Monday, 12 January 2009

On the Beautiful and Ironic Randomness of Life

Today I was at downtown Athens once more, in order to take care of some business that the Saturday protests had prevented me from completing. At least, this time the protests were rather peaceful (as far as I know and in comparison to the last couple of weeks' riots - it never ceases to amaze me that protests involving large-scale international events, such as the Gaza massacre in this case, are usually not fraught with violence and destruction, but that is another issue).

At any rate, having concluded my business, I was too far off and too weirdly woken up to go to the nearest comic book store, so I went to an RPG, Wargames and Hobby Shop instead, where a number of old books (up to 10 years old, I think) were on offer. When I say old, I mean only pertaining to their publication date, since there is absolutely nothing denoting their age appearance-wise (OK, except for a small batch). Hitting myself over the head for not having purchased AEG's Swashbuckling Adventures from the offer stand, I found it missing, so I went ahead and dug through EVERYTHING else. In the end, I came up with the following items:

Pax Dei: A Sourcebook of the Dominion
for Ars Magica 3rd Edition
(White Wolf)

Middle-Earth Role-Playing:
Southern Gondor: The People

Nameless Cults: The Cthulhu
Mythos Fiction of Robert E.
(Chaosium Books)

Now, one might wonder what possible value these books could have for anyone OTHER than an RPG afficionado with archaeological tendencies, let alone one who, in fact, finds the Middle-Earth Role-Playing system one of the most constipated and hard to use and who has only played Ars Magica 4th Edition (I think they are at their 5th one at present and of course, White Wolf is no longer the publisher). Well, these RPG books come from a time and age, when writers and publishers actually had the high ambition of young (or even, not that young) people to read and then use their creativity and imagination to forge long-lasting, good stories. These books are damn good reads, with a bare minimum of actual rules pertaining to the game, but a wealth of lore to be cherished and become a source of inspiration. In fact, Pax Dei was written after extensive research at the Carnegie-Mellon University, in order to attain the optimum fusion of Mythic Age Church power, with actual Medieval Church history, politics and mystery.

As for the third book, well, it contains every bit of Cthulhu Mythos written by Robert E. Howard, the literary father of Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Among the many tales included in the 350 pages, are "The Black Stone" and "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth", in case you were wondering where the metal band got its name from.

For these three books I consider treasures, I payed a grand total of... 9 euros. This pertains to the irony in the title of today's post, as, a few years back (well, up to 5, probably), these books would have cost me around 65 euros! That is very nearly the sum I would pay for the Deluxe Edition of Hyoborian Adventures MMORPG, for the PC. A little food for thought on the progressive value of literature versus the value of the rather mindless act of gaming. Do not get me wrong, I am a PC gamer too (though I loathe MMORPG) but still, I realize that, counting out a few masterpiece Adventure Games, it is a mindless activity. Incidentally, the images above are my scans of the actual book covers, who are as if they shipped from the companies only yesterday.

Following these purchases, I decided to go over to my publisher and buy some more copies of the short story collection containing my "Double Substitution Crime", to make gifts of. As I was making my way towards a main avenue, to catch a cab, I chanced upon an acquaintance I had not seen for over a month: a sweet young woman with mischievous green eyes. After the exchange of a few words, I noticed she was looking at me in a peculiarly amused way. When I looked at her questioningly, she said:

"You smell like... something out of a mountain."


"I don't know, something between a Sage plant and Mountain Tea..."

"Um... do I?"

"Yeah. I think it's really nice, but also kinda funny. Don't you?"

"Well, it's the first time anyone has ever told me such a thing, but I will take it as a compliment."

"It was meant as one."

Though it would have been completely out of context to discuss at the time, I knew why that remark brought a rather weird, even silly smile to my face; once, what seems like a very, very long time ago (in fact, around 10 years), when it seemed to me that it was impossible to be unhappy on this small blue world, a very different girl had whispered tenderly into my ear:

"You have the scent of wet earth. It's a good scent."

So there, a totally unexpected remark, from a completely unexpected quarter, brightened the rest of my day, for no (rationally) good reason at all. That, in my opinion, is the beautiful randomness of life.


1 comment:

Dr. Kalantzi-Miller said...

Ερρρ, ναι, εμ, it's interesting to realize how quality (& originality) has decayed, givin' it's place to quality in an increasingly globalised world & economy, in all aspects of life - including RPG books.

It's pretty much the same everywhere...