Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bug Powder

Bill: What do you mean, "it's a literary high"?

Joan: It's a Kafka high. You feel like a bug.

- Naked Lunch (1991)

Bug Powder is a strange magical substance found in the City, and its world, and possibly elsewhere. It generally appears as pale yellowish powder, and its official use is as a professional-grade insecticide. It can be found in containers from several different and mysterious suppliers--"Benway Chymical", and "Voke & Veech", are prominent examples. Bug powder will indeed serve as an insecticide, but if nasally insufflated (snorted), or injected intravenously in small doses it has euphoric and mild hallucinogenic properties.

Long-term use generally leads to dependence, but also, like use of a large single dose, seems to open a doorway to another plane. Users report travel to an exotic, desert world under two reddish moons, were lies a sprawling pennisular city called Interzone, on the quivering banks of a gelatinous sea. The swarthy inhabitants of Interzone appear human in all respects, but have undefinable and unsettling air of strangeness about them. In addition to the natives, humans from many time periods and worlds, as well as alien beings, can be found sweating in Interzone, perusing their own agendas. There is a great deal of political intrigue in the city-state, and several different political factions--but the goals of these groups and the reasons for their conflicts often seem contradictory, if not outright nonsensical.

Mystics and planar scholars believe Interzone to be an interstitial realm acting as a gate or "customs station" between the material world and the inner planes. Supporting this view is the presence of soldiers the Hell Syndicates, as well as miracleworking street-preachers and holy hermits professing the varied and conflicting "ultimate truths" of the Seven Heavens. A slight variation on this view, is that Interzone is not so much a part of the astral plane, but more an extension of Slumberland, the Dream-World, located in some seedy Delirium ghetto. Further exploration will be needed to determine this for certain.

This exploration isn't without dangers. While physical dependence comes from the bug powder's use, the thinning of the psychic barriers between the material world and Interzone serve to cause a person to involuntarily shift between the two. This tends to generate feelings of paranoia--and perhaps rightly so, as the more time one spends in Interzone, the more likely one is to become an agent (perhaps unwittingly) of one of its factions, and fall prey to its byzantine intrigues.

One final interesting bit of Interzone lower is that the natives hold that their city-state, was actually once six cities of very different mystic character, physically indistinct and loosely co-spatial, but still spiritually differentiated. The names of theses putative cities when uttered with the proper ritual, are said to be a powerful spell, though sources disagree as to what purpose.


Fran Terminiello said...

Go on, try some, just this once . . .

Trey said...

The first hit's free. ;)

Lagomorph Rex said...

D&D adventures based around Naked Lunch..

Can see it all now, yeah err.. your character has been raped and eaten by a giant bug...

Or, Your character has becoming hopelessly addicted to black meat or alternatively if you want to bring in the movie.. your character has becoming hopelessly addicted to mugwump secretions and will be spending the rest of his/her days slurping down mugwump goo..

This is all well and truly frightening..

Trey said...

I think there are varying degrees of "based around" something, but I don't think anybody suggested you turn Naked Lunch into your next megadungeon.

Though of course, you're free to do so. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah!
I saw the post title from another blog as I was running around, catching up on reading blogs and I had hoped that this was a W.S.B. blog.

After being mentally scarred the first time I read the Naked Lunch when I was too young to really be reading the Naked Lunch (or Erica Jong) I read the book some time later again and really got into the idea of all the madness behind the explicit imagery that paints a hysterical picture between the covers of that book.

Excellent post. I hinted at slunk merchants and black cheese afficiandos on Planet Algol before and I think that there is a small group of us (a niche within a niche within a niche?) that appreciate the influences of two great writers with the last name of Burroughs upon our games,

Trey said...

Thanks. Yeah, I've always thought a combination of the two Burroughs in question would definitely a game worth playing.

Anonymous said...

Black cheese. Wow, that sharp cheddar at lunch was good. Of course I meant the delicious black meat.

ze bulette said...

I always liked the idea of drugs in D&D - their (fictional!) usage would seem to be more widespread and likely than TSR modules have ever been able to overtly portray for obvious reasons.

The campaign I'm playing in has a bandit leader who doles out an opiate/hallucinogen that doubles as a magic item for those that know how to use it. The DM's a fan of Burroughs, but I didn't think of the possible connection until reading your writeup here.

Trey said...

Yeah, the literature (and real world) that informs D&D is full of drug use, so it does seem a little lacking in D&D. See my previous post "Fantasy Pharmakon" for more drugs from genre literature suitable for gaming.