Would Carcosa have worked with sorcery some degrees less horrid? I think the answer to this question is positive. It could still have been strange and possessed of hidden menace, it could still have come with a hideous price, and been ultimately wrong and fruitless. And that is the real tragedy of Carcosa. The questions it could have asked are not being considered because they are asked so harshly that the only response is the conditional reflex of rejection and moral outrage (or moral outrage over moral outrage!). There is no discussion about the majesty of the rest of Carcosa, the sheer alien beauty of a world bathed in the colours of jale, dolm and ulfire (hues unknown on our planet); no campaign ideas are raised about the very first successful transplantation of H. P. Lovecraft’s cosmic mysteries into fantasy roleplaying and seeing the Mythos from a yet unknown, genuinely original angle. There are precious few to appreciate the cleverness of mixing swords, sorcery and weird technology, the loving homages to the Wilderlands, Gamma World, Gygaxian fantasy, Tékumel, which nevertheless do not feel like cheap imitation, but rather new and original. The best, most authentic and imaginative old school supplement I have known has been written, where every phrase radiates a mastery of language (who could resist a spell named “The Exoteric Consuming”, words like “ultratelluric” or an NPC named “The Autocrator”?) and a sense of adventure, and what are we discussing? The morality of writing about child rape? Is this what we will take away from Carcosa? That is my suspicion: that it will not go down as Carcosa, the fanmade supplement that rightfully deserved to be called Supplement V. (or outdid the others, even...), but Carcosa, the Child Rape Game. And who will want to buy, read and play that? People being transgressive for the sake of being transgressive? And even if that is an appreciative target audience, is it really the best one to have?I really have nothing to add.
In the end, I think Carcosa is a lesser work for these reasons. It did not need to be sanitised, like so much of the boring escapist fantasy that surrounds us. It need not have had that embarrassingly cutified degeneration of the domesticated Cthulhu Mythos we can buy in the forms of plush figures and cute green slippers. But in some cases, less is more. With a little restraint, Carcosa would have been the greatest evocation of a sort of primal, original, authentic fantasy that makes you say ‘Hell yes!’; the sort you just can’t buy in stores anymore. Some of it – most of it – is still that. But precious few will see those parts.
Some lines are not meant to be crossed, and there are sometimes good reasons for that.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Melan said it so I don't have to: