Sunday 5 April 2015

Labours of Love

My friend Rob, who I've known for about twenty years, is more into gaming than anyone I know. He knows what he likes (GURPS, Savage Worlds, BRP, any number of OSR games), but the highest praise he can bestow upon something is that it's "a labour of love."

What Rob means is that he's reading a work that is affectionately detailed, lovingly made by people who are enthusiastic for it, whose work on it is primarily about the personal investment they place in it. And that it's evident they care. Because it's crafted. A labour of love.

I've been thinking about this. I've never poured quite so much of myself into a game I've written before, which I suppose is hard to see because we're still on maybe twenty posts and that's not a rulebook, although by now all the main systems are in place.

I'm going to sell this, of course I am, but it isn't, if you pardon the cliché, about the money. I don't have any pretensions to literature or art, and I don't expect it to set any worlds on fire. It's a niche within a niche, and not even a fashionable one. I don't care. Some people will, I know, like it. That's enough.

I was driving between Swansea and Abergavenny today and thinking of the box I have full of folders and folders of my father's unpublished short stories, all housewife detectives and children dying in mundane tragedies, and one half-written occult scripture, a revelation of a supreme being he called Gu'ud, which he abandoned after the local Anglican curate laughed at it.

My dad was an autodidact. He had a shelf of books on fringe religion, the occult and the new age, about lost lands and magic and Soviet Psychic Discoveries, earth energy and life forces, a Bible and a Book of Mormon and the copy of Dianetics with the disclaimer in the front (if this wrecks your life, it's not the Church of Scientology's fault). They're all mine now. My mum didn't want them.

Dad had these weird holes in his knowledge. Like he knew all about biorhythms but thought Baptist churches were named after John the Baptist. He hated Jehovah's Witnesses, passionately. He kept his counsel on the subject of Spiritualists to himself, but I knew he wasn't wholly approving. He still dropped my mum at the spiritualist church for Circle every Wednesday, though, with my brother and I rattling about in the back of the van.

He was quiet, and bore the weight of decades of familial tragedy, my dad. Separation, abuse, untimely deaths. He never really showed affection when he was alive. I remember meeting people at his funeral - it was packed, for he was well loved - people I'd never heard of who nonetheless knew who I was, told me how glowing his words were for the talented son who went to university. Words he'd never said to me.

That was what he left me. That, and Atlantis. A mythical golden age that wasn't all that.

He was my dad.

There isn't a day goes by I don't miss him.

This silly fantasy world, encoded in a silly game is for him, even if he wouldn't like it.

That's all. Labour of love.