Sunday, September 22, 2013

Transmission Resumed

You know, of course, about the Suppressed Transmission.

But just in case this is the first you've heard of it, I shall Illuminate you. Back in 1998, Kenneth Hite, an all-around expert on conspiracy theory, Lovecraftania, and High Weirdness of all varieties, was given a column in Steve Jackson Games' Pyramid magazine for the purpose of writing about, well, conspiracy theory, Lovecraftania, and High Weirdness of all varieties. The column, Suppressed Transmission, became wildly popular, and a fraction of the columns were collected, annotated by Ken, and published in two highly-recommended collections.

Unfortunately, those collections represent the only currently available examples of the Transmissions, and official word is that further collections are not forth-coming (this based of the sales of the PDF versions of the books to date, hint hint), at least not this year. There is, however, another source for those desperate for a semi-regular, bite-sized pieces of weird brilliance - for the past few months, Pelgrane Press has been publishing articles by Ken under the precise, if prosaic, name of Ken Writes About Stuff - said Stuff consisting largely of (all together now) conspiracy theory, Lovecraftania, and High Weirdness of all varieties.

Now, I don't want to give anybody the wrong idea - despite my choice of post titles, there's no official continuity between the two projects. And indeed, there are a few significant differences - most striking, if not especially surprising, is the occasional reference to the GUMSHOE system rules, especially in the monster-centric ones. Lovecraftian monsters, of course - the one of these that I've read is "Hideous Creatures: Deep Ones", and a significant portion of the document is spent showing various ways that different skills could be used to detect Deep One activity. The ideas for giving different Deep Ones a variety of powers and motifs also tend towards the stat-specific, although they're quite useful apart from the system as well. Of course, there's plenty of ideas that aren't system-specific, too - the "world tour" of fish-men myths given a Lovecraftian slant felt especially close to the spirit of the Transmission.

The other KWAS that I've read thus far, "Die Glocke", is a much better example of the effect - Ken has himself described it as "essentially a double-length* "Suppressed Transmission" on" a lost (if it ever existed, which is in considerable doubt) Nazi science experiment. What, exactly, it might have been - options range from a nuclear testing device to a time machine - and where, exactly, it may have ended up is investigated in the typically far-ranging manner, with the system intruding only in the last few paragraphs which custom-fit the ideas into the various GUMSHOE settings.

Much like its Suppressed predecessor, the various KWAS installments cover a wide range of subjects - the "Hideous Creatures" sub-series is the most frequently recurring element, with articles covering not only Deep Ones but also Shoggoths, Ghouls, Mi-Go, and the Hounds of Tindalos - and that's just the ones that have been published or announced. There's very GUMSHOE-centric ones, under the "Zoom" sub-title (Martial Arts or Mind Control, anyone?), and more setting-heavy ones like the newly available "Moon Dust Men", which looks like it'll be all about the Cold War, UFOs, conspiracies, and the secret veil between the mundane and the fantastic.

A typical Ken Hite product, in other words.

BREAKING NEWS: Just before posting this, I have discovered that the entire first year's worth of Ken Writes About Stuff - including the ones yet to be published - is available as part of this week's Bundle of Holding collection. Ordinarily I would say that the ability to pick and choose the most interesting articles is, for a collection like this, an improvement over the subscription model. Given the Bundle's set-your-own price methodology, however, this week may present an opportunity to check out the whole range at a bargain price.

*He's being a bit modest here - the average Transmission takes up about three pages in the PDF collections, while the KWAS articles are 10 - 11 - counting the cover and title page, of course.