Tuesday, November 30, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #1: The Book of Antitheses!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
I'm going taking a few minutes every day or five to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #1: The Book of Antitheses!
It's been a little bit before this final entry because I've both been swamped with other publisher duties, and frankly I've never known what to make of this book.
When Jobe pitched it to me, my thinking was "well, I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about, but why not?" When the book started to take shape, my thinking was "I don't understand this at all. What is this? I guess I'll just have to publish it to find out what happens." The process of understanding what it is that I would be publishing became like an LotFP adventure itself... yeah, it starts innocuously, but by the end I was entangled in some sort of cosmic horror that would be with me forever.
Because the beautiful, and terrifying thing about Jobe Bittman, is that he really seems to just not give a shit, in the best and fearless of ways. Telling him "no" seems to me to be an act of cultural vandalism, frankly. This stuff needs to be out there in the world, changing it. But... that change might itself be cultural vandalism. I have no idea. But that's the best place to be, not knowing what something is exactly or how it will be received. That means it's real.
I'm sure I've told this story before, but when Jobe had first turned in his draft for Towers Two, it was right before the UK Games Expo, in 2014 or 2015, I forget. So I read it on the plane over to Birmingham, and it was just insane. Cuntwhip? Deathfuck magic? The antagonist's goal is to WHAT for WHAT purpose? I had two thoughts as I touched down in Birmingham and then made my way to the venue to set up my booth... "this is going to kill my company" and "I can't wait to tell EVERY SINGLE PERSON I MEET ABOUT THIS PROJECT I'M DOING!" I remember cornering Monte Cook and Shanna Germain near the elevator in the venue and not shutting the fuck up about it. (I also remember being at the airport going home from Gen Con 2017, ending up in the same waiting area as those two and telling my already ex-wife I'd brought with me "Those are the people I'm rebelling against!" as a public spectacle. In good fun, really, but who the hell knows how it was actually received.)
Some of the early bits of Antitheses were intriguing to me. Jobe brought in Benjamin Marra, "a Grammy nominated artist," and my first concern was "does this guy know what he's getting into?" I wasn't familiar with him, it was immediately after The Events of 2019, and I had nightmares of some mainstream normie artist being recruited and then being horrified at what his art was attached to in the final product. But I was sent a copy of Marra's American Blood and had a chat with him, and of all the problems I'm volunteering for with this book and this job... this wasn't one of them.
Jobe also wanted to know if we could have a hole in the cover of the book. I'd seen such things in softcover books, but never hardcover. But the printer said that's not a problem.
OK. So we had a concept I didn't understand, a product that I had no clue about how I'd present or what use it could possibly be to anyone, and I couldn't have been more excited. The way I imagine some gamer that's only ever played WotC D&D or Pathfinder and then coming into contact with LotFP, that's how I was feeling with this. No fucking clue what was going on, and loving that I had no fucking clue what was going on. This was going to be a great big major thing for LotFP!
One thing I glommed onto was the numerology section. Now numerology is one of the things that ruined Coast to Coast AM for me after George Noory took over the show, all numerology and angels and a lot less of the hardcore weird that Art Bell would present. And here was some friggin numerology in this book proving that the very roots of the industry were Satanic. I had to remind Jobe that he was publishing for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and maybe acknowledge that in the numerology section. 😛
And now that I'm talking about that section, I guess it's time for a little discussion about how real this all is. I have no idea if all the math adds up in that section. I assume Jobe ran the numbers, I don't even know if the editor did... but as far as I'm concerned, numerology that is mathematically accurate and numerology that doesn't add up is all equally nonsense. I published this book because it's interesting and prickly and an entirely different state of mind than I have or that as far as I know any gamers have, and that's enough for me. I don't believe the "magick" in this book is any more real than the butt parasite weapon in Monolith or Xaxus or Wiki Dot Pod.
Does Jobe believe it? I... don't know. I think I asked a couple years back, but frankly it's irrelevant to me so I didn't retain the information. As far as I'm concerned, I'm publishing gaming material. "It's all made up," is my stock in trade and hardly a strike against else I'd publish, so I wouldn't consider it a strike against this one either. If he does believe it... well... good for him. Maybe he began the whole thing as a joke and worked himself into a shoot. It's not my job to judge or police someone's beliefs, it's just my job to make sure the material is presented well.
So after the layout was completed and the artwork started to come together, I really started getting what Jobe was doing. Seeing it all organized rather than a giant text dump does wonders for comprehension sometimes. (too bad I can't afford to have every first draft submission laid out before trying to read it. 😛)
And the "magick" on offer? It's not so different from what I do before games. Because there's what I call "wizard" magic, and then there's what I consider the pretentious label of "magick" applied to basically meditation and mental focus techniques. And I have anxiety and panic before game sessions. "Oh my god, a bunch of people are coming over and then I have to not waste their time and I hope the game is fun AHHHHHHHHH PEOPLE WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE PEOPLE" kind of mentality. I've never ever not once hosted a game where I wasn't hoping that everyone would get sick and not be able to come at the last minute. Anxiety is real!
So I have some techniques, rituals if you will, to get me calmed down and focused before a session starts. They aren't the same techniques that Jobe details in Antitheses, but I've never seen any similar thing addressed seriously in a game book before. Referee/GM advice in game books is about how to prepare THE GAME. How to run THE GAME. Not how to prepare YOURSELF, not how to run YOURSELF.
So it hit me like the clicheverbial ton of bricks: I don't believe at all in what the book is saying, but I believe 100% in what the book is doing.
Holy shit. This book really is going to be huge.
And then there was the adventure, where Jobe has his usual "I belong in a loony bin" imagination runs wild, what with the butt-faces and 'Poor People' listed in the adventure's bestiary, presented in a novel way and I can't wait to hear the play experiences from people in the wider world.
There is the fact that the book is an in-game object, so there's this thing where it exists for both the real people around the table and the characters they're playing, and how that works. (are there really guns small enough to fit through the hole? Was Jobe working with a larger hole in his playtests? have fun with that one)
Then there was the issue of the runes. The method I used to read them was cheating... and we took some steps to make sure others can't do that. All that stuff is actual writing. More content for the diligent (or the not-so-diligent once some buttface posts a transcription).
Then there was the foreword. Jobe had trouble getting someone to do that, and the list of names he both proposed and tried to recruit I'm sure would result in many annoying comments. The person who did do it, J.F. Martel, was perfect. He cohosts the Weird Studies podcast ("a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call 'reality.'") and is a published author (his book Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice is very interesting)... and he delivered 4000 (!) words for the foreward of Antitheses, really digging into some things. And the message? At least the one I strongly received from it? The evangelicals were exactly right about D&D and the reason it didn't transform the world is because people only saw it as an entertaining diversion.
And that... that's disturbing. One of the driving forces of my life has been imagination and creation (more enjoying others' than doing my own most of my life) and encouraging and fighting for freer expression of the same, which is necessary since much of my taste is... let's just say not very classy, so it's under constant attack, so it needs defense.
But what if all the accusations are true? What of the defense?
Well... I've already addressed this in years past. Something along the lines of "If the King in Yellow was a real play and it truly caused madness and death, that would still not be grounds for censoring or banning it."
That's what I think.
So what if I'm wrong about what gaming is, and the effect it has (and also wrong about the actual effects of my "edgy" tastes and publications), but also at the same time still right about the defense? Or what if I'm wrong about the defense because what I do isn't what I think I'm doing?
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my brain hurts.
What if I haven't published a game book?
What if unbeknownst to me I've published a book that is real, and speaks only the truth?
Do you read Sutter Kane?