Q: Why are you trying to engage with these people? You know they won’t listen.
A: Good point. It’s a consistent hope with me that I can get through to people, make them understand things and accept opposing points of view even if they don’t agree with them. Perhaps that simply can’t be done in a lot of cases. Not to pick on religion exactly, but as an atheist I end up in a lot of debates with people who operate on faith and that acts like a brick wall that you simply cannot – normally – get through. When it comes to certain ideologies and other ideas I think they can end up operating along the same lines, so maybe it’s pointless and I should reassess. The problem I have is that some good points of genuine crit and suggestion will sometimes turn up amongst the slime, but maybe it’s just not worth wading through the slime to get to it.
I’ll have to rethink. Engaging just seems to make them worse.
Q: Have you engaged with any of the online Gor fan communities? I know there is a vibrant Gorean RPG community on AOL (still) and Second Life (but I’ve never been there myself). If so, how has that engagement impacted your design/writing process? Have you made any mechanical changes based on feedback from the folks who’ve been RPing Gor all these years?
A: I haven’t managed to engage directly with the Gorean community particularly, though I have talked to a few people who have RPed Gor (and derivatives from it) online in various ways – IRC, SecondLife etc – to consult with them. I’ve also looked around many of the larger Gorean web pages, visited homepages for Gorean ‘Sims’ and done what I can. I’ve been impressed with a great deal of what they have done, but many of these groups are rather insular and hard to contact. I’ve left queries on a few fora but it’s proving very difficult to contact people directly.
Ultimately, though, I couldn’t let that guide me much more than giving me a few design goals by seeing the kind of play and things they were engaging in. ‘Online-isms’ as they’re called, couldn’t make it into an authorised Gorean RPG, nor could anything that strays too far from the material in the books (Panther Girls are much more popular online for example, and much more successful and powerful than they are in the books).
Fans are great and often keep games, books and whole worlds ticking along during empty patches. The downside of this is that with no ‘official’ support fans can get rather territorial and fierce about their own ideas. Examples from gaming would include SLA Industries and the LARP society of Vampire the Masquerade. It’s great that people buy in so fiercely and are so devoted, but in working on a property you have to step back a bit from that.
That said, I’d love to talk to more people from the communities and spread the word about the project.
My hope is that even those who aren’t interested in a tabletop RPG, WILL be interested in the worldbook as a reference and creative aid.
Q: James, as someone who is not a fan of the Gor books, what could I find interesting and attractive in this game to make one want to support it? What is the selling point to a non-Gor fan?
A: I think it’s a well-realised and thought-out society from its initial premises. So while not as fantastical or away-with-the-fairies as a lot of planetary romance settings, it retains fantastical elements while being a bit more grounded and gritty. From my point of view, it being a world where nothing is clearly black and white is more appealing and interesting than one where good and evil are easily delineated. There’s also the challenge that Gor’s society and cultural cues and morals are wildly different to ours. Something else that is interesting and arguably much more alien (and hence interesting) than a lot of even ‘hard’ SF.
Also, if we raise enough cash, Manning’s art should be fantastic.
Q: Why did you emphasise those parts of the book? (Trans people being killed and those horrifying secluded slaves).
A: Well, the gender representation thing is a hot topic at the moment so I felt it was worth addressing and looking at within the context of the world and the fact is that Gor is a harsh world with some rather nasty sides to it. The slaying of (most) of the deformed (and ‘deformed’) is decidedly Spartan, nasty and difficult, but it would be disingenuous to ignore or and simply wrong of me to alter the world. Plus, to correct the question a little, it would be those with visible genital abnormalities, not ‘trans’ per se, but intersex.
The worldbook entries I’ve chosen have largely been chosen because they fit nicely into a blog format and not much other reason!
I do think the ‘exotics’ are an interesting aspect and between the Gorean bred exotics and the various breeds created by the Kur there’s a good deal that reminds me of Dougal Dixon’s Man After Man. I mean, the Kur – monstrous creatures – breed humans for meat as we would cattle, yet are the humans on the Gorean world any better? The potential plasticity of the human form is amazing and one wonders how far slave breeders could push it. I also think there are parallels with plastic surgery, body modification and so on ,so you could use some of these horrors as social commentary.
I also think it’s a good illustration of the wild extremes of Gorean society, this is the ‘veal calf’ issue of the Gorean world and illustrates both the extremes of cruelty, the dehumanisation of (many) slaves – who are treated legally as livestock – and the arrogant, debauched, degenerate nature of many of the wealthier, higher castes.
Q: Do you consider the Gorean world to be misogynistic?
A: That sounds like an easy question, but it isn’t especially. It’s certainly male dominated and tends strongly to the patriarchal but is it misogynistic? To say that Goreans men hate women – which is, after all, the meaning of misogyny – doesn’t seem accurate. Goreans prize women, seek women, fight for women, put themselves in harm’s way to gain women, enter into free companionships, work for women, guard women and so on, so ‘misogyny’ doesn’t quite seem to be the right word.
A certain amount of comparison could be drawn between Gorean society and Islamic states. You can argue that Islam (and to be fair, the other Abrahamic faiths) are misogynistic but, similarly, that’s not entirely accurate. From their point of view they are venerating and protecting women and wouldn’t say that they hate them, so we need something else as a description.
It is oppressive, or at least dangerous, for women.
Free women are venerated, protected, served and honoured, but greatly constricted by the society’s rules.
It’s slaves – of either gender – who are at the sharp end of all the worst aspects of the society.
Q: What’s with the hats?
A: I have no idea why certain people are so obsessed with hats (especially fedoras). It’s been a bit of a theme lately. The honest answer is that meeting my ‘game design heroes’ has been a consistently disappointing experience as, frankly, most of us designers are balding, middle-aged men in faded T-shirts, however interesting our ideas. I try and ‘rock star’ it up a bit to compensate. It’s also the same reason I often wear a suit at cons.