It's Garbage Day
And it's time for some thoughts...
So I haven’t posted here in well over a month. Good. I’d said all the things I’d needed to say at the moment, and saying things just to say things isn’t going to result in anything that would have a chance to be worth reading.
I do have a 10,000 word post in the can, but it’s about a person specifically, and I’m not really sure if that’s the kind of thing I really want to put out there, critiques about specific people. But it’s just about ready to go if it becomes necessary.
But over the past day I’ve been thinking about a thing, and it’s just a bit of self-examination, maybe not interesting to you, but necessary for me to organize and put out there.
So I had a spa mini-vacation this week. It was the worst possible time for it to happen, what with having to learn three new shipping systems and having a big pile of releases I’m supposed to be stewarding into being. But it was booked in advance, on a gift certificate, I wasn’t going alone, and who knows if we’re really coming out of this covid thing or if it’s another pause before things get all shitty again. So of course I didn’t cancel it.
You know what I did? I did answer some work emails, but otherwise, I did as much nothing as I could.
They had an outdoor pool there. I decided I wanted to sit cross-legged on the bottom of that pool for as long as possible. But I float. So I just kept dunking myself and sitting my ass on the floor, and immediately floating back up. For nearly two straight hours, over and over and over. And I wasn’t bored at all. I don’t think I wasted my time at all. I was actually really enjoying myself, just repeatedly dunking myself in that pool for no reason. Refreshing, actually, to not have to do anything and just do something completely unconstructive and pointless and mindless in a setting where I didn’t have to for a second feel guilty that I was neglecting other things.
So yesterday I got back home in the evening, sat back down at my computer, and… decided I was going to wait until tomorrow (which is now today) to do anything.
And I am reminded of what it is that I will be putting out there soon enough. What it will mean for my business and my life, and what reaction I predict (or at least have to prepare myself for) it will generation from the public. And why I’d do that to myself.
What is this thing that I’m doing?
Not too long back there was a post over in the LotFP Facebook group, someone asking “What do you want to see LotFP publish?” Some of the things people say they wanted are things I’ve tried to get going (meaning: stuff I’ve tried hiring other people to do) that never got gone. The rest? I just sat back thinking, “Fuckers just expect to sit back and have their wishes made for them? I will be happy to forever disappoint them!”
Those are my most engaged customers. What am I doing?
I think of how I have projects in the pipeline which I predict to be sure-fire can’t-miss home run financial windfall projects… but I have put them on hold to funnel my limited resources into other projects closer to the finish line which are risky and even in my best estimates won’t generate a fraction of the revenue as the home run projects. My goal is to get out the greatest number of projects possible rather than prioritize the big ones.
What kind of businessman am I?
So I’m definitely not doing the things that people want, I suspect I’m going to do things that people absolutely do not want, and I’m not doing what I can to maximize the profitability of my business and therefore give the maximum possible stability to my life.
Again: What is it that I’m doing?
It’s difficult for me to express without falling back on armchair psychology nonsense I probably don’t understand enough to explain let alone apply.
But I’ve never liked real life. Any of it. Ever. And whether that was due to circumstances and upbringing, or something built into my brain, it’s just… true. I’m the sort of person that read The Conspiracy Against the Human Race and thought… “Well, yeah. duh. People think otherwise?”
And the things that have always brought me the most joy have been fictions. Often unpleasant, coarse, cynical, aggressive fictions. Movies, comics, novels, TV, pro wrestling, heavy metal… and role-playing games.
I’ve listened to and read all sorts of nonsense from educated people about what the purpose of stories are, and their place in society, but to me it simply comes down to hating life and attacking reality through mentally living in spaces that can never actually be.
And that’s understandable in most cases. When you’re a little kid, going to school… well, you’re told where to be and what to do and how to behave and here’s all this stuff we require you to be able to regurgitate later and you will learn it or we keep you longer until you do.
Then later you become and adult and you have a job and you are told where to be and what to do and how to behave and here are all the values you must represent while doing so and you will adhere to all of it or you just may not be able to provide yourself with a place to live or even food to eat.
Of course children have to be educated. Of course work has to be organized and compensated for. Of course there have to be standards for society to function. We can argue how all of this should be done, but it needs to be done.
But it still is an imposition on what everyone wants to be doing at any particular point in time, and of course these limits will chafe at the mood of anyone subjected to them, even if everything else is going well. And everything else is never going well.
Escaping into fiction for a little while is only understandable. (and if you’re needing to “escape,” then you’re perceiving your situation as confinement. ah, life!)
Digression time: Silent Night Deadly Night 2. 1987. This scene:
That first kill at the thirty second mark, how the guy’s blood sprays all over the wall. That fascinated me at the time. At school I was a doodler, always drawing things, pages and pages of stick figure scenes etc. After seeing this movie and this scene in particular, it was all about blood spatter. My pencil or pen was now always accompanied by a red felt tip pen, and my notebooks were absolutely filled with stick figures’ blood splattering in all sorts of patterns on the page.
What do you think people, especially adults, thought when they saw those doodles? What would you have thought? That a 12-13 year old boy was drawing hundreds of people getting murdered and paying special attention to how the blood from their wounds arranges itself on the landscape?
What would they think, what would you think, of a young boy drawing that in school now?
Truth is, this bog-standard special effect taking up one second of a not-great 1980s horror sequel hit me at just the right time and in just the right way to not only have been a creative inspiration at the time, it sticks with me over thirty years later and has direct applications to my career when I’m doing art direction.
And people want me to regulate myself now when creating, or working with other people on their creations? Who knows what little throwaway basic detail could be someone else’s unlikely inspiration?
And I wish I had the presence and courage of the stuntman at the 2:00 mark in that clip. I’m going to need it.
but… ahhhhhh… if you’ve made it your job to produce this stuff, if you’ve built your life around doing so… then the escape is the prison. Because no matter how your life is set up, even if you set it up just the way you wanted to, there are certain expectations and responsibilities that are required. Such is the way of the world. It can’t be any other way. Every decision has consequences, and even the best decisions come with negative consequences.
So here I am, in this box. It’s a different box than I’d be in if I’d made different choices in life, it may just be the best possible box I could ever be in, but it’s still a box. Even though I’m supposedly the boss, even though I’m supposedly in charge, there are limits on what I’m allowed to do. Some are explicit, some are implied. Some limits are good and proper. Many are complete bullshit.
And my making a living, and other people having their living, depends on my successfully negotiating limits the box places on me.
… but I don’t think I want to. No. Not only will I not do that, I will actively avoid doing this navigating.
It’s all good and well to start off all rebellious and cutting edge and building your following… but if you build a little too much of a following, you lose your way. You’re either captive to your audience demands and it destroys your passion and you might as well be wearing khakis and working in a cubicle for all the creative freedom you have, or you get caught up in your own success and maintaining it for its own sake and suddenly you’re seriously performing Bob Seger covers and you’ve effectively become cultural wallpaper.
Either way, you’re done.
So what’s the way out of that?
Well, why did I built this specific box for myself in the first place? I did it because I wasn’t excited by most of what I was seeing out in the world in this sector, and this was a chance to show what I liked, to have my tastes represented in the world, through a medium I was capable of producing within.
It caught on to a surprising degree.
But the bigger a phenomenon you create, the more attention it receives, then out come more of those who would define you, criticize you, and demand you do your thing in the way they want. The box you built for yourself gets remodeled as the box other people want you to have… and if you resist that, as the box they put you in.
I’m not interested in any of these boxes. I’m really not.
I think I’m more interested in LotFP being a hammer against reality and against what you’re “supposed” to think and imagine.
But as much as I should, as much as I want to, I can’t simply ignore the boxes. They are there. Reality will always win. The only decision I get to make is if I acquiesce to it, or force it to actually make the effort to tear me down. The question isn’t whether or not I’ll die, but how long I can live.
Because really, RPGs have become big business. They generate millions of dollars, have mainstream appeal, celebrities play them in popular online shows. Normal people seem to have accepted role-playing games as a normal, non-threatening means of spending their time.
I’m not interested in that. I wouldn’t have ever gotten into RPGs in the first place if I was interested in that view of RPGs, let alone started creating them. yeah, the millions of dollars would be nice, but the way to speak and behave necessary to achieve that would make it unbearable… not to mention I couldn’t have any real outlet for my real expression anywhere else without it collapsing the cash cow.
That life looks like a nightmare to me. People are either regulating themselves to a degree I can’t even imagine being able to do myself, or they don’t need to regulate themselves and if that’s the case then I’m surrounded by pod people and not real human beings as I recognize them.
So what to do about these boxes? How do I retain the passion for creating and publishing and living this roller coaster life as some sort of renegade seat-of-the-pants RPG publisher?
As much as I can, I need to be the human boxcutter, attacking the boxes, to take control of the LotFP airline, and make sure it flies straight and true into the towers of reality.
yeah. That’s where my mind goes when thinking about this kind of shit.
There’s no reason any normal person should look at an LotFP book and be OK with it. There’s no reason it should make anybody feel good. There’s no reason it should reflect their values, or majority values, or minority values, or my values, or any values at all, really.
An LotFP book should be a disturbance, a disruption, something that nobody expected and that nobody wanted. A problem. Even a danger, if we can manage that much.
That is what we’re doing here, that’s what we’ve always done here. What else is the point of creation?
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Of course it’s better if it works, but it’s really all the same. The important thing to always remember: The point is the attempt, the creation, not the result and not the reception.
So I’ve got a couple things coming up that I believe just might cost me friends, collaborators, fans, business partners, distribution outlets, and I don’t think it’s impossible that one could cost me my payment processor. My business, my life as it’s existed for many years, gone.
Hell, I’m pleasantly surprised that my printer hasn’t had a problem with these projects. So maybe it’s all in my head, maybe I’m misreading the landscape as I often do, maybe I’m just overly sensitive from the last few years, and it’ll just be perceived as Jim being Jim and who gives a shit.
But maybe not.
And if my concerns are correct, the question is… are these things worth these consequences? Especially since I didn’t write either of them, so it’s me presenting other peoples’ things that have even a remote possibility of nuking my entire life?
And I have to say, these are the only things that are worth all this.
We either have the right to imagine freely, or we don’t.
And if we don’t, nothing else on this Earth is worth anything.
Onward to oblivion!