Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Here is a teaser page from Fire On The Velvet Horizon, Scrap and I's stat-less monster manual/art book.
The Bugs were one of my favourites because they ended up so bonkers and because scrap arranged them tearing apart their own description, which is exactly what they would do.
(Posting has been light recently, I think probably because I feel dead inside and that might be because my job is eating me but its highly likely that I will be fired tonight sooo, thing might improve?
Anyway, FOTVH is still good because I wrote it before the job ate my soul.)
Here is the trailer again:
I should try to say something intelligent and penetrating about this work that we have done.
It is unlike other things and it was made unlike them too.
Scrap would draw things, then I would look at them, then I would write down what I thought they were, then I would try to get the writing good, then she would assemble them into an image with things that she photocopied or stole and sometimes (often) hair or blood. There were also strange scanning and glitch artifacts that sometimes we tried to get rid of and sometime incorporated into the design.
The whole thing is kind of a glitch artifact built on strangeness and mistakes, there are characters in there who appeared and made one comment then slowly grew throughout the entries until they have an entire life lived in the background of the monsters.
There is a setting in there too (everything we make ends up being half a setting book) with its own geography and strange history, perceived also though the background of the description of monsters.
Here is the blurb I wrote for the back. I couldn't be bothered doing a normal one so did it as a riddle instead:
"I am like no other thing,
A gem not famed for brightness.
Dead, but only listen and I live.
Voiceless, I speak.
Thoughtless, I lie.
Deeper than dark water,
Sharper than a swift sword,
Stranger than a drugged dream,
I serve in ordered ranks that never change.
When a gallery of shadows paints your thoughts,
with more colours than a careless artists hand.
Lose me or be lost in me.
I am a place you may not go,
Once there I will not let you leave.
Though made of broken things I am yet whole.
And guard one hundred murders.
Lets kill your friends for fun."
Oh, hey, heres my intro for the front, that should simplify things:
Who writes the Monster Manual? I mean exactly who? Anyone who has read a D&D monster manual (especially some of the early ones) will be familiar with an assumed point of view that is best described as omnipotent-dementia. The writer of the D&D manual sometimes seems like a scholar reading from a range of sources and describing a creature in the manner of a medieval bestiary, sometimes they appear to possess the knowledge of god, someone observing an entire world from outside the flow of space and time telling you, for instance, what a Gnoll is likely to have in their pockets or on their mind, sometimes disclosing the secret origin of a forgotten deity, or the nature of reality itself in an idle aside, yet in the same breath they will point out a mystery, the answer to which 'no-one knows'.
Not only that, but the same voice will often cite 'Sages', apparently academic sources from inside the described world, describing what they do or do not know, or disclosing what they suppose to be the case.
Added to this, in many Monster Manuals are fragments of what are supposed to be first person and third person recollections of actual events.
This imagined point of view makes perfect sense when creating a monster manual, it gives players and DM's exactly the right balance of hard information, soft suggestion, inspiring possibility and potential mystery that they need to create a monster in their own mind and use it in the game. It makes sense in no other place or time.
I have taken to calling this unique fictional voice 'M'th Person'.(As in 1st Person or 3rd Person.) So if you want to be really fucking pretentious, if someone asks you what you are reading, you can say "A new form of experimental fiction written in M'th person, the point of view Barthes described as 'Inconsistent Omnipotence' or that Robert Mckee called 'The Unreliable God Voice'", and you will be almost telling the truth. (Apart from the bits about Barthes and Mckee, I just made those up.)
There was a long description here of the events leading to the creation of the book but I condensed it into this thrilling one-act drama.
SP - God this is dragging on. Promise me when this is done we can do a simple easy monster book where I draw the monsters and you write them.
PS - Sure. Hey, you have drawn some monsters.
SP - Just pick the ones you like.
PS - Lets do exactly 100!
SP - It is now 6 months later.
Over time what was intended to be simply a list of animals generated its own cast of sages, with their own careers, life paths and stories, and its own geography, it created around itself a suggested world, from the black towers of Jukai, up the golden Or, through the Melanic Moors and the Pyrrhous Plains, with hints of its own history. As well as a strange obsession with colour.
Almost all of the colour is in the words and it bleeds through onto the page in the monsters or in a halo around the monsters. So they are bright things in a very dark, rich world.
I will let Scrap talk about the art because I suspect she will do it better but I would encourage you to look not just at the monsters or the rich treacly strange backgrounds that are like blurred windows into another world but at the combination between the two and the relationship between them over the whole of the work.
Writing is easier to write about than art, or seems to be so for most people because it is made of words and we assume that the blocks of its being can be converted easily enough into the blocks of its analysis. So people will probably talk about my contribution more than they should, and pay less attention to Scrap than they should.
I hope this makes you feel a little like you felt when you opened a Monster Manual for the first time and saw arranged in neat block, a world of strange encounters and a compilation of living things, each carrying its own fragmentary history, a little like a story and a little like a tool lying in a box, with its handle arranged towards to, asking to be picked up and used in some work of your own.
For an OSR book there is a sad lack of tables, therefore let me both remedy that now, and also address any worries and critical queries you may have about the writing style.
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH THIS SENTENCE (roll a d6)
1. It is a brilliant piece of grammar-twisting experimental writing that you simply fail to comprehend. (roll again on sub-table A)
2. successive arguments over they use of commas and the exact arrangement of words have lead to an uneasy truce and a no-mans land of both punctuation and meaning.
3. The proof readers missed this bit.
4. The proof readers caught this bit but the writer carefully undid all their alterations (roll a d3)
1. For deep artistic reasons (roll again on sub-table A)
2. Out of rage and spite
3. He can't really remember why
5. The proof readers caught this bit but probably shouldn?t have.
6. No-one really knew what they were doing.
(Sub table A)
DEEP ARTISTIC REASONS YOU FAIL TO COMPREHEND (Roll a d6)
1. The rhythm of the sentence lends a deeper structure that punctuation would not (THE STRUCTURE OF SOUND, OF ORAL TRANSMISSION, OF HOMER AND SHAKESPERE YOU IGNORANT GRAMMAR-OBSESSED FUCKING COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS!)
2. The sentence was better with an apparently-inconsistent mish-mash of words which produce a powerful poetic effect when combined rapidly in the mind (AN EFFECT MUCH GREATER THAN YOUR MERE 'REASON' COULD EVER COMPREHEND!)
3. It is clarified by the context in which it is placed. (A WORK OF ART MUST BE CONSIDERD AS A WHOLE YOU DISGUSTING SURGEONS OF THOUGHT, THERE ARE NO DIVISIONS IN NATURE BUT ONLY AN ENDLESS FLOW OF ONE THING INTO ANOTHER!)
4. It is an impish provocation or grammatical flight-of-fancy, indulged in for the pure joy of it, in the same manner that a happy boy would skip down the street. (A JOY YOU WOULD NO DOUBT STRANGLE FROM THE WORLD WITH YOU 'STYLE GUIDES' AND ENDLESS WHINING YOU MEEK DRONES!)
5. The word-progression, taken as a whole, creates an impetus of moral, aesthetic or imaginative force which piles into the next sentence in an onrushing flow of words. (YOU FUCKING GOT THE GIST OF IT ANYWAY DIDN'T YOU?)
6. See result six on the previous table.