Some RPGC members are longtime Thor fans; others may never have heard of him. Basically, he was a central figure of the online RPG community, about ten years ago. It will take a while to explain that.
At the time, there were many small websites dedicated to RPGs, but there weren’t really that many RPG communities. The first and largest one sprung up around something called “The Unofficial Squaresoft Homepage,” which eventually turned into RPGamer (more like RPLamer). This community had a fairly broad focus. Every RPG fansite had FAQs for RPGs, but Andrew Vestal’s UOSSHP also tried to cover news, fan media, and even provided social interaction, in the form of an IRC chatroom. It quickly became the model for other RPG communities – they either tried to offer the same things, or they deliberately tried to find and focus on things that UOSSHP didn’t have. We at RPG Classics, for instance, developed the “shrine” format, which was also quite distinctive, not to mention our charming message boards, which raged with the white-hot fury of countless flame wars about whether Final Fantasy VI was better than Final Fantasy VII, or whether it was in fact the other way around.
Anyway, at some point (around 1998 or so), Thor Antrim became founder of UOSSHP’s IRC channel, which subsequently became a sort of spin-off community in itself. Thor was a very creative individual. He was an entertaining writer, but he was also able to present his writing in ways that were quite original at the time. On the IRC channel’s website, he wrote a “column” called “The End Of Time,” which wasn’t really a column, but more of a multimedia feature. It was updated very sporadically, and the “issues” didn’t follow any one coherent structure. Some of them were collections of obscure and funny pictures or audio clips with a general gaming theme. Others were long stories, written with hilarious detail, with multiple sections that were full of digressions. Typically, there was one main text, with links to other pages that would add humorous details. For example, one End Of Time was basically a long yarn about some kid who threatened to sue Thor because people from the IRC channel made fun of the kid’s website. This turned into an epic, with multiple digressions giving quotes from the kid’s hilariously clueless emails, the responses from Thor and Thor’s webspace provider, lengthy insults, and so forth. Another End Of Time told the story of how Thor couldn’t connect to his ISP, then “broke down, sold his soul, and installed AOL,” and how this led him to download illegal files and encounter bizarre perverts who propositioned him for cybersex. In lesser hands, these might have just been the pre-blog equivalent of banal blog posts, but they were told in a very energetic, colourful way. I’d give links, but sadly, these aren’t archived anywhere.
Thor’s personal website had yet another “column,” with the same story/multimedia format but with more diverse topics. It was a sort of proto-blog, but Thor’s tendency to jump from topic to topic, and the constant use of media files, made for a much more interesting read than just a text-only journal. Thor also was interested in the MOD scene, and had a separate site with a repository of MODs (some of which are listed in my own MOD archive on RPGC). Lastly, he also wrote short stories with a fantasy/horror theme.
Basically, Thor created a really vibrant online persona. He was a witty writer, he was very amiable, and he experimented with many different formats and styles in a way that set him apart from just about anyone else in the RPG community in 1998. He also claimed that “Thor” was in fact his real name (sadly, it isn’t), which doubtless added to the appeal of his whole image. The peak of his popularity came when he was hired by RPGamer for the job of Q&A guy. Keep in mind, this was the most prominent role on a semi-professional website dedicated to game journalism. From the point of view of ordinary, amateur RPG fans, that seemed like a pretty big deal.
Unfortunately, Thor’s run at RPGamer lasted only a few months in 1999. It is a bit surprising to think that it was so short, because people fondly remembered him for a very long time (he was even asked to do a few one-time guest Q&As in later years). He had the perfect personality for the job. He knew a lot about SNES and PSX RPGs, could answer obscure questions about them, and could also come up with interesting questions to ask the audience. Just then, RPGamer’s founder Andrew Vestal jumped ship and started the legendary Gaming Intelligence Agency. For a time, there was a sort of friendly rivalry going on between the Q&A guys of the two websites; the GIA won that contest in the long term, but for those few months, RPGamer had the edge. It helped that Thor was the type of person who feels absolutely at home in the spotlight. During his all-too-short tenure, he amassed numerous female fans who sent in pictures that they drew of him.
I think that, at the time, Thor was headed for the same type of career as many of the former GIA guys – as a professional writer for a gaming magazine, or a free-lancer like Zach Meston. But things turned out a bit differently. Thor’s family apparently ran into severe financial difficulties, which caused them to lose their house. Thor had to hastily quit his position at RPGamer, and disappeared for a long time. Shortly before this occurred, he had a falling-out with the guy who hosted his websites, and all of them got deleted. Eventually they were partially rebuilt, but by the time Thor started writing online again, the PSX era had ended, and everyone had switched to the PS2 and other next-generation consoles, which made it difficult to run an “up-to-date” Q&A column. Not only that, but the peculiar world of “semi-professional” game writing, as exemplified by the GIA, was itself coming to an end.
In recent years, Thor experimented with a number of other websites and comedy features, although it was to a smaller audience. His most successful idea during this time was that of “Videogame Lookalikes,” making jokes about how video game characters look like movie characters or celebrities. But in the past couple of months, he put together a book containing his short stories, some dating back to 1998, others more recent. This is what I linked to above.
I think that any Thor fan would be interested in this collection of both old and new material. But non-fans might find it to their liking, as well. All the stories are genre fiction, fantasy and horror. Thor often expressed a fondness for both H.P. Lovecraft and cyberpunk, which should tell you something about the subject matter. But, although I am not usually a fan of this sort of thing, Thor’s style is still entertaining, and he was often able to think of original twists for his storylines. At his best, he could take a generic setting like a zombie story, and give it a certain tragic air. The best story in this book, in my view, is “Heretic,” which dates back to 1998. It is basically a long dialogue between an official from a dystopian government that wants to eradicate all religious belief, and the last believer. The story has an appealingly clipped, energetic style, and the resolution argues in favour of the existence of god, but not quite in the way one might expect. As a first book by an impressively creative man, this is certainly worth a look.