Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure, 21st Century Style

Here's a cool guest post from my good friends Garrett Calcaterra and Ahimsa Kerp, who are co-creating a project that I think the world is more than ready for: METTLEFETCHERS, an interactive e-book, set in an amazing (and sexy) universe that I know I can't wait to play in. I'll let the guys describe it for you.

GarrettNow, the first thing you’re probably wondering is, what the hell is an interactive e-book? That sounds an awful lot like vague PR fluff.... And you’d be right, so—ahem!—Ahimsa, why don’t you go ahead and take this one. What exactly do we mean by an interactive e-book?

Ahimsa: I think we mean Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, but with that title already being taken, we have to go with “interactive ebook.” I think what we’re trying to create is an intersection between two great spec-fic loves—novels and games. I mean, sure I love Game of Thrones, but what if I could have been Ned Stark, and chosen to fight with Renly? Or captured Cersei? Or listened to Varys? I think we’re both really excited about the idea of a novel with reader input, and it seems that technologically the time is right. That said, we’re really not holding anything back! You want to talk about the setting, G?

Garrett: Does the pope wear a funny hat? Errr, I mean, yes! World building is one my favorite parts of writing, and world building is even better when working with a friend. I can say without any false modesty that the two of us are pulling out all the stops with our setting on Mettlefetchers, and it promises to be awesome. Our story is set in an alternate 1857—the height of the Victorian era—and will include everything from anachronistic steampunk technology to vampires, shape-shifters, elves, mythical beasts, aliens and zombies. The main premise of the book is that the rampant imperialism and pillaging of natural resources on the part of world powers has awoken a prehistoric menace—a slew of Great Old Ones and their minions. The result is global, mass Bacchanalian hysteria (which adds an erotica component to our story). This means the entirety of 19th Century Earth is our oyster, and readers will have a vast, sandbox world to explore. The usual European steampunk locales will be in there, but we’re making a big effort to provide access to the underrepresented parts of the world too: Asia, Africa, Central and South America, you name it. The steampunk aesthetic is very much in play there, which leads us to our protagonists. What sort of heroes will the reader have to choose from, Ahi?

Ahimsa: It’s important to us to have diversity in character as well as setting. Because we are starting off our story in Persia, we are thinking of using a eunuch or hijra as a point-of-view character. (I met a hijra while hiking in the Himalayas and she was one of the loveliest people I met on my travels). Overall, we have 6 POV characters, and in them we want to represent as broad a range as possible. One of the Mettlefetchers, for instance, is transgender (the term is 20th century, but the condition much older). This will tie into larger themes of identity, so it can be examined on a global, societal, and individual level. The characters will be very much linked thematically with the world they occupy, and it’s going to be exciting to “shapely up” our minds and make some connections. Whatever their orientation, however, our characters won’t be defined by their sexuality. You know what they say—what happens in Bacchanalian hysterias stays in Bacchanalian hysterias. And while we are on the subject of sex, Garrett, just how much erotica are we planning on including in this book? There won’t be too many turgid manhoods or quivering sexes will there?

Garrett: Oh, I’m quite afraid there are going to be a lot of love puddles in this one, but remember it’s an interactive reading experience, so the reader will always have a choice in what path the characters choose. If you’re feeling a bit naughty, you can have your character sleep her way to the enemy James Bond style. Or you can take the moral high ground and eschew the erotic interactions altogether. That being said, most of the choices aren’t going to be morally black and white. Like any artful erotica, the sex will be integral to the story. We’re not doing cheesy porn here, where any flimsy premise for a sex scene flies—no Victorian pizza delivery guys with a big sausage pizza! With six viewpoint characters and dozens of storylines, there stands to be a lot of variety and re-readability for the reader. In fact, as part of our Kickstarter campaign, we’re even given supporters a chance to interact with us during the creative process of writing the book. Ahi, you wanna tell them why we decided to go the route of using Kickstarter and what sort of rewards backers can get?

Ahimsa: Well, Kickstarter is a pretty good litmus test of an idea. Like everyone who has created a project, we think it’s a pretty snazzy idea. But it’s not really up to us. So it’s fun to use crowdsourcing and see if we have a concept that is exciting enough for the community to fund.  Unlike, say, musicians or to a lesser extent artists, it’s hard for writers to work in a collaborative manner. So we wanted to create rewards for backers that involved their inputs. Depending on how much they pledge, backers can create characters, insert themselves into the narrative, or just make sure we include their favorite fetish into a significant scene. We want to make sure it’s deep enough for those who want to wade into our world.

While we could blather on forever, I think we’ve covered the essentials. Any last thoughts, Garrett?

Garrett: Yes, how can people help? The obvious answer is to pledge a couple of bucks to help make Mettlefetchers come to be. For as little as $5 you get an advanced copy of the book when it’s done (and we’re aiming to have the book ready in as few as three months if the project is funded, so you won’t have to wait long). Pledge more and you get some of the cool interactive rewards Ahimsa mentioned. To pledge or just learn more about the book, check out our Kickstarter page:

If you’d like to help beyond that, we’d be forever grateful if you could help spread the word about the project. Kickstarter campaigns only succeed if they get out into the public awareness. Word of mouth is great, and if you want to have a bit more fun with it, you can take part in our inverse-meme campaign. Simply take one of our pictures with the phrase “What is Mettlefetchers?” on it and repost it wherever you hangout online. Better yet, create your own inverse-meme with “What is Mettlefetchers?” on it, post it, and let people’s curiosity do the rest.

If anyone has any questions or suggestions, hit us up in the comments below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.