Message forum for readers of the BoM/TWS interactive universe.
Yesterday on the blog I said that I was going to be continuing "Laura Comes Clean" , and by the time you read this that chapter should have been posted. But that branch was written a few weeks ago. Since then I've been poking at a couple of embers elsewhere, trying to get some other stories restarted. I was surprised by one that has spurted into a small flame. It's a sequel to Masktrix's "Calling an Audible" , but it runs parallel to his "Beverly Hills Cult" .
And in poking at this ember I've run into a very old problem.
Every once in a while, a commenter will work up the nerve to ask a question that I know everyone has been bothered by. Why doesn't Will—or whoever has the book—use the awesome power of the Summa Libra Personae to steal a glamorous life in Hollywood or New York or London or Tokyo or someplace, instead of puttering around Saratoga Falls, using the masks on chintzy cheerleaders and lunkheaded gym rats?
There are two answers to this question.
The first answer is: Because none of the storylines have progressed that far.
Really. Except for the ones where Will meets and falls in with the Stellae, every storyline ultimately ought to reach the point where the characters leave everything behind and take off with the masks for better places. But it would be hard for them to do that without mastering the first seven spells of the book, because, until the seventh spell is mastered, it is hard to use the masks to steal a good identity without murder being an issue—and that's a hard hurdle to get over. There is also going to be the psychological hurdle of leaving home and self behind for something new. Finally, even after mastering the first seven spells, there is going to be a time when methods for ambushing and replacing victims get tested and refined, and that's likely to take place in Saratoga Falls and inside the high school.
Only after all three of those conditions have been met (or so says my intuition) are the characters going to start make the big and obvious plans.
In only a few of the storylines have those points been reached, by characters who are fairly cautious. And the characters who would quickly and carelessly ditch Saratoga Falls are not characters who have gotten ahold of the book.
So that's the in-story explanation. But it's the outside-the-story explanation that raises the "very old problem" I referred to above.
How much of the real world should be get dragged into a BoM plot?
Basically: There are plenty of body-swap interactives out there that if they're not called "Celebrity Body Swap (Please Add!!!)" might as well be. Does "The Book of Masks" need to turn into one of those? Should actual, real-world people be named-checked in BoM as possible and maybe actual victims of identity vampirism? Or would that cross some kind of imaginative line that would change what BoM is—high-concept fantasy nonsense— into something else?
The same question crops up in a less vexing form when it comes to even name-checking real-world people, events, or items. Such references tend to nail down a story to a particular historical moment, and because BoM is consistent throughout, nailing down one chapter in the historical present—by having Will refer to a sitting president or to a "current" crisis; or sending him to a movie theater to watch, say, the just-released Star Wars: Rogue One—it would tie the entire interactive to a moment of time when it is written to be set in the ever-present, ever-moving "now." This is why I tend to refer to fictional movies or TV shows in the continuity; and when real movies or people or events get mentioned, they are things that were around or which happened several years before the chapter is posted.
But if the story is going to move to southern California, what are the contemporary references that should affect the story? Should Will try to become an actor slated to star in an upcoming entry in a specified "Cinematic Universe"? Should he hang out with and talk with people whose names appear in real-world news reports?
Would this cut the wires that "suspend disbelief"? Or would it cut those wires if such real-world people and things were not referenced or shown?
So why has Will never lit out to Hollywood before? Because I've never been sure who he should meet there.
I have my own intuitions about how to handle this kind of thing. But they are ambivalent, and I'm curious to see what other people think.