Muir has written fiction based on CTF2187 (a play-by-mail game from
Advanced Gaming Enterprises which features teams of Battle Bots that fight
against each other in arenas) for both PAPER MAYHEM and SABLEDRAKE. I had
the opportunity to talk to Shannon, and we discussed CTF2187, her stories
that revolve around the game, and the dramatic events and relationships
that shape her characters.
How long have you been playing CTF2187?
started playing CTF2187 in the summer of 1990, so a little over thirteen
years as of the time of this interview.
How did you discover CTF2187?
my father discovered the game first. I caught him filling out the setup
form in his office and saw the rule book with the Battle Bot on the cover.
As a fan of anime like VOLTRON and ROBOTECH, and liking Play-By-Mail
though I'd had trouble finding a game that kept my interest, I was
turned out the team my father joined still needed bodies, so I whipped up
H.A.L. Mayne in a hurry and started out on my first Arena.
What made you decide to start the SISTERS OF SILICON team?
the time I started, it wasn't clear whether you wanted to role play male
or female characters. The Gamemasters at Advanced Gaming Enterprises would
usually guess at gender when chronicling Arena events for the newsletters,
usually assuming a character was male. The SISTERS OF SILICON's initial
intent was to provide a team where characters could be assumed female
simply by virtue of membership. Within a year, a Gender option was added
to the game, thereby rendering the original purpose of the SISTERS OF
many of the characters I -- and others -- played already built successful
reputations as part of the team. Also, nothing changed the fact that
SISTERS OF SILICON historically remained the first all-female team.
have been two official subteams and one unofficial one since then. The
LADIES OF METAL originally consisted of a slate of female characters with
names that were plays on metal rock bands (such as Alyson Chaynes and Ann
Thrax), and the more recent WOMEN OF WEAPONRY consisted of characters I
picked up that were abandoned by other players but had won CP or Bot Kill
commendations. It also was in part to give some leadership authority to
Lauraic Vileslayer, who has had a very successful character career. The
unofficial subteam is known as the RIOT GRLLS, which is my Dad throwing
together some of his favorite female Bot pilots from the main team and
subteams together in a regularly appearing unit.
What motivated you to begin writing your CTF2187 fiction stories?
be honest, I have to struggle to remember a little bit. It was the time
when DRAGONLANCE (TM) and similar first came out, and I became fascinated
with the idea of seeing if I could apply the same to a combat game like
CTF2187. Also, the writer in me couldn't shake contemplating how the
events of a game (if they happened to real people) would form those people
How much do the actual events that happen in the games influence your
lot. Generally I wait until games conclude and then back up and figure out
how pilots would have reacted, the choices they would make, to get to
those positions. When pilots die in games, which is always a tough choice
as well. Not only on how to restructure and rewrite arcs I might have been
considering for character subplots, but on how it affects and changes the
one major exception to this so far is the story "Spectres of
Darkness." This story, which appeared in SABLEDRAKE, involved the
now-deceased E.C. Vileslayer watching the holo-diary of her deceased
sister known as Alias. That story actually began by discovering an
unfinished story from when I was writing stories for PAPER MAYHEM (long
out of print) on an old floppy disc. I knew that I had set up a
relationship between Alias and E.C., who both strove to find each other
after being separated young. Several major characters in the draft I
found, such as Alias and Dorian Blackheart, were long since deceased and
I'd picked up the SABLEDRAKE stories at what I felt was a more natural
starting point for new readers that came some time later.
also realized that some questions had been left unanswered, such as who
had vandalized Lazer's. There really hadn't been any thought in my mind as
to what person had been responsible originally, I just had it happen as a
plot point. "Spectres of Darkness" provided the chance to give
some insight into the short-lived E.C., spend more time with Alias and
Dorian, and resolve some loose ends.
Are there any events that have happened in the games that you wish hadnít
occurred (such as a death of a pilot)?
deaths would be the big one. It's been just as disheartening for me to
watch my fellow players lose pilots as for myself. As to my own losses, I
think the biggest shock was the relatively recent demise of E.C.
Vileslayer during her first game. I honestly thought I'd be able to eject
in time from that Arena. From a writing perspective, it cut my ability to
explore her and her family to the extent I would have liked. That said,
it's not natural to bring in yet another relative to try and do that; the
book on the Cartwright family is closed.
in the same vein, the Pilot loss I was happiest with was that of Alias,
who in the fiction is E.C.'s long lost older sister. Vienna Cartwright
wasn't originally written to become Alias, she was just there as an
information source. However, when I acquired Alias, I needed to find a
character to fit her. Vienna had the motivation to do something rash after
her father died, and the logical motivation to use a pilot handle that in
no way resembled a real name. I made the match solely on that basis, but I
never really knew where I would have gone with her if things had
continued. As it is, she provided the catalyst for several major events
that resulted in some writing I really like later. Also, without her, I
would not have created E.C. whose death I think has added tragic dimension
to Ragin' John Blaze.
also a death coming up in the next story that saddened me too... the
character just started growing on me, starting out as one of my orphan
acquisitions so she came with a past history. There's so many places I
could have taken her. Now I have to figure out where her death will take
There has been quite a story arc surrounding Femme Fatale and Rus. Can you
give some background as to how the characters and story ideas came about?
Fatale was the second character I created, H.A.L. Mayne actually came
first though the Sisters didn't exist then. I got the idea for the team
while H.A.L. was in the midst of an Arena and I couldn't have her lead the
team. So I created Femme Fatale solely to lead the Sisters, initially
(which, by the way, would be a no-no today; team leaders must be a minimum
Sterling I acquired as an orphan pilot -- meaning someone else created and
abandoned him. He ended up last place in a championship tournament, which
was also the character's first contest. He quickly came to be called Rus
for short. Since he and Femme came on the scene about the same time in my
game history, that's why I chose to bring them together. Also, it was
easier to come up with more logical reasons why the two of them had gotten
later starts in the Arenas than H.A.L. even though they are all roughly
the same age.
and Rus are my two characters in most need of growth in the trio, and
that's what binds them. Other than the fact she's now married to the man
who nearly killed her, H.A.L. doesn't have many flaws. She started as
brash and overconfident and now carries her own as a General. Femme got
started late because she cautiously wanted to study to be a good leader
before going into combat, but to be honest doesn't have the best track
record. Neither does Rus.
of the things I realized was that I'd rushed to marry them too fast in the
stories that ran in PAPER MAYHEM, they needed some character growth to
really know how much they valued each other. That's why, for a time, they
were paired off with other characters (Rus with Alias, Femme with Dr.
Lawrence Wright). Alias died and Dr. Wright -- while necessary as I.M.
Shirley Wright's ex and K.S. 'Speedy' Wright's father -- never really took
off as a character otherwise. Despite my best efforts to keep them apart
as a writer, Rus and Femme kept wanting to be back together -- and their
game performance ultimately provided the catalyst for growth and change to
Are there any personal experiences that influence the love struggles
between Femme Fatale and Rus?
my love life hasn't quite been like theirs. I suppose in the sense that I
know love and loss. But I've never had the feeling separated from my lost
love issue. In truth, I'm really glad for that. My few prior relationships
haven't lasted, but the one I'm in now I've been in for seven years...
practically since the day I set foot in Los Angeles.
significant other is Kevin Paul Shaw Broden, a writer, artist, and more
recently a bit of a CTF2187 player himself. We work together on a webcomic
called FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY at http://www.flying-glory.com
and also co-wrote several episodes for the animated series MIDNIGHT HORROR
SCHOOL currently airing in Japan, which you can find out more about at
http://www.midnighthorrorschool.net. Kevin and I totally relate on a lot
of issues, have common strengths on which we can support each other, and
both recognize our weaknesses and support each other through them. In that
sense, I guess we are a lot like Femme and Rus.
as an aside... Damian and Dorian Blackheart, Richard Shadowhand, Alias,
and Sinister were all originally owned by my ex-fiance' whom I met at the
wedding of another former CTF2187 player. At the time we were on opposite
sides of an Arena. He dropped out of CTF2187 with standing Arena
commitments and I decided to see them through.
Do you have any definite plans for Femme Fatale and Rusí storylines? If
so, would you be willing to share any hints about where the storyline may
I mentioned above, Dr. Wright did not work out as I envisioned. Having
grown a lot as characters, they likely will remarry barring either of them
dying in the arenas before I reach that point. I'm just not sure when.
Also there are other issues to confront, like wanting to start a family
while both being pilots. The only pilots with children have grown
children, such as I.M. Shirley Wright. This is likely the direction I
would go in.
Earlier you mentioned that you realized you had Femme Fatale and Rus marry
too early in your earlier stories. Looking back at your other earlier
stories that appeared in PAPER MAYHEM, is there anything else you would
have done differently if you had written them today?
than the famous typo of accidentally putting H.A.L. in the wrong kind of
Bot at one point in my first story (she shows up in a Cyclops instead of a
Ravager, I can't remember why I did that other than she may have been in
that Bot type in an actual game while I was writing the story), from a
story arc perspective I wouldn't really do anything different. H.A.L.'s
character evolution in those stories goes at the right pace, Derrick
Deathex has just left his team; in fact, overall, I've been very happy at
how slow these two came together. The only other thing that didn't work
out in hindsight due to the changing nature of the game is that my last
PAPER MAYHEM story was written from the viewpoint of Dorian Blackheart,
starting and ending with a journal entry format. While the body of the
story introduces her, her brother Damian, and Richard by telling one of
their Academy-days stories, Dorian's journal entry promised that she
herself would reveal how Team Blackdeath ultimately fell apart. Between my
several years hiatus between PAPER MAYHEM (I just couldn't find the time
to write, and then the magazine folded with editor David Webber's death)
and SABLEDRAKE, and the fact the character of Dorian Blackheart didn't
last much longer, I would have had difficulty picking up exactly where I
left off. While the journal style itself wasn't bad, the fact I hinted at
future commitments that I could not guarantee is something I would not do
Do you have any favorite characters or storylines in your CTF2187 stories?
like many of them for different reasons. Femme, Rus, and H.A.L. are
dearest to my heart because they've been with me since practically the
beginning. Derrick I also have an affinity for because he's still got this
dark side H.A.L. isn't aware of and I don't know where he'll go. Damian
Blackheart and Lauraic Vileslayer have charm and appeal in their
broodiness. Ragin' John Blaze is newer as a character but I feel has
potential if the right situations arise. Richard Shadowhand I've always
been endeared to, and something major just happened to alter how I
envisioned his arc. It takes place in the next upcoming story, and
involves Kibitz, who grew on me from the outset from the moment I acquired
her. I'm also slowly developing an affection for Lela. The others are fun
as player pieces, but are not growing as much on the written page... at
least not yet. Anything could happen.
to storylines, the Femme and Rus arc is my favorite. I'm curious to see in
particular where Richard Shadowhand and Ragin' John Blaze go as
characters. I also like watching the character evolution of Derrick
two characters I'd most like to have that I don't currently control, in
order to make some headway on character storylines, would be Mirk Deathex
(Derrick's brother) and Ignatius Darkstar (Damian's friend turned
traitor). However, the people who last played these characters haven't
written in to relinquish them. Even though they haven't been played in
years, I refuse to write deep character stories about characters I don't
taken on acquiring more orphan characters versus creating new ones in
order to mine their history and play on it (past Arenas, Kills, Awards) to
strengthen the universe. I try my best to research old Command Posts to
stay true to how the character was portrayed by prior owners, if at all
possible. Petruchio, an orphan I acquired whom I made leader of the Lion's
Maw, is the best example; I had to look at not only what posts his player
put in the newsletter, but those by the leader of his prior team to get a
feel of what the team environment would be like and how this would shape
Petruchio's motivations to leave that team and form the Lion's Maw.
having said all that, I will write characters in as pivotal story players
that I don't control... provided I have the consent of the owner. This has
happened with several of my Dad's pilots (Sledge Hammer in particular) who
are the only logical conduits to forward story action. In those cases, he
and I discuss what I want to do and we see if a fit can be made. In most
cases, it does work. I can only think of one instance where I've been shot
down, and that was a scenario in which I wanted to use Hip Hoppin' Jeffrey
(an orphan Dad acquired with a long Arena history); it just turned out he
wasn't appropriate in Dad's estimation for what I was considering.
Instead, this subplot has evolved into something that hasn't yet played
out on the page.
In your opinion, do you believe your stories may have had any kind of
impact on the game?
is tough to say. I know creating the SISTERS OF SILICON had an impact on
the game. Based on some of the submission I've seen to the COMMAND POST
game newsletter, it does seem to have encouraged some players to be more
creative in their roleplaying outside of the standard scope of the game.
However, my biggest worry is that I've gotten so prolific with my
storylines that they've created a false expectation of what to expect in
the game and could ultimately backfire in interesting new players. I'm not
always a hard-facts person, I'm a characters-first person. I hate to
confess that as much as I enjoy reading military SF -- my particular
favorites are the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber (not to be
confused with late PAPER MAYHEM editor David Webber) and the Miles
Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold -- that at times I skim over the
technical stuff to get to the next bit of character story. So I really
struggle to bring this to my writing.
other thing is that my view of the universe isn't the only way it can be
perceived. While I have the Gamemasters' blessing, the stories aren't
case you were wondering, there are notes for a final story. I have a
general idea, barring the demise of a couple central pilots, how the story
ends if the game ever has to or for some reason I have to stop writing the
stories for good. I've started planting seeds in some of the current
stories just to make sure the groundwork is there. So if there are things
that seem unresolved for a while, they will pay off in the end.
2003, I also received back full rights (outside of those held by Advanced
Gaming Enterprises) to republish the PAPER MAYHEM stories any way I see
fit. I got my hands on QuarkXPress for a project in Fall of 2003 and am
exploring to see if I can create an e-book containing those earlier
stories. I've alluded to enough things in the other stories that you can
pick up at the start of the SABLEDRAKE stories and not miss anything
crucial, but some people might find it interesting reading to see how my
writing style evolves.
Do you hope to still be writing the CTF2187 fiction in the future?
I am a professional writer but CTF2187 stories are the only things I still
am willing to do for free on a regular basis, outside of FLYING GLORY AND
THE HOUNDS OF GLORY (which Kevin and I hope to sell as our own property).
The Gamemasters compensate me in no way save letting me continue. I
honestly would miss these if I had to stop, I know I did the few years
between publishing them in PAPER MAYHEM and SABLEDRAKE.
CTF2187 hasn't made the leap to being playable by email or Internet yet in
a day when everyone wants that convenience. My understanding is that
Advanced Gaming Enterprises is working towards that, and I definitely plan
to stick with the game -- and the stories based on the game -- as long as
What would you like readers to take away from these stories, whether or
not they are or become game players?
I would like to see more interest in CTF2187 as a result of the stories,
my primary hope is that people see that human strengths and flaws exist in
any time in history, be in those times of the past or the possible future
that lies ahead. I think some of the greatest assets of the human race are
faith and perseverance, qualities Rus and Femme ultimately exemplify even
if they do get discouraged sometimes as they want to do their best in a
flawed world where they themselves are fairly flawed too.