In 2005, I joined a Harry Potter online role-playing community.
I’ll give you a moment here to throw out endearing terms:
I loved this community – it did SO MUCH for as far as developing my ability to write three-dimensional characters. Harleyquinne Cathors, one of my favorite characters of all time, started on these forums and was later integrated as a completely different character in my WIP, although with the same spirited personality. There were other reasons as well – the community was amazing and supportive in a time where I needed that. But I can’t deny that it helped my writing.
Part of being in a roleplaying community is about running your own character’s storylines. At one point, I stepped in the middle of someone else’s death storyline and my character was killed off. Oops! One of my friends took a look at the thread, and asked me, “Are you familiar with Inferno?”
I, admittedly, was not. So I Googled it.
Inferno, book one of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, was written between 1308 and 1320. It’s in the public domain, so I was easily able to find a decent translation. And, over the course of the next three days, I read it.
I loved it.
It was perfect.
One of the rules of proper roleplaying is that you can’t revert the events of the scene. If it’s in writing, it’s done. So my friend found a loophole – I couldn’t pretend Blaise didn’t die, but I could bring her back. Keep in mind, all this was played through before the release of Deathly Hallows. At the time we didn’t have a reference for the afterlife as Rowling would have seen it, so alongside my friend (who played a character named Kevin, who my character was dating in the game), we navigated our way through Dante’s version of Hell.
It was, hands down, the coolest way I’ve ever experienced a classic. Alongside Harry Potter, it’s the coolest way I’ve ever experienced a book. Are roleplaying forums even around anymore? I feel like they were a dying art of the early ’00s. As I wrote my way from the Seventh Circle backwards to the entrance of the Inferno (“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”) I fell in love with the creativity of this work and how amazing it was to be reading something from the 14th century that was still poignant today.
I was fifteen the first time I read Inferno. I didn’t touch it again until college, when it was assigned in a theology class. I still have that ratty paperback, with my freshman notes in the margins for class discussions. I have a gorgeous leather-bound copy from Barnes & Noble, but I love the translation I read in college and I can’t quite part from it.
If you’ve never read The Divine Comedy, regardless of your religious beliefs, I can’t recommend Inferno enough. It is, to this day, one of my favorite classics. The translation makes a difference, but it’s still such a memorable love story. Honestly, you don’t even need to finish the trilogy. Just read Inferno. Let Virgil guide you through the nine circles of Hell. It’s a fascinating journey.
This week’s Book Blogger Hop asks:
Do you have a favorite classic? When did you read it? High school or as an adult?
Short answer: Absolutely! Lots of favorite classics. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Alice in Wonderland, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… I just adore classics, I can’t possibly pick just one. I’ve been reading them – or versions of them – for as long as I can remember.