Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Dragon's Path

Oh, Jason McKittrick, how well you know my weaknesses. A narrative mystery told through prop documents? I don't know where you're going with it, but I like where it starts.

Ever since I discovered the awesome Dennis Wheatley mysteries I've been wondering why no one seemed to be doing a modern take on that prop-driven narrative approach. A few alternate reality games have come close, but they almost invariably dissolve into a morass of puzzle-wankery that makes no logical sense.


Anonymous said...

These are Great, Only 2 Problems, If he would make these into Printable Props it would be better, 1. The folded crease lines in the paper wouldn't look good printed out and 2. Only one side of the paper would look old the back would be too clean looking and wouldn't be consistent looking with the Front, If he had a cleaner printable version you could print it on Parchment Paper that way you can fold it if you wish to and the Front and Back would be Consistent, But it is a Good Job in any case.

Umpherous said...


Have you seen the Sherlock Holmes dossiers?

Google "A study in Scarlet" by Simon Goodenough. I believe they were made in the 1980s about the same time as the Wheatley reissues. You can find used copies on Alibris.

There are several Holmes mysteries by Goodenough and some recent ones "The Case Files of Sherlock Homles" and the "Crimes of Dr. Watson," for example.

CoastConFan said...

You mean, containing more factual errors, implausible plot twists and holes than a Dan Brown novel: jiggery-pokery and puzzle-wankery indeed!

Propnomicon said...

@ Anonymous

I'd love if they were formatted for printing, but considering their intended purpose their appearance is more than appropriate.

@ Umpherous

I haven't seen them before, but now I'm in the process of ordering them. Thanks for the pointer. I love discovering cool projects like that just waiting to be enjoyed.

@ CoastConFan

I have nothing against puzzles, but not when they're used just for their own sake. A certain amount of meta-gaming is to be expected in an ARG, but lately most of the major ones have devolved into nothing *but* meta.

Anonymous said...

@ Propnomicon

Agreed, But it's still a shame. :)

bob_d said...

I've often thought about putting together a Lovecraftian narrative composed of props (artifacts, news clippings and bits of diaries). I've been particularly tempted to start with "Call of Cthulhu" itself, since it's such a fractured narrative whose power comes from correlating disparate events, and it's very heavy on artifacts as important plot elements.

CoastConFan said...

@ bob_d

A fractured narrative is also used in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are newspaper clippings, letters, and journal entries from several characters that knit the book together. Therefore, a shifting narrative though several artifacts and media would be quite in line for a Chthonian story. It was good enough for 1897, so it should be good enough now.

bob_d said...

@CoastConFan: Yes indeed, "horror stories presented as collections of documentary evidence" was a well established tradition when Lovecraft used it. I like to think of the "Blair Witch Project" as continuing that tradition. Not so much the movie by itself, but the whole set of "evidence" that include the documentaries that contextualized the central "found footage" and filled in the backstory and legend. Of course this form is still used in purely textual narratives as well. Writers like Jeff VanderMeer are continuing the tradition of utilizing fake evidentiary documents to create weird fiction.

What makes "The Call of Cthulhu" a useful basis for such an approach is that the various narratives are heavily focused on items as evidence of a broader, and more disturbing, truth, specifically the Cthulhu statues that show up in diverse contexts. Lovecraft wasn't interested in the personal stories as much as creating horror from a series of events (unlike Stoker, who was interested in the characters). So, although the individual narratives were presented in diary/story form, by taking them out of the narrative context, they could be replaced by more "neutral" news and police reports, photographs, and anthropological essays and artifacts (i.e. the actual Cthulhu statues described in the story). This new form would actually be closer, in some ways, to what Lovecraft was trying to do than what he was forced to do by the constraints of the medium in which he was working.

Unknown said...

It might be interesting to take the recent stories of the fish kill, followed by the bird kill in Arkansas as a starting point. They may well be totally separate events, but their chronological proximity to one another and New Year's Day, and their geographic proximity as well (~100 miles apart along the same river) make it an interesting coincidence, no?

Jason McKittrick said...

Hey, This is Jason McKitrick. Glad you like the beginning of my Dracula project! There's a lot more to come. I'm also working on a Cthulhu piece as I write this. I'll send you a link when it's finished. Thanks again.