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From: Joel Priddy <jpriddy@saturn.vcu.edu>
Subject: (urth) Wolfe RPGs
Date: Wed, 28 May 97 10:18:41 EDT

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

So I was looking at the web page for the New Sun GURPS game,
and am very curious as to how it's going. I admit that my first
reaction was horror that anyone would even make the attempt. Then
I saw that our very own mantis was at the wheel.

  Back in the old days, when the internet didn't have visuals and I
was in school, a friend of mine and I were given a big chunk of
server in order to run a virtual-community project. We were
looking at MUSHes at one point, and briefly (very, very briefly)
considered a New Sun themed MUSH. One reason we decided against
it was that (and this may sound tired to any one who has read
enough reviews of Wolfe over the years) the aspect that makes
books mesmerizing has more to do with the style and the
atmosphere than the specific attributes of, say, an alzebo or a
destrier. And since you can't quantify style, you won't be able to
maintain it with all (or perhaps any) of the participants. And
without the style to lay over New Sun, a MUSH based on it would
look a lot like a MUSH based on Gamma World, or even Thundar the
  Of course, we didn't have nearly the understanding of the New
Sun's environs that mantis has. A major part of that "atmosphere"
we appreciated so much was a sense of wonder at all the
opaque phrases and names. This is the level on which we (or at
least I) was reading the New Sun on: given evocative but largely
uncommunicative language, one's own imagination filled in all the
details, creating a fantastic landscape that is also highly
personal for each reader.
  (I was neck deep in communication theory at the time, so this
idea of noncommunication in order to spark the audience's
imagination really appealed to me, and perhaps I leapt too quickly 
to ascribe everything Wolfe
was doing to the single explanation of "closure." Just as I now
have to resist explaining everything away as Catholicism)

  Later, as I read more about the New Sun books, I learned that
in fact the language did represent specific ideas, that there was
an idea behind each bizarrely-named creature or weapon or
character. The term "destrier" isn't supposed to merely conjure
up an exotic or alien war horse, but is a
genetically-engineered animal with very detailed attributes. So
maybe my reservations regarding the ability to diagram the Urth
for RPG purposes were misplaced.

So, What I'm trying to get around to is: how's it going? Is the
translation from novel to RPG working? Is the style, spirit and
philosophy surving the process? How many character points does it
cost to wax melancholy any given moment?


PS Now, while I considered New Sun an impossible task, the entire
time I was reading Long Sun, almost from page one, I was
translating it into GURPS format in my the back of my head. This
is an old habit that I'm sure lots of people here can relate to.

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