(Cross-posted from the official PARANOIA development blog.)

Chronometric innovations introduced during Year 214 by The Computer’s loyal servants in Central Processing have been, through traitorous sabotage, unevenly applied. In particular, the new mandate to report all times to femtosecond precision has met with unexpected resistance, possibly due to consequent variance in reports due to the time elapsed in writing, reading, or speaking said times. CPU has determined a need for additional education. For these and other reasons, our friend The Computer has ordered Year 214 to be repeated, commencing promptly at 214.00.00.00.000000000.

The big news for PARANOIA in 2011 — at least I hope it will turn out, in retrospect, to be big news — was the launch of the new line of official novels from Ultraviolet Books. As I mentioned in the original Ultraviolet Books launch post, these books are never-before-published novels written by Famous Game Designers long associated with the roleplaying game. Inexpensive (holiday sale price US$2.99 apiece) and DRM-free (not copy-protected), they feature new covers by The One True PARANOIA Artist, Jim Holloway. Three novels have been posted in Kindle format on Amazon:

I’m editing the fourth book now, an introductory promotional anthology called The Computer is Your Friend. Soon I hope to post ePub versions of all these on many bookselling sites. Follow @UVBooks on Twitter for updates.

There will be more Ultraviolet novels in 2012 and, if all goes well, in the years beyond. In these books we’re hoping to continue a tradition of smart science fiction satire in the mode of Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, John Sladek, and Pohl & Kornbluth. In my view that tradition has subsided in recent decades. The audience is relatively small, and for a publishing conglomerate the finances don’t make sense. But for a small, scrappy band of High Programmers — on our own! backs to the wall! fighting The Man! — the business case is more attractive.

The main obstacle right now is a shortage of reviews on Amazon. If you’re inclined to read one of these novels and post a review, contact me at allenvarney (at) Gmail and I’ll send you links to free downloads of all three books. If you’re not inclined to write a review, you can find the Kindle versions of all three novels in the Ultraviolet Books Amazon store, which is spartan right now but at least includes links to current PARANOIA roleplaying books.

Speaking of which: The roleplaying year for PARANOIA was unremarkable. The only Mongoose Publishing releases were the two hardcover compilations of past missions, Flashbacks Redux and Flashbacks Redux Redux. The latter, through traitorous sabotage, accidentally reproduced the same My First Treason mission already included in Flashbacks Redux. Mongoose Publishing CEO Matthew Sprange has announced a corrective Materials Treasonously Deleted volume that will be issued free to all purchasers of the errant volume.

(The following opinions are mine alone and don’t necessarily represent those of Mongoose Publishing or the owners of PARANOIA).

It seems obvious the commercial tabletop roleplaying business — the traditional three-tier model of publisher-distributor-retailer — is stagnant and probably moribund. When RPG.net forum members post questions like “Is the hobby doomed?” (as they do with increasing frequency), some naysayers always pipe up with, “People have been saying the hobby is doomed since the 1980s” — as if that somehow proves the field’s vitality. I never understand this; people have been saying “the RPG field is doomed” for 30 years because, hellooo, the commercial field has been visibly, provably dying for 30 years. The two temporary episodes of commercial vitality (White Wolf in the early ’90s and the OGL fad) were intermissions, impermanent stalling actions in the long gradual decline of the player base since the D&D fad of 1979-82. The bright spots today, such as Pathfinder, the Old School Renaissance, retro-clones, and the effervescent indie scene — and some other isolated examples in this cheerleading RPG.net thread, “RPGs are NOT doomed” — aren’t bringing in large numbers of new players and, more to the point, aren’t earning much money.

One recent example: The finale of Greg Tito’s three-part Escapist article series, “The State of Dungeons & Dragons: The Future,” cites the sad condition of the field’s flagship game and speculates briefly about a 5th edition rumored to arrive in 2013. Raise your hand if you think a new edition of D&D will bring lots of players back to tabletop roleplaying. Uh-huh.

But for PARANOIA, at least, there has been one hopeful sign. Though the fan site Paranoia-Live.net continued quiet in 2011, the last High Programmer still standing, Phial, has recently acquired root access from longtime P-L.net doyen Andy “Jazzer” Fitzpatrick. Phial is leading an overdue site redesign — nothing ambitious to start, but well conceived and helpful — that may restore vigor to PLN Sector. My congratulations and best wishes to Phial and all the loyal PLN citizens. Stay tuned.