LITERATURE

edited May 2010 in Story Games
The link to gaming is tangible, I swear! We've talked about movies and their relations to games, but what about literature?

I'd like to know which three books you feel most influence your play/design.

The Rules: You cannot include the seminal works of certain sci-fi and fantasy genre authors. You know what I mean. Also, you cannot include any books that directly discuss RPG play/design. Literature, people!

Ok, go!

Comments

  • Man, Dhalgren has influenced everything I think about. Also, Derrida. And Greg Egan. And Bruce Sterling, and William Gibson of course.

    Usually, it works the other way around. Like, for the AW game I've been running, I've been read a lot Ballard.
  • I've played a good half dozen or so Australian Freeforms based on the romantic fiction of the Victorian Era...(eg. The Bronte Sisters), the actual number of them offered over the years is almost countless. For games of this type, where the mechanisms of system are at an absolute minimum, the links to established literature forms are deep.

    Beyond that I've run a few decent games based on specific texts such as Stephenson's "Treasure Island", a systemless freeform based on the collective works of HG Wells or more recently a Mage: the Ascension game based on Lukanyenko's "Night Watch" Series.
  • I'll go for the top three for affecting my current design, because trying to think what books affect my overall approach to games is wigging me out:

    1) The Mabinogion
    2) Beowulf
    3) Homer (Iliad + Odyssey)

    There's some much more modern stuff in there too, but I went for the three 'classics' having the biggest impact right now.

    Is George R.R. Martin "one of those guys"?
  • On Writing by Stephen King
    Fight Club by Palahniuk, for the edgy silliness.
    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.
  • Posted By: Potemkin
    The Rules: You cannot include the seminal works ofcertainsci-fi and fantasy genre authors. You know what I mean.
    Um, I don't? Other than Tolkien. Help a guy out.
  • Posted By: hans ottersonPosted By: Potemkin
    The Rules: You cannot include the seminal works ofcertainsci-fi and fantasy genre authors. You know what I mean.
    Um, I don't? Other than Tolkien. Help a guy out.

    Vance, Moorcock, maybe Zelazny.
  • Virginia Woolf, to encourage me to focus on the interior voice of characters.
    Franz Kafka, to remind me that the actions of my characters do not need to be explained or understood to be powerful.

    and Haruki Murakami, just because I want to live in that world.

    (Oh, I was supposed to name books but whatever, take your pick.)
  • I read tons of fairytales as soon as I could read. Slovenian, Russian, Estonian, Japanese, Chinese, Finnish...I think it shows.
    William S. Burroughs had a big impact on me, early in college Naked Lunch was the bomb, but what I really like is the mythic world in his last trilogy. I'm still flirting with his mental space a lot.
    And fuck it, Lovecraft. Not the Cthulhu mythos but the Dream cycle. Polaris. Sarnath. Kadath. Those names resonate.
    (also, if we're talking games, I think the fact that I discovered a box of my dad's Tarzan pulp paperbacks at my grandparent's house and stuff like King Solomon's Mines and Verne in my very early teens counts a lot).
  • I can't say how tangibly it has effected my play/design but as a Lit student, last year I did a module on the European Novel which ran the whole gamut from Goethe to Laxness.

    The authors that grabbed me (and it's probably no surprise) were Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Flaubert's Madame Bovary and my thoughts often turn to how I might game them. It has led to work on a set of Lady Blackbird style games/scenarios based on the affairs of bored housewives who are doomed to suicide (with a smidge more running for one's life).

    This year I got to look at Mahasweta Devi. A game done in the style of Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay and Pirtha would be incredible if I could just figure out how it would work.
  • edited May 2010
    It really depends on the game: Brighton Rock has influenced my Cthulhu games, but wouldn't influence anything else.

    The three most important are probably H. P. Lovecraft's Dagon (it genuinely disturbed me), Bret Easton Elllis' American Psycho (for its matter-of-fact tone in describing horror) and Franz Kafka's The Trial (for the sense of helplessness). I also think that William Faulkner's The Sound And The Fury, even though I've only just successfully finished it, has hovered around my consciousness for a while, for its weird, jumping narrative style.

    But it does depend on the game and it's difficult to exclude fantasy and sci-fi. Really, Asimov's The Caves Of Steel, J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World and Neil Gaiman's Sandman series should be in there.

    Graham
  • There is no... influencing. There is a kettle called my mind where everything stirs together. It's why everything goes in, newspapers, news on TV, comics... it all goes in, and sometimes things go out.

    I've been reading voraciously since a very young age. I was introduced to gaming very shortly after being introduced to heavily slanted fantasy/sci-fi books. There is no boundary between my thoughts. In a way.
  • What Guy said. That captures me perfectly.

    Also: Ross McDonald's Lew Archer mystery novels. In a way, these are *the* source for Dirty Secrets.

    Seth Ben-Ezra
    Great Wolf
  • I'm not sure how much it's influenced my gaming overall, but the most "gamable" works I can find are Shakespeare's. All the characters have deep personal motivations, signature speech patterns. There are swordfights, hints of the supernatural, and every scene has a central conflict that drives the story forward.
  • Elizabethan theater. Toss-up between A Midsummer Night's Dream (Parallelism, comedy, the tight scene structure) and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (Deeply transgressive and horrible, great wicked characters)

    The sagas. Laxdæla and Njáls's especially, I'll pick Laxdæla because it's all family drama and there's magic and the women kick ass.

    Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I liked the early ones best, because they were more arbitrary and less narrative. The Mystery of Chimney Rock maybe.
  • edited May 2010
    Posted By: Jason Morningstar'Tis Pity She's a Whore
    Ooh, good call. It's sacrilege as an Englishman, but Ford beats Shakespeare on this one. Post-modern inter-textual readings between this and Romeo and Juliet are awesome.
    Uninterestingly, 'Tis Pity is actually a Caroline play - published some thirty years after the end of the Elizabethan era.
  • Well, certainly Herman Melville. Although this blog entry is certainly about Billy Budd, having to choose a single work forces me to Moby Dick.

    Homer, for sure. The litany of groin injuries that make up the Iliad is inspiring for any blow-by-blow game, and the sulky hero is a common character anywhere.

    Christopher Moore maintains the kind of atmosphere that I love at least half the time, so I'll add Lamb to round out that list.
  • Books. Authorships would have been easier. And looking back on my game design, often, games were inspired by other games more than anything else. Still, there are some clear literary influences:

    Ursula LeGuin: Earthsea books. Archipelago was made in an attempt to emulate these books' narrative structure + world-building vibe.

    Jon Bing & Tor Åge Bringsværd. Norwegian SF authors (actually, they call it "fabelprosa" - "fable prose") who explore worlds with sometimes naïve optimism, even when doing horror or dystopias.

    Henrik Ibsen. Because he's, in my head, an extremely stern, cranky and unforgiving judge of all things artistic.

    I would have loved to say Vonnegut, but I don't see it in my games.
  • I can't say myself, but I think I'm going to try to include some of the feel and ambiance that Jack London books had in some of my Mouse Guard games. I can't wait for Winter...
  • Victor Hugo's Les Miserables
    Joseph Heller's Catch-22
    John Crowley's Little, Big

    The first two are needed antidotes to the celebration of heroism. The last is a bracing dose of love.
  • Richard Stark (or Donald Westlake) and his Parker novels, though if I've got to pare it down to one I'd probably go with the Outfit. Stark is able to carve interesting and real characters with the barest of sentences. He made books that are incredible examples of the trope that an author should show and not tell. There's a reason he chose the pen name of Stark. Those Parker novels influenced the game that I've been making deeply, but also influenced the kinds of characters that I like to play in games and gave me a taste for the velocity at which I like games to run.

    Clive Barker's Imajica. This one is all about world-building. In a post-Moorcock late teens, I was lost to this book. I must have read it three times in about a 18 months.

    And the third would be Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. I was born in 1978, grew up in the AD&D and Vampire: The Masquerade years, and Interview was the reason I shifted over to Vampire. That first push led me to a love of game design that currently bows my book shelves with a constant influx of new games.
  • Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun has made me give up on trying to adapt certain things to games. Even if everyone could narrate beautifully and paint a setting straight out of the Codex Seraphinianus, it still wouldn't be right.

    Snorri Sturlusson's Edda has helped make my fantasy gaming much more grounded and mythic.

    William Burroughs has influenced everything.

    Borges is certainly the best writer that has ever lived.
  • THREE? You is crazy!

    Karl Marx's Capital influences every setting I use. The political economy has got to make some sort of sense.

    Frans Benggtsson's The Longships was a book that strongly influenced my approach to historical fiction, and indeed, led me to the sagas and scholarly literature.

    Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of my favourite novels showing the downfall of a protagonist based on his own flaws. One feels for Henchard while not necessarily admiring him.
  • The Grasshopper, by Bernard Suits (academic philosophy, but insanely funny and readable. The greatest book ever written about gaming.)

    Ghost Stories of an Antiquarian, by M.R. James (James was the master of the slow reveal of dire and unanticipated information)

    A Fire upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge (best treatment I've ever read of non-human intelligences)
  • edited May 2010
    Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    - Vonnegut is a master of scene framing. And everything else. But also some great character development, showing not telling, and really a firm believer of giving the reader everything they need to know.

    Swords of Ice and Magic (featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) by Fritz Leiber (is this genre? this might be genre)
    - They're my Conan. Fabulous sword and sorcery adventure tales, with hilarity, character, and great villains and antagonists.

    Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
    - Magic Realism in a fabulous setting, Esquivel teaches how to mix the mundane and the supernatural and turn it into a story about love, loss, and compassion. This was Buffy before Buffy happened.

    The obligatory genre runners up (how could you not mention genre you book snobs! and comics! pshaw.)
    The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
    Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
    Neuromancer by William Gibson
    Cabal by Clive Barker
    The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
    Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarThe sagas. Laxdæla and Njáls's especially, I'll pick Laxdæla because it's all family drama and there's magic and the women kick ass.
    Oooh, you might like what I'm working on now, although there's no magic.
  • Posted By: Ice Cream EmperorHaruki Murakami, just because I want to live in that world
    If you successfully get a game going with some authentic Murakami flavor, let me know. I want to play Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World at least this (------------------------------------------) much.

    Also, Kafka's In the Penal Colony, which I love for its natural recursivity. And a new entry, Warren Motte's English-language reader on Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature (which displaces The theater and its double as my current meta obsession). I could go on for pages about the things that Oulipo has me rethinking about the play session as literature, and the game text as literature, but I suspect that the time is not yet ripe for another "Are story games postmodern? It's hard to tell"-type thread and the attendant mockery. I'll wait until Jared goes head-down on a project again.
  • Posted By: ccreitzPosted By: Ice Cream EmperorHaruki Murakami, just because I want to live in that world
    If you successfully get a game going with some authentic Murakami flavor, let me know. I want to playHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the Worldat least this (------------------------------------------) much.


    It would be really hard to get that dreamlike, fuzzy quality going. But awesome to pull off.
  • Posted By: ccreitzIf you successfully get a game going with some authentic Murakami flavor, let me know. I want to playHard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the Worldat least this (------------------------------------------) much.
    By a strange twist of fate, we're currently discussing designing a Murakami game in the Killer7 thread.
  • Posted By: jprussellPosted By: ccreitzPosted By: Ice Cream EmperorHaruki Murakami, just because I want to live in that world
    If you successfully get a game going with some authentic Murakami flavor, let me know. I want to play Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World at least this (------------------------------------------) much.
    It would be really hard to get that dreamlike, fuzzy quality going. But awesome to pull off. One game that definitely is able to use mechanics to create that narrative texture is jackson tegu's "the smoke dream". It can be done for sure, which is encouraging

    Thanks, Mike, for pointing out the Killer7 thread. I need to get my head around the emerging thing therein, which may be tough given that I'm not familiar with the source material, but I'm motivated now.
  • The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh. Dreamy, mythic and foreign
    Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff (who also wrote the Eagle of the Ninth which is being made into a movie). One of the great Arthurs. plus a wonderful sense of real fae folk
    The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon this is the game I want to play


    p.s. Borges Rules but I didn't want to be a copycat.
  • Posted By: thorThe Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon this is the game I want to play
    Clearly there must be rules for Digressions (and Extended Digressions) that encourage abrupt narrative departures, perhaps into Wikipedia-inspired mashups.
  • Gematria derived rules for determining abilities from character names.
  • Posted By: thorThe Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh. Dreamy, mythic and foreign
    That's a great book.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - because it taught me more about storytelling by way of layout than anything else has

    Garrison Keillor's assorted lake wobegon works - maybe the dude's out of his gourd, maybe i'm secretly a 70 y/o whitey liberal, but gosh darnit, genre don't know shit about world building compared to this guy. And the storytelling actually works.

    Travels with Charley: in search of america by Steinbeck - because it speaks plainly, and it tells you the truth.
  • I just finished reading The City & the City and kept thinking about what a great game it would be. I couldn't imagine what system I'd play it with - something sparse, maybe. Ghost/Echo perhaps.

    Everything I read becomes a part of the games I want to play or run.
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