The Muses’s Darling

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Recently I was reading a book by a sensible-sounding Christian author about the dangers of fiddling with the supernatural, and was lulled along, in a sense of “that makes sense” until I hit her condemnation of D & D and how it prepares people for deals with the devil.

To be fair, this might have been like when I was following along with the geologist describing Pangaea, and suddenly hit his conviction that dinosaurs are circling the Earth in a world-spaceship.  Because moments later this lady was going on about backward Satanic messages in Rock and Roll and moments later of fantasy books that talk of magic in general, both of which seem to be to put it mildly exaggerated dangers.

After all, it might be a danger to believe the devil doesn’t exist, but an equal danger is to attribute every little thing that annoys us to him, when it’s adequately explained by human folly, frailty and perverseness or when, like fantasy books in general (in particular some are pernicious, as are all kinds of books), there is nothing to explain beyond “people like to dream about harmless stuff that doesn’t hurt them.” Though I suppose it might be baffling to people who don’t like to indulge their imagination or who, like this lady, might be prone to more danger from their imagination than others.

But yesterday night, possibly because of Fever, The Return, I found myself thinking of D & D in particular. I’ve played it a total of one time, and what I noticed about it is that it “pulls” from the same place as writing.  Which is why I haven’t indulged since, because I save my work for paying work (in theory. Soon, I promise, there will be finished stuff. I hate my body.)

I should explain this lady, in the rest of her book, details some harrowing possibly dangerous supernatural experiences, before her conversion and invoking of protection of religious prayers and symbols.

This is something I can’t really explain to anyone who hasn’t/can’t experience it, but trust me, some of us can have this stuff happen to us; there is a frame of mind that invites it; and this woman seemed unusually prone to it, and also unable to tell good from bad at a fundamental level and I don’t mean just at the level all of us can be fooled, but having had no instruction at all on what can go wrong when messing with such things.  Maybe that’s fairly normal for the US? Maybe I’m lucky to have grown up in a place where old traditions and old dangers are remembered?

So perhaps she sees exaggerated dangers, because she is unusually prone to falling into trouble? Kind of like I’m terrified of driving in a six lane highway because I know my reflexes are slow? (It’s the other mugs I’m afraid of.)

Because of my job, I do a lot of reading on paranormal research/legends.  I’d recommend Hungry Ghosts and Signals in the Storm on the subject.

Most — like 98% — of paranormal phenomena and research are prone to the trickster effect.  Not just because the people involved are often tricksters (and worse, lie to themselves) but because there seem to be, for lack of a better term “trickster spirits” out there that will mess with anyone who undertakes research or experimentation in the area.  Or if you prefer, because our subconscious tricks us and plays bad jokes on us, when we put ourselves in a susceptible mood.

That said, I suspect this writer’s (and other’s) issues with D & D because D & D brought into the “susceptible mood” (or mode) people who are not writers, and therefore not used with the fact that your imagination/subconscious/whatever kicks up fully formed eideations that seem compellingly real.

There are two types of writers. Those who work in the limnear dark, the “muse led” or gateway writers (as Kate Paulk puts it) and those to whom writing is a process purely of the rational mind.

There are dangers to each side of it.  The purely rational people are often beguiled by how rational they are and how they must instruct all the rubes out there, resulting in just-so stories, stories that virtue signal, and stories that would put an insomniac to sleep.

I’m not going to say these are the sum total of such rational writers.  I know such writers who are very good and produce really good work.  And I’m not going to say the sum total of snoozers are produced by such writers, because there are muse-led writers whose muses are deeply perverse or perhaps filled with a sense of their moral superiority, who knows? (Maybe those really are Satanic? 😉 )

On the side of the muse-led writers, there are perhaps more dangers.  One of them is of course that you never actually finish anything, because the dang things really are tricksters and pull you from story to story, never finishing.  (In which case, you need to learn to train them, and exert discipline.)  Another is that you fall victim of the trickster effect and your work is at best incoherent and at worse evil. (I.e. it espouses or promotes objectively evil principles and ideas that even you, in the cool light of day, feel revolted by.)  The answer to the first is to know enough of story telling technique (I can’t recommend Dwight Swain enough) to fix it in post.  The answer to the second is of course to know good from evil and stop before you embark down that road, no matter how seductive (and it is always seductive.)

There is also the problem that your work schedule can get waylaid by a sudden, overpowering idea and that this thing is not totally under your control. I’ve been dealing with that as best I can for over thirty years. It hasn’t killed me. It’s also not wonderful for the career.

The big danger, though, it’s that you’ll come to believe your own writing.  I mean, that you’ll come to believe the thing is alive and has an important message for the world.

I know writers who’ve gone down that path, and it never ends well. Often it changes the person into… something else.*

It’s rather like the effect on people who go full hearted and unprotected to play with the supernatural. It leads the same way.

The problem, I’d say, like Terry Pratchett, is forgetting which voice is your own. Trusting the wisdom of what comes to you fully formed better than your own mind/beliefs.  If you believe in the supernatural, then the problem is trusting invisible things/ethereal beings more than flesh and blood ones, because they’re invisible or ethereal.

In that sense, I could see how D & D could be a problem. If you fell so enthralled with your own creation that you started trusting it.

I suspect the function of being wayled by “spirits” or “muses” is similar to being wayled by storytelling. It’s amazing how often in ancient cultures bards or storytellers had a ‘priestly’ function or else, the opposite of that.

Some of us of course have to work there, in that half-light of the shores of imagination. But perhaps we should never leave behind our mental faculties aided by our sense? Perhaps they’re only safe when we go into them, remembering who we are and why we’re there?

And perhaps in the end that is better than proscribing all activities that stimulate the imagination? And eventually storytelling itself?

There must be a space between fear of the dark and irresistible attraction to it.  And the same with the imagination.

Else, in either case, we make ourselves less than human.

*And perhaps when Shakespeare called Marlowe “The Muses Darling” he meant more than we assume.

 

 

 

 

376 responses to “The Muses’s Darling

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Signals in the Storm?

    Who’s the author.

    I have The Siren Call Of Hungry Ghosts by Joe Fisher

  2. until I hit her condemnation of D & D and how it prepares people for deals with the devil.

    I’ve had DMs like that….

  3. “the dang things really are tricksters and pull you from story to story, never finishing.”

    I’m about half way through watching the final season of Game of Thrones. They mostly lost me in Season Five, but I keep watching to see how they finally resolve the narrative mish-mash it had become. I think JRRM lost track of actually telling a coherent story and the showrunners have been trying with only mixed success to tie it into something watchable.

    • I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the end of the show, and it seems they did make a lot of mistakes, but at least they came up with an ending and put it on screen. They didn’t say, “Well, Trump was elected, I can’t possibly be creative with Orange Man Bad in the White House.”

      There are also a lot of accusations about “well, they don’t care any more, they’re tired of it, they just want to move on to Star Wars” that seem at least equally applicable to the man who’s taken eight years so far with no sixth book in sight and hasn’t really moved the story forward since 2001.

      • One complaint… to minimize spoilers, I’ll just say the choice was logical. Not Woke, not what the wymynists want, but logical for the setting and circumstances. There were valid-for-them reasons so few places had queens regnant, as opposed to regents and “wife of the king.”

        • The choices were logical, but the execution was atrocious. Then again, I’d been rooting for the White Walkers since around season 4-5.

          • 😀 I think you were one of many. The arrival of a Sweet Meteor of Doom, or “and then the dragons decide to heck with this [stuff] and burn everything and go away” were also mentioned.

      • it seems they did make a lot of mistakes

        And some fairly inexcusable ones, such as [BRAND] coffee cups on set. Those are the sort of egregious errors which stamp a show as fallen prey to “don’t give a damnism.”

    • I have to question just how much input JRRM had towards the end of the TV series. Book authors seldom get much say so, even when it’s an ongoing series of books once the TV or movie option is invoked.
      The one notable exception was Rowling who had made so much money from the Potter books that she held out for a great deal of creative control with the movies.

      • Apparently GRRM had a quite a bit of a say, as HBO wanted to make sure that they would be first in line to be able to get rights to prequels, both written and contemplated. For anyone hoping GRRM will finish the series, keep in mind he is 70 and at the pace he writes, even if he lives another 30 years, he is unlikely to complete it.

    • “JRRM”?

      Is that a portmanteau of JRRT and GRRM?

    • I think JRRM lost track of actually telling a coherent story

      Yep — Book 5 wasn’t a novel and it didn’t end, it merely stopped. That’s the sort of thing editors are supposed to notice but apparently the publisher doesn’t hold that view. Around my library we call that “Philip Jose Farmer Syndrome” for reasons which won’t need explaining to anybody who attempted to read his Riverworld books.

      JRRM? Jorge Raymond Richard Martin? 😉

      • Yes, I was quite happy to discard the paperback box set of Riverworld books. Kind of like Piers Anthony; there’s a good idea in there, but it gets overwhelmed with a lot of baggage by the time the Nth book in the series is done. (With Riverworld, I’d have been happy to have it end at a) the short story, or b) the first novel. Thinking about it, the short story is my preference.)

        • Feather Blade

          I thought for a long time that Piers Anthony should stop at the third book of any given series he writes.

          • It wouldn’t surprise me if Piers agreed, but would point out the money that he makes from continuing pounding the Xanth carcass.

            Part of the current problem is trends in publishing toward fat books, trying to give buyers the impression that they’re “getting their money’s worth.” Personally, I think a book should be thick enough to tell the tale, but if Heinlein could tell Moon in just three hundred pages you’ve got to have a pretty darn good tale to require eight hundred.

            But if buyers don’t demand concise, tightly-written stories there’s no reason authors should exert themselves to boil off the excess fat. Modern editors certainly aren’t going to demand that, they’re too busy looking for PC twaddle to pack into the book.

            • See Jordan and the Waste* Wheel of Time series . . .

              *So named by one of the clerks at Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis when I bought book no, X.

      • More like that Jerk Rail Road Martin.

  4. I’ve never thought of D&D as a problem, but I’ve always been a bit wary of the World of Darkness games. I had a friend in high school who was absolutely convinced that WoD was real to the extent that he was trying to explain how the world “really” worked according to the rules of Mage: The Ascension to our English teacher. Yes, the kid obviously had other problems, but looking back at him, I feel like he could have fallen to either side of the sanity line, and WoD pushed him over the edge.

    • William H. Stoddard

      I’ve thought for a long time that WoD looks very much as if all its games had been deliberately written as rejections of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Changeling tells you that beauty lies in illusion and the rejection of rational knowledge; Werewolf tells you that industry is evil, radical environmentalism is good, and murder in its service is noble; Vampire tells you that parasitism is a proper way of life; Wraith tells you that value has no relation to survival; and Mage tells you that reality is all subjective in the first place. . . .

      • One of the best, maybe THE best, role playing campaigns I was ever involved in was set in WoD, and assumed that, since the various critters ‘deep histories’ were mutually exclusive, the old Monsters (and Mages, and so on) were severely delusional. That every supernatural creature, having gone through a traumatic transformation experience, suffered from extreme PTSD, and all were unreliable interpreters of reality.

        Think about it; the Vampires are outnumbered 50,000 to 1 by a species that has successfully learned to use the sun’s nuclear fire as a weapon. And they think they are in control? If the Masquerade ever fell, the Humans could overrun them with nothing more than popsicle sticks.

        Other than the GM’s tendency to go to a new film on Friday and use it as the basis of an adventure on Saturday, we had a ball. And we cured him of that by exploiting the absurdity of Hollywood’s belief in conspiracies that think a dead body is less embarrassing than a live whistleblower.

        • Vampires are outnumbered 50,000 to 1 by a species that has successfully learned to use the sun’s nuclear fire as a weapon. And they think they are in control? If the Masquerade ever fell, the Humans could overrun them with nothing more than popsicle sticks.

          I believe that’s more or less canon (except that the numbers are way more skewed in humanity’s favor). Even the Sabbat, for all their big talk about, “Why would we hide from our prey?”, know it deep down, which is why even they hold to the masquerade.

          • Interesting! A lot of urban fantasies have the supernatural hiding from the danger that they clearly would not be afraid of to do so. (Then the masquerade is a topic I ramble on about often in my blog. It inspires thoughts.)

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Harry Potter’s world is bad that way (IMO).

              The wizards of Harry Potter’s world wouldn’t need to hide since they’re so much more powerful than non-magicians especially prior to the development of firearms.

              • And if they are lying, it’s a deep and intensive lie, since Hermione’s interest in history would have dug it up if it were easy.

                Perhaps they were afraid of technology, and the current-day incompatibility is an effect of a spell — devised centuries after they went into hiding, and unable to give it up.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Nod.

                  I have a “half-baked” idea about a workable “Masquerade”.

                  First, over-use of magic on “our” world has a disastrous effect on all magic users.

                  Second, because of this ancient magicians created “magical mini-worlds” connected to our world via fixed portals. Normally the portals can only be used by magicians or potential magicians but sometimes normal humans find themselves in those mini-worlds. In addition, magicians can bring normal humans into the mini-worlds.

                  Third, while the mini-worlds are stable in one sense, there is some necessary connection with the main world. Mini-worlds that have destroyed the portals to the main world very quickly die unless the portals are recreated.

                  Fourth, travel between the mini-worlds can only be made by traveling to the main world and finding the portal that leads to the other mini-world.

                  Fifth, magical conflict on the main-world can have unpredictable effects on the mini-worlds thus while magic can be used on the main world, magical conflict is limited.

                  Sixth, while any technology that works on the main-world can work in the mini-worlds, electrical generation is somewhat difficult and most mini-worlds prefer to purchased goods from the main world instead attempting to manufacture goods on their mini-world.

                  Finally, while some of the mini-worlds are under a single ruler/governing body, there is no overall government for the mini-worlds.

                  • In Mage, there is no Masquerade, there is the consensus of belief, which is led by the particular sect of mages known as the Technocracy. the Masquerade is a vampire thing.

                • It is likely a necessary lie, for reasons the wizardly subconscious suppresses. For one thing, it seems likely that wizards are an extreme minority and, should muggles become truly aware of them, could be easily exterminated. Most wizards seem only slightly powerful, the truly potent ones being one or two in a generation occurrences. (The fact that Voldywhosis is half-muggle may be an instance of hybrid vigor.)

                  Certainly it seems that many wizards are so unworldly that they can barely manage to dress themselves, much less enslave muggles. And even wizards have to sleep, right?

                  Multiple times throughout the series I was moved to grouse about the lack of any evidence of systematic study of magic, the absence of a Magical Theory course or other evidence of application of principles of scientific understanding to the field. Mostly the instruction – when not dedicated to such patently invalid subjects as Divination – seems to engage in rote learning such as we observe in Snape’s Potions classes. There is no exploration of underlying principles, merely learning to follow recipes. So anti-intellectual a group as wizards could hardly organize themselves to face an engaged enemy.

                  Alternatively, Rowling’s world-building is spit, string and chewing gum, incapable if standing up under the slightest pressure and that is why it was sold as fantasy rather than SF.

                  Frankly, the cracks in Dresden’s universe are nearly as bad but Butcher has done a much better job of covering them with wall-paper.

                  • “cracks in Dresden’s”

                    Well yes. But Butcher explains it as those not involved in the paranormal (i.e. “normal”) unless their faces are shoved into to the paranormal repeatably, not just once or twice, or sometimes even 3 or more, they’ll psychologically account for what happened some other way despite irrefutable evidence; either that or they finally realized it only, you know, die. Guess that is the “wall paper” you mentioned.

                    • A fact that ought to give at least some people some pause some of the time.

                      Is this natural? Is it being caused? If so, by whom? For what reason? And is that causer hiding things from us too?

                      The Rachel Griffin series had the kid born among the unmagical asking almost immediately how, if they censor mundane history, do they know no one’s censoring magical history? — a good question.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I’ve suspected that in the Dresden World that there’s an ancient spell at work that causes the “mundane world” to forget or explain away magical events.

                      But as you suggested, there’s a question of “Who Did It and Why”.

                    • “if they censor mundane history, do they know no one’s censoring magical history? — a good question.”

                      Yes. Very good question.

                      I like that Dresden has even done equivalent of a double take with an internal “Excuse me? WTH? With everything that went on, That is your explanation?” Generally he is up to his shoulder’s in the current alligator situation so further education will have to wait, which never seems to be the correct time. Then too he is a bit of a nanny, so he shrugs it off and keeps them ignorant. Mundanes get themselves killed if they know anything. Part of the growth, it really isn’t his right to make the choice for those exposed.

                  • alternatively? Additionally.

                    I ought to write up that blog post on my general field theory of the masquerade.

        • dead body is less embarrassing than a live whistleblower.

          The trope is keep-able in a power-via-prestige Yakuza setting. But unless embarrassment has a cost, or the killer is so powerful that he can dispose of annoyances (and much, much, worse) on a whim…

      • I know an early WW employee whose name is all over the first edition OWoD books. He’s an okay guy but from talking to him I think it wasn’t deliberate, but it certain does encompass the world view of the people who wrote them.

    • If you want an engine of destruction that pushes people to suicide pretty much daily, look no farther than Twitter. Its like a signal amplifier for everything stupid and shitty in Humanity.

      • But getting rid of it would only result in its being replaced by something else. There is always gossip, and gossip always has its destructive side.

        • This.

          At the same time, there is also the fact that it was a way to work against certain memes that are become insidiously popular. That’s why the lefty establishment had to ban people who were speaking out against things like communism, socialism; like Rex Vallochorum, who was quite eloquent in describing his life in Socialist Romania.

    • Sometimes it crosses my mind that Woodrow Wilson spent a lot of time fiddling around with the idea of the League of Nations rather than working on a workable post-WWI peace arrangement was rather like a young teen ignoring the world (to excess) as he designs his ideal RPG campaign/setting.

      • TheOtherSean

        It didn’t help that for all Wilson’s babble about national self-determination, he didn’t have an understanding how many would-be nations there really were in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, and how bloody mixed up they were. I think fiddling with the League of Nations idea was far more appealing to him than trying to contemplate the real situation, as opposed to his earlier idealized conception of the situation. And it beat contemplating the fact that he had little Congressional backing.

        • And like many Academics, he had an idealized vision of his own prowess, while professional politicians, old and fell in the practical arts of their trade, ran circles around him.

          • TheOtherSean

            One of my favorite stories about Wilson, dating to his time running Princeton University, is about how he managed to offend Andrew Carnegie. A Princeton alum was chatting with Carnegie about the alum’s pet project, creating an artificial lake for the crew team. The alum had all his technical and cost ducks in a row already, and was very enthusiastic about it, and Carnegie volunteered to fund it. At the grand opening of Carnegie Lake, Wilson thanked Carnegie – and baldly asked for a donation.

    • There was a lovely point when I enjoyed OWoD (Old World of Darkness), and especially Mage, then I realized two things-

      1)The Technocracy had more of a claim of being “heroes” than the Traditions.
      2)Vampire LARPers hate it when you turn them into lawn chairs and margaritas (and bring lawn chairs and margaritas for all of their “blood childes” (girlfriends)).

      The rest of the game line had initial assumptions that, when examined, were the perfect blend of middle class teenage self-loathing and lack of critical analysis or understanding of the philosophies they were trying to espouse.

      (And, rape apologists. So far, nobody has been able to make vampires seem to be anything more than “a sapient STD”…)

      Then, we got to the NWoD…and, oh boy, was that a train wreck for me. I bought enough of the books to realize that they were doubling down on everything that they thought was “edgy” and “spooky.” Mage was no longer “we’re trying to figure out how to make the world better” and became “Neil Gaiman was so very right about everything, and anybody that isn’t trying to burn our current reality down, no matter what the results, is working for The Man.” Werewolf wasn’t “fighting the good fight, no matter how doomed,” but “you’re trying to make up for the sins of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents that you can never be forgiven.”

      Let’s not even talk about how Changeling:The Dreaming was “Rape Survivors-The RPG,” with the game’s end-goal was becoming the rapists that they had escaped from. Even Promethian had a happier ending-you became an ordinary human being! Congratulations!

      I had to admit, Demon:The Descent, was more interesting. It was probably as close as I want to get to Call of Cthulhu/Laundry role playing as I wanted to ever get. The concept was even handled well, and they occasionally did something right.

      Then-Beast:The Primordial.

      Interesting concept.

      Horrible execution, and once we learned more about the main creators, extremely cringe-worthy.

      (<a href="https://projects.inklesspen.com/fatal-and-friends/kurieg/beast-the-primordial/&quot; This review covers more of the issues than I want to think about.)

      D&D and gaming is, mostly, power fantasies by people that feel they have little power. They want power and agency-something that most gamers don’t have for many reasons. Quite a few that are beyond their control, or they cannot control.

      If their efforts to gain power involves invoking the Archenemy, what does that say about the power structure?

    • Oddly, MtAs is the only OWoD setting I like as much as its NWoD counterpart (unless you consider Wraith and Geist equivalents).

      Mage the Awakening is raw postmodernism, full force, with a huge heaping of the best aspects of Nietzsche on top. Yes, he had good aspects. He faced where European philosophy was headed and said, “This is the price of what you are doing and this is the project you are setting for yourself.” He was one of the first people to articulate that man needed purpose and if you rejected some idea of god or creation providing it the onus fell on you to do it.

      The original Mage did that. In that way it was the only game in the OWoD that did what WW proclaimed: allow to explore adult themes in gaming. Werewolf usually degenerated into Fury Captain Planet and the less said about Vampire the better. Wraith was an awesome game (I disagree with William’s interpretation below, however, at its core I read it as about redemption), but it was to surreal to catch on. Changeling was amusing, but even my acquaintance who worked at WW didn’t get the “science cannot produce wonder” mindset.

      NWoD does much better. Vampire the Requiem is much more about addiction than parasitism and its vampires are not secret masters. It also, in the form of Invictus, takes on the being a monster much better. Werewolf the Foresaken is the game about the choice between membership in a social group and freedom to act. You are in gang (cult, whatever). Mage the Awakening is a game of breaking out of a gnostic prison. While lots of people played MtAs as “The Matrix”, MtAw delivers. Like old Mage it is a game about power and its corrupting force. New Changeling is the game of child abuse, PTSD, and not being able to go home again (which is a nominal overlap with CtL, but actually done).

      • NWoD hasnt sold anywhere near as well as the classic counterpart.

        • RPGNet has a very popular fan supplement for NWoD. It’s Princess: The Hopeful.

          Originally it was a parody cross over with magical girl anime. But the fan reaction was “That’s a real cool idea!” and it’s very serious now. They like the light in the darkness.

          • I used to use Hank Driskill’s Highlander:The Gathering rules in addition to the regular books.

          • There is also Genius: The Transgression. The online explanation is imagine an RPG where you were a Technocracy like scientist (including Virtual Adepts and especially Void Engineers) in a world with real science. I find it pretty interesting.

            Both can be found outside of the Big Purple, a place I gave up on years ago.

        • No, but I think over all, with some exceptions like Beast it is a better set of settings.

    • Yes, when I first dipped my toe into the world of tabletop gaming I quite liked Changeling (and even have the original 2nd Ed book)…but many of the folks who seemed drawn to it and to the LARPing in particular…well, they were a little worrisome. But less because of the game itself and more that it seemed to have a higher-than-usual attraction to the ‘has trouble with reality’ types.

      I’m still holding out for a good tabletop campaign of Changeling (as soon as I figure out the damn rules).

      Overall, my impression of WoD was “pretentious angsty 90s emo/Goth twerps”. Who are overly-thrilled by their ‘edgy’ use of profanity and sex. Much like fantasy (esp. urban fantasy) of that era. (Okay, so much of urban fantasy still seems stuck in the “I thought Vampire was super cool when I was a teen” but still.)

      In the hands of the right sort of DM, I bet it’s a ton of fun whatever flavor of WoD you pick. Though New WoD is awfully nihilistic and depressing, so I avoid most of it.

    • ehh, I’ve run into Wiccans who believe that and have never picked up a White Wolf book in their lives.

      • It is almost impossible to rule out contamination, such as their having learned the belief from some Wiccan who had picked it up from some White Wolf book … or got the idea from somebody who got it from somebody who got it from a White Wolf book.

        It is not as if Wiccans rely upon an authoritative theological doctrine to which questioners may turn. I would never go so far as to say Modern Wicca is the most made-up faith in the world, not so long as Scientologists roam the Earth, nor would I assert that the absence of a central synod of the faith renders it invalid. But I will say it lacks rigor, it lacks any way of determining invalid doctrines promoted in its name.

  5. GOT lost me at the first book. Never felt the need to PAY to watch the show.

    • Same here. (Though I gave up on, I think, the third book.)

    • I didn’t get that far. I’ve got his Tuf Voyaging, a fixup of the Analog stories. The initial stories were all right, but Haviland Tuf is a damned self-righteous SOB, and I had no particular desire to see what else the creator of the Tuf saga could put together. The fact that my first knowledge of GoT came from news stories of the oh-so-clever use of GW Bush’s severed head in a scene didn’t encourage me to search it out.

      • Same here. I actually liked two of his weird tale/horror books – The Armageddon Rag and Fevre Dream, and then I encountered Tuf Voyaging, which disinclined me to read anything else he wrote.

      • I haven’t read a of GM, mostly his stuff in analogies. Haven’t been impressed. “Read” the first book because my sister recommended. But honestly don’t think I got through it. Just not my thing.

    • I got through the fourth of ASOIF but since the story was getting worse and worse and taking so long to come out, I decided that I didn’t care if he ever finished. This was some 12 years ago and nothing that has happened since has changed my mind. If it’s as bleak and morbid to write as it is to read, no wonder he can’t finish.

      • Have read through #5… but 4-5 were mostly a long tough slog through subplots that don’t relate well to anything else, and are choking the life from the best characters. I’ll finish it, when/if, but have ceased having great expectations. (Wandered away from the TV series in the 4th season, being weary of the incessant grimdark.)

        I’ve quite liked GRRM’s older stuff — except for the unreadable Tuf, who is an insufferable prick, and IMO, a Mary Sue.

        • It is the nature of such series that the penultimate book (sixth, in this instance) is the darkest, taking our protagonists down to the depths that their relief in the final entry be all the more glorious. So book six will be the worst by far.

          Exacerbated by the fact that we’ve no assurance the concluding book will reward the readers. Hell, even Tolkein’s final book brought the end of an age and the departure of much that was good and beautiful in Middle Earth.

          • The difference being when Tolkien wrote the ending in LotR, it was bittersweet because the heroes won, but the price was high. Happily ever after doesn’t mean always happy, life is like that, but its a new dawn with much to look forwards to.
            With Martin you know that the ending will most likely be bitter without sweetness. The price will be more than just high, and even the survivors won’t have much to look forwards to, and there is no dawn, just more twilight at best. Happily ever after? Yeah right, happiness is just there to make the downfall more painful.

      • By the time I got to #4, I was sick and tired of the Grimdark, and figured that he’s never going to get it proper finished anyway.
        Put it down, never regretted it.

    • I think I got through the third. That had so little plot progress that I saw the fourth in the library and went Meh. Then, never was so excited as to BUY the books.

    • This. Once I realized where the first book was going, it would cost serious bank to get me to WATCH that stuff. Like Jane said about the Rievers.

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    RPGs as Satanic, huh? That’s seriously old-school. I’ve lost track of how many Christians of various flavors I know who are big D&D players.

    • The Left does not have a monopoly on people who live to tell everybody else what to do.

      • Snerk. In the ’60s and ’70s, the Left insisted that it was the Right who demanded everybody else Behave Properly. OTOH, “Question Authority” doesn’t have the same appeal when you are the Authority.

        • In the ’60s they had a point (or as much of a point as Lefties ever have). Sadly they didn’t retire the campaign after the point was made around 1964, and now here we are fighting about men having a right to use the women’s toilet.

          Because even in the 1960s it was never -really- about freedom for everybody, it was about money, power and perve-perks for the agitators. Being rich, famous and powerful gets an ugly old man a lot of tail, or so I’m told.

          • That “a lot of tail” is often its own punishment.

            “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.”
            – Author unidentified but collected by H. L. Mencken in his dictionary of quotations (and he probably wished he’d said it).

            • That sounds like something from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary but it is not convenient for me to confirm the theory.

              A quick tickle of the search engine reveals:

              “Bigamy, n. A mistake in taste for which the wisdom of the future will adjudge a punishment called trigamy.”

              and

              Polygamy, n. A house of atonement, fitted with several stools of repentance, as distinguished from monogamy, which has but one.

              It also supplied Oscar Wilde as the source:
              Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.

              Although, as any specific citation is lacking, it ought be noted that Wilde, like Churchill, Chesterton and Shaw often gets credited for things he never actually said.

              • Although, as any specific citation is lacking, it ought be noted that Wilde, like Churchill, Chesterton and Shaw often gets credited for things he never actually said.

                Add in Sheen and Tolkien, too– in no small part because they drank deeply of the wisdom of those before, so they could pull up a quote, rephrase it, and use it powerfully in many instances.

                /minor fangirling

    • Once you realize you can tell *any story you want* using the framework…

    • For most of my childhood, my parents operated on the idea that one of our General Authorities (upper leadership in the LDS church) had said we shouldn’t play D&D. Not necessarily that it was outright Satanic, but that it was Something To Avoid because it might be bad. When I was in my early twenties and back at BYU, I had a bunch of friends who were playing it, so I decided to do a little research. Especially since by that point (circa 2003 or so) the Church’s website already had a searchable feature and I could search pretty much everything said by any General Authority ever (the Church does adore technology, heh), and it was easy.

      Not one has ever said anything–official (ie, in General Conference) or semi-official (via other talks or articles)–about D&D or anything like unto it at any point ever. I pointed this out to my parents, who made worried sounds when I announced I was giving D&D a go. At which point they looked, and went “Huh. Oh. Well okay then. Nevermind, carry on. Sounds fun.” I figure my parents’ misinformation when I was a kid was a direct result of the 1980s Satanic Panic that lumped D&D under the heading of “surely it is evil” and someone in a local position of authority tried to say “don’t” and falsely appealed to claiming that one of the General Authorities had said it. It happens a lot. It gets a lot less traction nowadays because people can easily do a quick search and say “No, they didn’t. So step off.”

      (See, the uppermost leadership of the Church is very big on “find out for yourself and make your own decisions” and is actually very careful these days about what they say that might be construed as “this is now an Official Rule.” Local leaders are the ones who tend to go a bit nuts sometimes…)

      • The funny thing is I’m convinced the Satanic Panic sold more D&D books than most other things.

        It did lead to certain changes in 2nd Edition AD&D, ranging from meh (removing assassin as a character class, which didn’t bug me much) to retarded (replacing devils and demons with baatezu and anar’ri).

      • I figure my parents’ misinformation when I was a kid was a direct result of the 1980s Satanic Panic that lumped D&D under the heading of “surely it is evil” and someone in a local position of authority tried to say “don’t” and falsely appealed to claiming that one of the General Authorities had said it. It happens a lot.

        That’s what got me into hobby apologetics — I knew just enough to know that I COULD run and see, so if something sounded a bit off, I did. And then I TOLD them.
        (…yes, I gave folks reasons for my unpopularity.)

        There are an awful lot of former Catholics who are there in no small part because My Aunt (grandmother, priest, nun, teacher, godparent) Says some incredibly stupid stuff and acts like it’s got authentic authority. Sometimes it’s a few times removed, too– which is why we have licit teaching authority, people! Argh….

        (sorry, still annoyed I grew up in a Total Geek religion that has documents with explicit binding and requires rationality, and I never got offered ANY of it)

  7. William H. Stoddard

    I’ve tried writing fiction, and I’ve concluded that my proper muse is the muse of rpgs. But not D&D, for many years; my gaming books are almost all for Steve Jackson, and my campaigns use a lot of systems (but not D&D) and are never dungeon crawls. But I think that rpgs are participatory fiction, and my talents are more suited to helping to shape three to six co-authors’ improvisations into a story than into writing one all by myself.

    But I must say, I’m rather glad that rpgs weren’t around in Tolkien’s time. I could just see him falling in love with the worldbuilding and never actually writing “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

  8. Regarding characters speaking to us, voices, trickster spirits, muses, ghosts, demons etc. Yes, they seem pretty real sometimes.

    I find it helps to remind myself periodically that I made all this up myself, except for the parts I stole from other people. Which they made up, let us be sure.

    It also helps to put in things which are flatly impossible once in a while, so that we all remember this is ALL made up. A gigantic, miles long FTL spacecraft made of ice and carbon nanotubes, for example. Not going to be seen in orbit tonight.

    Its fiction! We made it up!

  9. “until I hit her condemnation of D & D and how it prepares people for deals with the devil.”

    I remember Harry Potter getting banned because “Witches, Warlocks, and Wizards.”

    My response was “Really? Wow. Get a life.”

    If I could pronounce the words correctly (would prefer to NOT be corrected by munchkins), I’d use HP magic for commands for my pup … hmmm, maybe I’ll go look up Elf …

    • I grew up with the feeling that there were people who disapproved of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeanie and anything with “magic” in it. (My great grandmother disapproved of fiction because fiction is lying. I can’t say that she was wrong.) And I can respect the idea that some people believe that people shouldn’t play at those things, but Harry Potter had the additional element of “anything that popular must be promoted by Satan.” An *unpopular* story about a witch school would be far less suspect.

      • My great grandmother disapproved of fiction because fiction is lying.

        Sadly, so is most non-Fiction and pretty much all the News. If you employ a definition of “lie” that is not limited to “intentional misrepresentation of fact” you are going to toss out virtually ALL reading, potentially up to and including The Bible (because most of its claims are unsupported by outside documentation — as if you could believe such documents!)

        At least fiction is labeled truthfully.

        From Mr. Shaw’s pen, via The Devil’s Disciple:

        Major Swindon: What will history say, sir?

        General John Burgoyne: History, sir, will tell lies, as usual!


        And:

        Dick Dudgeon: The rest of this story is pure fiction. Rest assured, you can believe every word of it.

      • ” anything that popular must be promoted by Satan.”

        Ahead of their time…

        • TheOtherSean

          Finally, a reasonable explanation for the popularity of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and company.

      • Poets are liars. — Plato.

        An old tradition.

        In medieval times they would put stories in dream frames in order to make it impossible to say they didn’t really happen.

        • And yet I’ve heard it argued that because they lie, only poets can tell the greater truths.

          • Aristotle argued that because a poet can tell without the accidents of history, his stories are more philosophical than historical ones. Other philosophers pushed it farther with ascending to the principles of creation and imitiating them rather than mere mundane things — Sir Philip Sidney discussed this in his Defense of Poesie — Tolkien’s subcreation was drawing on a long history.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      IIRC The Fury over Harry Potter was because teachers were requiring children to read Harry Potter while the parents were concerned about what Sarah has touched on.

      IE Historically magic has always been about calling on “spirit beings” in order to compel them to do something. The concern is to many is that by calling on the “spirit beings” a person makes themself vulnerable to being influenced by these “spirit beings” and the “spirit beings” may be malicious. Magic may not actually work but you still make yourself vulnerable to the beings that you called.

      Do I think the kids would be endangered by repeating the spells of the Harry Potter “world” not really but I would not want to force children to do so against their parents’ wishes.

      • William H. Stoddard

        I would be more worried by far about a school that had them recite the shahada. For one thing, some of them might take it seriously. For another, there are people who believe that reciting the shahada makes you a Muslim, and that if you are a Muslim and then practice a different religion, you are an apostate and deserve death. I’m not sure all of them can be counted on to understand the difference between roleplaying a confession of faith and actually making one—any more than everyone can be counted on to understand the difference between roleplaying a mage and actually casting a spell.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Well, I come at it from my knowledge of a certain problem in the early Church that Saint Paul got involved in.

          Basically some new Christians were worried about eating meat that had been offered to idols. Part of the problem was that there was no way to know if meat being sold in the marketplace had been offered to idols or not. So those new Christians had decided that they shouldn’t eat meat.

          Other Christians didn’t see a problem with eating such meat and were involved in fights with those Christians.

          After all, the idols weren’t of real beings so there wasn’t any problem with eating such meat.

          Now Saint Paul was in the “no problem” boat (as a Jew he knew those “gods” weren’t real) but he wrote the churches to say “don’t force those Christians to eat such meat”.

          Therefore, I see no problem with parents not wanting their children to read Harry Potter (or play D&D) and why the hell are you forcing them to “make” their kids read Harry Potter?

          No, IMO playing a magic-user in a role-playing game isn’t (generally speaking) going to be a danger nor is repeating spells from the Harry Potter stories (generally speaking) going to be a danger.

          Now, a bunch of teenagers getting together for a séance or trying to raise a spirit/demon may get more than they were expecting because while they may claim they “don’t believe anything will happen” there may be a part of them that “hopes something will happen”.

          • William H. Stoddard

            Rudyard Kipling has a marvelous story about that incident, “A Church There Was at Antioch.” I read it aloud to C a couple of years ago and it quite choked me up—not the only time that’s happened with Kipling; he really saw into human feelings.

            • Small correction: Kipling’s story was a bit of an amalgamation of incidents and controversies with the church in Antioch recollected by St. Paul in Galatians 2 and mentioned in Acts 13 and 15. The controversy regarding meat sacrificed to idols was mainly at the church in Corinth and discussed in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 8).

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Follow-up comment.

          I’ve read Mercedes Lackey’s Diana Tregarde novels.

          There was two “interesting” scenes.

          One scene had Diana helping out in a friend’s store. First she had to steer some teenaged girls away from a book of love spells and then when the girls wanted to purchase a Ouija board, Diana “warded” the board so the girls wouldn’t “call up any spirits”.

          The second scene is a “flashback” from the point-of-view of somebody who had worked with Diana about his first meeting with Diana. Apparently he had gotten talked into a séance and Diana had to rescue him from something nasty.

          Obviously, Mercedes isn’t a Conservative Christian but in her books she shows that magic isn’t something to be lightly played with.

        • Yeah, one is definitely bigger than the other, but they are both needless exercises of authority in violation of parental authority.

          Contrast with that thing over in Europe where they ruled that even if the parents are vegan, you can’t starve your child into permanent disability.

      • Geoff Withnell

        David Drake in one of his books (I can’t recall which at the moment) in the foreword said that the incantations in the book were real incantations in some obscure language. He then said that although he did not believe in magic, he did not recommend reading them aloud, and he would not do so himself.

  10. Patrick Chester

    There is documented footage of the evil in D&D gaming. 😉

  11. “Maybe that’s fairly normal for the US? Maybe I’m lucky to have grown up in a place where old traditions and old dangers are remembered?”

    Well, as you’ve remarked in other postings; normal varies so much in the U.S. from place to place that the term is useless as a fixed point for evaluating anything. Is delusional or magical thinking the “normal” for Americans? Maybe. After all, most of our ancestors were the “odds” of their times and homelands who found it more convenient, or safer, to move to America.

    As for growing up in the old country, “where old traditions and old dangers are remembered”, you may be right. There’s very little folk lore about actually dealing with the supernatural here in the U.S. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, the Devil and Daniel Webster, Ichabod Crane and Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, Johnny Appleseed; almost none of them deal with the strictly supernatural, and certainly not with defensive measures, as we envision it. Your own story, “Ill Met by Moonlight” has more of a claim to practical measures (cold iron, runes, etc.) than classic American folklore. Indeed, the character Bennie, from “The Mummy” (with Brendan Fraiser) has more in common with the average American than most, as he grabs one religious symbol after another, reciting prayers in different languages as Imhotep closes in on him. No beleif, just grasping at any straw. As I’ve said before, I’ve never seen any proof of the supernatural, but that doesn’t mean there might not be any.

    So have any of you started writing a story that ended up spooking you so badly that you deleted it or burned the manuscript and then tried to brain bleach it out of your mind? After all, neither Edgar Allen Poe nor H.P Lovecraft managed to live long, happy lives. Did they go too far and become possessed by demons they couldn’t rid themselves of?

    • crawford421

      Europeans came to the US already Christian, so they had no pre-Christian traditions attached to any place. The natives’ taboos and fetishes were ignored. BUT we made our own legends. The town’s haunted house. The “satanic cult compound” in the next county. Ghostly hitchhikers. Hooks on door handles….

    • William H. Stoddard

      I suspect that, on one hand, people who really believe in the supernatural don’t see things like prayer or sacrifice or vows as “ceremonial” or “symbolic,” but as practical precautions that you take before or while doing things; and on the other hand, that most people, faced with a crisis, may be quite ready to grasp at different forms of magic that might promise to offer help, just as people who are terminally ill may try all sorts of “remedies” without worrying about whether the theories are mutually consistent.

      It may even help; there’s a theory that convincing the brain that salvation is on the way can get it to mobilize the entire immune system at once, rather than holding some of it in reserve.

    • Sintra E'Drien

      There are at least some locales with documented stories- the Manly Wade Wellman “Silver John” aka “John the Balladeer” stories are fiction, but the author did his research regarding supernatural (fictive?) and superstitions (documented) in the Appalachians.

    • I venture to suggest America has plenty of local spooks and haints. Not just in the stories of Poe and Lovecraft but in the works of such as Manly Wade Wellman, author of John the Balladeer, Judge Pursuivant, and John Thunstone to name one writer who’s mined those veins most profitably. Or, for that matter, look at the tale of Rip van Winkle’s night in the forest. There’s many an urban legend as draws its water from those wells of imagination.

    • I don’t know about ‘starting’ but there are some things I won’t write about, simply because I don’t want to give people ideas. My imagination is a very scary place.

      On the other hand, that same imagination is responsible for a confusing dream about herding ducks back to their pen this morning, and I haven’t the faintest idea what might have brought it about.

      • What part of last night I slept, I spent dreaming about
        -trying to find the record of a pizza order while my husband was trying to pick it up
        -trying to make a salt and urea solution to dissolve or analyze some new chemical
        -sneaking an issue of a scientific journal into the restroom because I was supposed to have asked someone a question about quantum physics and was hoping to think one up. This was preceded by floating around the room, which seemed relevant at the time.

        I still feel muddled.

        • A recent night, I was woken up three times by a nightmare — completely different ones — except that my Fitbit insists I got very little REM sleep and only woke up once after dreaming. . . .

    • I think a lot of mid-late 20th and 21st century Christians need to be introduced to the “Long Lost Friend” and reminded that their ancestors practiced what they termed magic. A lot. (It’s actually a hoot to read. Some of it is good common sense. Other stuff is “Gosh, I hope you survived the illness that followed on drinking that, um, “cure.” A lot of it involved urine, alas…)

      I do prefer the modern Western viewpoint of “that stuff ain’t real” but I also do not dismiss the idea that there ARE nasty things out there that could hurt us–and ignorance or disbelief are not protections.

      For example, I’d be far more concerned about kids screwing around with ouija boards than I would be playing D&D.

      • Yes. Or anything involving a medium/psychic.

        There’s stuff I don’t mess around with, and anything approaching spirit invocation is high on that list. Because you really don’t know what you’re going to get.

        • In my Gamelit world, conjuration spells are getting the gimlet eye as I build what the church thinks of wizardry. ’cause summoning woodland animals is one thing. . .

      • A lot of it involved urine, alas…
        A lot of it still does, alas.

    • And then there is the idea of praying to anyone who might help in ” a combat situation” . See “Siege of Firebase Gloria” as an example:

      • A chivalric romance had a woman praying for a child whether from God or the Devil.

        The name of the romance is “Robert the Devil” which perhaps indicates why it’s a bad idea.

    • snelson134

      Mike, you might want to look at the “Silver John” books and stories by Manley Wade Wellman. He uses a lot of Appalachian folk magic. There’s also the Night Calls trilogy by Katherine Kimbriel.

  12. > . It’s amazing how often in ancient cultures bards or storytellers had a ‘priestly’ function or else, the opposite of that.

    To spread your message you have to get people to *listen*.

    Let’s take a sample from WWII:

    Franklin Roosevelt: newspaper editor
    Winston Churchill: newspaper columnist and stringer
    Benito Mussolini: newspaper editor and publisher
    Adolf Hitler: newspaper publisher
    Lenin: newspaper columnist and stringer
    Stalin: newspaper editor and columnist

  13. I think Mike Houst has a point about people in the US, especially those of us who don’t have recent ancestry from the Olde Country, not being taught about the consequences of turning over one rock too many, or why you shouldn’t let in everything that knocks on the door. Unless you grew up with gris-gris, haints [“haunts”], and the like, as well as a family tradition that suggests things beyond our normal ken.

    Too, our modern superstitions have veered away from the idea that there are things we mortals don’t and can’t understand, and probably ought to leave alone. Our superstitions are too rational, if that makes any sense: global climate change, natural is always better for you, everything is zero-sum so my not using incandescent light-bulbs or electricity saves power for a child in Kenya. When we do stumble into something eldrich, we don’t know enough to run (or at least back away quickly and close the door.)

    FWIW I know I have certain weaknesses that way, and I’ve seen someone poke things best left alone, with unhappy results. Real magic and spirits… no thanks. I don’t want to open that door.

    • Now I want to reread Tim Powers’ “The Stress of Her Regard”.
      Or maybe some of Robert E. Howard’s poetry.

    • I don’t believe in most of this stuff. On the other hand, I also don’t believe that I need to go trying to call it up just to prove I don’t believe in it. I’m not about to go chanting “Bloody Mary” in front of a mirror three times just to show everyone that it’s a silly superstition.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        David Drake once said that the spells used in his Lord Of The Isles series are actual spells used by a historical group and that he will not speak them aloud.

        He continued by saying that he doesn’t believe the spells work but the universe doesn’t necessarily operate based on what he believes would work.

      • Sort of like not touching a power-line that’s laying on the ground. It might still be live. it might not. Why be the person to find out the hard way?

      • *nod*

        Even if I just emptied the gun, and the cylinder is open, I’m not pointing it at my head and pulling the trigger.

  14. I grew up having nightmares from Disney movies. I don’t “do” horror. I don’t watch (and didn’t allow my children to watch) shows about ghosts or psychics. I know that my brain has an excess of imagination and that it will lie to me. I’m the kid who was afraid of the dark, who imagines horrors, and when my cousin told me that the devil was everywhere I couldn’t get to sleep at night.

    I think that it all comes with our ability to find patterns which translates into creating patterns, and our ability to play with abstract ideas and create scenarios to test those ideas. I think that we could be neither intelligent or human without these tendencies.

    But far far too many people believe that the lies their brains come up with are real and that the narratives they build aren’t abstract fantasies but are concrete realities. I worry that not enough people even begin to question their feelings or experiences. We get the mass hysteria that Scott Adams talks about and no one even admits that it’s *possible* to be lied to by your own brain.

    But D&D? D&D is about the least mystical thing that I can imagine.

    • Interesting. I recall find the “pink elephants on parade” bit of Dumbo to not be, as some have called it, Nightmare Fuel, but a rare case of a Disney movie getting to be playful and fun. Then, I suppose I was always more into the Warner Bros. way of looking at the world and not taking it overly seriously.

      • A lot of Disney, and the Sunday night Disney shows, were “children in peril”. I could too well imagine being lost so would then have nightmares about being lost.

        • Ah. I never really identified with the kids on TV, at least for live-action. Sometimes a cartoon might have someone I could see as somewhat realistic to me. Yeah, yeah, I ain’t normal.

          I suppose it was also that the Traditional Scary Places… I knew were not so. The only in any closet or under a bed was me. About the only thing that bugged me as very young kid was the barometric damper on the grandparent’s chimney — and even then I knew, eventually, it was just atmospheric pressure/wind that made it move.. but such things are not entirely logical. Yeah, the harmless damper bugged me. The whirring machinery in the machine shop/basement and such like were no issue at all.

    • On the flip side, there’s my brother, the middle one. He’s the one amongst us who sees ghosts the most – to the point that unless it’s a scary ghost, he no longer freaks out. It’s ‘Oh, by the way, I saw a ghost today,’ and proceeds with the story. He started watching ghost hunting and similar shows to 1) make him more aware of when he’s actually seeing something and 2) to stop him getting scared. When it’s not just him seeing something creepy, he’s the one who isn’t freaked out of their mind.

      My house back in the Philippines was believed to be haunted by… earth spirits, ‘fairies’ or ‘dwarves’; and it’s a newly built thing (only dating back to mid 1990s) and during the building of it managed to scare off a number of the men building the thing, and later on, a few of the household help. Things disappearing after just having put them down, the sound of something HUGE falling down, something big landing on the roof (when there was nothing taller near it), getting tapped on the shoulder when nobody was around, getting called by name when nobody was around, laughing children where no kids are… and so on.

      My dad was a skeptic until a hundred pesos vanished out of the wallet he had just checked to make sure he had the money in it, put the wallet in his back pocket, then felt the sudden urge to check it again (I walked past him twice during this time) and before I even got back to my room he’d started shouting in frustrated rage.

      My mum recounted how she was once frying up some fish for lunch for herself, my brothers and youngest brother’s fiancee, with an extra should any of them be hungrier than expected. So, there were five fish. After they were cooked, and set on the dining table, she turned away to get the rice cooker’s pot,and turned back to find only four fish remained on the plate. She was quite annoyed.

      • “… turned back to find only four fish remained on the plate.”

        Did the dog have a smug look on his face? ~:D

      • If I knew anyone who lived in a house where that sort of thing kept happening and they thought it was haunted I’d suggest putting up security cameras (not connected to the internet, though) so they check the footage and see what’s really going on. Cameras are so ubiquitous these days that if faeries and the like were real you’d expect them to have been caught in the act by now.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          But but… Fairies, ghosts, vampires, etc don’t show up on film! [Crazy Grin]

        • Problem, they’re already established to not be on the normally visible spectrum.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            But but… Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed that fairies could be photographed! 😈

          • Okay, but if one of them swipes a fish (as in Shadowdancer’s story) in front of a camera the video will still show something inexplicable happening to the fish. You should at least be able to rule out mundane explanations that way. Plus, we have tech that can see outside the normal spectrum. Do they not show up on infrared or trip motion sensors?

            I accept that there are a lot of things in the world we don’t understand yet but if you’re going to argue for faeries and house elves messing with physical objects then there ought to be some way to prove that. And I don’t buy that they somehow know how to sabotage or evade all our tech without leaving a trace.

            Why, no, I’m NOT prone to believing in the supernatural. Why do you ask? 🙂

            • I’m NOT prone to believing in the supernatural. Nor am I prone to believing there are not more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy. “Supernatural” is simply a catch-all term for things we’ve yet to figure out the mechanism of.

              Frankly, electricity is supernatural as far as our true understanding goes.

            • Neither am I, actually, but any objections have to take into account what *is* known about them.

              It’s like the atheists who expect to be taken seriously when they inform a Catholic that planes have gone above the clouds and not seen heaven, so God doesn’t exist; the counter-argument doesn’t account for what it is supposedly countering.

              • I’ve known an atheist to get into a snit because he said that until the 17th century, everyone thought of God as a man hanging out about Mars and was roundly told that he was wrong.

            • And I don’t buy that they somehow know how to sabotage or evade all our tech without leaving a trace.

              So what would the trace be?

              Because Coast to Coast AM has a ton of stuff that is “hey look, this fish moves in a totally odd way”– is that what it would look like?

              How does the fae invisibility function? Is it by misdirecting the stuff humans use to see?

              If they’re already here, then wouldn’t any abnormalities already be in the system– and are thus know quirks in the system, rather than abnormalities.

        • Not in the Philippines. And I wouldn’t recommend it there now (since the heavy population has resulted in rather large rats.)

          I share some of the stories here.

        • Then they can just stop it. Or work around. They aren’t stupid, you know.

          • Even most modern humans don’t know how to do that. Why would your local house faeries automatically know what a camera or a motion detector is AND how to thwart it?

  15. About the time D&D first got on my radar as a kid, and I asked for the books, my Parents were all worried about the “Satanic” nature of them. The big news story was about how a couple kids killed themselves over a D&D game. Then one evening we went over to meet some new neighbors who had recently moved in, and I saw the books on their shelf and asked to see them. Turns out, the new neighbors were an MD (the wife) and a College History Prof. (the husband). The good Prof. actually laughed out loud when my parents asked about D&D, and the rumors that it was satanic.

    When my Mother finally got around to talking to me about D&D (and the dead kids), I remember rolling my eyes (which was odd, because I wasn’t prone to doing that as a kid) and telling her “How dumb is it to believe that someone would SHOOT themselves, over a game where the characters use SWORDS and MAGIC? If they really were ‘acting out the game’, they would have stabbed each other or something.” Which, I guess, made some sort of sense to my mother, so I got my first D&D books.

    Then being a horrible introvert, and thus having almost no friends. Except for rare occasions, I played all by myself for a few years. I can say, PROBABLY not Satanic. If it was, I would guess that a lonely kid playing alone would probably have gotten sucked in if it was Satanic.

    I did eventually find a roll playing group and we played D&D as well as a lot of other games. Then I moved to Florida and… nope… I know people here play, but the people I have found here are almost hostile about the idea of new players joining their groups. Ah well… I have no time for it anymore anyway.

    • I liked buying the books to read, and didn’t own dice until about two years ago. I played some while I was in college, but Legend of the Five Rings. Those were fun.

      Still don’t have time to play.

    • CombatMissionary

      Frankly, I think that in part, a lot of over-sheltered parents with not enough challenge in their lives are simply lazy and/or don’t know how to get acquainted with the nuance of situations and/or would rather spend their time keeping up with the Joneses and impressing the neighbors while they climb the social ladder, and they allow a lot of their views on just about anything in life to descend to mere superstition. The easiest examples to find lie at the intersection of socioeconomics, religion and politics.

      Having had a few experiences of my own, I certainly believe that it’s wise counsel to not fiddle with forces little understood. That said, a wise person can differentiate between their children reading Harry Potter and trying to have a seance with a Ouija board in a cemetery at night. The lazy/ignorant/social climbing parent has no interest in wasting time learning about either, so they take the “courageous” stance of lumping everything remotely connected to it into the category of “will let slip the dogs of the devil” and shrieking, “won’t someone think of the children”? This led to the Stranger Danger and Satanic Panic on the Right in the 1970’s and 1980’s (I would include the Red Scare of the 1930’s – 1960’s, but there was a very real threat there and this tendency was grounded more in actual threat response than in people simply not caring to acquaint themselves with the nuance on the subject).

      The Left wing version is the one that’s currently in vogue in pop culture and pop politics, and has become a religion unto itself;
      How DARE you object to the Great God Statum teaching your kids that Glans Penis = Evil?
      How DARE you object to the assertion that five year olds aren’t old enough to decide if they like smoking but are certainly old enough to decide for themselves that they’re genderqueer?
      How DARE you claim that the planet’s constant climate changes going back eons might be largely the result of natural forces and that, while trying to keep the environment clean, lining the pockets of politicians and condemning the masses to live in poverty might NOT be the answer to a problem we may or may not have?
      How DARE you assert that cauliflower ISN’T an automatic sign of colonialism?

      In reality, a large chunk of this seems to me to be the result of Affluenflamation: that life has been so good for so long that very few people feel the need to exercise critical thinking, and think they can fiddle with established systems ad infinitum to force society to bend to their whims with zero consequences to anybody they care about.

    • My only exposure to D&D was picking up a book at Ye Locale BookeStore and going through it. Started at random, then went to the beginning and found the statement: “For Dungeon Masters Only. Never let Gamers See This Book.” Oops. Lost interest right there.

      • I always thought that was a silly thing to put in the book. Because DMs are also players (unless you have a very messed up group dynamic). And also it’s a guarantee that the players are gonna read it anyway.

        Now, asking players “Hey I’m going to run <this specific adventure" so please avoid the DM's pamphlet for it"? Not unreasonable. At least not if you have a decent group of players, who are either polite enough to go along with the request, good enough players who read it, but who are capable of separating "What I know" from "What my character knows", or who don't actually WANT to know in advance because they find it more fun to find out during game play.

        But putting it at the front of the main DM manual is just silly.

        • It’s a product of where D&D comes from. D&D was born of wargaming culture. Early D&D modules are actually from competitive tournaments run at GenCon and Origins in the 70s.

          Once you factor that in, the idea of players knowing what is in DM books can be seen as cheating in a competitive game.

          Also, damn I’m old.

        • Yeah. It was kinda started with the notion of the one group you belong to, with its DM — but one group I was in did talk about how impossible it was.

      • Paranoia
        Knowledge of the rules is treason, friend citizen. If you want to show such knowledge, please do it on the way to your new career as reactor shielding, and make sure your clone does not have that knowledge.

  16. FlyingMike

    It seems to me people who would have a problem with getting lost into D&D would also have the same problem with Poker or Blackjack or Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders – “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves if we are underlings.”

  17. fantasy books that talk of magic

    I guess that’s that, then: time to burn the Lord of the Rings, Narnia and Harry Potter books. Can’t have the kids being taught the power of sacrificial love else they’ll be brewing up Polyjuice Potion, fiddling around in the closets, and putting rings on and off.

    • I have heard Christian parents down on all three of those. Poor Harry faced the worst, although Lewis came in second as they claimed it was “seduction by including just enough truth” referring to the Christian elements.

      After all, Christ leads a Bacchanalia in Prince Caspian. Bacchus is even there, along with Silenus.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        There exist editions of D&D whose Catholic symbolism has inspired conversion to Catholicism.

        There exist flavors of Christianity that believe that the Catholic Church is not Christian. There exist flavors that believe that the Catholic Church is the church of Satan.

        • And boy can they get incoherent when you ask them why they are waving around the sacred writings of the church of Satan.

          • IIRC, there are sufficient differences between the Protestant and Catholic versions to defend saying that they are not the same set of documents.

            • Between translations, maybe, given the word choice variation– unless you mean the Protestants only having 39 Old Testament books?

              The only thing I can think of that is actually missing is one line– Acts 8:37, and that’s described here:

              About Acts 8:37, The Navarre Bible Acts of the Apostles Texts and Commentaries

              says:

              This verse, not to be found in some Greek codexes or in the better translations, was probably a gloss which later found its way into the text. In the Vulgate it is given in this way: ” Dixit autem Philippus: ‘Si credis ex toto corde, licet.’ Et respondens ait: ‘Credo, Filium Dei esse Jesum Christum,’” which, translated, would be: “Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” This very ancient gloss, inspired by baptismal liturgy, helps to demonstrate that faith in Christ’s divine worship was the nucleus of the creed a person had to subscribe to in order to be baptized. On this occasion Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, lays down no further condition and he immediately proceeds to baptize the Ethiopian. (105)

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Bingo. I knew I was remembering something. If Protestant selection of books and Catholic selection of books are different, it would be sufficient even without raising the translation issues, or the teachings about interpretation. I’m not sure about Orthodox Christian book selection, but Jewish standards and traditions for teaching the scholarship and interpretation of the Torah would have the net effect of making the texts distinct from Christian texts in vernacular, even if the selection of books were the same.

                Like a Kratman text would be different with different sets of footnotes. (Any of his novels could be extensively footnoted from one of at least a few perspectives. Off the top of my head, 1) it is all trolling, 2) it is all military educational instruction 3) a leftwing assertion that it is all evil.)

                If you are inclined to quibble in the first place, it is not a cut and dried matter of the texts being all the same.

                I understand that there are still Lutheran synods whose catechisms teach that the Pope is literally Antichrist.

                The type of sect that keys on to a rule like singling out D&D, and gets very enthusiastic, may have other features that make more standard counter arguments unpersuasive.

                • Orthodox selection is basically the same as Catholic except some editing differences and 3 and 4 Maccabees.

                • . I’m not sure about Orthodox Christian book selection, but Jewish standards and traditions for teaching the scholarship and interpretation of the Torah would have the net effect of making the texts distinct from Christian texts in vernacular, even if the selection of books were the same.

                  Heheh, oh that is a fun can of worms….

                  Because WHICH Jewish standard? As many folks here have mentioned, and I’ll paraphrase, two Jews, three views.

                  The root of the Protestant/Catholic split on the old testament is a group of rabbis who got permission to set up a teaching authority in like 100 AD, who may not have been completely neural in their response to those nasty heretic Jews following Jesus of Nazareth. (or any other heretic Jews, to be as fair as I can manage)

                  • I *just* read an article that laid it out– it’s a Catholic one, but the reason I like this website is they TRY to be fair– ran into it when I was looking for objective differences between Catholic and Protestant bibles, mentions that St. Jerome (the unofficial saint of bloggers, dude who translated the compiled Bible) agreed with the Protestants, at least partly– seeing if I can find it…..

                    Here we go. A bit sharper than usual for CA, but eh:
                    https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/the-council-that-wasnt

                • The Protestants have a limited set — but they still got ’em from the Catholics.

                  Differences in translation are hardly an issue when they agree about which are the Hebrew and Greek.

            • For anybody interested in this and not wanting to google, here’s an article that will give you enough names and such that you can FIND the arguments:
              https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-curious-case-of-the-protestant-bible

        • Rich Rostrom

          The Rev. Ian Paisley had a website with his collected sermons. One of these sermons explained that the Pope is literally the Antichrist.

          I found this illuminating about the history of northern Ireland.

          • Considering all the conflicting claims of who was the Pope and who was not during the past 2000 years, it’s possible that all of them are wrong.

            Matthew 16:18 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Most of the old translations all say “gates of hell”; which is really odd when you think about it as how can a doorway assail anything? Some of the newer translations say “powers” or “forces” but that begs the question of whether either translation is correct.

            The other thing that always bothered me was that Peter was such a “rock” that he denied even knowing Jesus. And he was repeated admonished in various places in the Gospels for having little faith. Too much symbolism obscuring the truth? Beats me.

            And Frankie, the current Pope, really doesn’t look or feel like he has a direct connection to God, at least not to me.

            • Think in terms of the Land of the Dead– the one where Himself busted down the gates to lead those in His friendship from death to life.
              Followed by telling Peter that he would be in charge of opening and closing of the Gates of the kingdom of heaven, and that it WOULD be as he bound or loosed on earth.

              Life wins.

            • Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

              And there has never been an era when the parable of the wheat and the tares, and of the wise and foolish virgins, can not be instantly verified from real life.

        • When the Big City Newspaper published the list of the National Merit Scholars, in addition to the recruitment letters from random colleges, we all got the latest copy of Stormfront. All the Popes* (modulo one who had been canonized) were Jewish? Pull the other one, mate. (One wonders about the thought processes of neo-Nazis who picked that group for recruiting…)

          (*) Decades before Commie Frank.

          • At this point I’m sure even sure we can say all the Popes were Catholic.

            • Oh, sure we can … for certain values of “Catholic.”

              Phrased less for humour purpose: All Popes are Catholic, but not all Popes are catholic.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              There was apparently an English pope. Parts of the historical record allege that he published a bull awarding the English dominion over the Irish. I understand that there are no authenticated copies, and maybe no copies at all.

              • *gets the giggles*

                OK, that has GOT to be the most epic misreading of a Bull I’ve ever heard….

                Yes, there was a Pope from England. Adrian IV.
                He did issue an official document to the entire Church that is related to England and Scotland….
                He made the Scottish diocese official.

                Quote:
                The earliest mention of the old See of Aberdeen is in the charter of the foundation, by the Earl of Buchan, of the Church of Deer (c. 1152), which is witnessed by Nectan, Bishop of Aberdeen. But the first authentic record of the see is in the Bull of Adrian IV (1157), confirming to Edward, Bishop of Aberdeen, the churches of Aberdeen and St. Machar, with the town of Old Aberdeen and other lands. The granite cathedral was built between 1272 and 1277. Bishop Thomas Spence founded a Franciscan house in 1480, and King’s College was founded at Old Aberdeen by Bishop Elphinstone, for eight prebendaries, chapter, sacristan, organist, and six choristers, in 1505. The see was transferred to Old Aberdeen about 1125, and continued there until 1577, having had in that time a list of twenty-nine bishops. From 1653, when the Scottish clergy were incorporated into a missionary body by the Congregation of the Propaganda, until 1695, the Catholics of Scotland were governed by prefects-apostolic. Then followed vicars-apostolic until March 4, 1878, when Leo XIII, in the first year of his pontificate, restored the hierarchy of Scotland by the Bull “Ex supremo Apostolatus apice”, and Vicar-Apostolic John MacDonald was translated to the restored See of Aberdeen as its first bishop.

                So…yeah, there was an English bishop over the brand new diocese, so kinda sorta?
                But realistically, that blows the “banning crossbows to protect the knights” baloney out of the water.
                (Short version, the actual motivation was an ancient version of banning toxic gas on the battle field, or fire-bombing. It was the technique of arrow storms at random with a major goal being to maim that was objectionable. maim someone, you take out TWO guys– h im and teh guy dragging him out.)

                • BobtheRegisterredFool

                  I was digging around in the wikipedia over Irish wars of rebellion against English rule, I want to say 1500-1600. Apparently the English at one point had records claiming that Adrian had issued a bull ordering them to go conquer the Irish and bring them into the fold of Christendom. So, apparently it wasn’t so much a misreading as a bull that cannot be shown to have ever actually existed.

              • There was an English pope, but no reason to think he wasn’t Catholic.

          • I don’t know, seems pretty fridge-brilliant to me– NMS are going to be intelligent, proud of it, and have a high percentage of folks who are very vulnerable to the idea of secret knowledge.

            I’m kinda interested in how they made the argument, honestly.

            • Not sure they actually made the argument, beyond the assertion. I was raised Lutheran, and it generated a “how weird” shortly before I tossed the paper. It probably went into the newspaper stack, which might have confused any snoops. Dad was getting a slightly left-of-center paper at the time, because the right-of-center paper was *always* delivered too late for him to read it before going to work.

              I guess I wasn’t into secret knowledge. At least not until conspiracies to claim conspiracies became popular in DC.

              • You might have had it slightly differently focused, too– my fixation at about that age was cryptids more than Hidden History.

                That said, you also knew enough to not get hooked. A lot of ‘hidden knowledge’ stuff only works if you have a very vague notion of how things work, like the papal Bull giving the English authority over the Scottish thing from earlier.

                (As a room-mate put it when I asked [no Lutherans in my area], “Lutherans are as Catholic as you can get without being Catholic.” Her dad is a Lutheran preacher.)

                • Pretty much true. It’s one of the few things I remember from Soc 101. We had to read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, and beyond being a great paperweight, it detailed the sociological semblance between Lutheran and Catholic, and replaying some of the lessons from Catechism showed they were theologically pretty close. Since Luther was the first(?) to split off, it makes sense that later schisms would go further from the Catholic Church.

                  • *waggles hand* One of those things where you have to define what ‘first’ and ‘split’ means, but he was basically the Columbus of theological splitting, yeah.

                    A lot of the differences seem, from where I stand, to be a logical result of Luther’s assumptions, logic and the scientific method.
                    Of course, I also think several of the Founding Fathers would’ve been entranced by Catholicism (based on their ‘Deism’ writings) if it had been an acceptable and known option, so I may be nuts on this.

                    • Some might point to England’s Henry VIII as the pre-eminent dissident from Papal doctrine. Luther was about a decade ahead of Henry, but Henry not only carried more weight, he initiated a series of conflicts between Catholicism and Protestantism that lasted more than two centuries.

                    • OTOH, he was the first country-leader who was *successful* in his attempts.

                      So very much ‘try to explain what you mean, first’.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Henry would not have been successful if the English hadn’t already had a strain of anti-Papal sentiment. There are some arguments that Luther and maybe Huss are likewise results of the Western Church playing power politics in the old Western Empire.

                  • Oh yeah, the book is also the reason why the current gas grill (a Weber) is called “Max”.

                    The Carnivore Ethic and the Spirit of Barbeque

                  • Actually, Catholics stayed pretty close to the Orthodox when they left us, except for substituting the word of one man for a council of bishops.

                    So, I guess the first two stay pretty close 😉

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  The same has been said about High Church Anglicans.

                  IIRC Anglican Priests can easily become Catholic Priests (assuming that the Anglican Priest isn’t married at the time he “switches”).

                  • Strangely enough, their theology stayed very similar– it’s the smells’n’bells that is highly variable.

                    For what it’s worth, married Anglicans who convert are the primary source of married Catholic priests in the US; our eastern Rite Catholic priests are less common, or were 20 years ago. Given the mess in the middle east, their numbers are probably much higher now.

                    And now I’m wondering if a bi-denominational priest can be married…. (It’s when a priest can do services in more than one Rite of the church as a matter of course; all the Catholic Rites are legitimate, but it’s like a Marine officer giving orders to an Army guy who isn’t assigned to him, for lack of a better way to explain something I only half understand myself.)

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Not strange that the theology hadn’t changed.

                      The Church Of England split from the Catholic Church because Henry VIII wanted a divorce that the Pope wouldn’t give him.

                      Oh, the Puritans started out as a CoE group that wanted to purify the CoE of the Catholic elements. 😉

                    • IIRC, two or three (or twenty) cycles on from the ‘purge the impure paganism’ thing, but yes.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Little more complicated than that.

                      First Luther came up with his theological innovations. Which included the Antichrist thing with the Pope. Calvin took Luther’s work and built upon it. Calvin’s teachings spread over a good chunk of France and the low countries before the issue was ultimately decided by politics. The kings of France and the Catholic Church got along well. In the Netherlands, the Catholic Church backed a Spanish prince who was not well liked, so came the Dutch Republic and the Dutch Reformed Church. A bunch of the Churchs who were then Reformed got together to try and come to some agreements on theology. IIRC, the Anglicans were not anywhere near as extreme as the Presbyterians or the Dutch Reformed.

                      The Puritans were basically English of the faction that thought the Presbyterians and Dutch Reformed were right. Yes, they tried to run the Catholics out. When they still weren’t getting a result they were satisfied with, they went off to the New World to build their religious utopia. Which went badly after they became too convinced it was going perfectly. Understanding that dynamic in New England is very important for the context of Deism.

                      There were a bunch of other somewhat similar dissident factions that left the Church of England between then and now.

                      Godfrey’s Church history DVDs from Ligonier seemed quite good on this to me. I did come at it from a history angle, not a theology angle.

                  • My understanding is Anglican Priests have a similar path to Catholic priests to become Orthodox as well.

                    The Apostolic churches seem to get along fairly well as long as it isn’t public and flashy.

              • Dad was getting a slightly left-of-center paper

                Sigh – yet one more way the universe has found of making me feel old. I remember (and delivered) when even towns of a hundred thousand and under had two main papers, mostly alike except the editorial pages (and, of course, the comics) because they knew what readers were primarily concerned with was the basic news, who won what and by what score, and what the local society folk were wearing where. Folks didn’t want editorial spin on that any more than they wanted it in the classifieds.

                Sure, some placement of stories above the fold varied, and emphasis in the headlines could differ slightly, but journalist was a trade back then, not a profession (those who professed to it did so apologetically) and its practitioners served long apprenticeships before being permitted to opine.

                • I’ll not mention the city, though “For the first time in my adult life, I’m not proud to admit I came from there.”–true since Nov 2008. 🙂

                  At that time, there were four big-city newspapers, three broadsheets and one tabloids. Left-of-center had the morning tab, and the evening broadsheet. Right-of-center (back when they were happy to endorse R.M.Nixon for President) had the morning broadsheet and a struggling evening paper, usually a broadsheet. LOC was owned by a rival corp to the ROC papers.

                  There were distinct differences in the coverage, but yeah, you could swap stories between the various papers and not see heads exploding.

                  The last I heard (still have family in the region), both evening papers are long gone, and both morning papers are left of center or lefter of center. Sigh.

            • FWIW, the usual suspects who also got the paper were laughing at it, too. It was too big of a school for me to know all the other Scholars, but most of us were more concerned with college applications and current events. As it was late winter/early spring of 1970, a lot of things were getting started. The 1970 demonstrations/riots/tantrums were taking up a lot of mind-space.

      • There was a ‘Christian’ RPG that came out back in the 80’s that included ideas like to banish evil quote certain parts of the bible, and similar. The friend of mine who showed to me was bothered when I pointed out that the fastest way to level ones character was to convince a pagan to convert (by the sword if need be) then trick them to backslide and once they did, kill them, since punishing (killing) backsliders was worth more XP. It was obvious that the people who created the game were A) clueless about how kids think when larval munchkins, and B) completely without understanding about game mechanics and unintended consequences. (eg. Turn the other cheek and be gracious, but real conversion of faith isn’t as good as a false one you can exploit.)

      • “I have heard Christian parents down on all three of those.”

        I’m pretty happy to have never heard that.

        Canada is a funny place sometimes. People may think something like that, Harry Potter is Satanism, but outside their little teensy church group they’ll -never- say it out loud. Americans will assume its their right to say whatever they damn well please, Canadians keep it on the down-low.

        This can be good and bad. Its good because I don’t have to hear it. Things like that annoy me every bit as much as the SJWs do, and for the same reason. I leave other people alone, so they better leave me alone.

        Its bad because there can be a lot of crazy bubbling around you, and you’ll never know until it all comes spilling out one day. This fundamental reticence about telling the truth is yet another reason why self employment is awesome.

        • Oh, it is very like the SJWs. They don’t like it, but I’ll happily tell them they remind me of the 700 Club more than anything else.

          • SheSellsSeashells

            Ha! I have told SJWs that they remind me of fundies before (and my bestie in high school was one of a family of Bill Gothard devotees, so I KNOW my fundies), but I bet that specific reference gave ’em hives. 🙂

            • Aye – the fundamental conceit of each is that they are morally superior. The 700 Clubbers have the advantage of conforming to a (sorta kinda) fixed morality while the moral standard of the SJWs is chaotic.

        • “Harry Potter is Satanism” + “although YA, it is a good read” from the general populace. Hmmm. Maybe I’d better read it … don’t buy YA as a general rule. OTOH did need to get some young people reading … worked Yes and No. (Yes, read the books. Did we make general readers out of them, no; darn it.)

          • Husband is only just now going through the books– on audio tape, to deal with his new commute.

            Enjoying them. Not great lit, but it’s a fun story, don’t nuke it.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              For reasons, I couldn’t get into the Harry Potter books but I see no reason for others to feel the same way.

              IE My lack of enjoyment doesn’t mean that others can’t enjoy them. 😉

          • YA is still worth adult reading, especially as a break between denser tomes. I cite Heinlein’s juveniles as evidence.

            If inclined to sample such, I strongly recommend Andrew Klavan’s expeditions into those lands, particularly his four Homelanders books. Good, quick, exciting reads from an experienced (and conservative & Christian) author, with plenty of content to chew on afterward. For those (like me) weaned on ancient mythology, I suggest Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson* books as a fun revisit to old haunts.

            *other of his books draw upon the Egyptian and Norse mythologies as well as the Greek & Roman ones.

            • I’ve only tried book one, and while I can see it coming from a mile away– the Dragonet Prophecy series seems quite good. My daughters are addicted to it. (You want funny, try to puzzle out phonics-taught kids trying to tell you ‘tsunami’ and, heaven forbid, ‘Fathom’ but you lisp…..)

              https://wingsoffire.fandom.com/wiki/The_Dragonet_Prophecy_(Book)

            • “YA is still worth adult reading”

              True. Just don’t seek them out “just because”. OTOH haven’t read, and don’t intend to read the “Shades of Gray”, either.

              Yes. Still read Heinlein’s juveniles … especially when I just want something quick to read.

              • Exactly – something quick to read. I treat them as palate cleansers, usually after finishing something long and dense which left a slight aftertaste (not to bring up Song of Ice and Fire.) They can wipe the mind before digging in on the next substantial read.

                Klavan writes that he keeps in mind that his competition is video games, so he must keep the book moving quickly … although I suspect he figures if you’ve read halfway through he’s got you hooked and he can slow it down and add some heft to it.

      • elainethomp

        FWIW, I’m down on Harry. Not because ooo magic ooo but because the love and relationship supposedly shown as loving are really icky.

  18. SheSellsSeashells

    Child of the 80s here, and my mother…well, she was much beloved, but as my husband said “She took Mazes and Monsters for a documentary.” She panicked when she caught me reading one of Christopher Stasheff’s “Warlock” books, fercryin’outloud…

    On the other hand, I have had one positive, one neutral-to-creepy, and one flat-out terrifying experience that cannot be explained away with coincidence or pattern recognition, and while I adore tabletop RPGs, you will never *ever* get me to touch a Ouija board. Chance encounters are scary enough for me; I’d rather not go seeking things out.

    • I have a list of such experiences, most of them bad, but…

      • SheSellsSeashells

        My “maybe” list is long, my “holy crap” list much shorter. (Could’ve done without the independent corroboration of the family ghost story. Brrr.) For some reason, my mom got all the happy ones. 🙂

    • I cannot go near a Ouija board. I can feel it and the back of my neck creeps. I have never touched one.

      • All divination tools bother me to some degree. Tarot, Ouija, rune cards and tiles… No thanks.

        • Tried it once, when my grandfather was dying. Just cards, yes/no/maybe/I-don’t-know.

          We’d JUST got to the stuff that, looking back, could’ve been dangerous– and someone came in and scared us half to death.
          For those wondering, no, we didn’t recognize the person (it was one of those Veteran’s hotel things where family of vets in the hospital can stay for cheap) but we also didn’t see them again. No matter how it managed, that was good timing.

          Found out later that my grandmother (other grandmother) banned fairy tales from her house in part because of being scared silly when she was tea-leaf reading. Did it as a party trick.
          It was too accurate, even when she was just trying to be silly.

        • Only the ouija board bothers me.

        • I was looking down the list of divination spells in D&D and working out which ones were just looking about in the past and present, and which ones could be more properly be called forecasting than fortune-telling. . . because the church in the Gamelit world also disapproves.

          Then, unlike conjuring, people probably at least flirt with the edges. There are a lot of fortune-telling superstitions about.

    • Yeah, nope, not gonna touch a ouija board with anything or even a stick.

      My personal view on that is that it isn’t the dead you have to worry about–the dead have better things to be doing that wasting time chatting with people via such things–but there are nastier things out there that very MUCH want to chat with people. And worse.

  19. Or if you prefer, because our subconscious tricks us and plays bad jokes on us, when we put ourselves in a susceptible mood.

    Or good jokes.

    Of my SCA and Amtgard time, I consider them well spent for what I call “Camelot Moments”. There were moments, every now and then, when the real world fell away. When I was in a Kingdom named Ansteorra (where the first occurred) or Goldenvale (the last) and in a royal or local court or at an actual feast to celebrate the winning at arms.

    The biggest common denominator was all occurred at night. Nearly all occurred under the open sky. Outdoors were lit with fire and indoors with lanterns and covered candles.

    I wonder if night, night with only some form of fire to light it, is strong key to unlock that susceptible mood. I have played a lot of D&D (even now I call playing it “Friday”) and similar games. Fantasy RPGs by candle light are just different (and I should do it more…D&D Type IV is a bad match, but TFT and B/X should be fine) and you seem to get those table falling away moments more often.

    One time we were convinced the neighbors were about to call the police on our RPG by water candles game that got a bit…loud.

    Perhaps the author would have been better served by a religious experience that allowed the susceptibility to open to the good. After all, the purpose of the Divine Liturgy is to unite the Church Militant with the Church Triumphant. There are days I feel not just the presence of God, but of all the Church, all the saints from Elias, our church’s patron, to the youngest child who died in faith.

    It is as rare as those Camelot moments, but I think it is a better relief from the bad experiences you reference than fear of everything.

    • William H. Stoddard

      The most striking experience I ever had was when a college friend exposed me to his I Ching. One time I asked it a question, and found the answer perplexing. So I asked again, and the hexagram that I got that time amounted to, “If the young man asks me once, he’s being studious and I’ll answer. If he asks twice, he’s being a nuisance and I’ll whack him upside the head.” It really felt like encountering an actual personality. . . .

      • My mother said that when she, and a few of her teenaged friends tried an ouija board out, they called up a spirit that said his name was Jose Rizal, spoke in Spanish (and one of the girls spoke Spanish, so understood) and they got scolded for dabbling in the dark forces beyond the realm of death.

        • I’m still tempted to set up a camera and a Ouija board and just record if and where the pointer moves. If nobody is there to move it, but it still moves, and produces a meaningful output, that would seem to indicate some sort of non-standard phenomenon at work. And perhaps insulate from any direct connection to malevolence of any sort.

          • C.S. Lewis (paraphrased): There are two errors in dealing with demons, the materialist and the magician. They themselves are equally pleased with either.

        • Geoff Withnell

          When I was in college a good friend’s fiancée died suddenly. I had not yet met her. He decided we should hold a séance to contact her. The whole group of us were sf/f fans and students of the weird. About 20 minutes in, I heard a female voice say quite clearly “Stop this. It is bad for him and it is bad for me.” Only about half of the dozen or so of us heard anything, And we all heard different words, but meaning the same thing. Scared the crap out of me.

    • There are days I feel not just the presence of God, but of all the Church, all the saints from Elias, our church’s patron, to the youngest child who died in faith.
      Yes, this. Worship is often transcendent of time and place.

    • There’s something about a space set aside, dimly lit, where people are intently focused on something in unison. It’s a qualitative difference from what I’ve picked up at places like Kalkreise battlefield.

  20. I can’t recommend Dwight Swain enough

    I know you say that, but damn has he been hell on my second thinking while writing. I did not finish my first try reading him back in November, but I still cannot help but be conscious about the “stimulus, feeling, action, speech” loop.

    I guess the secret is to write until it is natural and then until it is invisible.

    • Yes. That is exactly the secret. Also save him for rewriting/editing, not first writing.

    • What Sarah says. I go back every so often and skim to remind myself of where I tend to have problems and how to at least look for them.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Current creative writing project is in an early design phase.

      My second reread of Swain (with careful notes) has really clarified some of the design issues.

      (My process is part intuition and part calculation. Often the calculation tells me I need to drop some intuited features to get others to work. Sometimes articulating the reasons why gives me a solution for keeping everything. Sometimes I find that I really didn’t want the things I’m dropping.)

  21. There’s an excellent book by John Cornwell called The Hiding Places of God (1991; titled Forces of Darkness, Forces of Light in the UK) in which a British Catholic journalist (Cornwell) runs around the world searching for evidence of the supernatural. A couple of the chapters describe frightening situations experienced by people whom Cornwell interviewed, some of which go well across the line into demonic possession. One of the characteristics I sensed in those people was poor or absent grounding. “Grounding” is a hard thing to explain; the best definition I can provide is being at peace with the physical world and with oneself. People without grounding are often timid, lonely, and beset by peculiar scruples: “OMG! This restaurant serves meat! How can I be sure that my kale salad was never touched by meat?!?” People like that, in my experience, have a poor understanding of who they are, how the world works, and what they’re good at. They’re easily controlled by people with dominant personalities–the sort you invariably find at the centers of cults. (This I think is why we have cults.)

    In other books where I’ve read about demonic possession (which is a sort of worst case obsession) the victims are usually shy, retiring people of no special passion. Perhaps obsession happens when some sort of passion finally develops in them, for an RPG, a hobby, a religion, or a spiritual practice of some sort–and I wonder sometimes if writing fantasy can become a species of spiritual practice that can lead one into bad mental habits. Maybe if you write about seances too often, you start living a seance. At that point, your next novel should probably be about AI tanks or something else with rivets. I balance my metaphysics with physics. That’s worked well for me so far, gateway writer that I am.

    • When you get right down to it, demonic possession is as good an explanation for serial killers, mass shooters and other disruptions of what we deem normal. It means essentially the same thing as the various psychological labels we throw about, and is as credible an explanation.

      Or do you believe that psychology is a science?

      • Transgenderism seems like demonic possession to me. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia too. Like some new personality takes over and extinguishes the original person in that body.

      • Cultures that recognized demonic possession as a thing also recognized insanity as a thing.

    • wolfwalker

      “People without grounding are often timid, lonely, and beset by peculiar scruples: “OMG! This restaurant serves meat! How can I be sure that my kale salad was never touched by meat?!?” People like that, in my experience, have a poor understanding of who they are, how the world works, and what they’re good at.”

      Um, not to be a party pooper or nothin’, but I’ve heard tell of people with allergies to meat that are so strong they can get in trouble from eating salad from a dish that was previously used to prepare meat and then insufficiently washed.

      • That’s interesting. I’ve never in my life heard of a meat allergy. Though I suppose anything is possible.

        I’ve heard of people who claim that they react to a tiny blop of sausage that got off the grill into their vegetarian scrambled eggs with the theory that being raised vegetarian caused it. But I also doubt that because people eat unfamiliar food all the time and while the flavor might be hard to get used to the food is just food and the difference in protein from eggs to sausage is not that great.

        • There’s a tick carried version– my husband’s best friend from high school got it– he can eat a little white meat, but red meat is…uncomfortable.

          I know in some cases it’s self-induced. My crazy aunt got a reaction if she SUSPECTED someone was less than precise about whatever she was avoiding this month. (And it was a real reaction, too. The brain, she is powerful.)

          • Yep, I saw that article repeated a couple of times. Apparently the proteins in the tick saliva activate the immune system to similar proteins in red meat. Nasty trick to play on a meat and potatoes guy.

          • Now that you mention it, I had heard of the tick thing. I still think WTF? I mean, really, WTF? Hopefully they’re working on figuring it out and curing it because that would be purely misery.

            Also, everyone should get chickens, or maybe guineas, or release quail and pheasants.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Yeah, the psychosomatic stuff is why I distrust my own personal observations about symptoms caused by mistakes in avoiding what I need to avoid.

            It might be nice if this is all in my head, and I could just learn to get over it. On the other hand, a physical cause that can actually be addressed to some degree would be nice.

            • Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real, it just means that the solution is not going to work as mechanically as strictly biological problems do. (Note: not as mechanically, bio is still squishy.)

        • I knew a guy in college who was allergic to milk. Once his father ate some cheese and drank from a bottle of beer. This guy then drank from the same bottle. shortly after his mother was asking he had had any milk because his face was starting to swell.

      • $SPOUSE is sufficiently allergic to gluten that she has a hard time walking up the bread aisle in the grocery store. (Where they keep the peanut butter and jams–gluten-free bread for the win.)

      • The difference is in my experience people with actual allergies are usually calm and work this stuff out before entering an establishment. Those who drama queen on site are usually self-diagnosis people with other issues.

        See my acquaintance who “can’t find” a mold free apartment when what is going on is she isn’t happy with what she can afford at just shy of 40 based on her life choices.

        She has pages and pages of FB about the smells and mold and allergies. But dismisses things like “living in Atlanta isn’t the best choice if you’re that allergic to mold, why not try the Southwest”.

        • Sounds pretty much dead on. Both my wife and I have gluten issues; she’s allergic, while for me, it’s an intolerance/allergy. It took about 15 years of off-and-on disasters to narrow my issues down; got a bit easier to figure out when the sensitivity increased. (I’ll skip the results; not pretty and fairly painful.)

          We had a list of three restaurants we considered “safe” for both of us, and I had an additional one in an Asian/Chinese buffet. That ended when they managed to get a noodle in the hot and sour soup. Subsequent reactions showed it wasn’t rice. I took measures to alleviate the problem and took that place off the safe list. I miss their sushi (and the H&S soup when it was safe to eat), but staying healthy is much better.

      • I should have been more specific, and was not thinking about people who are allergic to meat. (Yes, there is a tick-borne disease that triggers this, though it’s rare.) I have longtime friends who are now vegans, and that’s how they act. It’s not allergies. It’s a holiness code. One woman in particular has regular panic attacks about her diet, and actually asked me some years back for “the truth” about chemtrails. She’ll believe anything that resonates with her worldview. That’s what lack of grounding does to you.

        • It’s not allergies. It’s a holiness code.

          Beloved Spouse does not eat meat because Beloved Spouse does not digest meat (the necessary digestive enzymes do, sometimes, roll box cars.) Beloved Spouse does not have a problem with others’ (specifically, moi) eating meat, although would prefer not to smell it. Beloved Spouse having lived on a farm for a brief period became acquainted with cows and believes being made into meat is the best thing for the stupid beasts.

          Beloved Spouse has also subscribed (and cancelled subscriptions) to various vegetarian magazines and dislikes the proselytizing mixed in among the recipes. Militant sanctimony is not a good seasoning for any diet, although (like habaneros) some people seem to demand it in all they consume.

          • Can she handle fish? How about milk protein, like cheese? How about broth?

            You’ve probably already are aware of this, but “Lent recipes” are a non-preachy option. (might also be under Fish Friday) Broth might be a Thing because we don’t technically HAVE to avoid meat-broth, but it’s not a matter of unclean, it’s a matter of obedience and sacrifice, so the aim and temptations are different.

            • She? I find Beloved Spouse as enchanting as the Sidhe, but you’re not invited to make assumptions, please. As some folk seem to believe everybody thinks with their fiddly bits, I and my Beloved eschew affirming or denying any speculations, assumptions or guesswork in re: that identification.

              Don’t know about eating fish as Spouse don’t like fish and neither do I, but milk and eggs go down just fine. I, OTOH, get indigestion from eggs unless mingled with onions and peppers. Given I think of the meat in fajitas as seasoning for the onions and peppers, this is not a problem.

              • Given I think of the meat in Fajitas as seasoning for the onions and peppers

                ….This is one case where I can’t say you are wrong.

                • Ah, but he is. The meat, peppers, and onions are seasoning for the sour cream, cheese, and tortilla. 😉

        • One woman in particular has regular panic attacks about her diet, and actually asked me some years back for “the truth” about chemtrails.

          Please, please, please tell me you noted they were dihydrogenmonoxide crystals.

          • Back in the 70’s my father was working on the Air Forces experiments with nitrogen fuel cell inerting. After an article in the newspaper was published about it mentioned that the test plane would vent the nitrogen tanks before landing, dumping all the nitrogen, they started getting complaints about their polluting the atmosphere.

    • People without grounding are often timid, lonely, and beset by peculiar scruples

      Guess I’m safe, because while timid and lonely I utter lack scruples (as today’s roast pork joke suggests).

  22. Professor Badness

    As a devout Christian and a Dungeon Master, running two or three games a week, with other devout Christians, these comments don’t at first make sense.
    But, then, I think of those with a tenuous grasp on reality in the first place. Those lacking “Grounding”, as Jeff mentioned above.
    I have known more than my fair share of them as well, (the dangers of being a librarian).
    They may be more susceptible to such things than myself. Or maybe, when I am storytelling as DM, they would get a mental picture of the world and situation completely different, and much darker, than the rest of the players.
    So, while I will not force those lacking “Grounding” into a DnD game or reading Harry Potter, I won’t allow them to force other out of these past times.
    Of course, I’m not going to go playing with Oujia boards or trying to summon demons, either. There are limits to how much we should tempt fate, as it were.

    • An associate once asked me how I could do certain things and read certain books. “Because I know what my core is.” I knew what I believed, where I could and could not trust myself, and who I was [at that time and place. people do change, but some things are more constant than others.] The people I know who’ve gotten bitten by, oh, let’s call it the supernatural, didn’t have that. Either they were “flitters,” like seekers but even less focused, or they had no real core but picked up and put down different philosophies and beliefs.

      Almost as if they had a “rooms available” sign hanging out for Something to read.

      • “Either they were “flitters,” like seekers but even less focused, or they had no real core but picked up and put down different philosophies and beliefs.
        Almost as if they had a “rooms available” sign hanging out for Something to read.”

        Yep. I know a number of people like that.

      • Girl does woo stuff even though she’s admitted to “I don’t believe it, but then why does it keep working” mindset.

        She calls the “flitter” types Disney ride folks and figures they are all headed for trouble. She holds her highest contempt for those with just enough knowledge to get their Disney ride friends into trouble, but not knowing enough to get them out (“Endorphin Soup” for those who might have heard stories, is a prime target of her ire).

        • Yeah. I had one of those in college. The ‘Disney Ride” chick had no problem and the kid with her dang near got sexually assaulted as part of a “healing ritual”. Some of us wanted the Dean to step in, but it happened off campus and the victim didn’t want to upset anyone. *facepaw*

      • This. When you’re grounded, you know who you are all the way down to the metal. My father was like that (my mother was not) and fortunately I got that gene from him.

        • Used to be that such grounding (aka: self-knowledge) was the purpose and goal of education.

          Speculation as to the reasons that is no longer true need not be indulged at this time.

  23. Hey, I know that sarcophagus! It’s at the Nelson-Atkins, KC MO’S free-to-the-public art museum. What a great place.

  24. I never understood the concept of a story “changing someone’s life” until it happened.

    A couple years ago I encountered a story which left me sobbing nearly uncontrollably over the death of a character, and with wildly swinging emotions for months afterwards. For perspective the last time I had broke down because of fiction was ~20 years prior when I saw Braveheart for the first time (6-7 years old). Did you know that it is possible to sob hard enough to get dizzy from lack of air? I didn’t.

    In my case I got lucky: the emotional buttons that were pushed were benign, or even noble (not intentionally patting myself on the back here). And the effect was to kick me out of a deep rut I’d been in for a long time.

    But I have to wonder….. what happens when someone is bent in the brain in a different way? gets a not-so-good button pushed? Humans barely manage to be rational when actively trying under stable conditions.

    • I think that’s one of the things that charismatic demogogues manage to tap into. You had people apparently overcome by an ecstasy of some sort during Obama speeches, and fainting. I once heard a woman talk about how she went from mildly bored to completely overcome with excitement when a certain totalitarian dictator started speaking at an event she was attending, and she wasn’t even sure why her attitude had changed.

      Best guess is that these kinds of individuals have figured out (perhaps unconsciously; even Obama himself seemed puzzled by the fainting at his events) how to push these specific buttons.

      • That’s how I tend to view things – the “supernatural beings” are not Great External Forces, but more the manifestations within the mind. The impulses that are normally held back by the education of and by (and for) civilization. It is possible to ‘unlock’ such things, and due to various states of mind and levels of control, some locks are more easily picked, or smashed, than others. And some locks were never really properly locked. Thus there are various levels of susceptibility.

        Thus, what is a harmless game or pastime for some, can be deleterious for others. And what might be a mild issue for some,could be downright dangerous for others. Consider a physical-substance version: Would you rather give a shot of whiskey to a person of German descent, or of Native American (Amerindian, whatever the accepted generic term is these days) descent. While it’s not a sure thing which one could tolerate it better, there exists a certain learning as to which would be less likely a risk.

        That said, I am willing to believe (and it must be belief, for I do not have reproducible evidence) that there may be more to things than mental capacity and (in)stability. But that can or could open a door that might better remain shut. I do figure that this much more rare than civilizing slipping.

        • Here and there in my (now longish) life, weird things have happened that don’t explain well. I don’t talk about them much in public, but they suggest that there is a layer of reality we don’t understand. Ask me about a couple at Libertycon if you’re interested. At least one involves what I consider a perversion of religious fervor that bordered on cultish. The event established a border that I have not crossed since.

          • … suggest that there is a layer of reality we don’t understand.

            There is no greater ignorance than belief in one’s complete understanding.

        • Presbypoet

          I study both quantum mechanics and theology. We have a nice practical math for quantum mechanics. It lets us calculate what will happen, yet with no clue why.

          Just finished a book on quantum mechanics by Adam Becker called “What is Real, the unfinished quest for the meaning of quantum physics.” He points to the idea: “Just shut up and calculate” by David Mermin, (also attributed to Feynman), which can give up trying to understand and just go with what works. Faced with an infinite God and a universe where we have proved we don’t know what 95% is made of, we should be humble, yet always willing to venture into the unknown to learn which dragons are real.

          I am a poet who doesn’t trust poets,
          a prophet who doesn’t trust prophets,
          and a cynic who knows God speaks.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      The bad button thing really happened to me, once.

      Once upon a time, I read part of Chung and Halliday’s Mao:The Unknown Story. ‘Failed my roll to disbelieve’ and ‘SAN Loss’ really is the best way to put it.

      That lost chunk of humanitarian notions is why I disagreed with the complaints about the KSA torturing and murdering that political dissident of theirs.

  25. Presbypoet

    Perhaps the best example of why it is dangerous to tamper with what you don’t understand is found in Acts. The 7 sons of Sceva, in chapter 19, try to drive out a demon: “In the name of Jesus who Paul preaches”. The demon taunts them saying: “Jesus I know, Paul I know, but who are you?” Then drives them out of the house naked.

    This seems a sub theme in many monster hunter stories, the danger of ignorance. The world today is vulnerable because it does not know the devil is real. What you don’t know can kill you. The universe is far stranger than anyone knows.

    I can understand why some Christians worry, since they divide all “spiritual” stuff into either God or the devil. If it is not from God, it must be from the devil. There are signs and wonders. There are miracles. Just not on our timetables. Yet Christians can be vulnerable if they worry, because they can attribute too much power to the devil. We are quite capable of great evil, without needing any help. The devil did not make you do that.

    Finally, also in Acts 19, you have magic users burning magic books worth 50,000 silver coins. It comes down to which idol do you worship? What owns you? Unless D &D owns you, you should be OK.

    • The Devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
      The three sources of temptation.

    • It’s one of the reasons why “The Screwtape Letters” is so important to read. The devils don’t need to do big stuff to be most effective in promoting evil. Just their soft, insidious whispering in our minds is usually enough to push us in the wrong directions. Hmmm. Maybe June will be the month to re-read C.S. Lewis stuff.

  26. For some reason I’ve been watching the TRVL channel lately with the over abundance of mediums and folks with instruments trying to invoke spirits (EVP)s when they are really invoking fear. I’m seeing a fascination with the super-normal in the ordinaries lately. As you said, they jump into the supernatural world without any protection, thinking that anything invisible will not lead them wrong. I like how you call them “trickster” spirits. There are so many trickster legends in all the myths. For instance Coyote and Loki to name a few. The invoke spirits or tricksters without protection is to invite a lot of nastiness.

    I’m interested that you equate writing story to discovering the supernatural. I hadn’t thought of it the same way. But you may have a point that those of us who walk in the shadows and the fire are a different breed. Not superior… just different in some way in our physical and mental makeup.

    • The ultimate trickster spirit already lives in your head, of course. There’s nobody else who knows so well what you are willing to believe without any proof.

      • wolfwalker

        “The first rule of science is to not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person for you to fool.” — Richard Feynman

        “The most misleading assumptions are the ones you don’t even know you’re making.” — Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

      • RES — how did you know??? lol

    • wolfwalker

      Coyote, Raven, Iktomi, Maui, Brer Rabbit, Bugs Bunny … indeed, the trickster archetype is everywhere. And given the world we live in — I mean, Donald Trump as president of the United States? Gimme a break! — I think it self-evident that Coyote is the one actually running things.

      Loki is an interesting case, because he varies between Trickster and downright Evil depending on which specific stories you’re listening to at the moment.

      • I’m not quite sure Loki counts as evil. Trickster, yes. But he seems to be more a god of chaos, than malevolence; although he does occasionally have a mean streak. A lot of different stuff attributed to him in Norse mythology. On the other hand, Odin himself can be a pretty tricky conman too.

        • He does do stuff to hurt people, and treats everybody as being there for his amusement, so evil– just not unfettered malevolence.

          He might kill you, but there’s a reason for it besides “it’s evil.” Even if that reason is “I thought it was a really clever way to kill you.”

          • Trying to explain what I mean…
            He’ll get you killed, yeah, but he’ll also risk getting himself killed, sometimes even for a good cause, to be clever.

        • IMO, Loki is an attention-seeker. The stuff I read aeons ago about the death of Baldur suggested that Loki did it because someone who wasn’t Loki – i.e. Baldur – was the center of attention. And Loki couldn’t abide that.

        • That draws up an interesting question: is evil worse than chaos or vice versa.

          My D&D world (well, one of them) is the aftermath of Black Easter and the The Day After Judgement, that is the world after Revelations, but with man causing Revelations to happen early. As such, God has forsaken the old world for the new (maybe, but that’s complex).

          Now the earth is falling back into the chaos into which it was created and man, and the devils of hell, are the primary forces trying to hold it together. Demons and devils are different and opposing forces. Devils want the world to exist so they can rule part of it, while demons are agents of chaos and want it to cease existing.

          I guess I was after a “is it better to exist in Hell than to not exist” question for the players (although it isn’t really hell, but a weird gothic literature setting with bits of pre-doomsday tech). Also, this was mostly just backdrop to setup the world. The biggest place it plays up is magic-users, as magic is chaotic, and clerics because somehow they still can derive power from veneration of the saints.

          Oh, and it let me make the origins of the elves is they are the decedents of Adam and Lilith.

  27. I recall the backmasking nonsense. $SISTAUR was likewise amused by it. Other than the odd intentional joke recorded backwards (“The Surgeon General has determined that playing records backwards may be hazardous to your phonograph needle.”) nothing much was there. The only even vaguely nasty sounds stuff we found, we got by reverse-playing a recording of the local church’s sermon recorded off radio.

    Then some nutter pseudopreacher claimed AC/DC stood for “Anti-Christ / Devil-Child.” Pa’s take on it, “Hasn’t he ever looked at a radio?”

    • You don’t need to look for hidden Satanic messages in Rock’N’Roll, the overt ones are there in multitudes.

      Come out, Virginia, don’t let me wait
      You Catholic girls start much too late
      Oh, but sooner or later, it comes down to fate
      I might as well be the one

      Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray
      They built you a temple and locked you away
      Oh, but they never told you the price that you’d pay
      For things that you might have done

      Only the good die young

      • That, of course, was another source of amusement over the whole thing.

      • There does seem to be a tendency in rock to hide really bad messages in bouncy, happy music. I ran into one recently that was quite literally Satanic (“As you wish shall be the whole of the law”).

        • My favorite examples of that are “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which sounds light and poppy and funny (It has a good beat and easy to dance to) and “I Kissed a Girl”. Not the stupid Katy Perry one, but the brilliant Jill Sobule song (which is not the default song for the title on Wikipedia, proof they are evil).

          Especially in Jill Sobule’s case I consider it a great song writing masterclass in giving a completely different sense in music than in lyrics.

          Of course, I’m not sure I’d classify either of these as bad messages on the level of the one you cite.

          • The Jill Sobule song in interesting, but interestingly enough, I found myself thinking of the same thing I did with the Katy Perry one: the singer seems like she’s primarily interested in making out with herself, but lacking the ability to do that, she’ll make do with another girl.

            • Hmmm, never thought that on the JS song, but I can see it.

              For me the KP one was all those chicks who make out with a girl at the club to get men’s attention.

            • My take-away from the Perry song was that it was an audio one-up of the primary motivation for kissing another girl:
              to get guys.

              Just like a girl wants to be found attractive, guys want to be admired, and they’re very visual– and, obviously, guys admire gals.
              So the guy-level impact of “this attractive female recognizes the attractiveness of females, and she is with me” is much higher.

              The song gets that, AND implies that most girls are just “trying” it, they’re not really into it.

        • It’s the Christian messages which must be hidden.

          Strip away the noise and Grand Guignol settings and read some of Alice Cooper’s lyrics, especially since about 2000 …


          You, me
          Understand
          Shake my hand
          Last chance, little man
          Ain’t it grand
          It’s a bargain, it’s a steal
          30 pieces of silver
          And a deal’s a deal

          Sign upon the dotted line
          I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine
          Nothing’s free
          Eventually
          Nothing’s free

          From the rules and laws of morality
          Free to take your fill
          Free from your own free will
          Nothing’s free

          My boy, it’s getting late
          I’ll raise the stakes
          So close
          Control your fate, why hesitate
          Seal the deal, close the sale
          Take my hammer, drive the nail

          Sign upon the bloody line
          A drop of yours, a drop of mine
          Nothing’s free
          Eternally
          Nothing’s free

          From your conscience or
          Free from the consequence
          Free to sin and death
          Free til your final breath
          Nothing’s free
          Free from the claws and flaws of your family
          Free from obedient life
          You’re cut like a double-edged knife
          Nothing’s free, nothing’s free
          Oh, you pay me

          Free to ignore the bore of authority
          Free to spit in the face
          Be the winningest rat in the race til Judgement Day
          Then nothing’s free
          Bow to me if you wanna be free
          Free from life, come die with me

          And when we’re dead it’s for eternity
          Come on little one and dance in the fire
          The heat’s getting close and the flame’s
          Getting higher
          When the music’s over there’s a hush
          In the choir Nothing’s free
          When the trumpets sound and his light
          Is all around
          And the saints all raise from the graves
          In the ground
          We’ll be going way downtown
          Way downtown

      • Leave it to RES to see through the smoke and realize Billy Joel is the anti-christ.

        At least he isn’t the anti-elvis, that is Michael J. Fox.

      • Or “Lola” by The Kinks. Guy picks up a transvestite prostitute at a nightclub, takes her/him home, discovers she’s a man, and finds he has no problem with that whatsoever.

        My mother, a fairly conservative Christian, loved that song… until I told her to stop dancing around the kitchen and listen to the lyrics. Then she got mad at me for “ruining” the song for her.

        • (Nods) I am incapable of not listening carefully to the lyrics of any song I hear. This made dances in high school and college a less-fun-than-they-might-have-been experience.

          “No, I don’t want to dance to this song about getting plastered and having meaningless sex, thankyouverymuch.”

        • Heh, pretty sure I’ve driven folks to drink because after they rave about how great a song is, I pay attention to the lyrics.

          I can still enjoy most songs with questionable lyrics, but apparently that’s not common.
          (and of course since I’ve got radio going now I can’t ‘hear’ any examples well enough to name them)

        • Patrick Chester

          Well, there’s always “Yoda” by Weird Al Yankovic.

    • Patrick Chester

      Wasn’t there a Bloom County comic where they found that Deathtongue’s music had Christian messages hidden in it? (“Go to Church! Say your prayers!”)

    • snelson134

      Or KISS: Knights in Satan’s Service.

      Yes, I was in high school when all that nonsense was going on. If the adults had had the first clue how funny we found them….

  28. you need to learn to train them [muses], and exert discipline

    She’ll be coming round the bookstore
    When she comes

    She’ll be coming round the bookstore,
    She’ll be coming round the bookstore,
    She’ll be coming round the bookstore
    When she comes

    She’ll be driving six dark muses
    When she comes

    She’ll be driving six dark muses
    When she comes

    She’ll be driving six dark muses
    She’ll be driving six dark muses
    She’ll be driving six dark muses
    When she comes

    Oh, we’ll all go out to read her
    When she comes

    Oh, we’ll all go out to read her
    When she comes

    Oh, we’ll all go out to read her,
    We’ll all go out to read her,
    We’ll all go out to read her
    When she comes

    That thar gal is so powerful a writer she can drive a twenty muse team! Yeeee-Hah!

  29. I’m working with some Gamelit novels. A heavily house-ruled Pathfinder/D&D mix, but the religions are monotheistic — natural theology — and I’m giving the spell list a gimlet eye for what is acceptable. Some summoning spells, and some necromancy ones, pass muster. (Jettisoned the planes system so fast you didn’t have time to blink, declared all outsiders are going to be overwhelmingly beyond the ken of mortals and not stat blocks and VERY RARE, eliminated all returns from death — those were the easy parts.)

    It has its interesting philosophical aspects.

    • In particular, I think Gamelit, like most literature, benefits from shoving the metaphysics as far off stage as possible.

      This opens up the possibility of people’s having different views without being demonstrably wrong.

  30. Not all muses are friendly muses, some use irritation as their goad. She said she would write it and she did:

    We Don’t Have a Problem with White Supremacy. We Have a Problem with Leftist Supremacy
    By Sarah Hoyt
    The left is obsessed with white supremacists the way that children are obsessed with Santa Claus, and for more or less the same reasons.

    You see, if they manage to convince people that the alternative to their own crazy, race-obsessed, power-centralizing, socialist policies is white supremacy, then they get everything they ever wanted, plus a pony.

    In an America as mixed as we are, the idea that white supremacists are the only ones who will do well is scary to most people. Beyond that, it is the most antithetical thing to American beliefs you can imagine. The nation that banned nobility of birth, and which fought a war to free slaves would never codify a regime where your genetics at birth determines what kind of happiness you can even think of pursuing. In America, equality under the law has always been the goal, even when honored in the breach.

    Fortunately, we don’t have any need to worry about real white supremacy. Just like you don’t have to worry that Santa Claus is watching you, or has put a spy bug in your bedroom.

    This is the problem the left has. And their response to it is to launch a brainwashing/gaslighting campaign to find white supremacy where there is none.

    Also, unfortunately, as with all these things the left engages in, it causes more harm than… well, than even I can imagine, and I write some pretty dystopian stuff.

    So, just like their attempt to define “patriarchy” has led them to make it impossible for business women to have closed-door meetings with male bosses or mentors, their definition of white supremacy is making it impossible for any minorities or, for that matter, under-privileged white people to improve themselves or create a better future for their descendants.

    For instance, according to the New York Post, this is what passes for fighting white supremacy in NYC schools:

  31. I read a book by an LDS author when I was a teen that went whole-hog into the “all of this stuff is evil”…Mom read it too. We were a little worried initially, for about two weeks, then stopped, used our logic brains, and laughed hysterically.

    Dude was very seriously claiming that UNICORNS were a symbol of Satan, really, and that their horns ‘were a prayer to mammon for financial prosperity.’

    I kinda hope we still have the book somewhere. I wanna reread it and laugh myself sick.