Author Topic: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together  (Read 1584 times)

Ron Edwards

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[next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« on: March 19, 2013, 02:58:22 PM »
I'm reluctantly conceding to my own self that "Fuck the Establishment" shouldn't be the title of this thing. I'm really liking the sound of "Amerikkka: Story Now in the Radical U.S.A."

The design is proceeding in an extremely compartmentalized fashion. I've written and mildly playtested a primary mechanical device for episodic story creation, which seems solid. Just to whet your interest, here's the little playmap where cards get laid out during an episode. I am enjoying the idea - which seems viable! - that during play, people can contribute to the four scenes nigh-simultaneously and asynchronously, even though in the fiction they are perfectly sequential. So if you wanted, you could play them just as sequentially, i.e. literally, or treat them more like a creative montage to produce something whose true in-fiction sequence is not fully understood until the end.

However, it's rather localized to the 1970s and maybe too short-form at present. I may consider a larger framing-process of the episodes, and at present, I'm even leaning toward fictionally focusing on the Right for that part of play (see below).

 I'm considering aspects of a musical mechanic as described in [next political Story Now game] Music. I really like the idea of each character being associated with a given album for a given session, and somehow turning on the appropriate music in an easy and effective way at given points in play. Or maybe each "unit" of the playmat goes with an album for that particular session, which makes a bit more sense actually.

And for the writing which most directly informs play (equivalent to the Appendix decade-summaries in Spione and the Al-Hawadess chapter in Shahida), I'm proceeding quite well on my reading-and-reflection list. The more I do, the more it seems clear that the story of the Sixties and Seventies is only superficially about the (New) Left ... it's really about the resurgence and redefinition of the Right. So I'm getting much deeper into the FBI, details of the justice system, the religious revival (and its nigh-utter political reorientation), Cold War hawk-dom and liberal-dom, and the subtleties of U.S. unionism then I was expecting. It's definitely not mere "backlash."

Similarly, I'm finding that focusing too much on the Panthers and the Weather Underground (and feminism and gay rights groups) would be a bad idea, and instead I'm taking a more grass-roots look at the literally hundreds of small groups which either fed into these or similar umbrella groups or splintered off from them. I'm also getting interested in prison reform and sex work as shadow issues throughout the whole thing, as well as in distinct moments of schism like blacks vs. Jews, feminists vs. (all) Left, communists vs. (New) Left, and cultural vs. political within many groups. It fascinates me that the sexual revolution threw the whole activist movement just as wicked a curveball as it did the mainstream society. And then there's the whole range of clique-commune-cultlike-cult which includes Synanon, the People's Temple, and several others.

Here's another interesting thing. Contrary to popular myth, Weather and the Panthers did not do too well in direct confrontations with police, either literally or politically, and such events were rare or even absent for many branches of those organizations. (I also note that the Panthers were not as violently militant as they are painted, or as some of their members or leaders talked). There is one interest-group, however, which in two instances - especially the second - engaged in full-up, face-to-face, uncompromisingly violent and successfulconfrontations with law enforcement, which seems to have dropped down the memory hole.

The first was the Stonewall riot in New York, 1969. The second, which really interests me, was ten years later in San Francisco, following the assassination of Harvey Milk. When Dan White, the grossly-obviously first-degree-murder killer, was convicted of minimal crimes , in an equally obvious sop to the SFPD, the gay community of Castro Street stormed City Hall and overwhelmed its defenders, including molotoving all the cop cars* and actually forcing the police to flee.

That feel-good movie didn't show that, did it! But from my current perspective, it's fascinating that this is the sole interest-group, in my opinion, who maintained the gains they made in the 1970s without being subverted** or shoved back under the rug.

A supporting detail: Dianne Feinstein, who's incessantly billed herself as Milk's spiritual successor for thirty years, was generally his political opponent while he was alive, was one of the authorities cowering in the City Hall lobby while the windows were smashed during the assault.

The lesson may be: if you want your politicking and civil actions to stick, beat the living fuck out of the cops for a few days.

Best, Ron

* A tactic brought from Europe, planned, and implemented by John Cleve, who'd learned a few things in gay-rights demonstrations in Spain before moving back to San Francisco.

** Or only in limited spheres anyway; e.g., "gays in the military" is classic co-option.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 03:02:40 PM by Ron Edwards »

glandis

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2013, 07:00:36 PM »
I don't know, Ron.  I mean - for what my less-informed agreement is worth - you seem correct to say that in big-picture American history, the 60's-70's were more about "the resurgence and redefinition of the Right."  But that story seems inextricable from the arc that begins in the Great Depression, through the New Deal, to J. Edgar Hoover and McCarthy and etc.  Part of what seems "grabby" about the Radical USA is the idea that something new and discontinuous (at least, MORE discontinuous) was underway.  It's an incorrect idea, best as I can tell. And one that, to my eyes, resurfaced again in the years since, from "the End of History!" after the Cold War to the "Markets are Totally Different Now!" of the various economic busts.  But it provides a focus and, well, crispness(?) that I fear concentrating on the rise/transformation of the Right in the 60's-70's would lose.  Of course, you may well prove my fear baseless in the game itself.

Because what you say about going grass roots makes sense.  Looking forward to hearing more,
Gordon






Ron Edwards

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2013, 11:15:06 PM »
Hi Gordon,

I guess it's a two-sides-of-coin situation, or a matter of writer's perspective. The actual game is definitely about a radical-activist endeavor, whether a children's theater group or a biker-gang or anything in between, so it's pretty much given that the New Left and its 70s out-growths are going to be central. It's the perspective that I guess I'm trying to talk about, recognizing that although it seemed to my subculture and to much of the mainstream U.S. that the New Right came literally out of nowhere sometime around 1977,* it was actually much more solidly grounded in that very mainstream, and much more coherently backed both financially and institutionally all the way back to the 1920s, much as you say. Or another way to put it is, the impact of the antiwar movement, Black Power, and the sexual revolution, among other things, was quite discontinuous and seemed so thorough and transformative at the moment (a look at any episode of All in the Family will show that), that the other "story" was invisible by comparison and needs an explicit airing.

I really appreciate your interest in this project.

Best, Ron

* Hard to explain to people how much of a joke Ronald Reagan was at the time, compared to powerful contenders like Nelson Rockefeller; or how impossible it seemed that both the ERA and SALT II would fail at the 99.76% mark of success; or that during this period, the Cold War was literally considered to be over and was often taught as such in school.

glandis

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2013, 04:42:33 AM »
OK, I think that makes sense - the game is about the radical-activist endeavor, and you're just acknowledging that the persistence of old Right money/power, and the important emergence of new Right Reagan/etc., needs to be emphasized.

My background makes me personally less likely to forget that.  Grandpa (on Pop's long-term American side) came out of that Left-tinged (though probably 2nd- or 3rd-hand even for him) rural America to prosperous CT via the Davey Tree Company, a meaningful chunk of whoose business back then was providing arboreal services to the ultra-wealthy.  I didn't think about it as I grew up, but baked into me at an early age was the sense that despite how different/revolutionary/whatever the times might seem, those backcountry estates were still there, little-changed and more than a little apalling in their power*.

Belief in the discontinuous is certainly powerfull as well - heck, the Alex Keaton-wannabe Young Republicans thought about themselves that way, come the 80's.  But maybe believing you've already achieved the transformation is the surest way to undermine its' persistence.

That's my thought about your interest groups losing their gains - many of 'em thought they were done.  Nixon resigned, didn't he? We got out of Vietnam, right?  LGBT, my guess is they knew/know they still had/have work to do ...

I obviously have no real idea what the boxes in your playmap are about, but if after Voice is achieved there's no ongoing/new Inspiration, play on that mat cannot continue.

*I'm guessing you're all over the Richard Aoki, Black Panther/FBI informant story, but - an example.

Moreno R.

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2013, 11:01:10 PM »
Hard to explain to people how much of a joke Ronald Reagan was at the time, compared to powerful contenders like Nelson Rockefeller

I still remember the surprise I felt what I did read "Bug Jack Barron" by Norman Spinrad in the early '80s: there it was, Ronald Reagan as the US President (and depicted as a joke, to show how politics would be dominated by the show business in the '80s) in a sf novel first published in 1967...

It seems that an American reviewer even critiqued the author for his 'preposterous' prediction that "America would ever have Ronald Reagan as its president". Maybe it's only a legend (I couldn't find the original review, even if this fact is often cited second-hand without naming the critic), but in the book his name is clearly used for shock-value.

Ron Edwards

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2013, 09:53:14 PM »
In the interests of accuracy, Reagan was known primarily for his political career since the early 60s, and he was governor of California from 1967 to 1975, which is a really long time. The whole "joke" thing was based less on the fact of his acting career (although Bedtime for Bonzo was milked for sure), than on his unpopularity as governor by that point among the most vocal Californians, his age, and on his newfound association with the Christian Right, a group (or more accurately a coalition) which at the time was not taken seriously by anyone but themselves.

Although your point about Bug Jack Barron is 100% sound given its publication date, Moreno. Coincidentally, I read it again not too long ago and was struck by how thoroughly it anticipated Rush Limbaugh's TV techniques as well, to the extent that I suspect Limbaugh or more likely someone who'd packaged him knew the book well.

Best, Ron

Steve Hickey

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Re: [next political Story Now game] Piecing it together
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 01:10:12 AM »
Put me down as a fan of the 'one album for each scene/unit of play' idea.

In fact, I can see each album being used as a timing device. You only advance to the next track once something significant has happened in the scene, and once you run out of tracks the scene ends.

You could even showcase the effect you mentioned in the music thread (where a band goes through several different shifts during its careers) and make it that each album has to be by the same band. I know some music nerds who would love that.