Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Ancient"

Ahh, this is a fun word!

One of my new favorites for writing music (or, more accurately, editing music -- something that requires a fair amount of heroism):

The Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures soundtrack

This was mentioned on a gaming panel at the 2018 Howard Days, by Jason Ray Carney (Howard scholar, Dark Man editor, and sword and sorcery writer).

All I really know about the Age of Conan is what I learned from The Big Bang Theory, but even I can't listen to the Basil Poledouris soundtrack ALL the time.

News of the Weird

I dreamed last night that I met someone and, at the last minute, remembered to give them my business card. Maybe that's a sign. So here's a quick update on my recent doings.

My essay, "The Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral: HooDoo and Voodoo in the 'Work' of Ishmael Reed," is in the recently published collection Voodoo, Hoodoo and Conjure in African American Literature.The book contains essays by two writers who I cited, who are big names in the field, so that's pretty cool. Reed's Mumbo Jumbo and The Last Days of Louisiana Red are two of my favorite novels, and it was really fun to dig into their roots in conjure.

I've been on a roll with the amazing Hippocampus Press. The essay "Meditations on the Agnostic Gothic" appears in Dead Reckonings No. 25, and "Red Hand, Red Hook: Machen, Lovecraft, and the Urban Uncanny" in Lovecraftian Proceedings No. 3. I also have an essay, "A Fit Symbol for His Meaning: Arthur Machen and the Inexpressible," in the upcoming The Secret Ceremonies: Critical Essays on Arthur Machen, which will debut at NecronomiCon Providence 2019, in -- yikes -- three weeks?

The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard and Pulp Fiction Studies has new editors, and issue 10.1 contains my Robert E. Howard essay "No Refuge in Idealism: Illusion Meets Reality in 'Xuthal of the Dusk.'"

I've also been blogging regularly about classic horror movies at the Haunted Cinema. My latest was on this obscure Bela Lugosi film:

Well, that's a fair bit of activity. I'm also in three book clubs right now, so I don't know how I have time to watch so many TV shows. If you end up at NecronomiCon Providence this year,look me up: I'll be at the Armitage Symposium on Friday morning!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Space"

I've been visiting all my usual places of distraction, and there is no escaping the awfulness that is currently going on in the world. The local newspaper has a highly-paid commentator using two horrible massacres in one day to attack Democrats. On social media, nice ladies I met in bellydance classes are reminding everyone that it isn't about guns. JFC. I need some SPACE, and I can't find it.

But that's been part of the problem that led us to this moment: so many people willfully putting their heads in the sand. How to strike that balance, between paying attention and going crazy, or becoming apathetic?

So I've been thinking about the difference between "escapism" in a specifically defined way (as avoidance of reality) and creativity, imaginatively exploring ideas that can expand our options, something I think can only make the world healthier. I'm sure I've used books and movies and things in an escapist way, turning into myself and avoiding the external world. But a lot of these creative works serve to connect us to the larger world, to explore moral problems, to think about the way things could be different and better. I don't think it's helped the world, that options are so limited, that the color palette is so dimmed, that people feel squashed into cookie cutters. Yeah, I'm strawpersoning, but you know what I mean.

One of the things that I have envied gamers is in having another way to bring this aspect of individual expression into their lives, to color their realities. Of course sometimes it doesn't work to make those realities better. But even for the squalid stereotypes of overweight isolated introverts in their parents' basements -- would removing gaming automatically give them social skills, jobs, a meaningful place in a world where the best many can hope for is a bullshit job? (Go read David Graber's Bullshit Jobs.)

Even the mass media blockbusters can bring us hope, make us think, and again, stimulate our minds and our imaginations, the best part of our species.

We've been talking about dusting off an early Star Wars RPG that I might be able to get the hand of, so this might be a good time!
Image result for rogue one

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Share"

I was recently looking up simple single-player RPGs, and research led me to the Pamphlet Dungeon Jam. Even though, of course, they are not all single-player, and not all simple in rules or content, but the trifold pamphlet format makes for a more compact game. A lot of them are really impressive just as physical objects, and the amount of creativity in one place gives me hope for the future. Something has to!

The willingness of all these creators to take part in this kind of project, and then make their work available for a minimal cost, many of them for free, and of Nate Treme to organize and host the Dungeon Jam, is also one of those things that reminds me of what the Internet can be for: the willingness to share and to support each other. I read this interview before getting to the actual Pamphlet Jam site, so I had read this part: "I thought about doing a ranked jam but decided a low-pressure creative jam was a better way to get more people involved." 

My kind of thought process. 

So I did download some of the games, and again, we'll see if they get played. But at least as creative works, they're worth having.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Engage"

Today's word is going to throw me right into the present day. Recently, I backed the Kickstarter for An Inner Darkness, a series of Call of Cthulhu adventures by Golden Goblin Press, set in the 1920s and focused on social justice issues, so in other words made for me! I discovered them at the last NecronomiCon, where I saw their Heroes of Red Hook book. Somehow, I accidentally backed it at the level that included an online gaming session over Discord, led by Oscar Rios, the writer and publisher. When I started getting the emails about scheduling, I thought I'd gotten on the wrong email thread. Oops.

Despite some wacky technical difficulties on my end, what with my random combination of semi-Luddite technologies, I was set up as an "investigator" with a set of "sanity points" (and what a great and useful metaphor that is!) and explored supernatural evil with some complete strangers. In the end, after two sessions, I have to say I had fun. The Discord thing wasn't entirely intuitive, but without it, I'd never had tried it at all.

Even though I kind of wanted to back out, not having any idea what I was doing or how the gameplay worked, I decided to -- geez, I don't want to say something about my comfort zone, because cliche! But I'm glad I took the opportunity to engage with people I'd never have met otherwise, to get out of the abstraction of the interesting art and stories and thoughts behind gaming and actually take part, despite my sense of awkwardness.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "Unique"

Day two = "Unique."

This may be a cop-out -- no, it IS a cop-out -- but I kinda feel like being a 54-year-old woman taking part in this at all is unique. I'd like to think I'm wrong. In fact, I almost always do want to be wrong. But a lot of those times, turns out I'm not.

But while you're here, this is the journal I couldn't find an image of yesterday. Published in 1979.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Non-Gamer's Thoughts on Gaming: #RPGaDAY 2019 "First"

Always a weirdo.

I am meaning to get this blog up-to-date, especially if I want to use it to promote some cool stuff I have coming up. Not sure why I've gotten out of the swing. But I've been thinking a lot about my fascination with games I don't really want to play: what attracts me to them, and what are the barriers that keep me from actually playing. Partly because I keep Kickstarting cool games (probably more on that soon), and then I get them and enjoy the art and the maps, but I don't play them.

Since this has been on my mind -- and I have literally come thisclose to buying the Art and Arcana book every trip to Barnes and Noble for two months, which again makes no real sense -- I'm jumping on the #RPGaDaY2019 bandwagon.

My first experience with RPGs was in the early 1980s. There are certainly some problematic memories involved with this time of my life, and I can't really say how much that has influenced my feelings about gaming in general, and D & D in particular, or the effects of gender socialization on this experience. Apart from all that, it took about two years before we actually tried to play, and it wasn't very fun, but for a while there were happy Sunday afternoons, sitting around listening to records while reading Dragon magazine and puzzling over the books. I don't remember the specific volumes that the aspiring DM had, but it must have been in this era:


I think there were two sessions, at least that I was involved in, and I don't remember a thing about any character -- was I a halfling? What on earth would have been my alignment? Did I pick it, or was it randomly assigned? As I recall, by the time we played, we hadn't really talked about it in ages, but apparently some maps were made in the intervening period, and we gave it a whirl.

Around this time, I was obsessed with the sword and sorcery work of Fritz Leiber and Tanith Lee in particular, and the Conan the Barbarian movie was in the first stages of changing my life. I think I saw D & D in particular as a continuation of my junior high love for Tolkien, when I had a softcover journal with faux aged pages and elvish script that I wrote bad poetry in. At the time, I had no one to share my interest in these things with, and I was looking for something that wasn't really available at the time.

But it's never too late to have a happy whenever.