Interview with Fred Hicks, Co-President of Evil Hat Productions, LLC

Fred Hisself.

What with this being our Dresden Mania bonanza-fest and all, and with the graphic novels and television show getting some coverage, I thought it Right™ and Good™ that the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game (DFRPG) get some lovin’, too. And to that end, I lined up an interview with a friend of mine: Fred Hicks (Awesome Dude With Purple Hair™ in the banner image up top), Co-President of Evil Hat Productions, LLC—publishers of the multiple-award-winning Dresden Files Roleplaying Game (check that banner image for an idea of just how many awards).


The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game
The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, Vol. 1

Well, let’s just jump right in, I suppose—how did you and Jim meet and how was the DFRPG born?
I met Jim online many, many years ago on a text-only RPG server, called AmberMUSH, based on the Amber novels by Roger Zelazny. Honestly, I met most of my good, long-term adult friends by MUSHing my way through my college years. It’s no coincidence a number of them are authors (including novelist C.E. Murphy, and game designers Rob Donoghue and Cam Banks). Through some semi-related circumstances, I found myself living in Oklahoma in the mid-90’s pursuing (then abandoning) a graduate degree. Turned out Jim was living only about an hour’s drive south of where I was, and he invited me down for weekend geekery and gamery. Right around then, he had a draft for a novel about a wizard that he was working on for his novel-writing coursework at Oklahoma University. I still remember the sound of the dot-matrix printer grinding that one out…

Anyway, time passed from there, and I moved elsewhere, and then the novel got sold, and the series besides, and meanwhile I just kept up with the geekery and gamery, partnering up with Rob Donoghue to put some of our game ideas online. One of those game ideas, called Fate, got some awards, and those awards somehow got the attention of Jim’s agent, who suggested to Jim that if he wanted his Dresden Files “baby” to get treated right by folks he trusted, he could do worse than have his award-winning friends create an RPG based on the books. Jim liked the sound of that, and when he contacted us about that, so did we—which kicked off the whole formation of Evil Hat as a commercial game publisher. We’d used the name as a sort of brand for our presence at Amber-themed conventions in the past, so folks who liked our past scenarios could easily find us in the future, and it just made sense to use that as the name of the company when we formed it.

I have an omnibus edition of the Amber novels that I’ve yet to read. I should get on that, yeah? 

What has the process of creating the DFRPG entailed for you as a professional, as a fan, and as a person?
As a professional? Everything. It ran the gamut. Every lesson I learned in the first five years of trying to make it as a publisher, I learned either directly because of working on the DFRPG or because of something else I was working on so I could learn the skills necessary to work on the DFRPG. The vast majority of Evil Hat’s current financial resources come from the game, too, though in the wake of its success we’ve focused on broadening what the company does so we’re not quite the one-trick wizard.

As a fan—man. You have to get really deep into the details of a series, bathe in them, in the pursuit of “getting it right” with a project like this. At times it was too much. I didn’t read any other fiction for a while, and at times I was clearly overdosing on how much of my brain was pure Dresden. In a way, publishing the game was a relief. Everyone involved—our team was not small as these things go—appreciated the break. And after that break, we could come back to the books and delight in them again.

As a person…? I think I’m still trying to figure that out. 🙂

One-trick wizard? So, trying to not be Harry Dresden, got it. Speaking of the broadening of the Evil Hat brim, how go the fiction endeavors?
They’re exciting to us personally, if not precisely selling like hotcakes. But we’re early to the whole process, and kind of backed into it—most channels for getting fiction out into the world, at least in print form, needs like a 6-month-minimum advance warning window. That said, we’re working with Diamond Book Distribution to get Dinocalypse Now and others out to the wider world, and we’ve signed up Jim’s agent, Jennifer Jackson, to shop around subsidiary rights on our fiction line. Subsidiary rights involve things like foreign language translations, audiobooks, and other such things. Fingers crossed. We’ve only really taken our first few steps down that new road.

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game, Vol. 2

That’s nifty. What other projects does Evil Hat have on the horizon that you all are excited about?
We’re still working on getting the text of the Dresden Files RPG follow up, The Paranet Papers, through editing. Once that’s done we’ll be able to start buying art and more. Things are far along, but it’s been a big project, on the scale of the Our World book, so it remains… involved. We’re excited about seeing this one to the finish line.

Up on the horizon we’ll have more books in our fiction line—including Khan of Mars by Stephen Blackmoore and King Khan by Harry Connolly—showing up for our Kickstarter backers soon-ish, and the general public some ways into 2013 (see my earlier comment about how much advance warning the book channels need). I’ve read the drafts of both and I think fans of talking-ape hero Professor Khan will be pleased.

We’re also working through the production process on our first board game, Race to Adventure, with hopes of a general release in early 2013. Not too far past that, our first card game, Zeppelin Armada, should be making an appearance as well.

All made possible with Dresden dollars!

What’s your favorite Dresden novel to date?
I’ve always been partial to Death Masks. Cold Days is going to give it a run for its money.

Favorite Dresden moment?
Fuego! Pyrofuego! Burn, you greasy, bat-faced bastards, BURN!”

Favorite character?
Yikes. Tough one. Could be Molly. Could be Butters. Could be… uh… how long do you have?

What is on your must-read shelf these days?
Besides Evil Hat’s fiction? 🙂

Quick answer: Everything written by the two-man writing team going by James S. A. Corey. Start with Leviathan’s Wake. Voraciously consume everything else from there.

Shiny. Two more questions! If you could hang out with one comicbook superhero, who would it be?
Spider-Man. I mean, hanging out with any comicbook superhero has got to be dangerous, right, so it’s a risky proposition in the first place, but at least with Spidey I’d be laughing my ass off through the terror.

And, chocolate or peanut butter?
Don’t make me choose. I’ll cut you.

Thanks, Fred! Looking forward to everything Evil Hat has planned for the future.
Right on.

If this interview convinced you that Fred is an Awesome Dude and you’d like to know more about him, you can follow Fred on Twitter, Google Plus, and at his blog.  You can also find Evil Hat Productions at their official Twitter, Facebook page, and website.

About Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones
An avid musician, Garrett is a music director and accompanist for the theatre by day and an all-around geek by night. …Well, he’s both all day, everyday, if we’re being completely honest. He enjoys gaming both on and off the table, karaoke, frisbee, and a good drink with good company. Garrett is also a beta-reader for authors Jim Butcher and Tom Sniegoski. Nightcrawler is his spirit animal, How to Train Your Dragon is his happy place, and he is able to do a mean Hiccup impersonation.

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