Whatever Happened to the Ghost in the Machine?


The Police released the album ‘Ghost in the Machine‘ in 1981.

At the time, The Police were not only one of my favorite groups, but they were well into the mega-stardom that would soon explode them into the stratosphere with their follow-up album ‘Synchronicity‘, which would garner them the label: ‘the biggest band in the world.’

But in 1981, I was deep into my exploration of table-top RPGs and the GitM album provided the backdrop for an extremely fun but short-lived Traveler campaign that still holds a special place in my heart.

The framework and fabric of that campaign grew out of the imagination of my friend Markus and was culled from a lot of sources that were both shared and also fresh in our minds – the art of Moebius, Heavy Metal (both the magazine and the animated film), Star Wars, Logan’s Run, Blade Runner and so many other sci-fi books and images and sounds.

GitM was just one of the albums that provided the soundtrack to the game sessions that explored the adventures of a lone, grizzled bounty hunter as he jumped from port to planet tracking down his elusive quarry in his trusted light space fighter, the Loki V.

I was pretty optimistic about the future back in that long ago time of 1981. I had visions that all of the future-tek that had been dreamt up in these books and movies and images would somehow be brought into being during my lifetime. I imagined that life would move forward and upward, to something perhaps not brighter, but most definitely better.

Alas, none of that came to pass. We do not have many of the things that were prevalent in the futures presented in the media I was fascinated with, and those we do have don’t seem nearly as ‘futuristic’. Our technology seems mired in some aspects, stuck in a infant industrialization type mode. We’re still scraping in the mud rather than reaching for the stars, still squabbling over ideologies rather than working together to explore what is out there in the beyond, or to vastly improve our conditions down here on Earth.

It’s rather depressing to think of how ugly things are right now, and how dark as well. There will be those who would sneer at such a thought and tell me to “toughen up, snowflake”, while willfully ignoring their own collusion and contributions in helping to create the very atmosphere that is making the world a much darker place than we want for ourselves.

So much is being shouted and blasted out into the air, but very little of it is being heard or understood, the gap between us has grown almost impossibly wide.

There is a small part of me that thinks the impossible fantasies of those long ago images and songs can conjure up a better future – or at least one that doesn’t seem so bent on throwing up walls and dehumanizing our fellow man.

The Traveler campaign I was a part of, violated all the rules of copyright and genre was in fact the very first mega-crossover event I can think of – the space ports my character visited held not just travelers from our galaxy, but those of others far, far away – including storm troopers and officers of the Empire, Sandmen chasing Runners, Replicants and giant cat-people, Fremen, Guildsmen and so many more… it was a glorious mish-mash of every and all sci-fi properties, and it worked… simply because we willed it to.

I’d like all of us to will ourselves into a better future. One that brings us closer, rather than driving us apart.

“You will see light in the darkness
You will make some sense of this
And when you’ve made your secret journey
You will find this love you miss.”

— Secret Journey

Ghost in the Machine – The Police




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