As many of you who follow this blog, I came across this yesterday. Naturally, the general objection was about calling out a dead man while profiting from his name and all that.
(click on the tweet to see the image and see what I’m talking about)
Well, sure, but before my mind was even able to process that, what struck me the most was how uncomfortably written the entire thing is (or, at least, the first paragraph.) And I don’t mean typos, grammar errors, and such, but something that is deeper and harder to explain but is quintaessentially modern.
 is a game that deals with many hard topics, including mental health, systemic abuses of power, and the deaths of huge portions of the human species.
Assume you don’t know where this comes from. Can you guess which game is this supposed to be? No, of course, you can’t. It could be a game about global pandemics, vampires trying to exterminate humanity, or… space nazis?
To be fair, that’s not from the game introduction, more like a disclaimer so perhaps the proper introduction is better, but the point still stands, however: that sentence is more or less meaningless.
What does “systemic abuses of power” even mean in a Lovecraftian context? And no, the genre of cosmic horror doesn’t deal with “mental health;” it “deals” with INSANITY and MADNESS. Mental Health is what civil workers write on public brochures or policy manuals, and it can mean anything anyway, from mild anxiety and melancholy to eating your own family because you believe that’s what the strange octopus-shaped statue you found the other day wants you to do.
And “hard topics”! I haven’t even noticed that one before. Who uses “hard topics” when writing about Lovecraftian stories? However, the award must go to “the deaths of huge portions of the human species.”
Remove the uninformative “huge” and you end up with the ugly and unwieldy: “the deaths of portions of the human species.” The “deaths of portions of…”. That’s just bad. Here’s how the thing could have been written:
“The Fate of Ctuhlu is a game about insanity, madness, isolation, death, and the enslavement and destruction of humanity by ancient and alien powers.”
It’s like modern writers want to make their texts as unexciting and bland as possible. Compare with D&D Basic (Moldbay edition) description of itself back in 1981:
|DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® Fantasy Adventure Game (“D&D®|
Game” for short) is a role playing adventure game for persons 10
years and older. In the D&D rules, individuals play the role of characters in a fantasy world where magic is real and heroes venture
out on dangerous quests in search of fame and fortune.
Magic is real, and heroes venture forth on a quest for fame and fortune. Easy and simple, yet clear.
Even if you want to include that strange disclaimer, at least use proper language to bring the point home. There’s no excuse for indecisive, weak, and abstract language that seems to come straight out of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language or corporation’s press release.
Also, Lovecraft’s family cat was called Niggerman. You can say that out loud, there’s no need for pearl-clutching posturing like “Go ahead, look it up. We’ll wait.”
5 thoughts on “A short note on the literary offenses of modern writing”
That RPG book excerpt is painful to read.
In a game, the author MUST use clear language to communicate the rules. Unclear language or confusing corporate jargon has no place in a rulebook!
I know why the diction is vague. Your revision, which uses the words “insanity” and “madness” and refers to “ancient and alien powers” makes the game seem too juvenile for the tastes of weird urbanites. “[S]ystemic abuses” and “mental health” are current-year issues that the “educated” will appreciate, and I think of the extermination of brown people after I read the phrase “deaths of huge portions of the human species.” Since Lovecraft was racist, and since his fiction is too archaic to actually read in the 21st century, what else would it imply to my smooth millenial brain?
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Yes, but I’m convinced that they couldn’t write the what I wrote (even if it’s simpler) even if they tried.
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