Jean Blashfield Black

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Jean Blashfield Black
Jean Blashfield

Madison, Wisconsin, United States
EducationUniversity of Michigan
OccupationGame designer
Spouse(s)Wallace Black[1]

Jean Blashfield Black is a game designer and author of gamebooks.

Early life and education[edit]

Jean Blashfield was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Evanston, Illinois.[1] She received a B.A. in Experimental Psychology and English from the University of Michigan, and did graduate work in Science Education at the University of Chicago.[1]


After graduating from college, Blashfield was hired by Wallace Black at Children's Press in Chicago, where she started working on a 20-volume science encyclopedia. Within a few months, she was promoted to Managing Editor, and handled all the editing and production, managed a staff of 20, and wrote a number of articles for the encyclopedia. The Young People's Science Encyclopedia was first published in 1962.[1] Blashfield commented, "The most exciting event of my professional career was the publishing of this first encyclopedia. With that job, I was ballooned into the mainstream of publishing before I had even known where I was heading. It was a thrilling, enriching experience — being with experts in their fields, top consultants from many walks of life, and enjoying the concepts of the varied artists. I think being involved with the compiling of a major reference work of any kind is a stirring (and exhausting) experience."[1]

In 1964, Blashfield took a job in London: "The logic of that move escapes me now, except there was no position in Chicago at the time that I was interested in, and the thought of moving to New York scared the wits out of me."[1] While in London, her first works for the company were published - a series of Gilbert and Sullivan operas illustrated and retold for children, also published in the United States by Franklin Watts. She comments: "I also wrote a book on scientific experiments, and served as American consultant on several adult 'coffee table books,' one of which was a book of photographs by Lord Snowden, Princess Margaret's ex-husband".[1]

In 1967, Wallace Black started his own company, New Horizons Publishers, and asked Blashfield to come back to Chicago as his editor-in-chief to create a 14-volume aviation and space encyclopedia: "It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so I left London and came back to the United States. It was quite a challenge overseeing the work on a science encyclopedia for high school students and adults. The science was much more involved than it had been on the earlier set, but there were a lot of benefits, too [...] The Air Force flew me to a number of special events, including the rollout of the C-5 aircraft where President Johnson spoke. I saw the launch of the first Saturn V rocket from Cape Kennedy, and I spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C."[1] Above and Beyond: The Encyclopedia of Aviation and Space Sciences was published in 1968. After that, Blashfield moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a freelance editor and writer.[1]

In 1976, Wallace Black, now widowed, had come to Washington on business. "We got together for dinner one night [...] and three months later we were married."[1] The next year, the Blacks moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and then had two children, a son, Winston, and a daughter, Chandelle.[1]

A friend introduced her to Rose Estes, who wrote a number of the early Endless Quest books for TSR. "I didn't know about TSR, even though it was only a few miles away. I had heard of the Dungeons & Dragons game, of course, but I had no idea it was published in Wisconsin."[1] As she was already an experienced industry editor, Jean Black was brought on as Education Editor for TSR's new education department, which was intended to sell classroom modules to teachers.[2]:14 She worked with Jim Ward to put together an education program.[1] The education department ultimately failed because TSR decided not to hire educational sales staff; Black would later push other educational ideas, such as books that combined World War II history with wargames, but TSR did not take advantage of these educational opportunities.[2]:14 Black became the Managing Editor of TSR's new Book Department, and would use the success of TSR's gamebooks to aid in the release of the Dragonlance novels.[2]:14 Black picked Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis to write Dragons of Autumn Twilight (1984) and the rest of the Dragonlance Chronicles series.[2]:16 She also wrote a number of gamebooks, including Master of Ravenloft (AD&D Adventure Gamebook #6), Ghost Tower (Super Endless Quest Book #2), and Villains of Volturnus (Endless Quest Book #8).[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "TSR Profiles". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc. (#108): 67. April 1986.
  2. ^ a b c d Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.

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