Detective Story

Words and phrases are fundamental building blocks of language and culture, much as genes and cells are to the biology of life. And words are how we express ideas, so tracing their origin, development and spread is not merely an academic pursuit but a window into a society’s intellectual evolution.

Digital technology is changing both how words and ideas are created and proliferate, and how they are studied. Just last month, for example, the Library of Congress said its archive of public Twitter messages has reached 170 billion tweets and rising, by about 500 million tweets a day.

The Library of Congress archive, resulting from a deal struck with Twitter in 2010, is not yet open to researchers. But the plan is that it soon will be. In a white paper, the Library said that social media promises to be a rich resource that provides 𠇊 fuller picture of today’s cultural norms, dialogue, trends and events to inform scholarship, the legislative process, new works of authorship, education and other purposes.”

The new digital forms of communication — Web sites, blog posts, tweets — are often very different from the traditional sources for the study of words, like books, news articles and academic journals.

“It’s almost like oral language instead of edited text,” said Fred R. Shapiro, editor of the “Yale Book of Quotations” and an associate librarian at the Yale Law School. “It’s the way of the future.”

The unruly digital data of the Web is a big ingredient in what is now being called 𠇋ig Data.” And as it turns out, the term Big Data seems to be most accurately traced not to references in news or journal archives, but to digital artifacts now posted on technical Web sites, appropriately enough.

To our modest tale of word sleuthing: Last August, I wrote a Sunday column about 2012 being the breakout year for Big Data as an idea, in the marketplace, and as a term.

At the time, I did some reporting on the roots of the term, and I asked Mr. Shapiro of Yale to dig into it. He scoured data bases and came up with several references, including in press releases for product announcements and one intriguing use of the term by a now-famous author (more on that later).

But Mr. Shapiro couldn’t find anything as crisp and definitive as he had done for me years earlier when I asked him to try to find the first reference to the word “software” as a computing term. It was in 1958, in an article in “The American Mathematical Monthly,” written by John Tukey, a Princeton mathematician.

So, without a conclusive answer, I didn’t write about the origins of the term Big Data in that Sunday column. But afterward, I heard from people who had ideas on the subject.

Francis X. Diebold, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, got in touch and even wrote a paper, with the mildly tongue-in-cheek title, “I Coined the Term 𠆋ig Data’ ” I had not thought of economics as the breeding ground for the term, but it is not unreasonable. Some of the statistical and algorithmic methods now in the Big Data tool kit trace their heritage to economic modeling and Wall Street.

Mr. Diebold staked a claim based on his paper, 𠇋ig Data Dynamic Factor Models for Macroeconomic Measurement and Forecasting,” presented in 2000 and published in 2003. The economic-modeling paper was first academic reference found to Big Data, according to research by Marco Pospiech, a Ph. D. candidate at the Technical University of Freiberg in Germany.

By then, I had heard from Douglas Laney, an veteran data analyst at Gartner. His said the father of the term Big Data might well be John Mashey, who was the chief scientist at Silicon Graphics in the 1990s.

I replied to Mr. Diebold that I thought from what I had seen he probably had plenty of competition. And I passed along the e-mail correspondence I had received. Mr. Diebold said thanks much, and added that he had a University of Pennsylvania research librarian looking into it as well.

The term Big Data is so generic that the hunt for its origin was not just an effort to find an early reference to those two words being used together. Instead, the goal was the early use of the term that suggests its present connotation — that is, not just a lot of data, but different types of data handled in new ways.

The credit, it seemed to me, should go to someone who was aware of the computing context. That is why, in my view, a very intriguing reference, discovered by the Yale researcher Mr. Shapiro, does not qualify.

In 1989, Erik Larson, later the author of bestsellers including “The Devil in the White City” and “In The Garden of Beasts,” wrote a piece for Harper’s Magazine, which was reprinted in The Washington Post. The article begins with the author wondering how all that junk mail arrives in his mailbox and moves on to the direct-marketing industry. The article includes these two sentences: “The keepers of big data say they do it for the consumer’s benefit. But data have a way of being used for purposes other than originally intended.”

Prescient indeed. But not, I don’t think, a use of the term that suggests an inkling of the technology we call Big Data today.

Since I first looked at how he used the term, I liked Mr. Mashey as the originator of Big Data. In the 1990s, Silicon Graphics was the giant of computer graphics, used for special-effects in Hollywood and for video surveillance by spy agencies. It was a hot company in the Valley that dealt with new kinds of data, and lots of it.

There are no academic papers to support the attribution to Mr. Mashey. Instead, he gave hundreds of talks to small groups in the middle and late 1990s to explain the concept and, of course, pitch Silicon Graphics products. The case for Mr. Mashey is on the Web sites of technical and professional organizations, like Usenix. There, some of his presentation slides from those talks are posted, including 𠇋ig Data and the Next Wave of Infrastress” in 1998.

For me, looking for the origins of Big Data has been a matter of personal curiosity, something to get back to someday and write up on a weekend.

When I called Mr. Mashey recently, he said that Big Data is such a simple term, it’s not much a claim to fame. His role, if any, he said, was to popularize the term within a portion of the high-tech community in the 1990s. “I was using one label for a range of issues, and I wanted the simplest, shortest phrase to convey that the boundaries of computing keep advancing,” said Mr. Mashey, a consultant to tech companies and a trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Diebold kept looking into the subject as well. His follow-up inquiries, he said, proved to be 𠇊 journey of increasing humility.” He has written to two papers since the first one.

His most recent paper concludes: “The term Big Data, which spans computer science and statistics/econometrics, probably originated in the lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics in the mid-1990s, in which John Mashey figured prominently.”

Tracing the origins of Big Data points to the evolution in the field of etymology, according to Mr. Shapiro. The Yale researcher began his word-hunting nearly 35 years ago, as a student at the Harvard Law School, poring through the library stacks. He was an early user of databases of legal documents, news articles and other documents, in computerized archives.

The Web, Mr. Shapiro said, opens up new linguistic terrain. “What you’re seeing is a marriage of structured databases and novel, less structured materials,” he said. “It can be a powerful tool to see far more.”

A version of this article appears in print on 02/04/2013, on page B 4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Searching for Origins Of the Term 𠆋ig Data’.

George RR Martin: ‘When I began A Game of Thrones I thought it might be a short story’

S trict instructions are issued before interviewing George RR Martin: do not ask about The Winds of Winter, the sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, the one fans keep haranguing him about and Martin has been writing since 2011. Focus on Fire and Blood, his imagined history of the Targaryen dynasty, and all will be well. So I prepare for the interview with a certain amount of trepidation. Martin is probably one of the most famous novelists in the world. There are not many writers who find their every pronouncement picked over by the press, who have sold 90m copies of their books, who are instantly recognised in public. We’ve spoken before, back when A Game of Thrones was about to hit television screens I’m one of those readers who feels slightly smug about loving the books before Ned Stark became Sean Bean, before Emilia Clarke became Daenerys Targaryen. But I know he has a reputation for irascibility, and I also really, really want to ask him about The Winds of Winter. As it turns out, Martin brings up the book himself, and is warm and expansive on topics from fame and fortune to his progress on the long-awaited novel.

We start, though, with Fire and Blood, only the first half of a history that will span 300 years and acres of Aegons and Jaehaeryses. Martin admits he never planned to write it. Fire and Blood stems from a coffee-table book, The World of Ice and Fire, which was being pulled together by two “uber fans”, Elio M Garcia Jr and Linda Antonssen, in 2014. Martin was just going to “polish and expand the history a little, maybe fill in any holes” about various kings and battles. But he was having so much fun that those little additions ended up running to 350,000 words. “We had totally destroyed the entire concept of this book,” says Martin. “So that’s what this book is, or the first half of it: a history of the Targaryen kings.”

Written in the voice of a maester of the citadel, Archmaester Gyldayn, a “crotchety old guy with strong opinions” who is telling his story hundreds of years after the events he’s chronicling, the structure allows Martin to play about with the unreliability of his narrators, as Gyldayn sorts through his primary sources. These include Mushroom, a brilliantly bawdy dwarf whose take on history errs towards the filthy.

Martin has always loved popular history Game of Thrones was loosely inspired by accounts of the wars of the Roses. “My model for this was the four-volume history of the Plantagenets that Thomas B Costain wrote in the 50s. It’s old‑fashioned history: he’s not interested in analysing socioeconomic trends or cultural shifts so much as the wars and the assignations and the murders and the plots and the betrayals, all the juicy stuff. Costain did a wonderful job on the Plantagenets so I tried to do that for the Targaryens.”

A still from Game Of Thrones series seven: Conleth Hill as Varys, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen. Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth and Kit Harington as Jon Snow. Photograph: Sky Atlantic

From sibling marriages to dragon riders, assassinations and plotting, there is an awful lot going on and those looking for the guts and glory for which Martin is renowned will not be disappointed – take this pronouncement, from one prophet: “When the dragons come, your flesh will burn and blister and turn to ash. Your wives will dance in gowns of fire, shrieking as they burn, lewd and naked underneath the flames. And you shall see your little children weeping, weeping till their eyes melt and slide like jelly down their faces … ” Or the stories that lie behind these few lines: “She saw her son rise up against his uncle and die, together with his dragon. A short while later, her second son followed him to the funeral pyre, tortured to death by Tyanna of the Tower.”

“There are novels buried in it,” Martin admits. “If I were 30 years younger I could easily write a series about the Dance of the Dragons” – the Targaryen civil war – “or I could write the story of Aegon’s conquest. Every one of the 13 children of Jaehaerys and Alysanne has a story that could be told about him or her, their rise, their fall, their triumphs, their deaths … It was a lot of fun to create, a lot of fun to live in that world again.”

The way Martin speaks about writing Fire and Blood is in direct contrast to how he talks about the long-awaited novel. “I’ve been struggling with it for a few years,” he admits. “The Winds of Winter is not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players and antagonists and allies and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging. Fire and Blood by contrast was very simple. Not that it’s easy, it still took me years to put together, but it is easier.”

Martin has charts to help him keep track of his vast cast, and “lots of pieces of paper with scribbling all over them”, as well as “Elio and Linda off in Sweden if I forget what colour anyone’s eyes are”. And these days, there’s also a Wikia he can consult. When he’s really on a roll with his writing, “there are days when I sit down in the morning with my cup of coffee, I fall through the page and I wake up and it’s dark outside and my coffee is still next to me, it’s ice cold and I’ve just spent the day in Westeros.”

Martin, born in 1948, began writing as a child, in Bayonne, New Jersey, selling monster stories to other children for pennies. In high school, he wrote superhero stories for fanzines he became passionate about science fiction and fantasy after discovering comic books as a young reader, and realising that books didn’t have to be about “Dick and Jane and Sally, this suburban family with a dog called Spot”.

“I lived in a federal housing project, there were docks and there were warehouses … Dick and Jane lived on what might have been an alien planet,” he says. “Then I discovered Batman and Superman. Now those were stories, they were having adventures. All sorts of amazing things could happen.”

In middle school he encountered Tolkien, “and yeah, he blew my mind”. Martin studied journalism at university – he went to Northwestern in Illinois – continuing to write and sell short stories through his time as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war (he did alternative service with Volunteers in Service to America), a chess tournament director and a teacher. In 1979, he turned to writing full time, publishing novels including his debut, space opera Dying of the Light (1977), and historical vampire tale Fevre Dream (1982). He also worked on Hollywood TV shows including The Twilight Zone and the CBS series Beauty and the Beast as a story editor and producer.

Martin at the 2015 Emmy awards. Game of Thrones has won 47 Emmys across seven series, and five Golden Globe awards. Photograph: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

But he’d always had “at the back of his mind” the thought that he wanted to give epic fantasy a try. “Tolkien had an enormous influence on me, but after Tolkien there was a dark period in the history of epic fantasy where there were a lot of Tolkien imitations coming out that were terrible,” he says. “I didn’t necessarily want to be associated with those books, which just seemed to me to be imitating the worst things of Tolkien and not capturing any of the great things.”

The first chapter of A Game of Thrones came to him “out of nowhere” in 1991. “When I began, I didn’t know what the hell I had. I thought it might be a short story it was just this chapter, where they find these direwolf pups. Then I started exploring these families and the world started coming alive,” Martin says. “It was all there in my head, I couldn’t not write it. So it wasn’t an entirely rational decision, but writers aren’t entirely rational creatures.”

A Game of Thrones opens with Bran Stark climbing a tower at Winterfell and seeing Jaime and Cersei Lannister having incestuous sex, before being pushed to his apparent death by Jaime. By the end of the novel, Bran’s father Ned Stark has been beheaded by the mad boy-king Joffrey Lannister, while Viserys Targaryen, whose father lost the Iron Throne, has had molten gold poured on his head as his sister Daenerys looks on. Five books into the series, the battle for the Iron Throne of Westeros has killed off countless characters, bloodily and unexpectedly – one major name is shot with a crossbolt on the privy much of an army is wiped out during the notorious Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords.

Grittier, darker, much less heroic . from series six of Game of Thrones. Photograph: 2017 Home Box Office, Inc. All

Tolkien might have set him on his way, but Martin’s brand of fantasy is very different from The Lord of the Rings – grittier, darker, much less heroic. “I think every contemporary fantasy writer writes under the shadow of Tolkien, but there was no way I could capture his voice, which is singular and unique. He was a very different man than me, a man from a different time with very different attitudes, and even though we were both writing about a medieval-type society I had a very different take on it, on basic attitudes about the war and sexuality, so I was just telling my story,” Martin says.

His mantra has always been William Faulkner’s comment in his Nobel prize acceptance speech, that only the “human heart in conflict with itself … is worth writing about”. “I think that’s true of any fiction worth reading, that you’re really talking about people. And maybe it’s set in space or in a castle with dragons, maybe you set it in a suburban town where Dick and Jane live, or in some urban hell hole. Wherever you want to set your story, it’s still about people trying to make their decisions about what is right and what is wrong, how do I survive, questions of good and evil.”

His famous fans include Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, who says that he has been reading Martin since he was 15. “He wrote a huge dark space opera and a vampire riverboat story and a murder mystery rock’n’roll fantasy novel. Each book and each story was different and each was deep. I was delighted that the public discovered his genius with Game of Thrones, but I wish they’d read the other books too,” says Gaiman, who describes himself as “famous in the world of George RR Martin for a blog post”, in which – way back in 2009 – he took Martin’s fans to task over their demands for the next Song of Ice and Fire novel, telling them: “George RR Martin is not your bitch.”

A Song of Ice and Fire was a bestselling series before HBO came along in 2013, but the show took fantasy to the mainstream. Today, Martin sits in a position he could scarcely have imagined when he published the first book. “Like every other young writer I dreamed of fame and fortune. Having achieved them I can tell you that fortune is great,” he says. Martin’s book sales have allowed him to buy a cinema in Santa Fe, near where he lives with wife Parris (they have been together since 1981 and married in 2011, Martin writing on his blog at the time: “What can I say? I’m slow. With writing and with … ah … other things”). They fund a scholarship for budding fantasy writers and support a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico. “I like the fortune part of it. Fame is definitely a double-edged sword … If I’m in an airport or a big city, any kind of public event, I have to be prepared to be recognised, everybody wants a selfie. The fans are usually very nice but you can’t control it, you can’t turn it off. We all have bad days when we’d just like to be left alone, you don’t get to have that option any more … It’s a mixed blessing, definitely.”

Game of Thrones fans at a 2015 exhibition for the show in London. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

And there’s the pressure it brings to the writing. The sheer popularity of Game of Thrones has made cracking on with the series harder, he admits. And there’s also the problem of the storyline in the show overtaking that in the books.

“The show has achieved such popularity around the world, the books have been so popular and so well reviewed, that every time I sit down I’m very conscious I have to do something great, and trying to do something great is a considerable weight to bear,” he says. “On the other hand, once I really get rolling, I get into the world, and that happened recently with Fire and Blood. I was going to sleep thinking of Aegon and Jaehaerys and waking up thinking of them and I couldn’t wait to get the typewriter. The rest of the world vanishes, and I don’t care what I’m having for dinner or what movies are on or what my email says, who’s mad at me this week because The Winds of Winter isn’t out, all that is gone and I’m just living in the world I’m writing about. But it’s sometimes hard to get to that almost trance state.”

It can also be hard because Martin has so much going on. As well as writing the books, he is working with the writers of the five different prequels to Game of Thrones that HBO is developing, , including Jane Goldman, whose The Long Night takes place 5,000 years in the past. He’s also executive producing an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, has the superhero series Wild Cards in development (“not just one Wild Cards show but hopefully two or three”) and is developing “a couple of other shows for HBO that I can’t talk about yet”.

“It’s all fun, but there are days when I feel a little dizzy. It’s a good problem to have.” Wherever he goes, it’s not likely his writing will stray out of the speculative. What is it about fantasy that draws readers in so tightly?

“People read fantasy to see the colours again,” he says. “We live our lives and I think there’s something in us that yearns for something more, more intense experiences. There are men and women out there who live their lives seeking those intense experiences, who go to the bottom of the sea and climb the highest mountains or get shot into space. Only a few people are privileged to live those experiences but I think all of us want to, somewhere in our heart of hearts we don’t want to live the lives of quiet desperation Thoreau spoke about, and fantasy allows us to do those things. Fantasy takes us to amazing places and shows us wonders, and that fulfils a need in the human heart.”

And the dragons? “Oh sure, dragons are cool too,” he chuckles. “But maybe not on our doorstep.”

The television series

Though the popular BBC adaptation of the gang’s history shows vicious street fighting and slashing with blades, it is thought that the crimes of the Peaky Blinders were much tamer. Most recorded incidents relate to illegal betting, theft and ABH. Court reports at the time refer to the gang as ‘foul mouthed young men’ who would ‘stalk streets in drunken groups, insulting and mugging passers-by’.

Commissioned by the BBC in 2013, the story of the infamous Birmingham gang was made into a television series starring Cillian Murphy. The introduction of Tom Hardy saw two further series aired, with a fourth likely to be aired in 2018. Though the television series tells the tale of fictitious gang members in an era slightly later than when the gang were first active, its chilling storyline still sends shivers down the spine.

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