You are alive, in this world;
this world is alive, in the universe.
Both of these things are true.
Both of these things are temporary.
Four Ways to Die in the Future is an anthology of four science fiction games about death.
Amidst Endless Quiet is a game for three to six players about the dying moments of Elios, a deep space transport struck by a stray micrometeorite while en route from Gliese to Zhou's World. In addition to its cargo of physical art, block data, and biological samples, Elios carries five living human passengers, as priceless and fragile as anything. Elios will die, but before it does it has the opportunity to save one of its passengers, if it chooses. To make this decision, it will research its passengers, dream with them, argue with them and learn about their lives. In the end, one of them may live. The rest will die.
Island in a Sea of Solitude is a game for two players, played over video chat, about the relationship between two family members after one of them has died. One player plays the bereaved. The other player plays the buffered consciousness of the deceased. You're lucky that your health insurance covers a full thirty minutes of buffering. How do you spend your last moments with your dead family?
Alone on Silver Wings is a creative journalling game for one player, Powered by the Apocalypse. It is played over weeks and years, sometimes with the help of others. When you play it it, you will write about your own life, your own emotions, your own world, and your own eventual death.
The Tragedy of GJ 237b, by Aura Belle and myself, is a game for no players about the loss of GJ 237b, humanity's worst mistake — our worst atrocity — in our entire history as a species. The Tragedy of GJ 237b is about what we lost in that moment, and what can never be regained.
All of these games have been released, previously, as PDFs. This will be the first time that they've been available in print. Additionally, every game has been carefully edited, revised, and revisited for inclusion in Four Ways to Die in the Future.
Why make these games? Why this anthology?
I wrote these games because I am going to die. I wrote these games because, in my society, saying something like "I am going to die" is seen as shocking or inappropriate, despite the fact that it is true, for all of us, as true as it ever was. I wrote these games because, right now, just as it ever was, unethical futurists are trying to sell us the idea that death is avoidable or optional, while it is neither of these things.
We are going to die, now or in the future. In the future, though, we may die in very different ways, with very different meanings. I wrote these games because stories about future of death shouldn't strictly be the domain of hucksters and their false promises of eternal life. Death, more than anything else, unites us all, and we need to tell each other stories about death that are honest and hopeful, stories that don't prey on our fear or our desperation.
These games also represent some of the best game design work I have ever done (and, in the case of The Tragedy of GJ 237b, not designed by me, some of the best game design work.) It is true that they only make a short collection, but they do not need expansion or extra bells and whistles. None of them should be a 300 page book. But, by virtue of their quality, they deserve a better presentation than they've had thus far. What I want to do, with this kickstarter, is give them a presentation which reflects the quality of their design, without compromising or bloating their content.
Four Ways to Die in the Future will be a high-quality, limited edition chapbook. It will be 28 pages long. It will have a letterpressed cover with an illustration by Jenn Manley-Lee. The book will be printed by Brown Printing in Portland, OR.
This edition of the game will be a numbered limited edition of 184 copies.
Now that the project is funded, I do have a small set of stretch goals that will help me make the book better. These goals are intentionally fairly minimal: my aim is to keep the project to a small scale that I can easily finish on time and under budget. That said, every one of these is something that I would like to do that will make the book better.
At $2500, or roughly 100 copies sold, I can afford to hire Jay for more editing services. This means that the text will be all around better, both in obvious ways and subtle ones. I will also be able to pay Aura a larger royalty.
At around $3500, or roughly 150 copies sold, demand for the project is sufficient is sufficient that I will produce an unlimited edition. This will be slightly cheaper than the limited edition and it means that I will be able to afford to stock the book at game stores and book stores. The unlimited edition will not be signed or numbered.
At $4500, or roughly 200 copies sold, I will be able to afford yet more editorial work from Jay. I will also be able to pay Aura a larger royalty.
At $6000, or roughly 250 copies sold, I will commission Jenn Manley Lee to do four additional interior pieces, one for each game in the book.
Also at $6000, depending on my printer's schedule and other concerns, I hope to be able to produce a series of 5 letterpress prints, each featuring art from the book.
P. H. Lee is a tabletop game designer and author, most well known for games such as Polaris: Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North, Bliss Stage, and Hot Guys Making Out. Much of their previous work was published under the name Ben Lehman.
Aura Belle, the co-designer of The Tragedy of GJ237b, is the award-winning tabletop game designer of A Real Game, Kirigami Dominatrix Simulator, and Breaking up with your Werewolf Boyfriend.
Jenn Manley Lee, the illustrator, is the author of the science fiction graphic novel Dicebox. Find her work at jennmanleylee.com.
Jay Edidin, the editor, is a journalist, critic, and the co-host of the podcast Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-men.
Praise for the games
"A collection of games like jewels--brilliant, cutting, and deeply engaged with science fictional themes. I loved these and can't recommend them highly enough"
–Yoon Ha Lee, author of Ninefox Gambit and Conservation of Shadows
"These pieces represent fascinating work at the boundaries of human experience and of game design. In particular, The Tragedy of GJ 237b is a critical game design artifact, a profound argument for games as both poetry and sites of rhetorical power."
–Anna Anthropy, Game Designer in Residence, DePaul University
"This collection of artfully shaped emotional games challenges my notion of where personal power lies in death."
–J Li, designer of Twain
"Amidst Endless Quiet is a really beautiful little game"
–Anna Kreider, designer of The Watch and Thou Art But A Warrior
"The Tragedy of GJ 237b is a testament to the potential of the analogue tabletop medium. That game in particular showcases the unique strength of roleplaying games as an art-form centred on empathy and the human experience"
–Jason Pitre, Genesis of Legend Publishing
"In dialogue with one another, these four short works comprise a really thoughtful, challenging meditation on the nature of connection, mortality, and legacy. I wish I could write with such emotional precision"
–Avery Alder, author of Brave Sparrow and Teen Witch
"Don't even think about dying before you've played Amidst Endless Quiet and Alone on Silver Wings"
–Jenna Moran, designer of Nobilis and Chuubo's Magical Wish-Granting Engine
Risks and challenges
This project is ready to go to print. The text of the games is complete, and tested. The interior and exterior book design is done. The cover art is done. The printer is arranged. Indie Press Revolution, an experienced company, will be handling the shipping and distribution.
I have intentionally structured the project with minimal bells, whistles, and stretch goals so that I can concentrate on delivering a concise product on time and within budget.
That said, problems may emerge. This is my first print project in some years, so I will need to re-adjust to the world of physical book production. This is the first time that I've worked with this printer. There is always the possibility of delays in production and printing. I have some room for in the schedule for unknowns and delays, and should still be able to deliver on time regardless. If there are serious delays, I will do my best to keep the backers updated and informed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)