Three years ago last Friday I joined The Forge, a community for independent game designers. Two years ago, I did book design for Dogs in the Vineyard with Vincent. Last year I released Under the Bed and designed the book for The Mountain Witch. This year, my name is in: Under the Bed, Shock: Social Science Fiction, Dogs in the Vineyard (though Vincent has moved on to a different and better page design), The Mountain Witch, Kwaidan (assuming we get it printed in time), The Prince’s Kingdom, and The Shadow of Yesterday.I never looked back. This is a great experience for me. It’s the most excellent thing you can imagine, to be making work of your own that does what you want it to do, and working with other, brilliant, wonderful people who are doing the same thing, each in their own, unique, passionate, and contradictory way.
We’re making something good, you dig? It’s like the fucking Beats (with less serious drug problems) or Parisian Bohemians circa 1890. We’re making something new, something that changes the way people see. We’re making art and the art is good.
Right now, Vincent is off in Berlin with Ron Edwards at a convention, organized by Ron, of Cold War spy geeks. He’s made a game, Spione, that is part of the broad activity he’s encouraging. He’s breaking new ground and a lot of us are watching closely to see what he unearths. I’m happy with him taking the risks on this; if he’s right, there will be plenty of gold pie to dig up and everyone can have a piece; if he’s wrong, it costs me nothing to learn from his mistakes.
I just got back from A Scanner Darkly last night, thinking about how well it worked as a Philip K. Dick story; the paranoia, the floaty perspective on reality. I read the Wikipedia article on the book and it really got me thinking: What did it cost Dick to write that story? For Del Rey to publish it? A few thousand dollars? Tens? And this movie, which took years and years to make (and it paid off. It’s great.) cost hundreds of thousands or millions. And they say the same thing. Naturally, the book is more subtle and the movie is more visually impactful.
What did I learn?
Storytelling is fucking cutting edge. What we’re doing now, making systems for storytelling, is the application of actual social technologies directly to our nervous systems. The effects we generate, the gnarliness of the stories themselves, the bang:buck is huge. Maybe Ben Lehman is right: maybe our society has crippled our ability to tell stories. Maybe Ron is right, that a lot of us are brain damaged because we’ve learned systems that deprived us of our storytelling tools.
But I think what we’re doing is new ground. We’re opening fresh wounds in the hide of the mediocrity that sells itself to us, that would purport to sell us meaning. We’re making our own fun, making our own meaning, making our own reality.
It’s like drugs that we’ve made out of our friends’ relationships with us. We all get to share the hallucination and learn from it together. We learn things about ourselves, each other, and the world. It’s a psychedelic experience of the best kind, where set and setting pre-approved, your friends at hand urging you to new arenas and you returning the favor.
The last three years have taught me a lot about art, a lot about craft, a lot about friends and mutualism. I raise my cup to Luke, Vincent, Clinton, Ron, Keith the mutherfucker, and my other companions in this Great Work. I wish your art power, your lives passion, and your deaths meaning.