Whatever the outcome of this election, it says something about our nation that I’d hoped was not true.
I’d hoped the wreckage of this year would break the spell of belief in one man over all experts. I’d hoped the cult of personality was a small but loud minority. That the election is this close tells me our country is actually as divided and stupid as it appears.
Think about it: On the eve of America’s most important vote, the “Leader of the Free World” makes a Tweet that Twitter and Facebook have to flag as “False.” Fake Tweet. This is a defining event.
Regardless of the election outcome, I think the “Grand Experiment” is on its knees. Will it stand again? Who knows. Maybe its two-party backbone just can’t bear the weight. I don’t think we have the luxury of time. My last hope for humankind rests with the European Union.
In any case, this year has permanently changed some of my relationships, for good or ill. Some friends and family I’ve lost faith in and respect or time for. While some acquaintances have stepped forward with unexpected friendship and support. I hope the reverse is true. That some now recognize me as a clear enemy of their values and beliefs. And that some find in me an unexpected ally.
Black lives matter. Science matters. Faith matters. Abortion matters. Women’s rights matter. Change matters.
Love matters. Not the wishy-washy let’s all get along kind. The firm kind. The “I don’t hate you but won’t put up with your shit” to oppressors, and “I’ve got your back, now how can I help” to the oppressed.
I don’t know all the answers. But there’s an evident path. And clear roadblocks. Fuck complacency and ignorant resistance. Let’s go.
(Plans change. This post was originally slated as the introduction to a book of The Fantasy Trip essays, now found in issues of Hexagram. Watch for my TFT fencing article in Hexagram #6!)
My game design career started with selling a four-paragraph review to Steve Jackson Games’ Space Gamer magazine. Why Space Gamer instead of TSR’s Dragon? Because I was a Steve Jackson junkie.
In 1981, my game group had dumped AD&D in favor of The Fantasy Trip, at my own instigation. I wanted characters who, no matter how experienced, had good reason to fear wolves in a pack and goblins in a gang, and TFT supplied that. Along with skills instead of classes, and tactics instead of abstract one-minute combat turns. TFT provided a reason to use miniatures for more than just pretty. All that in literally 150 pages instead of literally 472.
I GMed The Fantasy Trip for years to the exclusion of all other RPGs. Our group played TFT long after Metagaming (its publisher) went out of business and TFT went out of print. I scoured hobby stores for supplementary material, photocopied and ringbound every magazine article I could find, bought Gamelords’ The Forest Lords of Dyhad and Warrior-Lords of Darok, and prayed for the two remaining books of that setting to be published. Prayed for anything new to be released.
No exaggeration, I still wake from the occasional nightmare that I’m traveling, stumble across some hobby store in Texas, find an unknown TFT-related title in a bargain bin, and don’t have the cash on me to pay for it.
So when I landed a full-time game design job in my hometown, at Game Designers Workshop (publishers of Traveller), I asked for a special dispensation to launch a non-GDW fanzine, The Fantasy Forum, in my free time.
As I recall, GDW let me run a little ad in their house organ, Challenge magazine, and even let me print out the ’zine on the office copier. And of course I submitted an ad to Space Gamer. Other addicted fans subscribed to this little quarterly. Content submissions soon exceeded the bulk-rate page count. To fit Howard Trump’s solo adventures, I had to print them in 6-point type with 1/8th-inch margins. (In retrospect, I could have published those separately and printed monthly.)
Gen Con 20 in 1987 was my first big convention, and as a brand-new industry pro, I approached Steve Jackson to shake his hand and goob over The Fantasy Trip. When I asked about the prospects of a new printing now that Metagaming was defunct, and Steve told me how much cash Howard Thompson wanted for the title, I gasped, and something inside me died a little bit.
So you can easily imagine my delight when Steve regained the rights in 2017 and launched a Kickstarter shortly thereafter to print a new, deluxe edition. That boxed set now stands in a place of honor on the very top shelf of my RPG collection, right next to the big ringbinder (“liberated” from The Armory) that holds my cherished collection of original TFT material.
And you can imagine my pleasure to be writing this introduction to a collection of essaygs honoring The Fantasy Trip.
Thank you, Steve, for the years of wonderful memories, playing The Fantasy Trip with my friends.
As a college-educated man with working-class roots, I am perhaps well poised to perceive a wide spectrum of political perspectives.
To put it another way:
I’m a Blue Collar guy with a college degree, so I can see the whole picture.
That’s the theory. Not the dubious “I’m special” part. The fact that both sentences say the same thing, in very different ways.
The US has had two, perhaps three populist Presidents: Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump, and arguably Bill Clinton. With the rest, we’re used to a type of speech I’m going to call “diplomatic” for purposes of this theory. It’s also scholarly speech, presenting ideas with a subtle acknowledgement that later developments might change things. In the first statement above, the word “perhaps” does it. A similar phrase might be “events suggest.” To the average citizen these may sound wishy-washy or mealy mouthed.
Now, holding “events suggest” side-by-side with Donald Trump’s “some say,” or the more commonplace, man-on-the-street’s “I’ve heard,” I see a similarity.
“Some say” grates on my ears. “Events suggest” grates on other ears. To me, “some say” is vague, with no documentation, inviting a response of “well others say,” which leaves us with “who knows?” (William Perry’s second stage of cognitive development.) To others, “events suggest” is just as vague, drawing a conclusion from hidden sources like a stage magician.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think Donald Trump is a snake-oil salesman born with a silver spoon and never went a day in his life without servants, let alone food and shelter, who managed to dupe common folk into thinking he understands and cares for their plight, while riding a golden escalator and telling them their toilets are hard to flush, but not his.
But I could be mistaken. Similar things could be said of any politician.
In any case, this theory prepares me to more openly listen to him, and to FOX News. Even his Tweets, because they’re not *all* self-congratulatory or insulting. Some are actually positive, affirming, even comforting.