Musings on genre

September 6, 2012 at 7:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Earlier, whenever I’d hear a techno song or a hiphop song, my initial thoughts used to be along the lines: “But these all sound exactly the same.” Many otherwise sensible people have the same reaction to metal music. I’ve come to think this is the same as saying: “I’m not familiar with this type of music.” (So I’m trying to stop saying it.)

Now, if we can agree to that, does the same apply for genre literature, as well? Quite often you hear people complaining the fantasy novels are all the same. You know, good guys, bad guys, dragons, knights, swords, elves, wizards etc etc. On one hand, it’s true, many of them use the same elements. On the other hand, if you don’t have any of them, it just doesn’t feel like fantasy anymore. One can use these elements in a cliched manner or in a new, original way, so it’s not the elements themselves that proclaim a work cliched or not. So, when someone not that much into fantasy complains that all fantasy books are the same, what they mean is “I’m not familiar with this type of literature.”

The same goes for detective novels, sci-fi, romance novels, and pretty much any genre out there. So we should stop complaining how “These books are all the same.”

Thoughts?

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Solmukohta is awesome!

April 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Some thoughts and reminiscences from this year’s Solmukohta (Knutepunkt) in Finland. Solmukohta started as a conference/festival of Nordic larpers and has become a conference/festival of international larpers interested in the tradition of Nordic larp.

I’ve been a regular Knudepunkt goer since the third one in 1999. I haven’t missed a single event before last year’s one in Denmark. Which meant it was amazing to go back there this year when it was held in Helsinki.

This year apart from all the Nordics, I talked to people from Russia, Croatia, Israel, Germany, England, Latvia, Italy and the United States. On top of that I know we had visitors from pretty much all around Europe from Portugal to Latvia, from England to Bulgaria. So it’s really becoming international.

The editor of this year’s Solmukohta book States of Play, Juhana Pettersson, observed that ”Nordic larp” has become a tradition independent of the Nordic countries. So you can have Nordic larp in Mexico or Egypt. But you can also have larps in Finland that belong to some other tradition or remain more or less unaffected by that tradition. And that way you can even have Nordic larp being in dialogue with Finnish larp, and I guess my own Täällä Kirjokannen alla had quite a bit of that going on.

For me the whole experience started with the Nordic Larp Talks on Wednesday in Club PRKL in downtown Helsinki. You can see my talk titled How To Become a God, and all the others here.

Would you buy a used god from this man? Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen.

Next day all three hundred and sixty of us got on buses that drove us to the conference hotel Kiljavanranta next to some lake in the middle of the Finnish forest with some patches of snow left.

I ran two programs this year. One was called the Folk Fantasy Workshop, based on my article in States of Play (PDF). I gave a short presentation on the world in Täällä Kirjokannen alla, and then we started workshoping on taking each participants’ own country/nation/tribe/city/identity and turning that into a folk fantasy world. We had people from Sweden, China, Croatia and Russia present, and we had hardly gotten started when we already had to stop. The workshop might’ve been over ambitious, but I think the participants still made some interesting connections and maybe had some ideas they can later use for whatever they wish.

The other item was originally titled Contacting the Characters Within You, a self-help kind of approach to taking the roles and characters we carry around with us and using them for other things. Since the workshop was scheduled for Sunday morning, I had to rename it Hangover Yoga Workshop (and Contacting the Characters With You).

We started with twenty minutes of simple yoga exercises designed not to feel too bad for the hungover people, and wake everybody up a little bit. Then we started meditating on the characters we’ve played trying to identify five archetypes. The Good One, The Trickster, The Leader, The Shadow and The Brain. Not everybody had experience with all of these, but I think people sort of got the idea. We examined each one a little bit, and then chose two of them. Those two we made our own, trying to develop their physical language and put them on and off faster and faster. The idea was that the participants could learn to call on these characters in tricky situations in their ordinary life. For example a test might be very difficult for the participant in their everyday role, but putting on the role of The Brain might help them deal with it better. Different situations might require taking on different roles, and these sorts of exercises will hopefully help people to identify them better.

I think the workshop was a success since many people came to thank me for it later. I’m not an expert yoga master, either, but I think that went fine, as well.

One of the many highlights was being able to buy an early copy of Leaving Mundania from the author Lizzie Stark. I knew who she was since people had told me she visited last year’s Knudepunkt in Copenhagen. Leaving Mundania is a non-fiction book about larpers and the larp scene. It mostly focuses on larp in the United States, but the last chapter is titled Knudepunkt Blew My Mind. It was thrilling to read an excited outsider’s perspectives on the whole scene and the games we play and the the people we know. Of course, Lizzie’s not an outsider anymore.

She signed my copy ”Turku this!” Ironically, I accidentally left the book in the Turku School room (all the rooms were named after concepts in larp theory). So I really did Turku it. The next day it was gone. If you have it, I want it back!

The Pan-European tv drama / larp / transmedia experience The Spiral (formerly The Artists) is partly built by larpers, specifically Martin Ericsson and Adriana Skarped.  They showed us a sneak preview of the tv show’s trailer, which seemed really cool. Parts of the whole thing are made through a larp, as some sort of mocumentary. Difficult to explain, but you should totally follow it when it airs in September in several European countries including Finland. Or take part in the larp parts – it’s not too late!

Some players of The Spiral with game mistress Adriana Skarped in the middle.

The social aspect is very important in these events. Even though I went to bed quite early on two nights, I had a chance to party it out Saturday. DJ Hakkis’s 90’s gothic hits marathon was well appreciated! Also interesting discussions on commercial larps in Siberia, how Taoism relates to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin, politics in Israeli larps, German film funding, the great roleplaying theories of the day, capitalism and socialism in post-apocalyptic Swedish larps and lots of other great stuff.

There’s an influential indie roleplaying scene mostly in the US, but also internationally, that used to be associated with the forum The Forge. Over the years they’ve sent one or two ambassadors that usually get converted, but this time it seemed like there was a whole faction of these great people. Some came to preach, others to listen, but continuing this dialogue between ambitious clicks is very fruitful. The Swedish/Danish jeepform tradition is, I think, a sort of love/hate child between Nordic larp, US indie and Danish tabletop. The US indie crowd is discussing Solmukohta at the Story Games forum.

Ideas on jobs available for larpers because of their larping skils.

Some random notes  I made during the event:
“We have a special way of playing the post-death game.” -Alexey Fedoseev on Russian larps.
A StPetersburg game had in-game elections. If the conservatives won, the city was taken into history. With liberals, to the future.
Larps are not artificial, they are artifactual.
The Hollow Man Syndrome = there is no character, the player has to use their own experiences.
Read the book The Art of Curating Worship, a guidebook for Christian priests.

Solmukohta 2012 appreciation thread: http://laivforum.net/threads/20275-Solmukohta-2012-appreciation-thread!
Solmukohta talk on Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23sk2012
My Nordic Larp Talk: http://nordiclarptalks.org/post/20957499776/how-to-become-a-god-mike-pohjola

A Finnish delicacy with an informative sign.

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Nordic Larp Talks and State of Play

April 11, 2012 at 8:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re interested in what’s going on in the fields of participation, interaction or roleplaying, I recommend spending this evening at Club PRKL in Helsinki or online following the webcast. It’s the publishing of the new Solmukohta journal States of Play followed by Nordic Larp Talks.

The doors open at 6pm, the excellent book States of Play is published at 7, and Nordic Larp Talks hosted by Johanna Koljonen starts at 8!

States of Play is edited by Juhana Pettersson and has dozens of really interesting articles on the design, theory, documentation and results of the cutting edge Nordic tradition of live roleplaying. My article Folk Fantasy deals with Täällä Kirjokannen alla and what I think might be the dawn of a new era in the fantasy genre. The book is also published as a free PDF.

Now, here’s some info on Nordic Larp Talks:

We are proud to welcome you to Nordic Larp Talks Helsinki 2012 – an evening of entertaining, thought-provoking and mind-boggling lectures about projects and ideas from the Nordic tradition of live action roleplaying games.

The talks are presented by writer, radio & television host as well as winner of the innovator category of this year’s The Swedish Grand Journalism Prize award, Johanna Koljonen.

You can follow the talks live streamed on nordiclarptalks.org Wednesday April 11th 8pm EEST or at the PRKL club in central Helsinki, Kaisaniemenkatu 4.

Speakers
Mike Pohjola – How to become a god
Johanna Macdonald – From stage to larp
JP Kaljonen – The interplay between player and man in the street
Jesper Bruun – Experimental Larp Design
Lizzie Stark – Playing in Graveyards: Terror collides with larp in New York City

My presentation, How To Become A God, deals with the history of drama from Dionysian rituals to reality television, and beyond, and how all of this relates to roleplaying. While doing that, I’ll also answer a puzzling point in Aristotle’s Poetics that’s been bugging theatre scholars for three thousand years.

See you there!

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1827 – Inferno

April 3, 2012 at 6:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

My next novel 1827 – Inferno comes out in the fall in Finnish! It’s about the Great Fire of Turku and last year’s heavy metal musical 1827 – Infernal Musical is based on the same story. Become a Facebook supporter of the book, and stay updated on the latest developments.

Today we published the book’s cover, designed by the fabulous Tuomo Parikka!

Usually one should never judge a book by its cover, but I’ll let you make an exception in this case 🙂

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Trailer for Son of Man

September 21, 2011 at 12:33 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

My autobiographical Jesus novel Son of Man will be published tomorrow in Finnish. As I’m writing this, the translation rights are still up for grabs, but in the mean time here’s a trailer for the book. If you represent a publisher or know of people who do, make sure you check it out.

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Stand By Me meets The Life of Brian

August 15, 2011 at 9:06 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Pitching a movie in Hollywood you start with a pitch and move on to a one-pager, a synopsis, a treatment, a step outline, and then a screenplay. This is the one-pager for the novel Son of Man. (The movie rights were optioned to actor/producer Ron Gilbert.)

SON OF MAN

An autobiographical Jesus novel by Mike Pohjola

 ”It’s Stand By Me meets The Life of Brian.”

I grew up in a religious family where everyone was sure I would one day be something great. I agreed.

I’m five years old when I decide to climb a tree with my best friend. It had just stopped raining and the forest is slippery, but my friend is very persuasive. He climbs first and I follow. Then maybe twenty feet up my rubber boot slips on the branch, and I fall. There are rocks down below, and my head will hit them any moment and I will die. Then at five feet above ground, I stop. I’m hanging upside down in mid-air. I look up, and see that the bootstrap on my rubber boot is caught in a branch. I climb down gently.

I walk back home with my friend, and he tells me the branches have scarred my face. My mother is horrified as she cleans the wounds. ”Your guardian angel saved your life,” she says.

That’s right, I think. God told my guardian angel to save my life. But why? He doesn’t save everyone’s life. Why am I special? What plan does God have in store for me?

Five or six years later, after carefully examining the Bible with a child-like furor, I realize that it’s possible – maybe not probable, but possible – that I’m the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I’m proud that I’ve figured out God’s plan, but I also fear His punishment. What if He didn’t want me to know yet? I decide not to tell anyone, but try to be as good a Jesus as possible. I can’t smoke or drink or swear or disobey my parents or go around kissing girls. What kind of Jesus would I be?

The novel follows Julius, my alter ego, as he grows up in the shadow of his own Messianity. In the B plot we follow the Reverend Farfors who first baptizes little Julius as a young priest, and then goes on to become a sort of Pontius Pilate character later on.

The book follows Julius’ life from birth to until his about twenty-four. Despite all the Jesus stuff, he manages to experience many of the things that unite all those who grew up in the 80s and 90s. He plays Dungeons&Dragons, he loses his religion, he has several girlfriends, goes to demonstrations, he listens to metal music, he envies his friend’s Commodore-64, watches 9/11 on tv, makes graffiti, falls in love and fights with his parents. [SPOILERS OMITTED.]

The book ends with [SPOILERS OMITTED].

Publisher: Gummerus, 2011.
Language: Finnish, translations upcoming
Pages: about 500
Reference books: The Buddha of Suburbia, The Catcher in the Rye

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Son of Man finished

August 8, 2011 at 9:50 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I’ve finished the manuscript for my autobiographical Jesus novel, and sent it to the lay out people. Son of Man will be printed this month and published in Finnish in September 2011. Translations will follow soon, I hope. The first words I wrote for this made their way from my fingertips to the keyboard in 2006, so it’s taken a while.

While waiting for more information, come Like the book on Facebook! http://facebook.com/ihmisenpoika I’ll be adding pictures, the latest news and other fun stuff. 🙂

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Son of Man cover

April 22, 2011 at 10:50 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

My autobiographical Jesus novel Son of Man will be published in Finnish this September by Gummerus. It’s a book about a young man who thinks he might be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ…

The film rights have already been optioned in Hollywood. If you represent a non-Finnish publishing house, get in touch with me or my agent, get the rights, and beat the crowd! Otherwise, enjoy the cover and Easter!

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New Knudebooks online!

February 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

The roleplaying conference Knutepunkt 2011 is going on as I type. For the first time since 1999 I’m not attending, but I’ve written a short essay on one of the books. Yes, one of the books, since this year they had three books! You can download them all as PDFs.

Do Larp has manuscripts an blueprints for several recent larps, Think Larp has academic articles on larp, and Talk Larp has various rants and essays on larp. That’s the one I’ve contributed to.


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Nordic Larp is coming out!

December 21, 2010 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My friends Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola have been working for eighteen months on a huge photo book about the most ambitious larps in the Nordic countries. Nordic Larp will be published today Wednesday. I got my copy Tuesday afternoon, and it’s worthy of much praise!

The book has thirty excellent live roleplaying games from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Some games I’ve been involved in creating (Luminescence, inside:outside, Europa, PanoptiCorp, Dragonbane), in others I’ve been a player (Helsingin Camarilla, Ground Zero, The Executive Game, Hamlet, Zombie, Mellan himmel och hav, Silmäpuoli merirosvo), and all of them I’ve heard lots of good things about.

During the fifteen larp years in the book, the scene has deal with gender roles, society, cancer, Norway’s Nazi occupation, the mafia, nationality, insanity, capitalism, Shakespeare and the homeless, and adventure with vampires, dragons, steampunk spaceships, pirates and dead spirits that communicate through radio. Many of these in the same game.

My article In Prison With Kafka and Beckett is about inside:outside (2001-2002), a larp Eirik Fatland and I designed, and Irene Tanke produced, that was my first larp to be exhibited in an art gallery. The book has eight pages of text an Frode Dybvad’s photos for the game. While the pictures are good, many more articles are much more visual, since the originals were somehow lost in the Faroe Islands in Frode’s bag. (I think this accurately displays what a huge undertaking Stenros and Montola had in getting photos of some of the older games.)

Since a larp is an immediate work that cannot be recorded or reproduced, editing and publishing a book like this is a great deed for the whole culture. Without one the visionary live roleplaying games of old would remain only in the dimming memories of its participants and turn into vague stories told over proverbial campfires, but now they are documented with visual proof. With this book the history of Nordic larp is immortalized.

I obviously haven’t read the whole tome yet, but after browsing it, I can tell it’s full of interesting articles and brilliant photo pages. The book will be available online and in select bookstores, but you can also get it at the publishing party today on Wednesday, Dec 22th.

There will be four or five simultaneous parties held in Helsinki, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, at least. The parties kick off at 19:00 local time. The Stockholm part fill be held in Betahaus (Skeppsholmen 30), and in Helsinki the location is Dubrovnik Lounge (Eerikinkatu 11). Locations for Oslo and Copenhagen will be announced here.

The parties are also connected to each other with a live stream. You can also watch the video online in real time, or take part by Tweeting (#nordiclarp). (I promise not everyone there dubs themselves a Social Media Expert!)

Welcome!

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