Monday, August 4, 2014

REVIEW: Wish I Might, by Nathan G. Hosea

"We never foresaw tragedy." -Tanifer

Nathan G. Hosea was one of the original Compakters and, despite his falling out with Bloom Rose, everyone writing into A Tunnel was asking the same question for the whole of the mid-80s: will Hosea ever darken the halls (well, corridor) of Adder Entertainment again? Will he break his self-imposed gaming exile ever? And if not, who would finish Falling Hard the Starchilds?

We'd seen ads for FHTS ever since the breadbox release for Nuke Year Holocaust (to an applause of nothing). I say ads; "ad" is was, the same one repeated through four of the first five issues of A Tunnel. Then poof: nothing.

In 88 we got a kind of an answer but it wasn't the one we were hoping for.

Now before we go further: kids in danger. This is a big hot button issue in RPGs but this isn't about sensitivity or censorship and everything and I don't want to derail the real meat here. All I'll say for now is this: some people's favorite film about the morality and efficacy of the death penalty and the dangers such an institution poses is The Life of David Gale. Some people's favorite film about the exact same issue and the exact same side of the issue and same thesis on that issue is Death Race 2000. Make of this aside what you will.

In 88 Hosea and prog rock splattergrapher Kip Calhoun approached Æ about a co-production project using the newly minted Cyclopean Romanse system and the charred scattered fetishized remains of FHTS. Of CR I won't say much beyond the reputation it garnered in time (Chuck Barris' Shoggoth Dating Game) was not quite earned yet, still dripping were they in the good ideas it sieved out of Lovecraft and Stephenson. Æ had moved on from their "devil out of cosmos" phase and into their "Maybe Gary and Dave will take me to the dance if I cut myself" phase so it was no longer a natural fit. However, as everybody propping up a desk with a copy of Spunj II they bought ironically knows, Æ was never a stranger to doing anything to fuck a pile of money.

RIP Rose.

The result was this thing. If I've belabored the background of this piece it's because it's more care than went into it before publishing. You can see the skeleton of a good idea here, with major NPCs and solutions statted and mechanized for both systems. Even the germ of the idea is strong, and from notes and private letters bears close resemblance at first glance to what Hosea had in mind.

The wish that made six children into stars.
The hole in the sky that tore when those stars were gone.
The stars who couldn't stop what they set in motion, destroying what they tried to save.
The thing that came to take the stars back, like a great teenager pulling a universal blanket over its head for just five more minutes mom god.

They say kill your darlings for a reason. No darling deserved SIDS more than Tanifer.

Calling Hosea enamored with Tanifer is like saying some Robotech fans have a minor issue with Linn Minmei, or that Moorcock might have liked that one pale guy. Fuck you I know it was Marcoss first you're shitting in me point. Tanifer's importance would be at least understandable enough to be tolerable if she interacted with anyone in any meaningful way at all. At all. Her box text sounds like fortune cookies a kidnapper would make you write and put in the basket with the lotion. But somewhere a list was made and the boxes were ticked and it was decided that the only logical reaction to young doomed Tanifer was undying love and devotion.

Not if you failed a save.
Or it made sense for your guy.
You either die or you become the one PC who gets to be with Tanifer forever as a star.
I think this module personally caused Square Enix to exist and damn it DAMN IT.

This is where the meme comes from. The table top Babelfish. Whole gaming groups fell out over this, first coming to blows to not give up their life for Tanifer and then table-flipping at the denouement. "I Loved Tanifer" became the kind of embattled, scarred badge of pride some people associate with Vietnam vets. "I fought hard and what I fought for wasn't worth the price." A story that tells itself forever in every tattoo at Gen Con, every TeeFury submission.

Tomb of the Cybermen was the greatest Doctor Who episode of all time until they found it. Everything of virtue here is in Hosea's notes (collected in Another Tunnel: Compleat) or like...Starman and drugs.

Æ instituted a scorched earth policy for even acknowledging that they tried Wish I Might. They rallied for a few more years (RIP Rose) but some still say this was the arrow which felled Achilles. Nathan Hosea's number was lost. In a well. A well of lava.

For a time.

"I remember it came like a surprise to me. Me most, I think. One day I was smoking on the deck reading Congo and the next I was digging. It was too hilly to run, my bike had a flat...there was a shovel I forgot I even had and I thought, 'Fuck it,' started digging a rose garden. I got to thinking about grave diggers, and the technology of necromancy..."
 - Nathan G. Hosea, A Tunnel (v2) #2, The D3@D Speak