Suppressed Transmission: the First Broadcast
"The problem is the domino effect. Once you're fairly sure of one conspiracy theory, it tends to tie in to several neighboring conspiracy theories. Pretty soon you're believing quite a FEW conspiracy theories, and you start to sound like one of those NUTS unless you're selective about whom you tell what." --The Rev. Ivan Stang, Introduction, The Big Book of Conspiracies
This is a DANGEROUS book. Long-time Pyramid readers already know that Ken Hite's not wired quite like the rest of us, and now the public at large can be exposed to the THINGS that GROW and BREED in the dark corners OF HIS MIND. I'm sorry about that; Suppressed Transmission: the First Broadcast does that to a person. Perhaps some further explanation is needed.
Suppressed Transmission: the First Broadcast is the first collection of Ken Hite's weekly column from Pyramid magazine, not coincidentally titled Suppressed Transmission. The column is a discussion of hidden history, conspiracy theory, alternate history, and High Weirdness. The not-at-all insane Ken Hite proves what the inestimable Rev. Stang tells us: it's all connected--and, incidentally, it also makes for some good gaming. You want aliens? They're in here, and they're connected to faeries, the Merovingian bloodline, the Templars, Satanism, and Coca-Cola in one way or another.
The weekly column tends to be a scattershot affair. It's all related one way or another, but it doesn't necessarily tie in thematically from week to week, jumping from ancient astronauts to the Good Neighbors to Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare. In Suppressed Transmission: the First Broadcast the columns are organized thematically (although not perfectly so) with notes to help you along in case you want to read them in chronological order. You also get copious footnotes from Mr. Hite that reference other columns, point out additional source material, and illuminate his thought processes (as well as pointing out which source material to avoid and which stories are made of nothing but the most whisper-thin fabrications). The entire book feels like a printed hypertext; it refers back to itself dozens if not hundreds of times and includes links to websites and references to other books (both GURPS books and others). In a theoretical "second transmission," I'd like to see SJG include a CD-ROM with both books on it as hypertext.
When Scott Haring left Pyramid's editorship recently, he thanked Ken Hite for being such an "easy edit." Suppressed Transmission: the First Broadcast is astonishingly well-edited by any book's standards and doubly so by the standards of the RPG industry. In the entire book, I found only one or two errors (one of which was a misuse of an idiom which resulted the wrong homonym being used). Of course, there may be factual errors but the subject matter of Suppressed Transmission has always been rooted firmly in shoddy scholarship, fallacious beliefs, dangerous pseudoscience, and Mr. Hite is always quick to point out which stories are garbage and which ones are garbage but make for a good game. In fact, the only real annoyance (not even qualifying as a complaint since I've read all the columns online several times over) is that the column "Ancient Astronaut Texas Steel Cage Death Match" (about a game world in which all ancient astronaut stories are true) is printed almost 30 pages before "Hite's Handy Field Guide to Ultraterrestrials", upon which it draws heavily.
The artwork in the book is wonderful. Old pictures familiar to SJG fans are recombined in new ways and sit beside old woodcuts and manipulated photographs. We also get to see what Ken Hite looks like: and it's not what you'd imagine the keeper of so much occult lore would look like. At least, I assume that's Ken Hite and not the flesh-mask of some fungal creature from Zeta Reticuli.
Don't get the impression that this is all conspiracy and alien stuff, either. There's hints for running alternate history games, real-world-with-magic games, horror games, and for drawing inspiration for any RPG from your local newspaper. This book borders on indispensable for any GM who wants to make his games more interesting and a solid, copiously-researched reference work on fringe thought for the rest of us. Pick this one up, and if you want to see rest of Ken Hite's columns, sign up for Pyramid magazine.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)