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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Gaining An Understanding

Jon Fosse; An Angel Walks Through the Stage; Trans. May-Brit Akerholt; Dalkey Archive Press, 2015


“All good art comes into being in a relationship with death, through accepting the great mysterious secret of death, and life.”

If one views art as a necessary, compulsory aspect of the human condition, then what are the depths, or located differently, perhaps the adjacent cosmic fringes, to which we will go to explore its existence? Creative output has been the greatest driving force of our species’ development for many millennia, manifested in both the practical and the secular; we have invented religious structures, re-formed nature, widened our understanding of the cosmos, and have gained deep knowledge of the material minutiae of our world. But in all this contribution, what is art? It is surely colors confined within four corners and hung on walls, texts redefining our perceptions, earth moved and formed into cohesion with its surroundings, and music that consists of 4 min. 33 sec of environmental sound. Within this we have of course Beethoven, Mozart, Arvo Part, Malevich “black squares,” epics of Hell, and much more. We pour ink, and yet more ink, into this wholly subjective arena. But perhaps there is art, product for consumption, and art, production for the sake of the ethereal, the mystical. Fosse is very much formed and concerned with this second realm and its relation to the first.

There are essays herein regarding Fosse’s ideas about voice, narrator, and the true meaning of writing, of which is movement, bringing into existence, and its relation to voice and language as a mystical endeavor. He writes of his love for one of the two official Norwegian languages and his country’s general misunderstanding of their literary master, Henryk Ibsen. These are short pieces, collected from a twenty-year span, written in a clear and sometimes conversational mode. But in these short essays, in this minimal appearing book, what permeates all is Fosse’s conviction about the “other” that is art. Mysticism is the structure on which it seems his entire view hangs. There are many references to silence, space, mystery, the sacred:

“And to me, the novel, to be obstinate, is constantly in search of the lost God,” or;

“…silent speech, full of unknown meaning,” or;

“…like a voice that comes from somewhere far away.”

It is this mystical through-line that I find so compelling here. In the version of our world that is now riddled with the media-based clich├ęs of stimulation, information overload, noise and image bombardment, Fosse embraces silences, emptiness, repetition, simplicity. The longest essay, “Negative Mysticism,” acts as a biographic keystone to this position, where early on Fosse writes, “So silence is perhaps the best way to preserve what we know deepest down.” He expresses ambivalence about relating these ideas, but continues:

“…it is in other words the writing which has opened the religious aspects for me and turned me into a religious person, and some of my deepest experiences can, as I have gradually understood, be called mystical experiences.”

He writes of Norwegian Puritanism and Quakerism in his personal family history, refers to himself as a post-puritan. He chooses to have his novels face away from the world, to be their own universe unto themselves, and the silence and speech of Quaker practice is similar to his approach to writing. One gets the impression these are not “born-again,” expository proclamations, sharing for the sake of proselytizing, but that his positions are fibrous to his understanding of himself as an artist, and that his appreciation of art is rooted in this conviction of the spiritual-mystical. He does not come off as a guru, but as a deeply inward facing individual whose attempts at making art, the speech, silences, and movements of his texts, are forms of personal prayer.

I’m glad to have experienced these pieces as I continue to read through his work in translation. Having read Aliss at the Fire many years ago, a book that seemed revelatory at the time, a beautiful work unlike so much else I have read, I am eager to return to its austere world, with a greater understanding of Fosse’s motivations.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Artistic Side

 It's been a while since giving space on here to my artistic endeavors. I have however, been very busy making art. I have created several commission pieces, my work will be included in two upcoming zines, and I made some paintings for my own little game. Here is a small selection of recent work.

 








Friday, March 12, 2021

Short Shelf of Picks - Vol. II

These are not reviews, but short opinions of things I have come across that seem neat. I do not go into full analysis of these products but share some thoughts about what I like.

A Man on the Road

This tri-fold by Ian Yusem may be only a pamphlet, but it is not slight. This OSE-compatible publication is a tool to generate one nasty NPC for your game. As the sub-title states: An Encounter With A Horrible Bastard. The cover art by L.F. OSR is spot on, as it displays the ominous tone and/or dread of such a run-in, whilst maintaining anonymity – this dude can get dropped into just about any game. You get stats for The Man and His Horse! Then roll on tables for his weapon, his vulgar speech, his tactics, his lies, his place of appearance, his treasure, his wake of destruction. Imagine Blood Meridian’s Judge Holden meets the Hound from GoT. The physical copy is printed on nice sandy cardstock in black and red ink. This seems like a great supplement to always have in the binder for when that awful foe is needed. Generate an Adventure Seed by rolling the In His Wake table, to see where your PC’s next destination may be!

 

Find at: https://ian-yusem.itch.io/a-man-on-the-road

or in print at: https://spearwitch.com

The Icy City #1: Troika Edition

This is originally a longer work in pdf form, but Aaron King has decided to release the book in zine format, breaking it into smaller parts. As of this moment, only #1 is available, but I have it directly from the author that #2 shall appear in the near future! This is one of the most striking covers I know. It’s likely public domain, but the magenta and white flames (?) and the black side bar. I just love it. In 46 pages you get d36 new backgrounds for Troika! and one unconventional background called the Dungeon Dragon with some tables for generating, well…the dungeon inside the dragon. The book closes with a decent length adventure for first-time players! Backgrounds include Alchemized, Icy City Deputy, Otterfolk, Whaler. My only minor gripe would be the inconsistent internal art: I like the drawings that I assume to be King’s, and I wish he had included more, instead of inserting domain art for some of the backgrounds – these outside images detract, in my opinion. That being said, I’m excited for the next issues and will be in line for them! 

Find at: https://erinking.itch.io/icy-city-troika

or in print at: https://spearwitch.com

Prime Material No. 1

Michael Hansen’s Troika! supplement has d66 new backgrounds! I think some players will be pretty excited for this book, because it goes for more traditional medieval atmosphere. Whereas Troika! seems to cater quite well to out-there, zany, surreal material, in this book you will find Beastmaster, Dirt Farmer, Druid, Inquisitor, Siege Engineer. There are some new combat rules, spell ranges and combat actions. Skills like Forage, Interrogate, and Alchemy. A list of vegetable-based spells, like Beet, a voodoo doll like effect where carving into a beet will cause same effects to a foe! Wild. Find stats for PC companions/familiars like beast and undead minion. Also, new enemies like a Dragon are here. Not visually flashy at all (unlike much Troika! material) this might be a neat item for fans of Troika! but  who want more traditional content. (I would love to see this fully illustrated…that would be temptation knocking…as this author (amateur artist) reaches for pencil and sketch sheet…) 

 

Find at: https://modality.itch.io/prime-material

or in print at: https://spearwitch.com 

Pointcrawl Locations Deck

I acquired this awesome solo supplement through the Patreon of SoloRPG. This comes with 36 illustrated location cards, each holding a d6 Random Feature table and three icons for terrain, action and consequence. The book suggests drawing three cards: starting location, through location, and destination. Using the myriad combination of locations, feature tables, and the narrative-generative icons offer a ton of potential, and not just for solo gamers. This is a quick toolset that fits in your pocket! I sincerely hope this project gets expanded and turned into a regular deck sized supplement. There are numerous card products for solo gamers, but in honesty, I have been intimidated by some of their design. These cards may not offer an entire session on one card, but it is the simplicity that I quite enjoy. And they look great.

Find at: https://www.patreon.com/solorpg

 

 

 Oniria’s Slumber

As many of you know, I tend to come at stuff from an arts perspective. I appreciate a good cover, and the art for this project is excellent – and as it turns out, rather on point regarding the content. Jean Verne has chosen obscure modernist painter Karl Wiener for the full color illustrations of this book. Vibrant, playful, and sometimes outright contemporary, Paul Klee or Wassily Kandinsky come to mind.  Oniria’s Slumber is another Troika! based publication but this is it’s own system, with specific character creation rules. You play as sort of dream wandering modifiers, that protect the sleeping from dreams and nightmares. At character creation, you record Recurring Dream and Worst Nightmare as mechanics! These things grant you tokens and play out with certain triggers. This is so cool. There is included a safety paragraph, so at the table, people are reminded to be careful in detailing personal material regarding dreams and nightmares: You can make it up, but with intimate groups, this could be very potent stuff as well. Classes are Lucid Dreamer, Dream Reader, Day Dreamer, and Sleepwalker. You navigate the sleep world and interact with Reveries. PCs get faculties that allow them to commune with dreams, transform, link with dreams. Some of these mechanics perhaps are seen elsewhere in different terminology, but the language and subject of this book is just so cool! Requires more time from me, but at 26 pages, this is a dense book; not to read, but material wise, content wise, visually. I think it’s considerably inspired. Speaking with Jean, there may be a print-ready edition soon, and I think it will look great. 

Find at: https://fantasticjean.itch.io/onirias-slumber

The Cape of Old Daemons

I had just posted my picture of my homemade copy of Ordure Fantasy, Michael Raston’s d6 dirty-fantasy game, when he reached out to let me know he’d just published this! I love this about Raston’s work – it is generous, creative, different, inspired, personal. Anyone who follows his blog will know what I mean. Find tables, systems, drawings, adventures, all done with a gritty personal style. So, The Cape, an adventure for Ordure Fantasy. A dystopian, dying earth kind of setting, with caravans of wizards collecting artifacts from the ruins and the king’s Red Sun Agents policing them. Truthfully, I haven’t cracked this much yet, but instantly from the acid-weird cover, Michael’s kick-ass drawings, and his ever-present tables through the text, this book lends itself to some deep dives. It’s safe to say this creator makes stuff that requires beyond surface engagement, and I am always inspired going through the material! 

Find at: https://www.drivethrurpg.com