My Superpower: Michael R. Underwood

15 Apr

My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome our own Michael R. Underwood (aka Mike) to talk about how the power of growing up in a game store applies to Attack the Geek.


When I was about 12, my family packed up and moved from New Jersey to Indiana. My little sister was less than a year old, and the two of us sat in the back seat as my family drove us the 750-ish miles. This meant that I did a lot of the minor childcare during the drive, and that when we arrived in Bloomington, we stopped in the city square to get lunch, but first, they gave me a few dollars as a reward for my good work and let me loose on the game store.

And so it was that the Game Preserve was literally the first place I visited when arriving in Bloomington. Walking into that wonderland of geekdom, I asked to buy a pack of Magic: the Gathering Chronicles. I was about 25 cents short for the price of the booster pack, but the very, very tall man behind the counter gave it to me anyways, making a big impression on a very tired young Mike, who avoided having his prize spoiled by such pesky things as not having the right amount of money.

The very, very tall man behind the counter would go on to become a friend and mentor, and that game store would go on to become my home away from home (some would call it a Third Place). From junior high through the end of my undergraduate degree, The Game Preserve was a stable fixture in my life, first as a hangout, then later as a workplace.

I made dozens of friends, learned to play hundreds of games, and enjoyed countless campaigns, tournaments, and other geeky conversations.

And so when I started designing the world of the Ree Reyes series, The Game Preserve served as the archetypal game store.  In creating Grognard’s Grog and Games (the central location for Attack the Geek), I drew upon the many years of familiarity and fondness to help bring the fictional hangout to life, filling it with characters cobbled together from features and characteristics from the hundreds of people I’d encountered over the years at the store. I threw the feeling of a long afternoon and evening spent in a tournament with people you love, like, and hate but have to be mostly polite to, added booze and magic, and watched what happened (pitched arguments, random monster encounters, and lots of explosions).

If I’d never walked into the Game Preserve as a tired freshly-arrived Hoosier, the store might never have become the home away from home it did, and I might not have ever had the idea to write a series of urban fantasy novels about the power of fandom and the joy of finding community through gaming and geekery.

So thanks, Game Preserve, for being the Xavier’s Academy of gaming, helping me to develop my superpower of geekdom.


Michael R. Underwood is the author of the Ree Reyes urban fantasy series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, and side-quest Attack the Geek), as well as the forthcoming novels Shield and Crocus and The Younger Gods. By day, he is the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike is a co-host on the Skiffy and Fanty Show, and in his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts, games in-person and on-computer, and makes pizzas from scratch.


One Response to “My Superpower: Michael R. Underwood”

  1. Paul Weimer April 16, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    And it is a strong superpower.

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