PARANOIA fans are no doubt aware of the Alpha Complex setting’s avowed debt to George Lucas’s 1971 feature film THX-1138. Now, unnamed but obviously enthused fans have started a free THX-1138 MOO set in the underground city of the movie.
Science fiction writer and game designer John M. Ford died of unknown causes yesterday. He was 49 and had been in ill health most of his life. Known to his friends and acquaintances as “Mike,” Ford was the author of many science fiction and fantasy novels and much poetry. He wrote several gaming supplements, most notably The YELLOW Clearance Black Box Blues for PARANOIA. Published in 1985 as the second full-length adventure for the West End RPG, and recently reprinted in PARANOIA Flashbacks, YCBBB is widely regarded as the funniest roleplaying adventure ever written. It brilliantly established the brand-new game’s tone and set a high bar to which later designers could aspire. Mike also contributed to Acute PARANOIA (1985) and wrote for GURPS, Traveller, Car Wars, and other games.
Mike was one of the most strikingly intelligent writers I’ve ever met, which is saying quite a lot. The eloquence, wit, and virtuosity of his work often stunned me. But though high in INT, Mike perhaps lacked proportionate Wisdom. He was diabetic and had other health problems, yet he didn’t take care of himself well; I suspect (albeit without evidence) he had a romantic aspiration to die young. Mike also got easily distracted by “fun” projects and neglected the hard business of building a writing career. His contribution to PARANOIA little helped his nascent reputation in the SF community. Still, it was a blessing for the line, both harbinger and epitome of the game’s greatness.
Mike often posted comments on one of my favorite blogs, Making Light, run by his longtime friends Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Teresa has posted a John M. Ford obituary where many of his friends are sharing memories.
Loyal citizen David Boyle writes, “Dunno if you follow the ABC TV show Lost. They’re filling the summer hiatus with a game of sorts called ‘Inside the Experience,’ which is basically a webmaze built into the nooks and crannies of various advertising sites.
“One of the former Lost writers is working behind the scenes now with some other folk to keep the webmaze up to date and provide new clues. Thought you might be interested to know that he not only makes veiled references to ‘Commie Mutant Traitors’ now and then, but he recently commented that he had spent an evening playing PARANOIA (not that he elaborated at all). I got a warm fuzzy from it.”
Thanks for the tip, David. (Note: The context in which blog writer “Speaker” makes passing mention of PARANOIA is a discussion of Monday’s tragic death of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. We mean no disrespect to the late Irwin or to Speaker by mentioning his entry in the context of PARANOIA.)