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Becky Annison
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Designer of Games, Knitter of Artifacts
Designer of Games, Knitter of Artifacts

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+Ralph Lovegrove and +Elizabeth Lovegrove

A neat primer.
The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margret Atwood being included on school reading lists has made it a lightning rod for controversy. The novel has been deemed pornographic, age-inappropriate, and anti-Christian. 

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a near-future America under the rule of a theocratic totalitarian state called the Republic of Gilead. An unnamed environmental disaster has rendered large portions of the population sterile; women deemed fertile, known as ‘handmaids,’ are kept for reproductive purposes in an effort to combat the declining birth rate. The novel is told from the point of view of a handmaid, Offred, who describes the history and social structure of the Gilead regime. In accordance with the regime’s interpretation of religious doctrine, women under Gilead have been stripped of all rights and freedoms, and are even forbidden to read. Even the protagonist’s name reinforces her submission to patriarchal authority; in her role as handmaid she has been given the name Offred (literally ‘of Fred’). As the novel progresses, Offred begins to see the hypocrisy and avenues of resistance that exist beneath the rigid surface of the regime’s rule as she looks for a means of escape.

Beginning with a staged terrorist attack (blamed on Islamic extremists) that kills the President and most of Congress, a movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution under the pretext of restoring order
They are quickly able to take away all of women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender.
 The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical, compulsorily Christian regime of Old Testament-inspired social and religious ultra-conservatism among its newly created social classes. In this society, almost all women are forbidden to read.

The story is presented from the point of view of a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept as concubines ("handmaids") for reproductive purposes by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases.
The book is told in the first person by Offred, who describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as "The Commander"). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead's society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.

The Commander is a high-ranking official in Gilead. Although he is supposed to have contact with Offred only during "the ceremony,"*a ritual of sexual intercourse intended to result in conception and at which his wife is present, he begins an illegal and ambiguous relationship with her. He offers her hidden or contraband products, such as old fashion magazines and cosmetics, takes her to a secret brothel run by the government, and furtively meets with her in his study, where he allows her to read, an activity otherwise prohibited for women.* The Commander's wife, Serena Joy, also has secret interactions with Offred, arranging for her secretly to have sex with Nick, Serena's driver, in an effort to get Offred pregnant. In exchange for Offred's cooperation, Serena Joy gives her news of her daughter, whom Offred has not seen since she and her family were captured trying to escape Gilead.

After Offred's initial meeting with Nick, they begin to rendezvous more frequently. Offred discovers she enjoys sex with Nick, despite her indoctrination and her memories of her husband. She shares potentially dangerous information about her past with him. Through another handmaid, Ofglen, Offred learns of the Mayday resistance, an underground network working to overthrow Gilead. Shortly after Ofglen's disappearance (later discovered to be a suicide), the Commander's wife finds evidence of the relationship between Offred and the Commander. Offred contemplates suicide. As the novel concludes, she is being taken away by the secret police, the Eyes of God, known informally as "the Eyes", under orders from Nick. Before she is put in the large black van, Nick tells her that the men are part of the Mayday resistance and that Offred must trust him. Offred does not know if Nick is a member of the Mayday resistance or a government agent posing as one, and she does not know if going with the men will result in her escape or her capture. She enters the van with her future uncertain.

The novel concludes with a metafictional epilogue that explains that the events of the novel occurred shortly after the beginning of what is called "the Gilead Period". The epilogue is "a partial transcript of the proceedings of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies" written in 2195. According to the symposium's "keynote speaker" Professor Pieixoto, he and colleague, Professor Knotly Wade, discovered Offred's story recorded onto cassette tapes. They transcribed the tapes, calling them collectively "the handmaid's tale". Through the tone and actions of the professionals in this final section of the book, the world of academia is highlighted and critiqued.[5] The epilogue implies that, following the collapse of the theocratic Republic of Gilead, a more equal society, though not the United States as it previously had existed, re-emerged with a restoration of full rights for women and freedom of religion.

The furor over the novel has not died down: as recently as 2012 parents in North Carolina were protesting the book for having negative views of religion and “anti-biblical” attitudes toward sex.

The American Library Association (ALA) lists The Handmaid's Tale as number 37 on the "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". Atwood participated in discussing The Handmaid's Tale as the subject of an ALA discussion series titled "One Book, One Conference".
The book's inclusion in school curricula and assignments has been challenged by some groups in particular cities in the United States:
1990: Challenged at Rancho Cotate High School, Rohnert Park, California as too explicit for students.
1992: Challenged in Waterloo, Iowa schools, reportedly because of profanity, lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women, and the disabled.
1993: Removed because of profanity and sex from the Chicopee, Massachusetts high school English class reading list.
1998: Challenged for use in Richland, Washington high school English classes, along with six other titles determined to be "poor quality literature and [that] stress suicide, illicit sex, violence, and hopelessness".
1999: Challenged because of graphic sex, but retained on the advanced placement English list, at George D. Chamberlain High School in Tampa, Florida.
2000: Downgraded from “required” to “optional” on the summer reading list for eleventh graders in the Upper Moreland School District near Philadelphia due to “age-inappropriate” subject matter.
2001: Challenged, but retained, in the Dripping Springs, Texas senior Advanced Placement English course as an optional reading assignment. Some parents were offended by the book’s descriptions of sexual encounters.
2006: Initially banned by Superintendent Ed Lyman from an advanced placement English curriculum in the Judson, Texas school district, after a parent complained. Lyman had overruled the recommendation of a committee of teachers, students, and parents; the committee appealed the decision to the school board, which overturned his ban.[20]
According to Education Reporter Kristin Rushowy of the Toronto Star (16 Jan. 2009), in 2008 a parent in Toronto, Canada, wrote a letter to his son's high school principal, asking that the book no longer be assigned as required reading, stating that the novel is "rife with brutality towards and mistreatment of women (and men at times), sexual scenes, and bleak depression." 
Rushowy quotes the response of Russell Morton Brown, a retired University of Toronto English professor, who acknowledged that The Handmaid's Tale wasn't likely written for 17-year-olds, '*but neither are a lot of things we teach in high school, like Shakespeare*. ...'And they are all the better for reading it. They are on the edge of adulthood already, and there's no point in coddling them,' he said, adding, 'they aren't coddled in terms of mass media today anyway.' ...He said the book has been accused of being anti-Christian and, more recently, anti-Islamic because the women are veiled and polygamy is allowed. ...But that 'misses the point,' said Brown. 'It's really anti-fundamentalism.'

In her earlier account (14 Jan. 2009), Rushowy reported that a Toronto District School Board committee was "reviewing the novel." While noting that "The Handmaid's Tale is listed as one of the 100 'most frequently challenged books' from 1990 to 1999 on the American Library Association's website", Rushowy reports that "The Canadian Library Association says there is 'no known instance of a challenge to this novel in Canada' but says the book was called anti-Christian and pornographic by parents after being placed on a reading list for secondary students in Texas in the 1990s."

In November 2012 two parents in Guilford County, North Carolina protested against inclusion of the book on a required reading list at a local high school. The parents presented the school board with a petition signed by 2,300 people, prompting a review of the book by the school's media advisory committee. According to local news reports, one of the parents said "she felt Christian students are bullied in society, in that they're made to feel uncomfortable about their beliefs by non-believers. She said including books like The Handmaid's Tale contributes to that discomfort, because of its negative view on religion and its anti-biblical attitudes toward sex."

It is meant to offend your delicate sensibilities. It is meant to be extreme
This is a book about an extreme, anti-feminist, fascist dictatorship where women are enslaved and sexuality is so restricted that unapproved sexual relations are punished with execution. 

http://queryquagmire.tumblr.com/post/62333496875/the-handmaids-tale-is-banned-but-you-should-read-it

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale

http://gumshoeblog.org/gumshoe-home/2013/6/11/b4b3nv4v27syu1fnqfa3mhobrl087s
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Lovecraftesque Competition Results

Congratulations everyone who entered the Lovecraftesque scenario competition. You were all fantastic!

Now the stars are in alignment the results are in!
With the coming of the solstice, I am delighted to announce the winners of the Lovecraftesque scenario competition.

Congratulations to the runners up:
- +Elizabeth Lovegrove with Bringing New Life
- +Fred Bednarski with Cold Steel
- +Oli Jeffery with Rare Antiquities
- +Devon Apple with The Huston Veil

And to our winner by unanimous vote of the judges:
- +Oli Jeffery with The Wilder Parts of the Forest

Well done all!

You can check out all the competition entries - there's a fantastic range there - here:
http://blackarmada.com/scenario-competition-entries/


Gaming Goals

2016 was a pretty quiet gaming for me. We fulfilled Lovecraftesque and I had a big break through on the system design of Bite Me!

But with the birth of our daughter, Athena, in May I haven't had much time and energy for playing since. I haven't done nothing (God forbid!) but nothing close to 2015 where I was playing really regularly and doing a tonne of playtesting RPGs and boardgaming. In 2015 I took part in 51 in 15 I can't remember who started it +Epidiah Ravachol was that you? Anyway I think I got to playing/running around 60 odd different games which was great.

It is all good - sometimes years are quieter than others. But... it does give one an itch.

Thenie is getting a bit older and bit better at sleeping and we are slowly establishing a routine. So it feels like a good time to set out some Gaming Goals for 2017.

So this is what I'm gonna do (this is a work in progress and I'll be adding to it):

What I'm going to Play/Run

1. Play the whole of "Playing Nature's Year" (on the appropriate dates) by +Meguey Baker
2. Play every game in the Romance Trilogy by +Emily Care Boss
3. Run 3-4 playtest games of Bite Me!
4. Run a playtest of Little Grey Cells by +Oli Jeffery
5. Bluebeard's Bride by +Whitney Beltrán +Marissa Kelly +Sarah Richardson
6. Lovecraftesque

What I'm going to read:

All of the above as necessary (obviously)
1.Perfect by +Avery Alder
2.Masks by +Brendan Conway
3. Nightwitches by +Jason Morningstar
4. Warbirds by +Mo Jave plus others.

What I'm going to persuade people to run for me:

1. Masks by +Brendan Conway

What I might run

Amber (always Amber)
Monsterhearts by +Avery Alder

#GamingGoals2017


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There is a lovely review of Lovecraftesque on Geek and Sundry!

http://geekandsundry.com/is-lovecraftesque-the-rpg-most-loyal-to-hpls-vision/

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After some lengthy delays, we've just published the entries to the Lovecraftesque scenario design contest. Go check them out!

Dragonmeet!

+Graham W has kindly given us (Josh) a small slice of his stall at Dragonmeet (B6) to bring you hardback copies of Lovecraftesque and accompanying sets of cards.

Come and say hello to Josh and buy something awesome from +Graham W too :)

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Are you near Chesterfield, Derbyshire?

This is my local gaming group which I attend on a time share basis with +Joshua Fox (until our kids are old enough to fend for themselves!)

Come and hang out with us and play some games!
We are a Roleplaying and Board Gaming Club in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. We enjoy a wide variety of games, from indie to the big names. We welcome new players and are always open to trying something different. Find out more on our website or drop us a line if you're interested in coming along.

www.refugeesfromreality.co.uk
refugeesfromreality@gmail.com
facebook.com/refugeesfromreality

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Check out +Ralph Lovegrove's ideas on how to get inspired for the Lovecraftesque scenario competition!
Here's an idea about using the tarot to brainstorm your Lovecraftesque scenario

+Becky Annison
+Joshua Fox

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So I've been experimenting with a few You Tube videos about our (never ending) journey to a greener, simpler life and finally I'm just going to bite the bullet and start sharing it here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhJH2C0cU9I&t=2s

It is all in a collection so you can quietly unsubscribe if you don't want to here about mending, chickens on my thoughts on consumer culture.

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We are hosting a competition to celebrate making Lovecraftesque real! Entries are only 600 words so give it a go.
To celebrate the fact that Lovecraftesque is now a physical product you can hold in your hands, and since Halloween is coming up, we’re running a competition to design a scenario for the game. You don’t need to have read the game, you just need some creepy ideas and enough time to write about 600 words - 2 pages or so.

More detail in the link.
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