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The success of FF inevitably brought its critics. An outspoken member of the Evangelical Alliance called them the work of satan and demanded they be banned. Frequently asked by the media whether stories of swords, sorcery and demons were suitable for a children’s publisher like Puffin, Editorial Director Liz Attenborough did a valiant job of defending the honour of FF. But for every critic there was also a FF supporter. Teachers, for example, reported how FF had been extremely successful in getting teenage boys to read — particularly those classified as ‘reluctant readers’.
By now Ian and Steve had become virtual hermits. When they weren’t at the Games Workshop office they were writing. They saw very little of their friends and family during this period. Steve had promised Geraldine Cooke a more advanced, series for Penguin. The first book in this Sorcery series was released in late 1983. Ian saw the emerging FF world as described in the first 3 books as needing to be developed to give it ‘depth’.
Within the world of Titan, the continent of Allansia was the setting for the Jackson & Livingstone FF books. Through titles like Deathtrap Dungeon and City of Thieves, Allansia extended its own characters, history and legends, providing a unique richness to the Fighting Fantasy™ mythos. Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But Ian and Steve were not particularly flattered to learn that other publishers were soon planning ‘me too’ fantasy Gamebooks. To fend off the imitators, Puffin wanted to up the publication schedule to a book a month.
With the best will in the world, there was no way the two creators of the series could keep up this level of output. New writers were introduced in what became known as the ‘Presents series’. The first of these was another Steve Jackson, founder of Steve Jackson Games in Austin Texas. Very confusing! Other writers became well-known FF adventure-creators. But perhaps FF’s most prolific talent was Marc Gascoigne, who wrote several adventures, Advanced Fighting Fantasy textbooks, novels and went on to become the series editor until Puffin finally ceased publishing. FF 59: Curse of the Mummy was the last title ever published in the main FF series.
Why stop on such an odd number? Truth is, the series was due to stop at FF 50: Return to Firetop Mountain. But when this sold well and rekindled sales of the FF back catalogue, Puffin decided to keep the new titles coming.
Eventually it ended with number 59. The much-awaited Bloodbones, scheduled to be FF 60, was never released. However this didn't prevent Amazon.com from offering the book for sale as a ‘coming soon’ item for months after Fighting Fantasy™ was actually out of print. The Puffin series had become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. It was licensed to 17 countries including the USA, Germany, France, Japan and Spain — even Iceland and Estonia! Total sales to date have exceeded 15 million copies.
When Puffin eventually stopped publishing in 1999, there were 59 titles in the main series, 4 Sorcery titles, Out of the Pit Monster Compendium, Titan, Fighting Fantasy the Role-Playing Games and several adventures, FF novels and a colourful ‘First Adventures’ series for youngsters. In total FF comprised over 70 different titles.