News & Opinion
by Lack of Lepers
Oct 3 2021 · 6 min read
The Wild Wild West of the containment fiction space is living up to the part, putting the “lore” in “explore”.
For anyone not in the know, the RPC Authority has excellent contests. It doesn’t have the tradition that SCP Wiki can claim, but what it lacks in longevity, it makes up for in depth. Sometimes, the late bloom steals the show.
RPC’s contests are rich in lore and an astounding amount of creative thinking goes into the themes and prompts. Reading the premise of the contest is itself a highly enjoyable, educational, and rewarding literary experience. While a discussion on the relative merits of a lore-heavy prompt by which to write articles (a la RPC) or a more general approach of near-one-word themes (a la SCP) is outside the scope of this article, there is doubtless a labor that goes into the hand-stitched intricacies of a cohesive lore in RPC’s prompts that has an extra charm all its own. It can also be a wonderful accelerant for the type of author who likes and maybe needs just a bit more of a nudge down a particular creative direction to get the wheels really turning.
Perhaps the main difference from a writer’s standpoint between SCP and RPC is that RPC abides by a strict and unified cannon regarding its lore. As a writer who is new to RPC and especially who has written in other containment fiction outlets will soon learn, the challenge in this is real. A lore-specific article or tale is much harder here in some ways — say compared to a containment fiction platform that has no canon or many canons, and therefore has less in the way of firmly-planted toes which you might step on (this coming from the experience of someone who is the best example of a bull in the lore-shop probably to date)— and this can behave as additional, confounding constraints that the writer must navigate.
But there is also a creative tension that is created in doing so, and what initially seems like an impurity to an unrestricted freedom in composition can quickly meld with the prompt into a sort of alloy; the solutions more rewarding and more elegant than if the compositional hurdles weren’t presented in the first place. Additionally, the richness of the lore grants the writer numerous insertion points to either connect, conclude, or begin their creative brushstrokes. This can make for a very sound, cohesive, and inspired entry. On RPC, contest prompts have typically introduced a definite setting; a specific time and place. Most of these contests have the dual-purpose of extending the lore and elaborating on a portion of it that has not yet been explored. For example, the Sub Vesuvia Event intertwined the 1500s, the influence of Leonardo Da Vinci, and what was the in-universe precursor to the modern day Authority; the pragmatic realism of Budget Cuts cast a catastrophic nuclear fail-safe detonation (itself a contest event), where departments were pitted against one another in the fallout of competition for limited monetary resources — their in-universe production of out-of-universe containment fiction being the metric for their budgetary worth.
And this new installment is no different, in fact it is above board in my opinion. Set in the 1800s, New Frontier is containment fiction gone lawless. The lore takes place in a fictionalized Tombstone, Arizona. Containment personnel headquartered there blend seamlessly with homesteaders who are in search of what exploits and potentials the new, untapped lands have in store for them… and they stick out just as sorely to those awaiting hazards that have long called the regions home. In the chaos fresh off the “War Between the States”, survivalist Authority forces attempt to develop precarious operations in completely uncharted geographies where “all manner of strange things drifted out into ‘open country”. Provisional sites are set up with whatever natural resources are at hand. Exploration logs are timed with pocket watches. “Concealment” teams hunt anomalies like outlaws.
In line with most RPC contests, this one has a dedicated format and CSS theme. While it might tilt the eyebrows just slightly that thanks to this contest, there will be digital documentations that attempt to mimic worn parchment in the canonical, present-day RPC Authority database, a compensatory amount of skill and craft is taken to re-term the familiar components of the containment fiction format to be immersive and complimentary to the theme.
The designers also did an impressive amount of homework; the aesthetics and tones used are based on real-world historical catalogues from that era.
Stylistically, this event represents a bold departure from the classic containment fiction format in that it encourages a much looser prose, in order to be more realistic to the likely manner in which personnel of that time would relay their accounts. As the prompt notes, “… if you’re expecting swanky offices or scientific equipment you won’t find it out here. This is the frontier.” When immersion clashes with preservation of the format’s pseudo-scientific clinical tone — something I am particularly fond of — even I say to hell with the formality; we have an excellent justification for fun play and creative promise here.
So immersion being fundamental to the format, one can forgive the discrepancies in tone and best-fit efforts to the larger in-universe experience of the database for this contest, especially in light of the incredible studiousness and attention to detail accompanying it: the document itself is a “Concealment Manifest”; the usual introductory & foreshadowing components of confic articles like the object class, hazards, etc are collectively termed an “Identification Matrix”; containment instructions are the “Handling/Hunting Guide”; the history of an anomaly is a section titled “Recountment of Sightings”. The prompt even recommends writers to so immerse themselves into the world here as to include how the anomaly is to be kept safe from bandits and additional period-specific concerns, this in a dedicated “Storage & Utility” section. (The cherry on top of the charming details here is the CSS link design, which is red text circled in a very faint red ellipse, as if drawn with a pen).
The staff-user hybrid team at RPC responsible for conceiving and executing the idea have done a stand-up job. Bravo. They have made a very engaging and daring prompt while taking great effort to respect the fundamentals of what makes this a unique subgenre of fiction.
This contest prompt in particular is very fitting for RPC itself, as the site has been described as the Wild Wild West of the containment fiction space. It is a relatively lawless place, where more gritty and independent personalities find freedom to be who they are; the open spaces reminding one another that the confic space is big enough for all kinds of ideologies and stances; one that has that rural charm of the spittoon’s presence right there on the bar next to your julep that was delivered by a viciously personable belle, who could either give you sage advice or just as soon pin you in a headlock; a place that the mere mention of causes dramatic fainting and pearl-clutching in the more gentrified and powdered crowds in the compact, hive-like city.
But more significantly, the RPC Authority IRL was very much akin in spirit and in risk to those initial settlers on the North American continent that left what was well-established, who traded their relative comfort for the chance at a new start, and faced unlikely odds & a challenging nature to make their own, original way. Like the ingenuity of the American spirit, these pioneers of the containment fiction space have a tenacity to not just survive but thrive where they are planted, and over the course of a few short years have built something whose quality is worth the leery eye of the long-established world powers of the space; a gaze they cast from over their shoulders.
Don’t sleep on the RPC Authority. Like the prompt’s fictional characters in their circumstances, look for some very creative and talented ingenuity to come out of this event.
For more details about the New Frontiers contest, important dates, and how to participate, visit: http://rpcauthority.wikidot.com/new-frontier
Visit the RPC Authority Wiki here: http://rpcauthority.wikidot.com/
Join the RPC Authority Discord here: https://discord.com/invite/at3umFd
Read Lack of Lepers’ confic blog here: [pending]
Join the SCF Discord here: https://discord.gg/j7HHZ5TPwB
Ⓒ Lack of Lepers Ⓒ Confic Magazine