Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

JimFear138 on Pulp Revolution’s Irrepressible Conflict

dallasFirst up, just got a rave review from the uber-cool Jon Del Arroz:

Read this over time, slowly digesting each of the articles. It’s a great “in between other books” read on that level as the articles are fairly standalone. It goes over every work in Appendix N from the original Dungeons and Dragons game, giving expert analysis from both a fantasy literature and a gaming perspective. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world and I can’t recommend it enough for SF/F enthusiasts, writers and gamers alike.

The timing on this is interesting, as there are fears brewing over the potential of the Pulp Revolution to descend into the same tedious cliqueishness that all the previous movements seem to have descended into.

Well let me allay your fears on that: it’s just not going to happen. People that show up on our doorstep have had their contracts canceled or been run out of the convention scene. Some of them have just been way too into it for even the Sad Puppies to be able to handle. If we start getting picky about who gets to sit at our lunch table, we would very rapidly cease to exist.

Which brings us to JimFear138’s latest podcast. Just go listen to the whole thing. I can wait.

Okay, you back…?

Let me just add a couple of things to that. There are private conversations, but they are rare. Every private meeting or email thread means we lose a half dozen blog posts. It eats our momentum and I can’t get excited about it. When we do end up kibitzing around on Skype or something, I always regret not recording and releasing the conversations. There’s so much awesome stuff we don’t have time to write up! It’s just a shame to keep it to ourselves.

Pulp Revolution is not a group you associate with. It’s something you do. It’s reading old books and discussing them. It’s blogging and podcasting. It’s continuing the conversations that spring up on social media. It’s writing new pulps and putting them up on Amazon.

It’s not anyone’s place to tell anyone else they’re pulp revolutioning wrong. There is no gatekeeper. This whole thing is happening because there are no gatekeepers! And unlike the Sad Puppies, there is no one that can imperiously tell anyone, “hey… we built that.” Nobody built it. It just happened. When people find out the truth about the pulps and start reading them for themselves, they are overcome with a desire to create. Games. Stories. Criticism. It’s awesome. Nobody orchestrates this.

You know what you do when you make someone a leader of this…? All it does is paint a big fat target on their back. Please don’t do that.

I called Jon Mollison last night and hashed some of this out. He told me I sound paranoid. Maybe I am. Do you have any idea what it would feel like to live in the world of 1984 and break a story that is diametrically opposed to everything you hear in the media and in academia? And more than that… to go hang around the meanest, roughest, most radical bunch evil-doers in the science fiction and fantasy scene… only to convince a good chunk them that they are just as blue pill as anyone…?

It’s nuts. It’s dangerous. It’s unprecedented. It shouldn’t be possible. It overturns everything in your head about how you’d think these things should play out.

And while it sure seems like the audience for this is growing like gangbusters, the social reaction to this in online spaces outside of the bubble make me feel like I’m the monster in the space movie that causes the lights to go out wherever he prowls. It’s freaky.

JimFear138 is right. There is liable to be a response to what we’re doing. And it may come sooner than you think. Get ready for it.

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6 responses to “JimFear138 on Pulp Revolution’s Irrepressible Conflict

  1. jimfear138 February 26, 2017 at 6:09 pm

    Glad to see I was partially being silly and paranoid as well. At least with regard to cliqueishness in the PR scene. That’s a load off my mind, and you’re right about this being a continuous conversation across social media and blogs and other platforms. I suppose I was worrying over nothing, at least so far as that goes.
    But the other stuff…that response is coming. Maybe I was less articulate than I could’ve been (I did have a lot to drink before even starting) but that’s one thing I do know is coming. People are going to get mad at us, and they’re going to lash out. We do need to be prepared for that. Like I said, we don’t want this to become a war, but we might not have much choice.

    • jeffro February 26, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      If you walk into a church where everyone is dressed the same and everyone talks the same, that didn’t just happened. The place has a great big revolving door, and the people that come in and fail to buckle down are quietly “encouraged” to move on. Everyone is put on notice sooner or later. Anyone that challenges the status quo is exiled after a lot of chest-beating and drama.

      That’s business as usual for any sufficiently distinctive small town church. Now… imagine there was a group of people that don’t have a church, but which are so zealous that they imagine the entire world to be their church… and then behave like that 24/7, even going so far as to subvert entire institutions to function like those small town churches writ large.

      That’s what happened. And they were so successful, people just assume it’s the natural order.

  2. James Murphy February 26, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    More to the point than being attacked (which you will be; get ready for it) is that you need the fresh blood, fresh perspectives, the complete wahoos who will take your thing somewhere you never even considered.

    The OSR is like this; it’s not something you know, or a philosophy, or a club. It’s a thing you do: designing adventures, campaigns, whole games and then playing them. Not talking about design or play, but actually doing it. The only thing required to be part of the OSR is to want to play and share your play with others. Some folks will say, “Hey, I don’t like that.” Some might even say, “Hey, you’re playing 4e; that’s so totally not OSR.”

    So what? We have no pope (in spite of so many attempts to crown Maliszewski and others). Nobody can come to your house and confiscate your dice, shut down your blog, etc. Rock on with your bad self and to hell with what others say.

    And, because of that, the OSR has Maliszewski and Raggi and Reints and Zak and Noisms and RPGPundit and Chenier and Venger Satanis and while they might often disagree and have very different ideas about what’s most fun, it’s all part of the grand OSR buffet. And I hope you came hungry ’cause it’s eat all you want. ;)

    This does two things. First, it makes the OSR unkillable. It’s just too damned amorphous. Second, it keeps it exciting and fun. There’s always someone excited about something, someone who just had a great insight, or a really cool game, or just made a new dungeon they’ve gotta share with everyone. It’s a constant rolling avalanche of enthusiasm, and that sort of thing is impossible to stop.

    Granted, few of us are trying to make a living at this. That makes it harder to scare us. But if y’all get your audience, you’ll be untouchable. Onward and upward!

    • jeffro February 27, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Yes this. None of the book bloggers really get this… but the pulp revolution scene is a side effect of what happens when you bring the “Do It Yourself” aspect of the OSR into the book blogging scene. (Half of the Castalia House Blog team came out of game blogging– they’re what created something that the sff-only people could even come to.)

      If it stays bottom up– which is my desire– you’ll see the same sort of contrasting personalities and voices emerge that you have in the OSR. Which is exactly what you saw in the Pulp days where Merritt and Howard and Lovecraft and Moore all had their own unique styles. You walk into Barnes & Noble and it just feels dead. The industry actively suppresses that sort of thing.

      One big difference between the Pulp Revolution and the OSR… the OSR got big enough that it had to be (more or less) co-opted by Wizards. People forget just how serious things were when 4e was the new hotness. Given that Pulp Revolution is a magnet to people that have been cast out of the establishment– people that have been no-platformed– it will not be possible to co-opt it in quite the same way. There is a truce between 5e and the OSR right now– more or less. Pulp Revolution will never have that because it will be seen as an existential threat to the powers that be.

      That sounds over the top, but given how the media treated a moderate nice guy like Brad Torgersen, I can’t pretend this is going to be all nicey nice forever.

      • James Murphy February 27, 2017 at 11:58 am

        “There is a truce between 5e and the OSR right now– more or less. Pulp Revolution will never have that because it will be seen as an existential threat to the powers that be.”

        That and the OSR was never an existential threat to WotC; we had some mild differences of opinion, but it never rose to the level of personal hate. So when Paizo did become an existential threat, WotC, which has held itself above-the-fray in most of the online slap-fights, was able to take advantage of the work done by the OSR. There was never a feeling of personal animosity between Mearls & Co. and the OSR gang.

        Fiction’s a different beast entirely, and it’s here I think JimFear138 is correct. WotC cherry-picked what they liked from the OSR and offered a number of olive-branches during the ramp-up and playtesting period. While Baen might be in a position to do that, the rest of the mainstream publishers would have to utterly abandon their brand (built around us-vs.-them status-signalling) to do anything like that. If pulp becomes the new black, they’ll be left fuming on the sidelines, hurling character assassinations and circling their wagons into tighter, smaller tabors. If the Pulp Revolution allows itself to metastasize in new and novel directions, the ensuing flood will render the old guard irrelevant. (They’ll never admit that, of course, and will probably linger on for quite some time with their reality-defying cons, awards, and blogs.)

  3. searchingfordragonsblog March 1, 2017 at 2:16 am

    I enjoy all of the pulp revolution. I feel like I’ve not made a group connection like it in years. I love Appendix N books. I have all of them, and I always buy a good copy of one when I find it to give to friends. I even have my wife (who loves flea markets and antique stores) hunting for them. She’s got a list and she’s found quite a few.

    But I’m also noticing an upswing in masculine fiction/non-fiction in general. Appalachian Noir, Southern Crime, Self Help, and Psuedo-Philosophy is on the rise. Bull Mountain is a hell of a book. Brian Panowich brings the heat and he was putting short stories out in ebook format for a good stretch. (Maybe I Should Just Shoot You In The Face, and Five Broken Winchesters)
    There’s also a fringe element that I think is overlooked in newer pulp. Paizo has resurrected plenty of hard to get novels and short story collections. That’s solely thanks to Erik Mona who did crazy amounts of unacknowledged work on Greyhawk in the Oerth Journals which was what I think started the drum of getting back to where it started.

    Things in the RPG community just got too fast, too weird, too quickly. We were swamped in books of 4E and it felt like another Lorraine Williams style explosion was going to happen like old TSR dishing out shitty novels and a massive flop of a dice game that killed them.

    Pathfinder to me felt like the Protestant revolt, the Roman church was rife with nonsense and someone left and gave it a stern rebuke. I think it’ll play out the same way too.
    Everyone goes to the new shiny thing and embraces it. Then people miss the traditional forms and come back home. That’s the OSR group. They started back to mass after how weird Protestant splinter groups became.

    Sorry for my blogging on your blog I just realized I was doing it. 😕

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