The Writing Elite

November 8, 2013

This weekend I was in Manchester. To be precise, I was in a Premier Inn, just the other side of the Airport Perimeter Fence. Why was I there? Well, to meet up with a bunch of people I had mostly never met before…

Premier Inn, Manchester, setting for EliteMeet

Premier Inn, Manchester, setting for EliteMeet

That might sound a bit odd, but we were united by a single cause – the computer game Elite. Yes, a computer game released in the 1980s brought a bunch of guys (mainly) in their 40s (mainly) from all over the country to a very wet and windy Manchester.

The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock

The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock

Most of our stories were the same, that we had, by whatever means, discovered an amazing computer game called Elite. We had read the novella, The Dark Wheel, written by the late, great Robert Holdstock, we read the Flight Manual, also, in part, written by Robert Holdstock… and, as we flew around this 3D procedurally generated universe, trading and fighting, we took what Robert had written and filled in the gaps that those early 8-bit computers just couldn’t supply visually.

Me and my friends, who also had the game, started to swap stories, of great battles against impossible odds, or lucky trades that netted a large profit, of harrowing escapes from Witchspace and fruitless searches for the legendary (and it turns out mythical) Generation Ships.



In a time before the Internet these stories were swapped in the playground, either as complex narratives using our hands to describe how we outmanoeuvred the police vipers, or as pencilled notes with key details about which planets to fly from and to and what to trade.

The only diary I have ever kept was my Elite Pilot Diary. Here, in a modified exercise book, I kept notes of my trades and my battles. Later, for my own amusement, but occasionally to share with my friends, I wrote them up as stories. Eventually, this storytelling grew to monstrous proportions and, for a GCSE English Assignment, I handed in 39 sides of narrow feint A4, hand-written story. Indeed, nothing less than a sequel to The Dark Wheel.

The Cobra Mk3

The original Elite  Cobra Mk3

Due to an annoying quirk of the exam system, no copy could be made and I never saw that assignment, and therefore story, ever again. Twenty-six years later that still pisses me off.

After Elite came Frontier and more powerful computers to run on it and as much as I tried, I didn’t like Frontier, it was more Simulation than game and considerably less fun and I stopped writing about the Elite Universe for a long time.

A "Griff" Cobra Mk3 from Oolite

A “Griff” Cobra Mk3 from Oolite

Then, back in 2006 I discovered Oolite and, as I have said elsewhere, I got my writing mojo back and found a game that captured the magic of the original game (but with amazing new graphics) and my desire to write about it came back. I wrote two novellas set in the Oolite universe which eventually ended up in the Anthology Alien Items, edit by my friend and fellow writer/contributor Drew Wagar. Of course has gone on to great things and is currently writing Elite: Reclamation, an official novel for the forthcoming Elite: Dangerous computer game… (which will be published, along with three other books, by Fantastic Books Publishing)



Elite: Dangerous was the reason we were in Manchester, Elite: Dangerous, the Kickstarter campaign kicked off a year ago this week, Elite: Dangerous the common hope, dream and aspirations of a group of 40-somethings. That’s what got us into a conference room in a hotel in Manchester.

At the meeting, a regular event known as the Lave Radio Conclave took place. I took part in that event. During the hour long discussion I could hear how passionate I was about writing, about how much I loved writing about Elite (and basically for myself) and how much I still do. It was a good feeling.

I’ve written a few Elite themed drabbles and submitted them into the weekly drabble competition on the Elite Frontier Forums. I’ve got an idea for another short story set in the Elite Universe and I feel the need to start writing in-game content again. This time however, I’m trying to do this while also finishing my other projects. This is not, this time, a distraction technique, or the next new shiny thing. It’s a desire to do more. I like having that feeling again!

For those in the know… “Write on Commander!”

John Hoggard

John Hoggard




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  1. Tiization says:

    Right on Commander! Pops up to my screen! WOW! I remember it like yesterday.

  2. […] exactly four years ago (November 2013), I wrote a blog (here) about my trip to Manchester to meet up with a bunch of people who had all fallen in love with the […]

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