I’m fairly confident that Noisms, Sir Grognard, and in fact any the people on my blogroll except (maybe) Wax Banks would be quick to describe themselves as “not really much of a post-modernist,” and probably even be quite quick to tell me exactly what they think of the idea. But if we go and check, for example, the website of any of the role-playing bloggers regularly visited, we will soon find a pastiche of interests. For example, today on Grognardia we can see his current reading is Lord Darcy, classic pulp, but if we go back in time a bit we’ll find he was reading Conan, or Lord of the Rings, and we’ll find posts about Gamma World (which is obviously drawn from 50s popular fear of nuclear holocaust, and the lurid visions of its aftermath which were common in the media then). Over at Noisms’ place we find a heady mix of Tibetan mythology, classic sword and sorcery, some Cthulhu (a common theme across blogs), and an American (?) cartoon with Japanese animation, plus a graph and a bit of piracy.There’s some film noir in there too during his Warhammer period.
All of this, of course, against a regular backdrop of D&D, whose Appendices contain a highly eclectic reading list and which was itself influenced by such diverse arcana as Lord of the Rings, Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur, ’30s pulp fiction, military history, and Jack Vance’s 60s science-fantasy. It’s a pastiche. And what is the classic theory of the pastiche? Post-modernism.
D&D is really just a mechanism for drawing together a whole bunch of quite disparate genres, themes, broad ideals and even creative media. We have miniatures at Grognardia, mapping at Eiglophian press, illustration at Back Screen Pass, possibly some music to set the scene, and of course everywhere we have that medium unique to role-playing – dice!! About the only new thing about it is the rules by which the merging is done – rules which bind the genres and the creative media altogether through the interaction of a group of people, but the first rule of which is that the rules themselves are mutable and open to challenge. It’s just a mechanism for reinterpreting diverse texts; and a mechanism, at that, which is subject to dispute even as the process is underway.
Which makes it post-modernism in a nutshell. It’s a critical theory! A synthesis!
Consider even the creative process by which all of this pastiche is synthesized. A group of players get together at a table. One might be completely naive to the whole process, one is probably a die-hard Lord of the Rings and pulp fantasy fan, one might have a strong interest in westerns and 50s memorabilia, another might be actually quite disinterested in fantasy and more of a sci-fi guy, and another might be heavily into anime and mecha. Another person creates a world, usually by pasting together a bunch of ideas they stole from other genres, and everyone creates a story collaboratively, using a set of rules which they argue about and change where necessary (the medium is itself contested during the creative process!) Also, the whole thing often happens in the presence of at least 2 mind-altering substances (caffeine and alcohol). At the end of the night, the DM writes it all up and chucks it on the internet, where it becomes… a text!
And, to chuck a final beautiful post-modern irony onto the whole thing, it’s safe to say that aside from a certain Dr. P, and a certain Barbarian S, I’ve almost never had players who had any interest in post-modernism and who, if offered an opportunity to comment on this much-reviled form of modern art theory, will give a knee-jerk dismissive response, based on some kind of latent fear of “relativism”. They’re more likely to lay claim to an aesthetic, moral and cultural background in modernism, romanticism or neo-classicism than they are any kind of more recent wank like post-modernism. Yet there they are, clustered around a table, producing the perfect post-modern text, leaving Baudrillard and his shabby theories in the dust as they form from the raw material of multiple disparate texts and creative media the material of a perfect post-modern pastiche. This perfect post-modern art form is created by people who reject the underlying cultural theory almost in its entirety, and lay claim (mostly) to the very ethos it is supposed to replace!
We are all, as the Germans might say, post-modernists now…
fn1: whose critical interpretations of Bladerunner, by the way, were fantastic!
fn2: who had 2 mothers, not by a previous marriage scenario, and was studying genocide studies