Saint Bernie, MN – A college student at Whatsamatter U was playing Dungeons and Dragons Friday night when apparently a bet went wrong and was forced to summon the Prince of Darkness in a spectacle involving a pentagram, the blood of a freshly-killed cat, and a topless virgin coed. According to witnesses, the spell was temporarily halted while the campus was scoured for a virgin. Upon completion of the spell, Satan himself arrived at the dorm room and threatened the players with the most unholy vengeance before stealing the remaining beer and vanishing in a puff of smoke.
The Saint Bernie Police Department was notified about the potential animal abuse and states they have launched an investigation.
No charges will be filed against Satan.
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Silly, yes. But hardly any more so than the feeling I had on reading this article on Tor.com about the “Summer of Sleaze.” The article discusses the foofaraw surrounding the “disappearance” of college student James Egbert, which was blamed on him being a player of Dungeons and Dragons. Never mind that he was found living in another state months later (though he did tragically commit suicide); having the narrative out there that this fantasy game was poisoning the minds of young people was just too tantalizing for the social crusaders of the day. Jack Chick (surprise, surprise) had a field day with this.
This was hardly new, of course. Fred Wertham penned Seduction of the Innocent back in 1954, warning that comic books were corrupting the children of America and right about the same time, Elvis Presley’s swinging hips were too risque for that newfangled media of television. In the ’80s, it was about rap music. More recently, it has been about the violence in video games. At every turn of cultural development, there is someone waiting to stand up and scream, “Not on my watch!”, though it is, of course, debatable how much of it is “their” watch. After all, culture is a shared experience, not one cuckoo-cloudlander’s personal preference.
Back to the point. Egbert’s so-called disappearance spawned a whole series of books regaling people on the evils of role-playing games. There was an even an atrocious movie based on one of the books, Mazes and Monsters (starring a young Tom Hanks). For a bit, the whole country was awash with this nonsense.
I played D&D as a kid. I read comic books. I read spec fiction now and have read some pretty horrifying stuff, and even written a little. And you know what? I turned out okay.
(Muse: You sure about that?)
Yes. I didn’t turn into an amoral killer. I don’t do drugs. I don’t worship Satan. I lead a normal life and so do all of the other people I know who engaged in these activities.
It’s about the twin dragons of insecurity and need for importance that drives the people to pick up the sword and prattle on. And they are dangerous as far I am concerned – more dangerous than some teenage rolling dice in a basement somewhere. This whole type of malarkey puts me in mind of the C.S. Lewis quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
And to anyone who agrees with stemming the tide of moral decay and decadence, I say this:
There is a great thing about living in the western world in the 21st century: you have the freedom to not give a crap what anyone else is doing. If you see something annoying on TV, change the channel. If you read something that is abhorrent to your values, put it down. If you artwork that offends your spiritual convictions, walk away.
But please spare us the theatrics and righteousness of forcing your “proper” views on the rest of us. Spend that time doing something nice for yourself, since you, like the rest of us, will be nothing but food for worms in sixty years. Enjoy your worm-free existence while you can.
(Muse: Where did that come from?)
Someone pushed one of my censorship buttons today. Sorry, I’ll calm down by the next installment.