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Thursday, April 30, 2020

‘Inside Out’: Shannon Strucci’s New Zine Is Setting the Table for Body Horror RPGs

Shannon Strucci (of StrucciMovies) is a person of many hustles. She’s probably best known for her work on the video essay series FAKE FRIENDS and Scanline. She’s also a cast member on Critical Bits, the queer teen antifascist superhero horror actual-play podcast, and works as a film correspondent for Struggle Session.

A throughline in Shannon’s work, though, is that she’s one of the most consistently progressive voices in horror crit, examining uncomfortable realities and extreme subject matter in a style by turns empathetic and analytical. Knowing this, I was excited to talk to her about her new project, Inside Out.

Are you a DM? Do you — like me — dream of subjecting your players to strange mutations, gruesome diseases, and involuntary bodily transformations? Well, Inside Out is the zine for you. Part of ZineQuest 2, it aims to be a system-agnostic guide to safely and effectively incorporating body horror into tabletop roleplaying games. It’ll be in the form of a folded, black and white zine, lushly illustrated by artist Nick Tofani.

“I want to crowdfund for FAKE FRIENDS 3 at some point,” Shannon explained to me, “but I didn’t want my first crowdfunding campaign to be something in the realm of tens of thousands of dollars. Kickstarter’s ZineQuest initiative seemed like a good opportunity to start smaller. Of course, then I got very ambitious, and kept aiming higher for how much I felt we could raise, and how many people I should get involved, so the project is no longer small, especially for a zine!”

In fact, Inside Out seems more like a sourcebook at this point. It’s slated to feature a bioaccumulation of genre history, safety tools, and playable modules from five authors and two artists.

“The whole idea behind it is, instead of you, telling your players exactly what’s there, like, you ask your players, like, ‘You start to feel this sense of dread. What’s waiting for you on the other side?’,” said Critical Bits creator Joel Ruiz, of his module, Corners.

Inspired by the collaborative, improvisatory storytelling of Powered by the Apocalypse, he plans to build Corners on freeform questions and unknowns. “You can make it real, or not,” he went on. “But it’s the idea of asking someone what’s waiting behind this corner, and then taking their answer and running with it. I’ve used this reference before, but it’s like, letting your players draw out rope until they’ve tied a noose for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Paul “Ettin” Matijevic, co-author of Hard Wired Island, is working on a Marxist-tinged space-horror adventure, and Sean Oxspring (of video game developer Deep Silver Dambuster and OMEN Investigations) is drawing on his own experience as a zookeeper to build a zoological garden of horrors. Variety, perhaps, is the blood in this zine’s veins.

For her part, Shannon plans to provide a nuanced theoretical look at the genre, and the arrhythmias it might encounter during a TTRPG session. “It’s important to stress player comfort and safety,” she said, “and to avoid inadvertently Othering people with disabilities, and disfigurements, and trans people, like a lot of horror has.” To this end, Shannon’s building on elements like player consent sheets, lines and veils, and X and O cards — forms of tiered consent tailored to tabletop play. Part of the fun of horror, after all, is pretending you aren’t okay with it.

As a trans person, I’ve always felt like my love of body horror (and horror in general) had an aspect of queerness to it. I’m not alone in this either — according to Joel Ruiz, “the Venn diagram of weird fucked up horror shit and the gay community, it isn’t even two circles.”

“Noël Carroll’s work on interstitiality is some of my favorite horror theory writing,” Shannon said to this. “He basically talks about how, in horror media, beings who exhibit categorical contradictoriness, or defy cultural boundaries — beings that are neither living nor dead, neither human nor animal — are seen as disgusting in many horror works. It goes a long way to explain bigotry towards people who are neither straight nor gay, neither male nor female, or mixed race. More progressive works explore these liminal beings — which, in my opinion, include queer people! — in a more sympathetic light.”

“I do think body horror can be used to explore gender and sexuality in a more sympathetic light,” she said, to another question, “but I don’t see it as a happy or healing genre.” This is one point where I disagree with Shannon.

To me — especially in terms of transitioning — body horror is part of the process of healing, and, in that way, I find this genre somewhat comforting. The beauty of the tabletop format, though, is that I can use Inside Out to build that angle myself. Per Shannon, “it all depends on what someone’s looking to get out of it.”

Inside Out is set to be finished in August.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/video-games/3612390/editorial-shannon-struccis-new-zine-setting-table-body-horror/

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