A bit late in announcing this, but here goes: next week I'll be in Philadelphia recording the stories of people visiting the Democratic Convention for theSouthgate Media Group. How they got there, why they got there, who they are.
The show is called Four Days In Philly.
So I'll be there covering the convention from outside the building. If you're from or around Philly and want to see me, that's where I'll be. If you'll be at the convention yourself, let me record your story.
See you there!
I don’t even remember how young I was the first time I played a roleplaying game. I remember what it was though: on the floor of my friend’s house, I played a Tie Bomber pilot who was going to be making an attack run on the normal players of a Star Wars RPG game. I got really into it, I also died. Tie Bombers aren’t very sturdy spaceships as it turns out. From my death, I was reborn into a roleplaying game nerd of ultimate proportions. I couldn’t get enough of them.
I loved the freedom to imagine the games allowed: the stories you could tell in an RPG could be whatever you wanted, you weren’t limited in the way a movie or book was, if you wanted something to happen, you could make it happen! You could explore wonderful and strange worlds, defeat or befriend your foes, and take the story to places no one expected. I was hooked for life.
Over the following years I played tons of different games, though I had a special favoritism towards games by White Wolf Publishing: every edition of Dungeons and Dragons, every edition of Star Wars, Men in Black, every single World of Darkness game, Paranoia, Exalted, WARS (an RPG that somehow ran its campaign for four years straight, despite only having 3 books of material), Serenity, Star Trek…. Over the years I played anything and everything I could. I love RPG’s, and so it makes sense that from an equally young age I started making them.
My first RPG was a “Legend of Zelda” RPG I made for my friends and I to play. Then I made my own universe called “Xenex” into a game. Later, I helped my pals to create a “Harry Potter” RPG for fun. I had a blast making them, and I dreamed someday of being able to make my own for real, to have my name up on the shelf and have people play through adventures and worlds I’d helped create.
So, in 2011, with several of my friends, I co-founded Shotgun Angel Games LLC. The road we got on wasn’t an easy one. Our first Kickstarter was too generic a concept to work, and we our close-knit staff lost a few members as time wore on, but we kept going. We kept pressing on. Its been 5 years since Shotgun Angel Games started, and after years of work and effort, we’re finally on the verge of something amazing: releasing our first, real, adventure module. Full color, Pathfinder compatible, and filled with wondrous adventures for people to play through featuring Steampunk Goblins. Blimps flying through the air with Goblins flying out with steam-powered jetpacks! Clockwork Golems, and Napoleonic Goblin Emperors! Its a fantastic RPG adventure, and we’re all really proud of it.
But like all things, we need money to get going. This is it, our shot, our chance to show our stuff and build from this foundation to make the kinds of games we’d always dreamed of. Even if you don’t like RPG’s, the spirit and push behind this book is strong, and maybe you can find something to support there.
We hope you’ll find something you love, and you’ll back our Kickstarter to help realize this long time dream of ours, something we hope to keep going with, and maybe make careers out of. This is the first step to climb, so give us a leg up.
You can back the Goblinpunk Kickstarter below:
Phil Sandifer is a writer, Philosopher, and occultist who I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing before with the Southgate Media Group. His new book, “Neoreaction a Basilisk” is currently being Kickstarted. I’ve had the chance to read it, and it’s a fast paced, hilarious, thought provoking read, and definitely worth your time! I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me.
Welcome Phil! So first off, how would you explain Neoreaction a Basilisk to a neophyte?
Well, the "awkwardly explain to my family when they ask what I'm up to without actually wanting to know" answer has become "it's a book about esoteric right-wing philosophy and the end of the world." If I'm not trying actively to avoid forcing my family to grapple too directly with the fact that I'm completely insane, I'll add "artificial intelligence" and "philosophical horror" to the list of topics.
What do you mean by philosophical horror?
It's an idea I get from Eugene Thacker, who's sort of the hot thing in philosophy among literary types these days. (Or at least among comic book writers.) He argues that there's an inherent link between philosophy and horror fiction, such that you can read philosophy as though it's a horror story and vice versa. Works of philosophy always have implications they don't pursue or possibilities they shy away from, basically, and by exploring these you can usually twist the philosophy into something much more unsettling and disturbing. The obvious example, and the one that's in my title, is Roko's Basilisk, but I see you've got a question about that up ahead, so I'll save it for there.
What is the Neoreactionary movement? What about the Neoreactionary movement interested you enough to write a book about them?
The neoreactionary movement is a school of far-right thought emerging from the work of a guy who blogged under the name of Mencius Moldbug, who argues that democracy is a bad idea, monarchy is good, and slavery should be reinstituted. This proved really popular among the sorts of people who like Trump, have anime characters as their Twitter icons, and post a lot on Reddit about how Anita Sarkeesian is the devil. But as someone who's really invested in thinking about radical leftist politics, there's a sort of perverse and pathological "through the looking glass" appeal to far-right nutjobs.
The three personalities at the heart of this book: Eliezer Yudkowsky, Nick Land, and Mencius Moldbug are definitely interesting characters, but they’re all very different. What made you pick these three specific individuals?
It started with Land, who's a former academic philosopher who was one of the earliest thinkers in a movement called accelerationism, which basically says that the solution to all the problems of capitalism is just to speed up the process so it gets to its historical end. Land was a postmodernist and Marxist, but in 2013 he made a dramatic heel turn and threw in his lot with the neoreactionaries, basically arguing that this was the way to bring about the capitalist singularity, which he's a little hazy on the details of, but clearly involves AI and face tentacles and the like. And he seemed really perversely interesting, and to tie in with a bunch of other stuff I was thinking about.
But writing about him meant writing about Moldbug, since his work cites Moldbug so heavily. And Yudkowsky was an influence on both Land and Moldbug, and also thought a lot about the singularity (which for him is a good thing where we're all uploaded to computers and become immortal and a superintelligent AI solves all our problems for us), so he ended up just sort of rounding out the set neatly and giving me three thinkers with enough similarities to form a coherent topic but enough differences to keep the book moving.
The title of your book references “Roko’s Basilisk”, which is both ridiculous and fascinating (Those of you who read the 10,000 Dawns story “The Hell of Agreement” in the Convention Anthology “Tales From the 10,000 Dawns” might remember it explained there). Could you tell us about the Basilisk, and what interests you about it?
Oh, man. So, basically the Basilisk is a thing that happened in the comments of Eliezer Yudkowsky's website, where someone, riffing on a bunch of commonly accepted premises within that community, suggested the idea of a futuristic AI that would reincarnate you and torture you for all eternity if you didn't donate money to help bring it into existence. And people freaked out about it. Like, there were people who had nightmares about this AI, Yudkowsky himself wrote this amazing all-caps furious comment berating the guy who suggested it for even talking about it. It's one of the most amazing instances of philosophical horror to take place in recent memory - an actual case of people being demonstrably spooked by an unexpected consequence of their train of thought.
Do you have a favorite passage from the book?
I'm probably most partial to a moment fairly late in the book where I kind of off-handedly indicate a possible starting point for a new model of leftist thought that takes empathy as its central principle, and suggest a bunch of readings that might be useful in expanding it, then basically go "but instead of talking about that, let's poke at these stupid racists some more." It really captures the perverse essence of the book.
The marketing campaign for your book has been one of the most brilliant things about it. All you did was give your book the possibility of existing, and it was as though the fans of Yudkowsky, Land, and Moldbug were scared of people looking into the face of a Basilisk: they reacted really passionately, and strongly, and suddenly spread knowledge of your book farther than it would have otherwise. What was the response of their fans like for you? How much of that was intentional? Did you enjoy interacting with their fans?
Oh, thank you. I wouldn't want to suggest I sought out to antagonize any of them or their fans. The only one of them I reached out to was Nick Land, as I thought there was a chance he'd legitimately get a kick out of the book even as he disagreed. He thanked me for my chutzpah, and tossed a link into his weekly linkblogging post. I've been happy to engage in dialogue with anyone interested in the book, though, and a couple fans of both Moldbug and Yudkowsky had been making a bit of noise about the book on Tumblr, including some misunderstandings of what it was doing (like that it was attempting to say that Yudkowsky was himself a neoreactionary, which he's not.) So I made an offer of review copies to anyone who wanted to look at the book from a skeptical perspective, and some people took me up on it, and it kind of escalated the way things do to where Eliezer Yudkowsky himself made a vagueblog that's obviously about the book in which he implored people not to talk about it and referred to it as "[CENSORED]," which is of course the exact same dumb thing he did with the Basilisk and caused a nice little spike in my Kickstarter numbers.
So that's the sort of misadventure you simultaneously hope for and feel a little guilty about, as a writer. On the whole, I appreciate that the book's been generating such a reaction. It's a book that was kind of designed to piss some people off, so I can't exactly act upset that both it and I have gotten some flak. A surprisingly large amount of the flak has engaged with the book in intelligent and thoughtful ways, though, and at impressive length, as have some of the good reviews, and it's hard not to be proud of a book that's generating that much intelligent and interesting reaction.
What was the strangest reaction the book has gotten?
The chain of increasingly irate Tumblr posts from a guy who steadily came to the conclusion that the basilisk was my penis has to win this one, I think.
The Kickstarter for this book has absolutely exploded, did you expect this level of interest in a weird philosophy book?
I mean, I had stretch goals out this far, so I can't pretend I was completely unprepared for it doing this well. But we're definitely in "best case scenario" territory. Let's say I absolutely had faith the book could be interesting to this many people, but I wasn't sure I knew how to sell them on the weird philosophy, and I'm tremendously grateful so many people have believed my pitch on it.
One thing that really surprised me about “Basilisk” is that its so easily readable, especially since I have very little experience with philosophy. What made you chose the (really funny) style you did?
Mostly it just seemed like being funny was probably a good way to leaven what would otherwise be a really theoretical and obtuse book. It's the logic of the dramedy applied to abstract philosophy: put jokes in. But it also helped strike a necessary balance in talking about these particular thinkers. Among them you're dealing with a lot of ideas that are ridiculous and/or viscerally abhorrent, and while the argument I wanted to make necessitated taking them seriously, I didn't want to give them undue respect. So contrasting what's really a pretty thorough account of their thought backed up with lots of quotations with a snarky, even at times contemptuous tone struck a good balance, and made the book, as you say, readable.
You’re previously known for your Doctor Who essay series “TARDIS Eruditorum”, and your comic book philosophy essay series “Last War in Albion”. What can readers of those blogs/books expect to enjoy from this project?
It's very much my trademark "make a topic interesting by wandering around it and seeng what happens" approach, and while there's no Doctor Who or Alan Moore (although Moore will be showing up in the stretch goal essay on lizard people), a lot of the themes and questions I use Doctor Who and British comics to explore are explored in Neoreaction a Basilisk. Basically, I totally understand why someone who came to my work for the Doctor Who might not be interested in this, but equally, nobody looking at my previous work and this is going to be surprised they're by the same author.
I first learned about Yudkowsky from his Harry Potter fanfiction “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” (full disclosure: I reviewed that book positively for “Weird Kitties” on Eruditorum Press). Of course, Harry Potter fights a Basilisk created by Salazar Slytherin in “The Chamber of Secrets.” So let’s go pedantic: who would win in a fight: Roko’s Basilisk, or Slytherin’s Basilisk?
Certainly Slytherin's Basilisk is more real, in the sense of being a more widely known concept. It has more power as a sigil. Equally, Roko's Basilisk, being an AI, is largely immune to most of Slytherin's Basilisk's obvious threats, so it's tough to see how it wouldn't win in a head-to-head.
I figure in the end, one way or another, Glycon prevails.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Phil! You can find the Kickstarter for “Neoreaction a Basilisk” at the link below:
The RPG company I co-own, Shotgun Angel Games LLC, is going to be launching its first ever Kickstarter for a gaming module! The Kickstarter starts this Friday, and I can't wait for you guys to get to check it out. The company Press release is below:
Goblinpunk: A Pathfinder Compatible RPG Adventure
Shotgun Angel Games LLC is proud to announce their first published adventure module, “GoblinPunk”, which will be funded via Kickstarter starting May 20th. GoblinPunk will be a Pathfinder Compatible, 30 page, full color adventure featuring fantastic Steampunk contraptions and madcap Goblins joining together to cause maximum mayhem for players everywhere. If funding goals are met, a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition compatible version will also be made.
GoblinPunk will throw a group of heroes into an fight against Watchtooth Ambergris, a cunning Goblin Warlord who has armed the local Goblin tribes with airships, steam powered jetpacks, and clockwork weapons. With the countryside in danger, its up to the players to stop the steampunk threat.
The module contains the work of Damon Null, Corey Roth, and James Wylder.
Shotgun Angel Games LLC is based in Elkhart Indiana and previously released the digital only adventure, “A Wind of Steel Shards”.
More information is available at:
I had a great time meeting those of you who stopped by my booth at Wizard World Minneapolis, if you're in the Des Moines Iowa area, please come see me next weekend at Wizard World Des Moines.
There will be more science fiction fun fairly soon, but for a moment I'm going to take an aside to talk politics politely.
Dear Clinton Supporters and the Clinton Campaign,
For the last few months I’ve been the guy who has talked down other Bernie Sanders supporters when they say they won’t vote for Clinton if she gets the nomination. I’ve done it over and over at this point, and every single time I did it I 100% believed it when I told them why Hillary would be a great 2nd choice. The last few weeks though have more than soured me. I can’t even remember what I said at this point, and I can’t give a better argument than that we need to vote for her because Trump and Cruz will lay waste to the civil rights of millions.
That’s a pretty big deal. I’m definitely 100% voting for Clinton if Sanders does not get the nomination… But I’ve lost all passion for campaigning for or supporting her. I hit a breaking point this week when after Clinton won New York a Senior Clinton Staffer was quoted by Politico saying this about Bernie Sanders: “f--- him.” I thought this statement was horrid, uncivil, and worthy of an apology. However, when I brought it up online, plenty of Clinton supporters seemed to agree. Some joined in the chorus of “f--- him,” some made excuses for why it was okay for someone to say that. Hey guess what—it isn’t. And I shouldn’t need to explain outside of a Trump rally why “f--- Him” isn’t civil discourse.
I agree with Bernie Sanders a lot. According to those silly internet quizzes, I agree with him around 98%. So, “f--- him”? What does that mean they think of me?
This wasn’t the first straw though. That was just the last straw, and just a good and recent example. Truth is, I don’t feel welcome anymore in the Clinton campaign, and don’t feel excited about it anymore. And I know I’m not alone in this: I’ve heard this from plenty of other Sanders supporters. "If we lose, are we going to back Clinton fully? … Should we?" When our genuine concerns are so often treated as foolhardy or naïve? When it’s beginning to feel like our votes are taken for granted? So no, I’m not excited anymore.
But I want to be.
I want to believe in Hillary Clinton. I want to believe that she will work to build a better future for this country, and not just churn the status quo we have. I want to believe she’ll be willing to listen to the concerns of Bernie’s base if she wins the nomination. I want to live in a country where my friend’s civil rights aren’t constantly in danger of being removed, where our healthcare is safe and functional, where people rights aren’t violated, where children don’t have to take on a mountain of debt like I did to get an education. I want to believe.
So, you think Clinton is going to be the nominee? Make me care again. Convince me. Convince us.
There is a comments section on this article, use it. Tell me why I should be excited about Hillary Clinton. Because I’d like to be, and there are plenty of other Sanders supporters who feel the same. I’ll post the best arguments I find in a second blog post.
Thanks, take care. Vote for Bernie 2016.
A few rules and helpful suggestions (I reserve the right to delete any and all comments that do not follow the guidelines below):
-Don’t try to convince me to vote for Clinton in the primaries. That ship has sailed.
-If you want me to take you seriously, don’t talk down to me and tell me, “When I’m older…” I’m not older right now; I’m the age I am right now. Convince me now, not hypothetical future me.
-No hate speech. No slurs. Keep your language PG-13.
-No endorsements for other candidates, products, or general off topic points.
-Please be civil.
This weekend you'll have double the chance to either meet me, or part of the 10,000 Dawns team! I'll be at Wizard Word St. Louis this weekend from April 1st to April 3rd in booth F21! I'll have six different books there available to purchase, and I'll be giving away Shotgun Angel Games bookmarks to.
Plus I might have a special 10kd related bonus...
If you're in or around Southern Indiana, Miguel Ramirez from 10,000 Dawns will be hosting a panel at the Hanover College Geek-A-Thon about the development, present, and future of 10,000 Dawns at Hanover College, in Classic Hall room 102 at 2PM on Saturday April 2nd called: "10,000 Dawns: From the Gaming Table to the Page". It should be really awesome, so please go check it out. Its also a chance to see the kind of stuff being worked on by people-who-aren't-me within this setting.
If you can make it to either my booth or the panel, please do so. I promise neither Miguel nor I bite, or are cultists working for a Cthonic overlord.
Surprise! One of the new stories that's going to be in our con-exclusive anthology was featured on the website infinitefreetime.com as a C2E2 (the big Chicago Comic Con) treat :)!
You can read the story right here:
Thanks to Luther Siler for hosting the story, and welcome to any of his readers who came over here after reading it! Feel free to say hello ^_^!
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.