Project Tempest in a nutshell
This is the 'straightforward' expression of what I'm trying to explore with Project Tempest. For a decidedly weirder and more colourful version, open up the Tempest Files.
1. At its heart, Project Tempest is about how to navigate a world going mad.
It’s shaped by the view that along with rapid changes in our environment and technology, the next few decades will see convulsions in the psychosphere, humanity’s realm of consciousness. Our inner landscapes will become stranger, more volatile, more obviously connected. Like physical climate change, there are storms coming.
The last fifteen years have seen an astounding rise in anxiety & depression, especially among young people and strongly correlated with smartphones and social media platforms. This is a really big problem, one that speaks to inter-generational shittiness on a global scale, but from the Project Tempest view it’s an early symptom of something even bigger that no one can avoid:
Across the 21st century we’re all going to go completely batshit crazy together.
‘Mental health’ is an utterly inadequate signpost for the struggle that every person on earth will face every morning when they wake, every night when they try to sleep. This is a journey across vast oceans and starry blackness. A campfire in the rainy woods surrounded by monsters. A hurricane howling across the teacup of our moment in deep time.
It’s not new, this territory. Quite the opposite. Billions of people throughout history have explored it. The realms of stormy minds have shaped stories, art, dreams, religions, love affairs, moments of connection, lifetimes of regret. It’s not all darkness and horror, not at all. But it’s about to become universally intense.
Call it the Age of Madness. A collective journey that’ll take us beyond the limits of rationality, possibly beyond reality itself. As hard as any continental crossing or planetary expansion. We’re going to need shared tools, language, and understanding to survive it together.
2. Emotional climate change
When I break the Project Tempest worldview down into statements of belief, it goes like this:
What’s going on?
People’s inner landscapes are real and connected. Call it the psychosphere, the joined-up basement, the imaginal realm: human imagination is much more than just ‘things in our heads’.
Like physical climate change, there are storms coming. We’re entering a time of convulsions in our collective consciousness. This will look and feel like a world going mad.
What to do?
Navigation, not surrender, is the key to this strange territory. People have been finding their way through difficult inner landscapes for thousands of years. Individually & together, we can do this. Along with the millenia’s-worth of existing tools, horror fiction and video games might be especially useful.
There’s a vast opportunity to rewild our imaginations and become more fully human. We’ve allowed ourselves to be stuffed into spaces shaped by algorithms and machines. This was a mistake. Let computers be computers. We are people, glorious and mad.
So what’s beyond the horizon?
The world beyond the storm may be more beautifully strange than anything that’s come before, if we dare. We discover and create this future by journeying there. It could have elements of everything from cosmic horror to post-human consciousness to a life of shamanistic communion amid the collapsed embers of megacities. Or we could be frozen in suburban consumerism, desperately staring into our coffee cups as our minds try to get through one more day of ignoring everything above and below.
The journey is ours to make, or not. But in the end, there’s no escaping the storm.
3. Project Tempest is my small, quirky starting point for an Age of Madness strategy.
It sets out three constellations that I'm trying to use for navigation:
A story world named Tempest Bay, a setting for rich tales of darkness and light
The creative part. A tiny shoreline town on the wild south coast of New Zealand, at the ends of the earth, where secrets and cosmic folk horror run deep. In Tempest Bay emotions and mental states are like the weather: fierce, changeable, wildly creative and destructive. I've come to believe everyone should make their own imaginary world, or ‘paracosm’, as a survival tactic.
A conversation where creators share their journeys, struggles, and inspirations
The connecting part. The Project Tempest Podcast features everyone from writers and technologists to game designers and an H.P. Lovecraft scholar, in open, wide-ranging discussion.
Maps of invisible territory
The navigation part. Blog posts like this and secret trails like the Tempest Files, exploring what our collective journey into the Age of Madness might involve.
More than anything Project Tempest is an open invitation to explore ways of connecting inner experience, including the most difficult and beautiful parts, to a rich, shared, evolving understanding of strange territory. It's a bit weird and a bit irrational, as we all are. But if you find something that you recognise here, I'd love to hear about it.
Thanks very much for your time.
C J Halbard is the lead creator of Project Tempest, a growing story world of New Zealand folk horror and emotional climate change. Explore the town, listen to podcast conversations, and get the acclaimed novella 1862 free for a limited time by subscribing for updates.