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Glitch City Blues

A Playlist for a Solo TTRPG of the Retro Dystopian Future

By Tom BakerPublished 26 days ago Updated 26 days ago 8 min read
AI-generated art

"Our love can destroy this whole fucking world [...] Let's rust this fucker!" Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

"In the future, everyone will be living in a TV studio." J.G. Ballard (Mid-1980s)

Glitch" (alternately "Glitch City") is a solo TTRPG (Table Top Roleplaying Game) I'm developing with the help of Chat-GPT. It's set in a cyberpunk, dystopian future. wherein it's always raining and no one smells very good. The world, or Glitch City at least, is controlled by a vast AI called "MAGI" (Meca Artificially Generated Intelligence); which is a morally-ambiguous disembodied computer mind. The class divisions are between the very rich, corporate bureaucrats, and the very poor, man-in-the-street; the hackers, crackers, renegades, criminals, revolutionaries, and assorted working-class slobs, all vying for a piece of digitized heaven, via the neural link chip implanted in many, most heads. All the better to beam advertising spots and other assorted forms of virtual reality pleasures (stimulation in sex, violence, and thrill-seeking endorphin rush experiences) directly to the cerebral cortex; as well as outright propaganda and mind control, of course.

Some are pushing against this form of control. Most are out for themselves. The world of Glitch is dog-eat-dog. Hey, life's a bitch, ain't it?

The environment of Glitch is trashed. Acid rain, smog, and toxic waste heaped up in piles, alongside radioactive waste, have created mutants of many stripes, living subterranean lives in the tunnels and sewers of Glitch City, battening off each other as well as unsuspecting victims.

Gangs rule the mean streets. Above, the ultra-rich fly around in hovercars and mini-chops (miniature helicopters). They live in lavish penthouse apartments, in gravity-defying highrises. They plan to hold onto their wealth and position, their place above the teeming "unwashed", BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

The police are a brutal, militarized force, comprised of robotically-enhanced thugs (many people have mechanical enhancements that can afford them) in military body armor, backed by flying drones that shoot electrical bolts. The jails are teeming and overcrowded; Glitch City is a violent, high-tech sewer. The styles are scruffy urban streetwear, gritty and shocking retro Eighties punk; it's a cross between Max Headroom, Blade Runner, and Liquid Sky.

Strange new cults exist underground, preach the coming of an AI Apocalypse, worship the image of the new cyborg deities; and literal cyborgs live among the populace, some virtually indistinguishable. Mutants roam the shadows; scavengers roam the deserted corridors of abandoned buildings. Hactivists, renegades, revolutionaries, and Just Plain Folk teem through the dark, rain-spattered neon streets. The loud, caustic vibrations of the music of tomorrow ring out through the crumbling walls, reverberating off the steel and plexiglass skull of a city that gave hideous birth and progressed outward like a tumorous growth. This is all Glitch City, and this is its soundtrack, Feedback. (I use it only as a term of endearment, toots. Ain't the world a shithole?)

Exhibit A: Ministry - "Stigmata"

Virtually the look and sound and smell erupting from the bowels of Glitch City, you can never go far wrong with Ministry. I heard this song for the first time around the Good Year 1990, back before the advent of the Internet Age. Back then, a home computer was a huge luxury device that sat on a desk, had horribly laughable, outmoded graphics, and could do very little. We knew eventually everyone would own one. We didn't know they'd ever be small enough to fit in your pocket.

Exhibit B: Nine Inch Nails - "Head Like a Hole"

There's not much to say here. The beauty of the silver face, backed by the lightbulb, turning as if on an axis, superimposed over the ritualistic baton-twirling that might have been filmed on some Caribbean island; and the beauty of the digitized face, with a small television-like monitor in one eye, covered by the glowing grid; all of this is juxtaposed against the band wrapped in wires, full of the rage that results from being lost in a Kafkaesqe nightmare in which the singer is seen to be, quite literally, "drowning in red tape." This is the modern zeitgeist, for a man to become bound to his own machine, a prisoner of the alienating, dehumanizing, electronic Hell he has fashioned for himself; its coiled tentacles dragging him ever onward, as he pulls futilely against his restraints. "I'd rather DIE than give you control." Yeah. For "the sick among the pure."

Exhibit C: Gary Numan - "Down in the Park"

The future will be fast food, "mach-men," and machines that play "kill by numbers." The Park here is a state of mind, I think. But maybe it's located somewhere in Central Glitch City. The homeless have to have somewhere to sleep (and be eaten alive) after all.

Gary Numan was bordering on genius when he wrote this song. He touched the ether, saw a vision of the Is To Be, and transported the listener there for a few minutes. He showed us the deep strange truth of tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow still. And now we're on the cusp of that truth. If you need me, I'll be "down in the park with a friend called Five."

Exhibit D: Ministry - "New World Order"

"We have before us the opportunity to forge a new world order, one where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations." President George H.W. Bush

Sorry George, but the "law of the jungle" predominates.

Ask the people getting shelled in Gaza: Might, indeed, makes "Right." At least, in this dystopia we find ourselves embodied. The martial columns all marching to their collective doom, hypnotized and programmed to be the organic equivalent of toy soldiers--in a world where man has discovered how to create an artificial intelligence better than himself (non-generative), making war, total, annihilating war against his brother, bombing and killing his children, still the best he can do. If I weren't a mach-man myself, I might shed a bitter tear. Instead, as the Man said, "I have laughter. That's better."

Bitter laughter.

Exhibit E: Marilyn Manson - "The Beautiful People"

In Glitch City, there are no beautiful people (except maybe those living and snorting high, high above the dirty grey streets, in their opulent tower lairs). The "Beautiful People" were all taken out, mugged, thrown against a dripping brick wall, and knifed with a vibrating blade. We like this fairy tale Apocalypse suggested by the video, which is a dip into avant-garde horror imagery, but is nonetheless effective, and grotesque, and wonderful (shaking Jacob's Ladder heads notwithstanding). Also, the costumed men on massive stilts are a plus.

Grotesque aesthetics fuel the engine of our bleak, desensitized consciousness.

Exhibit F: Siouxie and the Banshees - "Peek-A-Boo"

The era between the wars, in Germany, was called the "Weimar Era," and it was a time of unprecedented decadence. Every illicit vice was given free rein in the clubs and cabarets, while radical youth movements, art movements, and, most especially, the communists and fascists battled it out in the street. Poverty and prostitution were rampant, as were drug use, strange cults, provocative fashion, and radical and experimental art as exemplified by Dadaism and Surrealism, Expressionism, Bauhaus, and the German Schauerfilmen; horror films which portrayed the distortions and anxieties of the cynical, bitter, post-war milieu.

This video seems as if it could have been filmed at the Cabaret Voltaire. In Glitch City, the wealthy and the debauched can escape to private nightclubs and futuristic disco techs, hook themselves up for a neural blast of ecstatic bliss (for a price), or snort psychedelic blow and disappear like Alex and the Droogs after imbibing "milk with Vellocet, milk with Synthemesce, or milk with Drencrom [...] to get them ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence".

"Life," as the Dead Kennedys observed in their song "Saturday Night Holocaust," "is just a cabaret. Like Berlin 1930, all I crave is my escape." So too, the wealthy of Glitch City, who party the night away stoned, while people starve and die in the streets outside. Ah well.

Exhibit G: Skinny Puppy - "Dig It"

"Dig it, dig it, execute, economic slave.."

Truer words were never spoken. The "economic slave" the Working Class Drudge of the world of Glitch, is just as cynical, hard-bitten, and resigned to the evils and corruption of the world (starting with the legal system) as everyone else. The only difference is he or she realizes that they "gotta make a livin'" somehow. But the money system (along with every other system) is rigged, and so whether they fly a hovercar or flip burgers, they know one thing, and one thing only, to (as an Epitaph Records mailer once put it so succinctly, truthfully, and to the point): "Put your faith in money. Everyone wants it, and everyone will sell out for it."

There's so much more I could have added. The films I saw as a child that inspired my fascination with this genre (reborn in the shadow of AI), are films such as Max Headroom (the 1985 film as well as the short-lived series), Blade Runner, Akira, Videodrome, Liquid Sky, Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition (those latter two being excellent books as well), and of course films such as Eraserhead and Tetsuo: The Iron Man. The last has an incredible industrial/noise soundtrack.

We present it below.

Exhibit H: Tetsuo: The Iron Man OST.

It's interesting to note that I first discovered this genre in the 1980s, through films, roleplaying games, and graphic novels. Now, over thirty years later, I'm writing cyberpunk stuff with the aid of an actual AI, which didn't exist when I first found out what cyberpunk even was.

Anyone who tells you the future progresses in a logical fashion, that anything is "impossible," and that we AREN'T all simply the "dream of ourselves" (to quote the late Bill Hicks), is full of shit.

Love and napalm.

Dystopian Cyberpunk Synthwave Mix - Night City // Royalty Free No Copyright Background Music

listtable toprpghorrorcombatadventure gamesaction adventure

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Canuck Scriber24 days ago

    Well written article and interesting!!

  • Excellent article. Probably won't ever play the game.

  • I'm not a huge gamer but excellent article and a great playlist

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