Episode 66: The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

Show Notes

Plot and Setting 01:18 (viral learning, accelerated childhood, photosynthesis, viral augmented reality, living history, communism, living history, viral empaths) // Themes 15:04 (utopia and distopia, invading thoughts in the gestalt, J G Ballard, Anne Leckie, the bigger picture, Big Questions, Cyberpunk cheats death, constrained by time, death and transcendence, editing the soul) // The Roleplaying Bit 29:38 (two experience tracks, Brexit, countdown to apocalypse, local and global collapse, the Village)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is that you or are you you?” from Reappear // “But enough about me Bill Paxton” from Direct to Video // “Cylinder four” from Cylinders // “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it” and “Another version of you” from Thoughtless

Perfidious Albion on Speed

If you’re British, or even if you aren’t, a good chunk of your news feed will have been swallowed by the Brexit pantomime, including hilarious exchanges like the one between Will Self and Mark Francois:

WS: Your problem… is since 2016 you don’t need to be a racist or anti-semite to vote for Brexit, it’s just that every racist and anti-semite in the country did. MF: I think that’s a slur on 17.4 million people and I think you should apologise on national television. I think that’s an outrageous thing to say WS: Well, you seem to find a lot of things outrageous MF: Are you saying that 17.4 million people are racist and bigots… WS: No, that’s not what I said MF: That’s pretty close to what you said WS: It’s not remotely close to what I said. You seem to be a bit exorcised, sir MF: Well, I’m offended WS: The politics of offence, eh? What I said was that every racist and anti-semite in the country, pretty much, probably voted for Brexit. MF: How can you know that? WS: I suspect it. MF: Well, I think you should apologise. WS: To who? Racists and anti-semites?

OK, pretty funny although the best comment on the showdown was by Sara Pascoe on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order saying (IIRC) “What you’re seeing there is a clash between two different kinds of alpha male”. Everyone should wind their neck in.

But this is Fictoplasm, so there’s going to be a fiction element — and that’s this piece by Will Self in the aftermath of his face-off, where he name-checks J G Ballard:

Perhaps the pivotal years were around middle of the noughties – at any rate, that’s when I went to speak to my friend and mentor JG Ballard about what would prove to be his final novel, Kingdom Come. Jim was as bluff and strange as ever – he had the manner of the RAF pilot he might have become if he’d completed his training, combined with the thousand-yard stare at what’s immediately to hand, which is the sure sign of a surrealist. He pointed out to me the flags flying in the front gardens along Old Charlton Road, the utterly bland suburban road in Shepperton (an utterly bland Surrey dormitory town), where he’d lived for 40 extremely odd years. For him, the flying of the Cross of St George was undoubtedly minatory: it had come about through a synergy between football fandom and the rise of ethnic nationalism; these were the years of the British National Party’s ascent to the giddy heights of the 2010 general election, when their candidates won over half a million votes. Reviewing Kingdom Come in the Guardian, Phil Baker succinctly noted “Ballard’s central idea is that consumerism slides into fascism when politics simply gives the punters what they want”. Well, Jim was always prescient – this was the writer who conceived of the celebrity car crash as a catalyst of collective hysteria a quarter-century before Diana Spencer was killed in the Pont de l’Alma underpass, and who also anticipated the baleful impacts of global warming as early as the late 1950s. Jim got that English nationalism was on the rise – and that under neo-liberal conditions favouring consumption over production, it was likely to become a vector for the most troubling aspects of the famously ‘tolerant’ English psyche.

Meanwhile, Mark Francois is providing meme-tastic soundbites like Perfidious Albion on Speed.

Perfidious Albion on Speed is too fussy a title to be Ballardian. In fact, Perfidious Albion is already the title of Sam Byers’ second novel, which didn’t start out as a Brexit novel but perhaps it evolved that way:

The honest truth is that it began in a much more speculative fashion. I did the bulk of the work on this book in 2015 and 2016, and while it’s true I continually adjusted for events such as Brexit, I think what really happened is that the world just caught up with me in surprising and disturbing ways, and so I accepted the idea that rather than continually reinventing things in order to be out in front of the phenomena I was depicting, I should anchor myself and play more with the ways in which the context of the book was evolving.

Here’s a video of the author:

Episode 55: Cocaine Nights by J G Ballard

Cocaine Nights by J G Ballard

Show Notes

Synopsis 01:15 // Themes 15:15 (three act structures, crossing boundaries, Futureworld and cultists) // Games 23:11 (Lag, spheres of comfort, trusting NPCs)

Music Credits

Music is by Chris Zabriskie: chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Samples: “Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear // “Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless

4.03: The Last Policeman, Hard Sun, The Three Body Problem

Ralph briefly discusses three pre-apocalyptic novels, with the conclusion that all that matters is how much time you’ve got left.

Show Notes


  1. This episode is partially inspired by the thread Nihilism: Gaming in a Hard Sun world on the UKRoleplayers forum.
  2. Here’s a fun stackexchange thread) on Hard Sun’s possible extinction event.

Music Credits

“Cylinder Nine” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 208: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Mo, Liz, Ralph and special guest Paul Mitchener discuss Ursula Le Guin’s magnificent The Dispossessed.

Show Notes

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paul Mitchener, Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 01:40 // “The Hobbit, basically” 05:50 // Remarks 09:35 // Paul’s game (Hot War) 15:00 // Mo’s game (hacking Rise and Fall) 18:10 // Liz’s game (inc. Bite Me) 20:50 // Ralph’s game 25:00 // The Hainish Cycle 29:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 204: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Becky, Ralph and special guest Tod Foley discuss the bizarre, creeping horror in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series.

Show Notes

Annihilation (and sequels) by Jeff Vandermeer.

Ralph Lovegrove with Becky Annison and Tod Foley

Bronson Pinchot has a lovely voice 01:05 // Synopsis (and general conversation) 01:45 // RPG ideas start 07:40 // Man Against Fire (Black Mirror) 08:35 // Archipelago and Itras By 11:30 // Itras By 11:40 // Lots more RPG options from Tod 13:40 // Bleed 15:45 // De Profundis 19:40 // Hot War 32:20 // LARP 42:50


We covered a lot of different games in this episode, so here they are in order of mention:

  • Archipelago
  • Itras By
  • Stalker RPG
  • Day Trippers
  • Cypher System
  • Dread
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • De Profundis
  • Hot War

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie

chriszabriskie.com // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 03: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

This episode we abandon hopes of getting the DVD player working again and embrace the apocalypse with Emily St John’s Station Eleven

Show Notes

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Ralph Lovegrove and Elizabeth Lovegrove

00:20 Synopsis // 06:40 Dystopia // 09:40 The Knowledge // 12:25 The Games


Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker & Meguey Baker // Summerland by Greg Saunders // Other Dust by Sine Nomine Games // Unknown Armies by Greg Stolze & John Tynes

Other Things

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and the film adaptation

The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell


“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie “Cylinder 3” and “Cylinder 4” from Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie (chriszabriskie.com bandcamp free music archive)

“Gone” from Music for Podcasts 2 by Lee Rosevere (happy puppy records bandcamp free music archive)