Whys and Therefores

Another step closer on the World Building Tour, 2013.  Two-thirds of my regional officers are in place, and there’s no surprises, save for maybe one or two.  I found it far more difficult to put these in place than to figure out where my Foundation pretty much directs the world from behind the curtain.  I almost said, “Rule,” but that’s not them:  they aren’t rulers.  They’re more like teachers, trying to move things forwards slowly but surely.

Yes, I hear some of you going, “Not very original, Cassidy.”  Well, neither is that romance novel you’re writing, so suck it.  Harlan Ellison–yes, I turn to him quite a lot–said something along the lines of there are only seven or eight original plots in the world, but it’s how you give your version of that will captivate people.  Sure, the love story has been done to death, but only Romeo and Juliet have pulled at us through the ages.  Though Hannibal might be the one that does it for you:  ah, just imagine that first dinner date . . .

Why spend all this time putting things together that, by my own admissions, may never see the light of day?  For one, it makes the world more real for me.  Once that works becomes real for me–not that it isn’t already–then it takes on a life when I write, and that makes it more real for any potential readers out there.  Get your foundation laid–no pun here, really–and the rest will come together.

Some of this comes from running role playing games.  The best games have a great world, albeit some are completely whacked out their minds, and others make no damn sense.  Nonetheless, the best gaming experiences take place in worlds that are fleshed out with great locations and memorable characters.  One can always hack and slash, true, but one can also immerse themselves in the feel of the rain upon their face, the sounds of the city, and the smell of the bum crawling out of the alley who’s about to shank your ass for the credit chip in your pocket.

When I put a game together I’d have a lot of background.  When I ran Diaspora I laid out the ten systems used in the game, which meant plotting the orbits of about two hundred and fifty planets and objects, and defining interesting things about those places that one could more or less about with little or no breathing gear.  When I ran Cyberpunk, I had information on dozens of characters the players met, and one of those dossiers ran seventy pages.  There were notes on a Mage game that ran for almost five years that kept growing and growing as I continued playing.

It can be a lonely, solitary duty to put this together, but it’s a fun duty.  Or it can be fun; some people may feel it’s too much time spent alone trying to come up with ideas on your own, but in the end, they are your ideas, and you live or die with them.  Even if they suck–and I’ve had my share of suck ideas–they are yours.  You own them.  They are you.

Look at it this way:  if you write something that sucks, then you know not to do that again, right?


Fatalistic Offerings

Friday night is becoming a bit of Recharge Night:  the time when I need to shut down the brain because of all the week’s work activity and try to get back into something akin to a grove.  I’d almost fallen asleep at the wheel driving home yesterday, and spent a few miles with driver’s window down so the cold air could wash over my face and wake me the hell up before I plowed into a bridge pillar at sixty miles per hour.  If I’m like that at five in the afternoon, then I know anything I write at eight PM is gonna be crap.

So I relaxed and talked.  I helped out one friend with the naming of her newest crocheting patterns, and learned that the first chain mail showed up in 3 BCE.  Research, suckers:  it gets you when you least expect.  Then I played some games online, which are a good way to kill time as long as you don’t kill too much time . . . and then I set the keynote for the evening.  I ran across a friend online–someone I know who writes but also games, which means she’s very special in my book–and asked her the most damning gaming question of all:  “Have you ever heard of F.A.T.A.L.?”

Since I know the majority of you reading this have no idea what FATAL is (I’m disposing of the periods at this point, because that’s how I roll), allow me to explain.  If you’ve ever played a table top RPG (think D&D and you’ll know what I’m discussing) then you’ve run across some good games, some mediocre, some bad . . . and some that defy description because their incredible awfulness has burnt out a significance portion of your temporal lobe.  FATAL goes beyond that last, for a thousand years from now, where our cities are dust and the 21st Century is but a memory, people will find a pdf of FATAL, read it, and say, “The fuck was wrong with these people?”

There is a trilogy of games that are considered the worst ever developed–a term I use loosely here–and FATAL sits atop this festering heap, beating out a game written by a possible schizophrenic and one written for white supremacists.  It is a game that has been immortalized by the famous (some say infamous) S&M Review of Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin upon RPG.net a decade ago, where they ripped the game apart with a long, profane, scree that was on the money.

It is a game that will make you die a little inside when you read it, because you’ll so understand that someone actually sat down and thought, “You know what a role playing game needs?  A way to measure how tough a virgin’s hymen is so my character will know how much pressure to use when I rape her.”  If you think I just made that line up, wrong:  that’s a statistic for female characters in this game.  It’s a game where no matter wherever you go in the world, everything looks like Medieval Europe during the dark ages, and anyone who isn’t white isn’t right.  It’s a game where there are no rules for dating, but there are rules for raping, and your male characters can even go on “rape quests”.  It’s a game where if you’re playing a female characters, you can work in a bar, or be a whore–and the chances are good if you work in a bar, you’re still a whore, because it seems like all women are good for his in game is having sex.

It’s also a game that, when there were many a forum flame war over it’s dubious merits, there were scores of gamers who stood up and said, “What are you saying?  This is totally like the best Game EVAR!”

I’ve been a gamer most of my life.  One of the reasons I got into games was to allow my imagination to stretch, and that helped me become a writer.  I loved immersing myself into a world and creating something that might, just might, become something I could look back upon with pride, for I wasn’t just having fun, I was creating a story.

But, as I told my gaming friend last night, it seems that for every great gamer I’ve ever met, I’ve met three who were juvenile assholes.  And juvenile is being kind, because I’ve also encountered my fair share of gamers who were such childish, racist, misogynistic, homophobic losers that  I wanted to toss all my games in the nearest bin and deny I’d ever played one session of Cyberpunk or Vampire:  the Masquerade.  And I’m talking about teenagers here:  I’m talking people in their thirties and forties, people who should know better, but have sadly decided that it’s far cooling to be massive dicks if they can’t get their way, and that calling every character their run into a “fag” or a “whore” is the way to have fun.

I only mention this because this trend isn’t just found among gamers–or as Our Valued Customers points out, people who come into comic book stores–it’s everywhere.  Every day I seem to find posts on Facebook where someone is decrying how “bitches” are preventing them from acting as sexist as they’d like, or how gays getting married is going to destroy the world, or even how voting is a racial entitlement–yeah, Justice Tony, if the asshole robe fits, you wear it.  There been groups on Facebook that were pulled for supporting gay marriage  but where groups about raping slowly a woman while she sleeps is okay, because we don’t want to step on anyone’s rights.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that games like FATAL exist, and that it’s highly likely that something very similar will reappear from time to time.  The attitude that it’s okay to be an ass seems prevalent these days, particularly in my home country.  It’s all about having the right to act like a dick, and I’m cool with that, because if there’s one thing I won’t do, it’s infringe upon your freedom of speech.

Just don’t get shocked when I call you out on your mulling dickishness, because pointing out how wrong you are is always gonna be my right.