Brent Nichols has posted my story The End on his Fantastic Adventures blog. You can read it here.
Nomads, so the scholars of Teleleli say, are those barbarians who have domesticated animals but no agriculture, and thus must wander from place to place, since their herds quickly eat all the grass in a given area.
Among those nomads who ride animals, rather than walking or using chariots or wagons, women will often suffer miscarriages and other maladies of the womb. For this reason, such nomads are often unable to replace their dead through natural increase. Thus they will often be most eager to have new members join their number.This may lead to customs of the highest virtue – such as welcoming any refugee or exile who comes among them – or the lowest vice – such as raiding strangers that they may steal their infants and raise them as their own.
My thanks to Magister Noisms for his research on this subject.
People who follow role-playing blogs, particularly those concerned with old versions of D&D, are likely to have heard of Tekumel. M.A.R. Barker’s fantasy world is as lovingly detailed as that of Tolkien or any of his successors, but has a very different inspiration, being a combination of ‘pulp’ fantasy and science fiction and various non-European civilisations.
There have been four official role-playing games set in the world, and none of them have proved successful. Several people have wondered why the setting isn’t more popular. Here’s my take on it.
Empire of the Petal Throne, the first Tekumel game (and either the second or third RPG ever, depending on when you count Tunnels & Trolls as being first published), assumes that the player characters are ‘barbarians’, just arrived in the great city of Jakalla.
When I first read this I assumed that the characters were supposed to be from a ‘normal’ D&D-like setting, and that the characters would discover Jakalla along with the players.
In fact it turns out that the player characters are supposed to come from places with roughly the same culture as Jakalla (although the details are different enough that the game gives percentage chances of accidentally committing a crime simply by wandering around).
Not only that, but the fandom of the game, if not the rules themselves, seem to assume that you will ‘really role-play’. That is, your character ‘has to’ approve of slavery, human sacrifice and impaling people for minor crimes.
No one seems to put it this way, but in D&D terms the big cosmic conflict in Tekumel is between Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil – and even then the conflict is something of a trick, since the gods are specifically stated to be aliens masquerading as gods.
There doesn’t seem to be any place for someone who either truly comes from outside the society, or who was born into it but rejects its values. And this, to me, seems quite different to the source fiction.
So, in conclusion, Tekumel would be better if it had good guys.
Is this a real style, or something that only existed in the comics? It doesn’t seem like you’d be able to get them on, unless the bit that folded over was stretchy.
EDIT: And the mystery is solved! See the comments for the answer.
I recently found a Jack Chick pamphlet, It’s A Deal, while on my way to role-playing. For those that don’t know them, they’re little comics that promote Christian fundamentalism. Among fantasy fans he’s best known for Dark Dungeons, which is about how Dungeons & Dragons is a tool for recruitment into Satanism.
It’s A Deal turned out to be intended specifically at black people, so I’m not in the group that it’s aimed at. However I’m not sure the group that it’s intended for exists outside of Jack Chick’s mind.
First of all, even the fact that I found it is strange. There are hardly any African-Americans in Australia. There’s a small number of Aboriginals, and a small number of people from East Africa who largely came here as refugees, but in both cases the culture is completely separate to that of black Americans.
It doesn’t feel like the author got their ideas about black people’s lives from personal experience. The main character sells his soul to become a promiscuous basketball star, and there’s a drive-by shooting by a guy called ‘Ice Man’.
Also, I don’t know whether I’m reading too much into this, but the good son is named James and speaks in ‘standard’ English, while the bad son is named Denzel, wears cornrows, and speaks in a much more colloquial way.
Anyway the moral of the story is quite strange. Denzel believes that he’s sold his soul to the devil, but his father tells him that those deals have no validity, and that he can still be saved, which in the end he is.
Does Jack Chick think that there are lots of black people who made deals with the devil, and don’t get saved because they believe themselves to be damned? Is this even a stereotype among Christian fundamentalists?
Or am I thinking about this way more than anyone involved in making it did?