Sunday, April 24, 2016

Beyond Appendix N - J.G. Ballard & Vacation Spots On The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence From Kort'thalis Publishing

 The summer of 1985 introduced me to the hustlers, conmen,women, and lovers of Vermillion Sands by J.G.Ballard. Who is J.G Ballard well according to Wiki;"James Graham "J. G." Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009)[2] was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. He came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962) and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s, Ballard produced a variety of experimental short stories (or "condensed novels"), such as those collected in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), which drew comparisons with the work of postmodernist writers such as William S. Burroughs. In the mid 1970s, he published several novels, among them the highly controversial Crash (1973), a story about symphorophilia and car crash fetishism, and High-Rise (1975), a depiction of a luxury apartment building's descent into tribal warfare."  So there is plenty of fodder here for the post apocalyptic D.Y.I.  dungeon master especially for Gamma World
Set Up and Background

So lately I've been mainlining a lot of J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, and other classic new wave science fiction authors. Let's stick with J.G. Ballard for the moment and how I got into him. I can tell you the exact moment in a little used book store in Torrington,Connecticut. I was with my best friend and at the time he had scooped up every single Sword & Sorcery title in the place. Sigh. He was my co -dungeon master at the time and knew I was running out of ideas at the time. I needed a literary hit and fast, neither of us ever believed the Dragon magazine article whatever it was called books are books and all that nonsense. I had devoured everything even remotely connected with Michael Moorcock's works and Jerry Cornelius was on my radar at the moment then. It was the year when adult themes and such were entering the picture.  And that's when I spotted this cover and I knew my fate was sealed. So I paid my 1.00 and the corruption started when I got home. At the time I was running an AD&D/Gamma World mash up and this title blew me away. What is Vermillion Sands? It is  vacation colony spot drawn from a post modern hell molded with technology from someplace via a Sears catalog  from the depths of an alternative Earth. According to Ballard,"
Where is Vermilion Sands? I suppose its spiritual home lies somewhere between Arizona and Ipanema Beach, but in recent years I have been delighted to see it popping up elsewhere — above all, in sections of the 3,000-mile-long linear city that stretches from Gibraltar to Glyfada Beach along the northern shores of the Mediterranean, and where each summer Europe lies on its back in the sun. That posture, of course, is the hallmark of Vermilion Sands and, I hope, of the future — not merely that no-one has to work, but that work is the ultimate play, and play the ultimate work.”
J.G. Ballard. Preface to Vermilion Sands, 1975."
In other words its the perfect place to draw from for a rather bizarre and down right weird Gamma World location with far more subtle dangers then the more usual run of the mill mutant menaces. Ballard's characters are damaged folks;" the characters themselves often exhibit the same obsession, anomie and psychological disintegration typical of Ballard's characters, the emphasis on elaborate and sometimes humorously imagined art forms gives these stories a playfulness unusual in his other stories."
Why was this such a good source to pull from? The decedent and technologies of the Vermillion Sands stories which were downright dangerous. I hate to use Wiki again but they have a damn nice break down of these stories:

  • "Prima Belladonna" focuses on music, especially singing, via singing plants and a 'mutant' voice.
  • "The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista" focuses on architecture, via mobile, mood-sensitive houses.
  • "Cry Hope, Cry Fury" focuses on painting, through paints that respond to the presence of light/objects (an example of decadence through the evaporation of skill).
  • "Venus Smiles" focuses on sculpture, through the creation of a (strangely growing) sound sculpture.
  • "Studio 5, The Stars" focuses on poetry, through automated poetry machines (another example of skill vanishing, this time into automation).
  • "The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D" focuses on a peculiar kind of sculpture made by carving clouds - painting also appears in this story.
  • "Say Goodbye to the Wind" focuses on fashion via living fashion and sound jewelry (non-aural music and erotic food are also mentioned in passing).
  • "The Screen Game" has no unusual technologies, but an unusual aesthetic - jewels and screens dominate.
  • "The Singing Statues" returns to sound sculpture (which may have been why it was removed from the American Berkley Medallion edition of 1971).

So at the time I was also running Lords of Creation with my friend but we were substituting the AD&D 1st edition rules for some of the broken parts of that game. The Omegatron adventure became another Gamma World timeline and the game campaign was a blast. The cloud sculptors became another faction for this campaign.

So what does this have to do with the The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence? Well quite a bit actually, one of the players stumbled across the wreckage of a cloud sculptor vehicle and looked out into the Other Dimensional Stream ( a roaring ocean of other dimensional space time) and saw an island covered with sound sculptures. There were two players with whom I've known for a very long time and they weren't amused at all remarking about a mutant wizard with whom they have no wish to cross swords with another. You know your doing something right when your player's memory dregs that up. Years later in the 90's Vermillion Sands would return as a part of an Over The Edge campaign adventure.

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