File this one under “stranger than fiction”: Chinese censors have reportedly burned the entire print run of an RPG called The Sassoon Files. Consequently, developers Sons of the Singularity have had to let their backers know that fulfillment of their Kickstarter campaign would be (understandably) delayed while they tried to secure a new printer.
A video explaining the situation has been released by Sons of the Singularity which you can see below:
Why the hatred for The Sassoon Files, anyway? Well, to start: it’s set in 1920’s China. Primarily, the book was meant to serve as campaign resources for the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and GUMSHOE role-playing game Trail of Cthulhu. According to the developer, a government inspector was required to look over any printed materials made in the country—even if it was only made for export. Obviously, this inspector found an issue with The Sassoon Files and ordered the entire print run destroyed.
Sons of the Singularity had a lot to say on the matter. We’ve reproduced a portion of their video below as text:
This is what China’s government does today. It will burn books meant for foreign markets if said books contain words that are sensitive or narratives that they don’t like or don’t understand. Importantly, we don’t believe that The Sassoon Files contains content that is contrary to any narrative of the [People’s Republic of China], nor does it contain anything that is disrespectful to China’s history, culture, or government.
The Sassoon Files are placed in a historical setting and portions of the book do contain historical fact. In fact, in The Sassoon Files, players have the option of playing as a secret agent working for [a real hero] while he was on the run and in hiding in Shanghai. When Chinese government representatives ordered our printer to burn the book, they could not have read the book nor understood it. They acted out of fear and with disregard for the right to self-expression. A right that I have, that the creative team at Sons of the Singularity has, and that our Kickstarter backers have.
This sends a message to all people who make entertainment and narrative products in China and for international markets: mindless censorship will forever be an impediment to creating great books, movies, art, and music.
Note: I was unable to properly transcribe a Chinese name spoken in the video and left it out, replacing it with the preceding statement “a real hero”.
Sons of the Singularity have thankfully received a full refund from the printer and are working to find a new company to print The Sassoon Files. Something tells me that this next company won’t be in China.
What do you think of the Chinese government reportedly burning the entire print run of The Sassoon Files? Do you think this event will cause tabletop developers to reconsider manufacturing their works in China? Let us know in the comments below!