Recently in Intent Category
When I saw the full moon in the sky during the pre-dawn drive to work, I knew it was time to shutter up Schmeldritch. Otherwise, people might wonder if Book Three has started or not, and you might as well say it has: once the interludes are over, we tend to get pretty quiet here in favor of EldritchErrors.com to help new players jump in. It is always so hard to avoid indulging in one brief William Castle moment before shuttering this place up, though. It will be the first Schmeldritch post new participants stumble into for a while. This time, I might even indulge and give myself two brief moments to set that stage.
It goes without saying that the Eldritch crew thinks I'm insane, they've grown used to the mad scientist cackle coming from my office from time to time. My expectations for "Red Moon Rising" are obviously higher than they were even for "Scream in the Mountains," and after that many of us were going "holy crap!" May I recommend that experienced participants change their tin foil hats daily during Book Three and leave it at that?
For new participants, welcome to the party, you're still fashionably early. Don't worry that Eldritch Errors has been going since last April, Book Three was developed with you in mind. It was also developed with Book One participants in mind, as well, so you'll have lots to discover together. You might even argue that new participants only missed the confusing, complicated setup to the real action.
Until we see each other again, I leave you with a quote from Lovecraft: "I hate the moon - I am afraid of it - for when it shines on certain scenes familiar and loved it sometimes makes them unfamiliar and hideous."
The Quiet Zone is one of the strangest chunks of real estate in North America, and an "alternate history" of how it came to be lies at the heart of the tale we're asking participants to dive into with Eldritch Errors. If Book One was in part inspired by real Sentries, then Book Two was inspired at least in part by the Guardian of the Quiet, Wesley Sizemore, an eye witness to the 1988 telescope collapse in Green Bank. This recent PBS & Wired Science segment on the Quiet Zone (noticed by Varin) explores the Zone further.
I've been writing for the last month about H.P. Lovecraft, meandering from talking about his work to his scientific leanings to his letter writing. It has made me look like such a tremendous geek (or at least that's what my commercial clients tell me.) Part of that was certainly to help illuminate what I mean when I say that Eldritch Errors is inspired more by the author than his works, but I also want to set up a more radical proposition. Lovecraft was working with ideas from the 21st century, but he was forced to explore them with 19th and 20th century technologies (such as letter writing instead of email.)
Lovecraft was an alternate reality game designer, a writer who believed his stories must be "devised with all the care & verisimilitude of an actual hoax," stories that he unfolded like forensic investigations. He was also an Open Source advocate and loved implied share alike licensing (although I suspect the license I linked too is more restrictive than what he believed in.) He delighted when others lifted references from his work and equally delighted incorporating their references back into his work. He had an intimate relationship with his readers, because he was frequently the one mailing them the manuscript to read. It shouldn't be surprising that tabletop gaming and non-tabletop gaming have so embraced his work (now public domain) and played such a key role in preserving and extending it.
Explaining what Eldritch Errors is presents challenges, both for those of us crafting the experience and for the participants involved in it. It is similar to a number of things: you can talk about how it is both like and unlike an alternate reality game, or how it is both like and unlike live action roleplaying games. Each of those labels works on some level for setting your expectations on the kinds of experiences you might have participating in Eldritch Errors, but they might also suggest things that aren't as true.
Describing what Eldritch Errors is should frankly be the job of the other site; I'm cheating if I have to do it here. However, there is no client whose ultimate needs must drive this production, so the intentions of what we hope to craft stem from the experiments that we want to explore, not from a marketing need. Eldritch Errors didn't appear from a vacuum; it is the continuation of past experiments that also shed a light on the kinds of experiences participants have already had ... and what you might expect from Eldritch Errors in the future.
H.P. Lovecraft wrote more letters than it is easy to imagine, unless of course you live in the Age of Email. Scholars conservatively estimate that he wrote over 100,000 letters in his life: they have about 10,000 preserved, and to publish even those unabridged would take 100 volumes each 400 pages long. About a thousand of them are in print across a few handfulls of volumes. For me, his letters are both his towering artistic achievement, and his towering creative achievement in developing his relationship with the fans he did have, fans who would end up preserving his work for all of us. Lovecraft tries to disavow the power of his letters in a paragraph that sound suspiciously like the way many emailers and bloggers would describe writing today:
"Nobody expects anything of a letter, or judges any man's style by one. Even when I write one by hand I pay no attention to rhetorick, but just sail along at a mile-a-minute pace ... If you were to analyse the language of this letter you would find it shot all to hell with solecisms and bad rhythms."
I can't let that stop me: there seems to be so much power in his letters, an easy elegence of style that smells suspiciously 21st century. In an essay that Lovecraft wrote defending his work "Dagon," for example, he penned a line that I think is among the most revealing glimpses into his soul as an artist: "There are probably seven persons, in all, who really like my work; and they are enough. I should write even if I were the only patient reader, for my aim is merely self-expression." Here's the story of one of those "seven persons" and a few of the tidbits from those letters that have shaped my view of Lovecraft.
In any unfolding mystery, speculation is at least as important as evidence. Now that I'm working on the new Evidence section for the Eldritch Errors main experience site, capturing that community speculation into pages about individual elements of the story is proving a challenge. After all, I don't want people to read into that speculation any "official status" but, at the same time, want to provide a springboard for new participants into the theories of their peers.
So I'm going to need your help. In the perfect world, we're writing all of each Evidence page except for the "speculation," where we're faithfully curating your various takes on the topics. This would be the place to help us do that, by posting your comments here with references on the best of that speculation. If you're feeling really froggy, start a Sentry Wiki page and submit that as your link!
We've got 28 different topics in 4 categories to take that first swipe at an Encyclopedia of Eldritch Errors, and our plan is to launch a handful of them each week. We might as well let you dump your speculation on the whole pile of them, though, so that you can imagine how they fit together as a set.
Here at Eldritch, we sometimes talk about Lovecraft's fears of what science would eventually uncover and what terrible vistas it would unlock. That really sells the Old Man of Providence terribly short. Lovecraft's stories are very frequently the myth of Pandora updated to the scientific age in horrible new ways, but Lovecraft wasn't an occultist or a mystic. He might have been a social reactionary in some ways, but he was also a futurist and a man of reason if not of letters. Lovecraft saw life as a battle between science and charlatanry.
In fact, the oldest surviving writing of his -- in 1906, at age 16 -- was a scathing letter about an astrologist:
"To the Editor of The Sunday Journal: In the Journal for May 17, I notice among the letters to the editor a set of astrological predictions for 1906. Passing over the fact that astrology is but a pseudo science, not entitled to intelligent consideration, I wish to call attention to a striking inaccuracy in the aforementioned article. Its writer mentions a transit of Mars over the sun in July. Of course, as Mars is a superior planet, or one outside of earth's orbit, it cannot transit over the sun."
Most people think of H.P. Lovecraft as a "weird fiction" horror hack. Neil Gaimen described his prose as "clotty with adjectival froth." More people have probably seen a "Chthulhu for President" bumper sticker than have read any of his actual stories. Much of what you even think of as Lovecraft isn't the Old Man's work -- the Mythos is a composite of hundreds of authors, filmmakers, and game designers over three-quarters of a century, none of them working from anything more than a loose playbook of continuity. Eldritch Errors is an apostrophy now in that long legacy of collective creativity.
Explaining why Lovecraft -- the author, the storyteller, the social critic -- became such a central part of the way I was thinking about the story I wanted to tell is difficult. The issues of computer security and my feelings about the "politics of the day" lead me to think alot about hopelessness and what to do if you feel insignificant in the face of huge forces. That summoned up Lovecraft metaphors from some deep part of my brain, not because I was fascinated with monsters or cults, but because I was fascinated with the way Lovecraft channeled his feelings about that topic into an artistic legacy that continues to be frighteningly modern.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to start trying to explain that. My attempts will likely be messy, perhaps even clotty with adjectival froth, and probably not of much interest to more serious Lovecraft scholars. There's something deep and fascinating in Lovecraft himself that his work is but one wrinkle of, and I'm going to focus much more on Lovecraft the scientific critic, and Lovecraft the correspondant in the age of letter writing, and Lovecraft the Open Sourcer, and Lovecraft the ARG developer.
If you're an Eldritch participant, though, and are trying to figure out if you even want to dive into Lovecraft, you deserve some water wings. Here's my personal suggestions.
As the capper on a romp of a chat with participants last night, I couldn't resist kinda-answering some of the questions about Book 3: When will it start? What will it be about? Will you be doing live events in my town finally? The short answer was: "Book 3 is called Red Moon Rising: you already know when the peak of that story is, and the duration will be shorter than Book 1 but longer than Book 2." People who have been participating in the story have been pondering the implications of that for a while.
While we never want to spoil where the story is headed for people, there are certain goals for the series that I also hinted at. I want you to get to meet all of the characters in the story so that they breathe beyond just text -- some of those are so special, that it is worth doing it right rather than doing it quick. I want Book 3 to tie up most of the loose ends dangling from Book 1 into a rough "first trilogy," but we have alot more story planned for you than that. If we can accomplish 75% of that in the first trilogy I'll be satisfied, as long as each Book continues to top the previous Book in every important way (without putting us in a position where we can't top ourselves again in the Book that follows.)