I love Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. I also hate it at times. As a whole, it runs the entire emotional gamut for me, form some of the most powerful, evocative stuff I’ve ever read to some things which stand out in my head as bright, burnign examples of how to do something absolutely terribly. I’m glad to have it in my heart though, at least in part because it brings me a certain amount of zen with the fact that Martin will probably never finish A Song of Ice and Fire, because I have seen what happens when you sprint to finish something that big.
Obviously, take that Dark Tower love and frequently view it through the filer of games. It fascinates me because it’s something that is easy to capture the trappings of but difficult – maybe impossible – to capture the essence of. Maybe because it’s hard to identify exactly what that essence is. The sense of loss? The mashing of worlds? The dark sensibilities? The iconic nature of the gunslinger? The extended universe? The world that’s moved on? Maybe that last is the strongest in my mind, but it depends on so much that I can’t build something on it.
That combination of potency with ephemera invites me to mash it up with other things. The very first hack I added to Feng Shui when I got it was a “no time” juncture where the world had moved on, pretty much a straight Dark Tower ripoff. It mixes beautifully with certain flavors of Amber, but one needs to like the flavor, since it can change things up.
Lately, I’ve been pondering the combination of the Dark Tower with Harry Connolly‘s stuff, at least in part because Connolly’s vision of cosmic horror paired with human-level violence seems to capture so much of the spirit of things.
The weird thing is that sometimes these mashups give me new insight. I was considering some explicit genre mashup, sci-fi in this case, and wondered what it might be like if the Dark Tower were on a physical planet somewhere rather than somewhere cross-dimensional. A lot of the ideas transfer well, but it required the introduction of an additional element – a ship – for Roland to get around.
That’s a problem. Note that in the books Roland gets around by his own agency (walking) or is moved by others (Blaine) but he never has a horse in the sense that a true cowboy does, and there’s a good reason for this. For the literary cowboy, the horse is a companion, and a very close one at that. Roland can’t have a companion like that – it would be someone to share his journey with, which would undercut the point. It would be too close.
The ship illustrated this point because in science fiction, the ship is often a character (effectively). Firefly, Star Trek and Star Wars all illustrate this pretty well. It’s not inevitable – you can have boring space ships – but if Roland had a named ship, one he might care about, it would be problematic in the same way a horse would.
Anyway, it’s an itch I haven’t successfully scratched yet, but the process of trying continues to be pretty darn fruitful.