Interview with Raymond Benson
It’s a truly fine glimpse into the mind and history of the man who crafted the majority of Ultima 7’s story, and underscores just what a Herculean undertaking the game was.
Raymond Benson got his start in the video games industry fairly early in 1984, writing text adventure games, before moving (with his wife and young son) to Austin, Texas, where he took a job at Origin Systems. With no prior familiarity with Ultima, and with a team of talented writers at his command, he set about crafting, organizing, and directing the story for what many Ultima fans would argue is the best the series has to offer: Ultima 7: The Black Gate. While at Origin, he also wrote music for Runes of Virtue II, and wrote the initial treatment of the Monitor plots for Serpent Isle. (He did, in fact, name Lydia after the Groucho Marx tune, Lydia the Tattooed Lady.)
He has since left video game development, and his primarily focused on his career as a novelist. He has written numerous James Bond novels, having had a lifelong passion for the Bond mythos, and has also written novelizations of such video games as Hitman and Metal Gear Solid. Most recently, he has been working on The Black Stiletto, a series of thriller novels telling the story of Judy Cooper, a young woman who becomes a masked vigilante in 1950s-era New York City. The series has seen two of five planned books released thus far, and is even being adapted as a television show.
Outside of writing, Mr. Benson pursues other passions, including music composition and direction and stage direction, skills that served him well when coordinating the massive effort that crafting Ultima 7’s living, breathing Britannia entailed. And he graciously agreed to answer what was, in all honesty, a torrential barrage of questions from the Ultima Codex, as contributed by myself, Sergorn Dragon, Infinitron Dragon, Shadow of Light Dragon, and Dungy.
Not only that, but he did so in a surprisingly short span of time, and then quite late at night…an effort for which we at the Codex — and, I trust, all the Ultima fandom — are very much grateful.