Link Between Rush, Fantastic Stories, Childhood, and Disrespect

As the Pooper and I are wont to do, we spent this morning watching Rush: Live in Rio (a DVD I should really return to Brando). Pooper was really enjoying it, and I began to wonder why I view Rush as a "Secret Shame" band of mine: basically music too dorky to admit to liking in certain company (Lumpy's secret shame band is Boston, which fits into what I have to say below).

This led me to consider Pooper's clear enjoyment of the DVD -- his favorite records (as far as I can tell -- I base this on how much sppppplllttting, smiling, and arm-waving he does) are Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, Belle and Sebastian's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and Baby Bach. All three of these records contain fairly complicated songs, some with movements and Brian Wilsonian harmonies, just as the standard Rush song does. When I was younger (elementary/junior high) all the bands I really liked had these same types of complicated set-ups (Iron Maiden, Rush, YES, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis). It was not until I reached high school that I could start to really appreciate songs made up of basically three chords and the truth (or simply three chords really loud and fast). At that point, I took down my Eddie poster, gave away my copy of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and shoved my Rush and Yes concert shirts into the darkest recesses of my closet. For the next several years, these bands became a guilty and ironic pleasure (something to play during band practice as a joke because we thought REM and The Cult were cooler than this clearly "lame" stuff). It seemed clear that those earlier records were something best enjoyed by children.

So, as a test to see whether this stuff had some connection with youth (or even extreme youth, as Pooper was acting as my guinea pig), I turned off Rush and put on a videotape of two clearly cooler bands with basic song structures: Modest Mouse and Guided by Voices. Pooper's face fell. He literally started crying.

Which brings me to a potential revelation: Perhaps we, as presumeably more sophisticated writers, view "fantastical" stories with talking dragons, monkeys, etc., the same way we tend to view Rush when we reach high school -- dorky, overblown, and for the younger set who has yet to kiss a girl. And maybe this is why so-called "genre" fiction gets such a bad rap -- it is clearly uncool, unnecessarily complicated, and, most importantly, serves to punch all those pleasure buttons we had in childhood. And maybe this is why the large man can blithely claim that a fantastic story is clearly lower on the evolutionary ladder than a "realistic" one, because kids like the fantastic.

After the experiment was over, I switched back to Rush, and Pooper settled in to take a nap in the crook of my elbow. That's when the first twinkling notes of one of my childhood favorites came on, and the power and wisdom of Rush really poured over me. I began to realize that they had had the same revelation concerning form that I had just had over 25 years earlier. To quote Neil Peart as sung by Geddy Lee, "it's really just a question of your honesty" -- and maybe that's the real answer to the argument over what makes a story a good one.


dunkeys said...

Though your evidence would never fly in my rhetoric classes, I think you've got a valid observation here -- but still, it depends on the book, don't you think? I mean, anti-genre-ness may certainly be a bias because people call it juvenile (who is this large guy, by the way? Frank? Ethan?) . . . but a lot of genre fiction IS stupid, which also helps account for that bias.

What authors like Dean Koontz, for example, try to do with their fiction rarely goes beyond entertainment. Many fantasy writers are the same (all those goofy star wars spin-offs, for example). They're fun, but they don't try to inspire readers to more deeply experience life.

But -- and I think Kevin mentioned him somewhere else -- much of Italo Calvino's fiction is arguably "fantasy," and the same can be said of the work of other writers (Barth, Barthelme, Borges, Gardner's Grendel, to name a few). So it's not like "genre" excludes literariness.

If there is an implicit bias against genre fiction, and if that bias exists because a cloud of immaturity surrounds the word "genre," some writers still manage to ignore that bias and use the form's stronger elements (myth, magic) while remaining faithful to what I think "defines" literature: that attempt to inspire its readers.

I don't know who you think gives genre fiction a bad rap, or what their reasons are (again -- the large man? Does he have one arm, Alex?), but I'm guessing those people aren't thinking the issue through.

I do wonder if the fact that fantasy fiction more closely resembles dreams is what makes it appealing to kids; maybe it approximates the weird way they see the world; that was certainly true for me as a child, at least. To use film as an example: I had no idea that Oz wasn't a 3-dimensional place when I was younger -- sure, I knew it wasn't real, but the forest seemed realistic enough. Which is absurd now -- a bunch of cutouts against a dark wall were "real" to my childish mind; my young perspective allowed for a more blurred reality.

I think good genre fiction uses that blur -- to be as deep and meaningful as most fiction, but with some magic tossed in.

(Now that was a ramble.)

Brando said...

Funny that this just came up, because Salon just ran a long article about H.P. Lovecraft, one of my genre idols as a teen.

Most genre fiction is very creative stuff. Lovecraft, for instance, had an incredibly original, detailed mythology that supported most of his stories. But the reason most of it doesn't hold up is because it lacks craft. I *loved* the Elric series when I was in junior high. Albino anti-hero, soul-eating sword, chaotic beings from the outer planes...I ate it up. Then, when I was in my early 20s, I decided to read the series again. It was *terrible*. Still creative, still imaginative, but the writing was atrocious. I mean, for God's sake, the series ends with the aforementioned sword coming to life as a sentinent being, slaying our (anti)hero, saying, "My poor sweet Elric, I was a thousand times more evil than thou," and then cackling maniacally through the literary equivalent of the fade out.

How did I not notice this? I wondered. The answer: I was 12.

That's the heart of the matter, I think. This stuff -- be it certain books, movies, or songs -- invoke a whole trunkload of memories that make it hard to be objective about it's quality. I know "Still of the Night" is a terrible song, but when I hear it, I don't think, "This really rips off Led Zeppelin." Instead, I remember my friend getting his Datsun up to 100 on the Capitol Beltway just as the solo started.

Having said that, Rush fucking rulz!

kclou said...

I think genre fiction has been getting a fair bit of love lately. McSweeney's makes a point to hype it up, and the New York Times Book Review, under its new editor, has certainly devoted more time to it. Even before Chabon won the Pulitzer, comic books were getting attention from authors most consider literary. The old editor of the NYTBR, Charles McGrath, wrote a long piece not long ago arguing, basically, that graphic novels are the future of fiction.

I would say that the virtues of genre fiction, comic books, graphic novels, etc. are not being ignored. I often think that they're being exaggerated, honestly.

To be fair, a lot of that stuff has never been my thing, though earnest conversions have been attempted by friends in the past.

Grendel said...

I think Miles Davis said it best when asked what kind of music he liked. "There are two kinds of music: Good music and bad music."

That is so true of everything. It's only when individual works are stacked together into categories that the notion of "genre" even emerges as a topic and generalized statements can be thrown around.

By any measure, "Hell Boy" is a better movie than "The Emperor's Club." It just is. "Babe" is superior to "Mystic River." "Finding Nemo" kicks the crap out of "Gosford Park." These are just my opinions, but that doesn't mean they're not absolutely correct. The former examples succeed in terms of intelligence, emotional connection, coherence, imagination, and execution, and the latter ones fall down in one or more of those categories.

The best piece I read during my time at the workshop was Ben James's "The Mole Song." This was a novella about a half-mole, half-boy who went around digging up ginseng for a living and being jealous of his sister's boyfriend. But I connected emotionally with that mole-boy more deeply and profoundly than with any other character in those two years. Plus, it was excellently written. (Ethan, in whose novella workshop it appeared, would disagree -- and did.)

Rush is better than Hootie and the Blowfish, Yes was better than The Cars, and Genesis was better than Mac Davis.

"100 Years of Solitude" is better than "The World According to Garp." As art, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" is better than "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

But when you start *categorizing,* the sheer weight of the preponderant terrible quality of most genre fiction, film, and rock immediately and decisively slams down the other side of the teeter-totter. There's the bad rap. There is a lot more good domestic realist character-driven fiction than there is good dream-logic fantastical character-driven fiction. Which, to me, by the way, means the former is *easier* to write well than the latter -- which is the precise opposite of what Ethan claimed in his fiction seminar.

Nobody will ever convince me that there is anything *inherently* superior about fiction that disallows magic compared to fiction that doesn't. If anyone thinks that, it's just their opinion, and they're welcome to it.

El Gordo de Amore said...

The large man will remain anonymous -- it makes him more archetypal to me -- kind of like BOB from Twin Peaks before we found out who he was.

I guess what I was also trying to get at is that it is perfectly acceptable to say comic books, fantasy, romance, etc., is lesser than "literary fiction." People will rarely jump on you for that, and people like the large man feel no need to try to explain themselves when they disparage those stories or their writers. But, if you say the opposite, people will often hand your ass to you, and feel justified in doing so.

And this is what makes genre fiction like Rush -- someone says Rush sucks, you apologize, smirk, and say something about how much you liked 2112 when you were 12. Rush is O.K. to criticize.

But if you say the Beatles suck ass -- you must explain yourself.

TLB said...

But what happens when you think BOTH Rush and the Beatles suck ass? Other than your husband thinking you're insane.

Pete said...

Don't you think it has as much to do with shame as it doesn with maturity? Because I don't like Danzig any less than I like "good" music, I just know that other people tend to, or at least pretend to, so I don't argue with them.

Maturity is often no more than a fig leaf.

Case in point: after resisting it for years, I recently started playing dungeons and dragons again. It's fucking great. I'm even the dungeon master. And while I'm not ashamed of the pleasure the game gives me, I also know that some people think I should be, that engaging in such escapism is the first step back into the womb, or at least, breastfeeding. So I'm careful about who I admit this to.

To be honest, I've written five aborted versions of this post because I knew that to do it I'd have to admit to dungeon mastery and that you guys might think less of me. But you know: fuck it. At least I don't watch Rush DVDs.

(That's a joke, Gordo. I think we have pretty similar tastes in music.)

El Gordo de Amore said...

Dude -- I'm totally sicking an ochre jelly on your ass.

dunkeys said...

You guys are nerds! Rush sucks and D&D is for losers! (Raymond Carver is totally boss, though.)

Easy lame joke aside, El Gordo, are you implying that Ethan is your father? And Grendel -- did you ever read the second part of The Mole Song?

There seems to be a general argument here that 'good' is in the eye of the beholder; that it's only 'shame' or 'maturity' that shifts our tastes. This is a pretty post-modern argument, isn't it? Even if you secretly like Rush, do you really think they're as good as The Beatles? That's a sincere question, not rhetorical. Is 'goodness' only a matter of opinion? I know this is a goofy question . . . but it's something people like Adorno and Horkheimer freaked out about for years. Is there a hierarchy of culture? Can there be one -- and how do you defend your answer if you think yes? (Again, not rhetorical.)

kclou said...

TS Eliot offers an interesting argument:

"No poet, no artist, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists . . . what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified buy the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them . . . the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art towards the whole are readjusted . . . the past . . . altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past" (Tradition and the Individual Talent).

Pete, dungeon master? I'm sorry. I CANNOT give you a free pass on this one.

TLB said...

It seems that people DO believe there is a hierarchy of culture, whether or not they will admit to subcribing to it. And I don't expect anyone here to do so. We're both simultaneously made to feel embarrassed if we say we do subscribe, because that makes us snobs, and embarrassed if we don't, because then we must be sheep, no better than those poor half-literate writers we enjoyed in our childhoods.

Seriousness and the deep experiences of life do not seem to be the issue. I was made to feel I should have been ashamed of putting up a workshop story that used science-fiction elements, even though they were in service to a question that's every bit as serious as my *realistic* fiction. So many great writers use magic, spirits, fantastic characters, futurisitic worlds, but it seems that only writers of already-established reputations for writing *serious literary* fiction are given the benefit of the doubt when they do. Is the use of these elements really subjective, or is there some general agreement that only in the *best* hands (whichever those are) these elements add, rather than detract, from the fiction?

I'm thinking of stories like Beloved, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Fahrenheit 451, Frankenstein. Their fantastical elements are different and are put to different purposes, but who gets to decide which is Great Literature and which is shit? Is Shakespeare a lesser artist for having a ghost be the prime mover in Hamlet or witches in Macbeth, or Prospero the sorcerer in The Tempest, or do we only forgive him these infidelities to Serious Writing because of his other plays and poems? If he had only written stories with fantastical elements, would we think he was a hack? I have a suspicion that if Shakespeare were writing today he would be lumped in with Stephen King.

There is always going to be subjectivity in deciding what is great and what isn't. Part of that can be ascribed to our own personal preferences in why we read. Grendel mentions "The Mole Song," which I read in that same novella class. Though I thought it was well-written and interesting, it never touched me the way it did Grendel, and I forgot about it almost as soon as I put it down, which I didn't do with, say, City of Clowns, or even "Dragomonos," my dear Grendel. (The fact that I remember the title should show you it made an impression on me.) In re-reading "Wuthering Heights," as I'm doing at the moment, I'm reminded that the ghost-story aspects of it aren't as interesting as the parts that lead up to it; and yet, I wonder if the story would stand the same test of time without them.

However, I am aware that as a woman, Emily Bronte will never be taken as seriously as, say, William Wordsworth, no matter that her writing is a million times more entertaining and just as serious. Now *that's* a statement meant for provocation. Discuss.

I do hate the Beatles. They're so boring, so repetitive. I won't force myself to listen to them just because the entire Free World thinks they're great. There. *Sniff* I said it, I finally said it!

Pete said...

Dunks- I want to make a couple things clear, considering I put forth the fig leaf argument.

1) I don't think it's just a question of shame, but I think that's part of it. At least when it comes to "guilty" pleasures. (Why guilty? How is this a moral question?) But there are a lot of things we grow out of not because they shame us but because they can't keep up with our increasingly complex understanding of the world around us.

2) How much I enjoy something is not strictly parallel to how "good" I think it is. I think "Das Boot" is a great movie. But nine times out of ten, I'd rather watch "Labyrinth." Then again, I wouldn't advocate a strict distinction between enjoyability and quality; one can't really exist without at least a little bit of the other.

3) I refuse to be defensive about my dungeon mastery. We are, after all, the dorks we mock. So bring it on!

Brando said...

First of all, there is no shame in D&D. I had a bad psychological experience involving the game, a game convention, and my first exposure to adult RPGers. It honestly ruined the game for me. But I still play videogames a lot and refuse to take any shit for it. Had someone like Pete been at that convention in 1985, maybe I'd still be rolling saving throws today.

I personally don't believe in the culture hierarchy. A good book/movie/song is just that, irrespective of genre. But getting older, I found myself becoming more critical of genres I used to love unconditionally. For instance, with Rush, there are just certain songs/albums I won't touch anymore. They simply feel silly to me now. But there are others I will rock out to with the white hot fury of the Red Star of the Solar Federation.

A "guilty pleasure," on the other hand, is something I intellectually know isn't very good/original, but which I love anyway. I can defend Rush. I can't really defend REO Speedwagon. I know they were more or less musical hacks. Yet when I heard the synchopated thump of "Don't Let Him Go" on the radio the other day, that knob got turned to 11 and I sang all the way to Coralville.

Pete said...

Brando: "Bad psychological experience" begs to be described in detail.

I gave it up the first time when I was fourteen. The kids I had played with started wearing cloaks, speaking in thees and thous and earnestly claiming to have magical powers. They'd go to the cemetery to hunt demons. So I started listening to more punk rock and found some new friends.

But I do plan, someday, to write a nonfiction book about rpg culture. It's fucking intriguing. I've tried in the past to incorporate it into my fiction but it's just too gimmicky.

Grendel said...

All of us have within us our own private versions of the hierarchy of culture. If we didn't compare things to each other and hold up one or the other as superior, then there would be no personal standard to try and achieve for ourselves, no? To the extent that our private, interior hierarchy deviates from the amorphous, shifting, but still discernible public hierarchy -- that is the extent the shame and the guilt, perhaps. Or maybe it's not shame and guilt, maybe it's just our tacit acknowledgment of the discrepancy between enthusiasm and appreciation.

Enjoyment, as Pete and Brando point out, can be separated from admiration and respect. I never really thought about that before. But as I do, in every case I can think of, I discover that nostalgia is mixed in somewhere. I am developing an unexpected soft spot for Supertramp, for example. I never liked Supertramp in my life. I would never listen to them on purpose. But lately ... I totally dig every Supertramp song I hear (in fact, I just had to get up and put on "Goodbye Stranger" at top volume just thinking about it). And I think it's because that cheesy old AOR bread and butter band was part of the radio soundtrack to my adolescencent struggles. When I hear it, somewhere inside me, memories and experiences are touched, like organ keys, and emotionally replayed. Who knows what is semisurfacing in my subconscious nowadays that occurred with a Supertramp background? I believe every experience we ever had is stored in us somewhere. At any rate, they are different keys than the ones that are played when Rush comes on. Those keys were deliberate ones, often wrong ones, lonely ones, confused ones, angry ones. But hearing Supertramp was random. If you'd said to me back then, "One day you will enjoy Supertramp more than Rush," I would have never stopped laughing at you.

So nostalgia is a context we bring to artistic experiences that, over the years, can work one way or the other. With Rush, I'm in a down swing. It's just not ironic enough yet. I wounded myself with that shit. I was obsessed with that band to the point that the day "Signals" came out, I called up my friends and gave away all my non-Rush albums -- including all my Beatles albums, even the White Album with the poster still in it. "I have decided I can exist on Rush alone," I explained as they greedily sorted and argued through my collection. That night I worried that I had gone too far. I felt sick. And the next day I asked for all of them back. From then, I began to distance myself...

Sorry -- gotta go dance around my living room. "The Logical Song" just came on.

Grendel said...

To Dr. Dunkenstein: No, I never read Part II. Didn't know there was one. Please illuminate me!

ian said...

Grendel, "Dragomonos" fucking rocked. I don't care what most of that workshop, including Ethan, said. I stand by what I believed then: It's publishable.

As for genre fiction—and since I've written a 300-page Star Trek: The Next Generation novel in my life, I know from genre fiction—I think that when genre fiction becomes great literature, it's because the author wants to write in that genre, but also wants to investigate/subvert the conventions of that genre. Take the paramount example, Hamlet. Shakespeare took the conventions of the revenge drama and combined them with a traditional ghost story, and in doing so created a metaphysical drama that went about 100 million light years beyond either the revenge drama or the ghost story.

I'm a little tipsy, so this isn't very thought out. I'll contribute more when I'm sober.

Supertramp rulez. I never got Rush, tho.

dunkeys said...

I'm absolutely a snob!

As such, I've been totally into INXS lately. The riffs and Hutchence's voice -- just awesome. Awesome the way Top Gun is awesome ("gutsiest move I ever saw, Mav"). Awesome the way Arizona Wildcats basketball is awesome. Awesome the way nacho cheese is awesome: though is isn't necessarily 'bad' for you, you also know it's not "good" for you, and still you love it.

That's my definition of guilty pleasure (pretty much the same as Brando's): taking pleasure in things that are a bit cheap, things that indulge our less sophisticated (read: intellectual) demands, where the pleasure we derive is lazy and/or ironic -- "thoughtless" pleasure, or something approaching thoughtless pleasure; things we "just like."

I think maybe there are differences between "guilty pleasures," "youthful pleasures" (things that were magical to us as children, maybe?), and "intellectual pleasures" (which aren't necessarily pleasurable; it's often the challenge that's the pleasure with them: see JJ's Ulysses).

A "genre" work can be any of the above. It just depends on what it's trying to be -- and that, I think, is how we judge it. At least, that's how I try to judge things.

For example, in terms of film, I think Ocean's Eleven is a tremendous movie -- in terms of being entertaining. It doesn't hold a candle to something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind . . . but to try and compare the two would be silly. Apples and oranges. It's like comparing Hamlet to Titus Andronicus. Or The OC to The Sopranos. And so on.

Anyway: Grendel, Mole Song II was introspective and meditative and character-driven, a shift from its fairy tale roots. I found it disappointing. (Others involved here did not, though.)

And TLB, I just looked at my comments on "Double Helix" (I save everything; yes, I'm a freak) and nowhere was I critical of its genre aspects.

(Sorry -- I was feeling defensive for a moment.)

kclou said...

Trying to decide, independent of context, which is the more remarkable comment--"I have a suspicion that if Shakespeare were writing today he would be lumped in with Stephen King," or "I have decided I can exist on Rush alone." What a strange thread!

TLB said...

Dunkeys, you must be feeling defensive--I didn't say YOU did it, and I would be sorry if I thought I implied such.

Pete said...

A proposal, in honor of Earth Goat's first 20 comment thread:

Abstracted definitions are one thing, proofy pudding is another. I think we should all (or as many of us as are interested) should write what aims to be the literary equivalent of a Rush song (or Supertramp, or Thin Lizzy). Then we can share.

(I've already started one and I'm looking for an excuse to finish it. It's a zombie story.)

El Gordo de Amore said...

How about this -- Pete assigns each of us who are willing a monster from the D&D Monster Manual (or any of its subsequent additions), based on the throw of some ridiculously-sided dice (was there something bigger than 20?). Then, we each have a set amount of time to produce our stories, we turn them in, and somehow they become linked to the Goat. I'm totally up for that.

If anything, I see this as a good writing exercise, and potentially really fun. Can we, as artists, create something decent from such humble and crap-ass beginnings? I think that would be a challenge worth undertaking.

As a side note, when Kerry drove me to work today, my rendition of "Bytor and the SnowDog" almost made Kerry crash the car in her mirth at my rumbling basslines and "snarling" guitar. She kept asking, "Is that really how the song goes? Really?"

Chicks man -- they don't know what's good.

Grendel said...

* TLB and ian: thanks for the Dragomonos props. I think I'm getting close to being able to look at that again. Maybe another sweep through and then I'll send it off somewhere (any suggestions?). And was that Star Trek novel published?!

* Pete: I think my novel qualifies. There's more otherworldy magic in it than I really know what to do with. I've almost lost the handle on it. Keep it up with the zombies. Not enough quality zombie fiction out there.

* El Gordo: I guess ye'll not be cryin' aboot a lack o' fuckin' comments on this one, eh?

* Dunkeyshines: Is Ocean's Twelve a worthy sequel?

Brando said...

I know for a fact there was a 30-sided die available, and I seem to recall their was a 100-sided one made, but they may have been just a dream.

El Gordo, I hope your learned your lesson on comment mining:

--Biblical excavation: next!
--Babies rocking out to Canadian prog: gold!

I also should add the disclaimer that I not only saw Rush last year, I flew to the other side of the country to do so, and also went crazy when they played "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." This was after yelling out "fuck yeah!" when I heard the opening notes of "The Trees." I need help.

As for my traumatic experience at my first (and only) gaming convention, that sounds like post for Jane's Calamity....

Brando said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SER said...

I have nothing to add. I just wanted to get in on the comment orgy that was occurring. Woooooooo!

ian said...

Does anyone else remember an episode of a early-to-mid 1980s TV show o a made-for-TV movie or an afterschool special, in which a teenage boy (of course) gets "in over his head" (I'm trying to write this without laughing) playing D&D and, like, kills himself or something. Or am I just imagining this?

Brando said...

"Role-playing gamer goes nuts" was a neat little subgenre of pop culture in the 1980s. None other than two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks starred in "Mazes and Monsters," where he played a college student who goes crazy and becomes his character. It was terrible on ever scale of cultural hierarchy imaginable. There were definitely others -- I remember reading a novel called "Hobgoblin" that featured a similar storyline.

Hurricane Earle said...

When I was twelve my mother watched an episode of Geraldo about links between D&D and Satanism, then snuck into my bedroom, gathered up all of my gaming equipment, and threw it away. I swear to God. Gone forever. I had an upper level cleric who was basically unkillable. I had a hundred-sided die. (It looked like a golf ball.) I also was once a dungeon master. I showered all gaming parties with riches. (Hence the cleric.) Now that I think about it, writing up little descriptions of all of the rooms in the dungeons I designed was probably my first foray into the world of creative writing. And maybe this is why the mothers in my stories are always either alcoholics or dead! I think I've made a breakthrough here.

ian said...

That's it, Brando! Thank you. Awesome.

Grendel: The Star Trek novel was not published. It's still extant, however, 300 dot-matrix pages inside a blue binder in a box in my parent's garage. I dug it out at Xmas to show Brooke a) she lives with a dork and b) I really can finish a novel.

Vampiro said...

Yes, I too had my D&D as direct link to Satan's Domain experiences. I think that the crazy evangelical churches I went to as a kid devoted one Sunday School a month to tales of demonic possession caused by D&D. The only one I remember is a story of a mother who, like Earl's, secretly took all her son's D&D stuff, threw it into a metal trashcan and dropped in a match. As the flames rose, the story went, the howls of exorcised demons could be heard a half-block away.

So of course I wanted to play. Badly.

I also remember this one DM I met was an astonishing storyteller. He didn't prepare, didn't bother with screens and hex maps and modules. He just made up stories on the spot, highly detailed stories with fantastic physical details and descriptions. The guy was really amazing, and the games he ran were fun as all hell.

But then, he was pushing 30, living in a trash-filled shack behind his mom's restaurant where he washed dishes, hanging out with 13 & 14 year old kids with whom he sometimes offered to share his pornography collection.

El Gordo de Amore said...

God willing, I will one day be that guy.

Pete said...

That guy exists in every town.

In Brookline, he was a she, 32, sallow skinned, greasy haired and unusually short. She made cloaks for and had sex with all the guys who, at that point, were former semi-friends of mine. I remember being both disgusted and envious: a peculiarly Catholic combination.

Holy shit, I think I'll write a story about that chick. Thanks for the inspiration.