Art4 3

Tales from the Loop (2014)

This week, let’s check out some artists whose work has defined an RPG. What do I mean by that? Well, how about we start with Simon Stålenhag.

Stålenhag is the author and illustrator of Tales from the Loop (2014), a dreamy story from an 1980s that never was, filled with strange technology and robots and the occasional dinosaur. I love this stuff. Yes, it is nostalgia in paint, but it is also something else too, something hard to pin down. There is such a deep melancholy here. There’s tension in the dimming blues of dusk, in the way people always seem to stand with their back to us, in the way all these wonders of technology lie abandoned in the fields. There are so many mysteries in the gathering shadows. No wonder Free League developed a tabletop RPG out of it (and Amazon a TV series)!

I am an absolute sucker for his work, I really think he’s the closest we currently have to a modern N.C. Wyeth, if based only on his control of light. The follow up book (and RPG) Things from the Flood attempts to do the same for the 90s as Loop did for the 80s — neither works quite as well for me. Stålenhag’s subsequent books have been fabulous, though — The Electric State and The Labyrinth. Both build on the science fiction vibes of the Loop books in satisfying narrative ways. You can also see Stålenhag growing as an illustrator (both books use the form of the book — turning pages — and repetition of images to interesting effect). They’re a joy (well, The Labyrinth is pretty grim, actually, but you know what I mean). 

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