Suppressed Transmission - The First Broadcast
I have to start my review of Kenneth Hite's "Suppressed Transmission" by saying that John Tynes is a deeply weird man. This is a guy whose trade is getting people to empathize with visions of insanity and chaos. A real strange fellow.
John Tynes thinks Ken Hite is insane.
Think about that for a moment. It's sobering. And Hite looks so normal! Although, if you look closely at the photos in ST, he has got kind of a glow about him - sort of like a gamer Hunter S. Thompson. And he is always pictured with a drink in hand. This is kind of how I imagine "Suppressed Transmission" columns get written - Hite sits down with his huge conspiracy/weirdness library, a blank piece of paper and a bottle of Jack (or maybe twenty cups of coffee) until he reaches some kind of shaman-like mindstate which allows him to channel the Spirits of High Weirdness.
Okay. Slow down. First things first. "Suppressed Transmission" is a column in Steve Jackson Games' Pyramid Online Magazine. This book is a collection of Hite's columns from Pyramid, each three or four pages in length, with new illustrations, footnotes (great footnotes), and something called a "Bibliophany," which is like a Bibliography's no-good drunken half-brother. The columns themselves cover Horror, Alternate History, Secret History, and Conspiracy. Almost all of the game material is discussed in GURPS terms, but it's not necessary to play GURPS to get a lot of use out of this book - I don't. If you like your alternate history with an edge of madness, it doesn't matter what games you play - ST is obscure enough to be used everywhere.
If you know a lot about kooks, or conspiracy theorists, or even the postmodern writers who treat the whole thing as some sort of intellectual game, you know that most people writing about conspiracy theories have some kind of a Point, usually about Gnostics or Cathars. Kenneth Hite doesn't really have a point, but he has a goal, and the goal is to run kick-ass roleplaying games. Let's-get-liquored-up-and-travel-from-one-alternate-dimension-to-another-whooping-alien-butt kind of games. It's classical conspiracy theory on a gallon of Jolt cola with a blaster in its hand. Where else are you gonna find articles like "Ancient Astronaut Texas Steel Cage Death Match" or "Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon?" Who else is going to provide not one, not two but - count 'em - six alternate histories of the Roswell crash? If you can't figure out what the column is about based on my description, don't worry. I'm not sure ST is reall about anuthing - except maybe what happens when history and reality go wrong, and why this can be rewarding for gamers.
And it all makes such perfect sense! Hite's lunacy is convincing because it's all based on mountains of bad logic, dodgy anthropology, and wild speculation which have been prepared by generations of conspiracy theorists, cranks, crackpots, and general nutjobs. Some of the craziest stuff in here - like the article on San Francisco's very own Emperor Norton I - is plain old true. Hite's footnotes and bibliography demonstrate that he's wasted years of a promising life (well, I don't know how promising - maybe it's best that he's kept off the streets) wading through the volumes after volumes of crapola churned out by fools, madmen and charlatans over the years. And - what a guy - he's done it all so you don't have to! ST operates on the general principle of the GURPS sourcebooks - you could read all this bad craziness yourself, or you could just let Ken Hite do it, save yourself a couple of years and a small fortune, and be thankful.
There is a small caveat here. If you're already a subscriber to Pyramid, the only new stuff is going to be some of the footnotes, the art (of the recycled variety) and the bibliophany. Good stuff, to be sure, but $19.95 worth of good stuff? For me, the ability to carry Hite's personal madness around with me and read it on the train (you try cackling like a hyena on a crowded commuter train - go on, I dare ya) is worth the price. But for five bucks less, you can go to www.sjgames.com/pyramid and subscribe yourself. You'll get access to every article in here, and whole lot more of them as well - plus all sorts of other stuff, like Murphy's Rules and articles and things. The book is probably only for real weirdness enthusiasts like me.
Style: 3 (Average)