Distinguished readers, here is the 2017 album that took BloodLetterPress by storm, the one that we’ve had playing at most of our in-person meetings this year, the latest offering from the man we’ve come to view as the voice of a generation. Neil Cicierega, perhaps best known as the creator of Lemon Demon, Potter Puppet Pals, and countless other internet follies, has graced us with a third mashup album.
If you’ve ever been under a weighted blanket, or dozed off in the trunk of a car during a hot summer, you know the sensation I’m trying to invoke when I say that Ex People’s debut Bird is a comfy doom album. Comfy doom is the kind of music that Windhand plays, the kind that Cloudkicker invoked on Subsume, the feeling of getting overwhelmed by something heavy and soft that pins you down and gets you cozy. It doesn’t need to be scary or capital-e Evil; its power comes from its ability to flatten, to neutralize, to disarm. “You’ll be eating out my hand,” vocalist Laura Kirsop promises on the track “You Creep”. It’s a cool subversion of the macho posturing that some elements of metal fall back on, and given Ex People’s roots in punk and riot grrrl, it’s certainly intentional.
The London quartet bring the low end like nobody’s business on Bird; at its grooviest, this album’s kinetic energy is the kind of meaty lumbering you might expect from an entire slumber of megatherium. But the blunt instruments of the rhythm section don’t just twist and crush aimlessly though the earth; this is not just a collection of nice riffs that become stale after twenty minutes. Ex People craft a heady soundscape, nestling you in layers upon layers of textured guitar, beautiful loud-soft dynamics, and a perfectly matched vocal performance even as you’re driven forth by the low end. Guitarist Calem Gunn said it best in an interview with Metal Hammer: “There’s a unique, addictive feeling to be wrought from playing low and slow. Weight and the absence of weight.” Bird is a colossal creature borne aloft.
I jolt awake, swaying hard in my hammock. It is cold. Six masked figures loom over me. High above them, the moon cuts a perfect curve through the Pit’s dirty plexiglass skylight.
“It’s prank night, frosh. You in?”
The stage-whispering figure looming over me has the face of a vampire bat, a wrinkled, hairy thing. Twin fangs gleam beneath two jutting yearling antlers. The six figures looming over me are all wearing antlered vampire bat masks.
“Yeah,” I grumble, pulling my blanket close, “I’m in, I guess.”
I’ve been playing Hopoo Games’s Deadbolt lately and thorougly enjoying it. I just barely beat Capter 2 Level 1, and 2:2, to me, looks almost impossibly difficult (ended up beating it while writing this. –ð). Attempting this level is certainly going to result in me being gunmurdered by vampires many, many times (it did. –ð), and yet, I’m excited for it. Why do we like hard games? What is driving me to persist through failure after failure? I think it has something to do with the way games structure their challenges, and the ways in which human beings pursue self-development.
Roleplaying games. For some of us at BLP, they’re our bread and butter (I’m one of those lucky jerks who gets to play them as part of my day job). For some of us, they’re a recent discovery. Psychodrama, the performative act of becoming someone else in mind, and sometimes in body, is an ancient one that galvanized culture and led to most forms of art and entertainment in the present day. Roleplaying games connect us to aspects of other people and ourselves, and helps open our eyes to new perspectives. This week’s Going Around poses this prompt to our team of contributors: Tell us about an RPG character (tabletop or otherwise) who has stuck with you after the game is done.
…TO PUNISH. YOUR. NOVEL.
(Or whatever other creative pursuit you may be engaged in today.)
DEATHNOWRIMO 2017 is live on Discord (all day) and Twitter (until I go to bed, and then Miki picks up the reins some hours later). Our Extra Life charity stream begins at 10AM EST and ends at 11AM EST tomorrow–yes, we’re packing 25 hours of games into our stream, for the kids, and for you! Catch those on our Twitch page starting at 10AM EST, and check out our Extra Life page to help kids at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center!
To play Jokers & Journeys with Tarot cards, use the pip cards as usual. A Royal Family becomes that much more difficult to score; a Blackjack is played with the Page of each suit and its corresponding 10 (you can call it a “reversed reading” if you want to). The Major Arcana are as follows:
BloodLetterPress compatriots, the blessed month of Halloween has come and gone, and the long, dark hour of National Novel Writing Month is upon us. Fear not the empty document, compatriots: it is prime DEATHWRITE season, and we are here to help you bring forth words from the deepest reaches of your imaginations.
The creators of DEATHWRITE have furnished you with a Discord channel, so that you may commiserate with BLP contributors and others who have chosen this undertaking. Organize word sprints, swap ideas, beseech your fellows for feedback or inspiration, organize your own DEATHWRITEs at home and abroad, and feel the certainty of knowing that this struggle is not yours alone.
Additionally, BloodLetterPress invites you to participate in DEATHNOWRIMO: PUNISH YOUR NOVEL, a DEATHWRITE event dedicated to participants of National Novel Writing Month, on Sunday, November 19th, starting at midnight Eastern Standard Time (UTC-5:00). This event coincides with our Extra Life charity stream.
Until then, compatriots, go boldly forth, unburdened by your inner editors.
It’s got to be here somewhere.
It’s what they all think, and what many of them speak aloud. Their weak boots filling with my waters, their feeble sight confounded by my mists, they trudge through the trackless stretches of my maze, jumping at cobwebs and the shadows of trees, bewilderment giving way to desperation and gray, empty hopelessness. And the mires swallow them up as they kneel. So it has been for seventy succulent years.
“It’s got to be here somewhere,” one now says, parting his way through thick, slippery vines. His eyes flick from shadow to shadow, from stump to imagined looming shape. His fear comes off him in a slow, oozing torrent that spreads across the surface of the water, but the map in his clutched hand and the hollow promise of gold in his jittery mind lend something like confidence to his voice. He is telling himself that he is confident, and he is just good enough at lying to himself to believe it.
BloodLetterPress (represented by Miki and myself) made our live debut at JiffyCon this weekend! Here’s some of the cool stuff we did.
We kicked off the morning by playing a game of Fuel Priest, a dieselpunk RPG in development by Timeless Caverns. I personally think dieselpunk is a criminally underrated genre (and am working on a dieselpunk setting of my own), so I was excited enough by the concept of Fuel Priest when we sat down to play, but if I had known what I was in for, I would have been practically ravenous for this game. In the 34 pages of their current design, the folks at Timeless Caverns have created a game driven by hope, desperation, and reverence, where characters are defined by their kinship with their tools and their various interpretations of a common dogma. It’s a work of elegant design married to exciting and timely narrative themes, and I can’t wait to play it again, or see the next step in its evolution.
From there, we ate a quick lunch, and Miki went to play Brodie’s Here Is My Power Button, which I’ll let them write about. After navigating a logistical hall of mirrors, I found myself playing Elliot Baker’s Tiny and Chrome, a Lego-based car combat game in homage to Mad Max: Fury Road. While I don’t speak from a wealth of experience, this was easily the most fun I have ever had playing a miniatures game—intuitive rules ensured that each turn passed quickly, and playing with five other people meant that the board state changed explosively every round.
And, finally, we ran a game of our own Stars Fall Up! I did a terrible job of explaining the rules, but it didn’t take long for our shared story to take off into a madcap Pilot City full of gondolas and ziplines, werewolf law, and suspicious turtles, which culminated in a boss battle against a Voltron made of Radio Shacks beneath a total eclipse of Planet Marsha. Huge thanks to Dylan, Brodie, and Aaron for checking out our game and lending your splendid imaginations to our evening! And huge thanks as well to Modern Myths and the organizers of JiffyCon 2017, for giving us the infrastructure we needed to expand our community, meet new people, and feel like Real Life Professionals!
BloodLetterPress careens forward into November with more fresh content coming to you a couple times a week here on our website. Our Extra Life fundraiser culminates on November 14th in a 24-hour video game stream on our Twitch channel, which coincides with a DEATHWRITE: DEATHNOWRIMO 2017 EDITION for you writers out there. Until then, we hope your Halloween is the best ever!