Halloween 2017 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Uncanny Valley” Author’s Notes and Q&A

[Author’s Notes and Q&A]

Thank you so much to everyone who played, read, or lurked around the periphery of this Halloween event! It was a blast to do this again this year, and I hope you guys had as much fun reading as I did writing it.

We made something really special this year—This story is nearly 45000 words! Thank you so much to everyone who played. This year, like last one, my biggest concern was that nobody would want to play, and instead so much story happened. If and when you want to reread it, you’ll be able to find this story linked from my Extras page.

If you had fun playing in or reading this and want to support me and my work, there’s a few ways! If you want to tip, you can Buy Me a Coffee! Or, of course, it would be fantastic if you were willing to check out my other writing. I’ve got a new book coming out this month—in three weeks, yikes!—which is also a paranormal romance. So if you enjoyed this, maybe consider checking out Empty Vessels!  

It would also be cool if you wanted to follow me on Twitter and Tumblr to keep up to date on what I’m up to.

Finally, what you’re all here for— Q&A! Feel free to ask me anything you want about the story, what my writing process was, things people may have suspected but not had confirmed, what other “routes” were available, whatever. Wonder what would have happened if you’d done X instead of Y? Ask it here! (Lurkers are totally allowed to ask too!)

Once again, thank you and happy Halloween!

[Ask Me Some Questions, I’ll Tell You No Lies]

[Completed Parts: Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Day 26 | Day 27 | Day 28 | Day 29 | Day 30 | Epilogue | Author’s Notes]


  • Vikarmic

    THANK YOU FOR RUNNING, what an excellent thing this was. 😀

    I have a billion questions as you probably expected:

    * We backed off pretty quickly from Matthias’s route. What would that have been like? How would demons have fit into this story?

    * If we’d gone more heavily with Antoine, would we have explored more of Tam’s latent potential in the story? Could we have gotten in touch with the Council and brought them in as backup?

    * What would’ve happened if the audience decided Tam had a more contentious relationship with Ash? (I really love where things ended up, but I’m also deeply curious!)

    * What kind of weredog was Lena? I’m guessing some kind of sheepdog…

    * How would Tam’s parents have reacted if we’d had him go home on one of the first two nights? I’m guessing not doing so was a reasonably good decision…

    * What was actually up with the vampires and the weredogs? Territory dispute, yeah, but how did it start?

    * Did you have any routes planned or characters sketched out that we just plain never got to see on screen?

    …maybe only seven questions, but more later, possibly.

    • meredithakatz

      I LOVE QUESTIONS I welcome every one of your billion seven.

      * Matthias’s route would be pretty high smut due to the incubus thing, though necessity of plot would have pulled that in a lil. Shapeshifting WOULD have been involved. Matthias is not a terrible dude for a demon, he’s out here doing barista thing because he takes pleasure in watching people live out their lives. He sort of wants to run his own coffee shop au. (His boss thinks this is hilarious) A Matthias-centric route would have started Tam training as a witch really early on directly under a demon, and involve a lot more of the witch’s familiar (who is actually a very minor/bound demon). Depending on how the rest of things went it might also have taken Tam through the gate early.

      * Going more heavily with Antoine, he would have done a lot more teaching, and you’d have learned more of his backstory with Istem. It would also have opened up Council stuff earlier, yes! (Antoine is not actually a member or he’d have thought of them anyway, but Tam’s interactions with Antoine if they spent more time would have made Antoine think about it.)

      * If the audience decided Tam had a contentious relationship with Ash, Ash’s personality would have been less of, hm, the rambunctiousness of long-time closeness and more genuinely aggressive/dismissive. Obviously the story would go really off the rails if the audience decided it was so bad that Tam wouldn’t rescue him (though I don’t think anyone would play against the plot like that tbh). Ash would himself be a different character for sure.

      * Lena’s a Borzoi!

      * If Tam went home on those nights, it would have involved an argument for sure. He’s really betrayed and really stressed and they’ve spent so many years trying to justify their decision that they would not own what they had done to their children. It would not have been helpful to him (or to them, for that matter). The argument would have affected his behaviour through the next few days too; even early on we see how hard he takes this sort of thing.

      * The vampire and werewolf territory dispute is straight up dumb which is why Sahil was fine with just lying about knowing they’re involved lol. Uh, Lena’s super sensible, puts her fellow weredogs first, keeps things organized. She’s basically a team lead sort of thing–the like #aesthetic was sort of obedience school teacher (I wanted to make this clear in her behavior by having her teach children!). Meanwhile, Rainier is capricious, scattered, lazy, has figured out the way to minimize effort while controlling territory. His vampires are not super under his control and don’t work so much as a group as like… a club? Where they all are in this together and there’s a leader but it’s more like shared membership than anything else. Though he also weeds out the ones who don’t want to hang out and have fun with him, he’s definitely straight up murdered vampires who will lead to inefficiencies in him getting the most enjoyment out of this life he’s chosen. Anyway, at one point, Lena set a meeting to talk to him to try to get things more in hand, and he was himself at her, and they fought, and now it’s a super dumb turf war.

      * As for routes it was possible to get a Jared route, but you’d pretty much have to jump on him night one and drop everything else you were doing! For characters, I’d have to go through and dig up a few, but the Twilight council folks, the other baristas I mentioned (the human enby and glaistig girl would have been full characters if you did Matthias’s stuff though I didn’t have names for them yet), more Sceana stuff could have happened if you spent non-Sahil time in the library, things like that. You could also have gotten in with and maybe close to Kearney Dillon too (the dullahan owner).

      • Vikarmic

        Followup questions! 😀 Seven, again.

        * In Matthias Route would Tam have ended up a malificar with a different casting style? Did you have any plans for that?

        * Relatedly, what would Tam’s familiar have been like?

        * What would the other side of the Gate have been like?

        * Sahil was kind of keeping his werepom nature secret, at least from Tam; is that standard for most weres in society, or just because he’s embarrassed?

        * What happened with Sahil and Ash? People keep referencing a kind of messy breakup but obviously it was one where they were still friends afterwards…

        * Was Miranda Doxtador one of the characters we could’ve met on Antoine or Matthias’s routes? What’s she like?

        * Did you have other librarians planned out? We mostly saw Sceana and Sahil but there were a few others around, apparently.

        • meredithakatz

          * In Matthias Route, Tam *could* have ended up a Malificar! He’d almost certainly have learned attack magic and conjuration, unless the players were super against that.

          * Tam might have not had a familiar at all, depending how it went, but I’d pick based on what the players wanted. If they didn’t specify I’d give him a snake, because he’s afraid of snakes.

          * The other side of the gate is a twisted, Gothic aesthetic city, with a dark forest outside the city and a hellscape of a broken sky. It’s a liveable world with many of the same technologies as us, but a mix of old fashioned style and equipment–much longer lives for many monsters causes that. It’s no longer as overcrowded since the valefication, but there’s still the signs it once was.

          * Sahil in particular is embarrassed because poms are not particularly cool dogs and he’s been laughed at a lot. In general it’ll depend on the lycanthrope; he wouldn’t be obliged to since he works in the valley, but things might be more difficult for him if he made a living outside of it, since there’s still lots of (reasonable) paranoia about monsters, and his condition is catching, technically. (Lena probably essentially only tells parents if asked).

          * I think basically, Sahil got serious much faster than Ash did, and that mixed with Ash’s irreverent personality, Sahil started to stress out and get unhappy. When Ash caught on, he just suggested they go back to being friends, and Sahil agreed though he was unhappy about that too, p. much. Ash didn’t think that much about it, honestly. It wasn’t a nasty breakup, but Lena heard Sahil’s complaints and is very loyal.

          * Full disclosure, I came up with Miranda Doxtador on the last day because I knew Ash would train with someone who wasn’t Antoine. So she’s not super developed, just a list of bullet points. I’d have come up with several other witches on the fly if you’d gotten involved with the council.

          * Naw, same deal with the librarians–just bullet points. if you guys had spent more time in the library is have fleshed them out. One was a ghost and one is secretly demon possessed though!

  • tanoshiso

    Thank you so much, this was a delight to read and interact with! My question is: did you have a Bad End possibility planned, such as one where Tam went to confront Istem without the right kind of backup, or where he left the charger behind, etc.?

    • meredithakatz

      Honestly, not as such! There are Less Good Ends you could have achieved (for example, becoming murderers, or just getting Ash out but leaving Istem Out There, or, if you’d got Lithway’s secret then deliberately revealed it,Lithway would be after you) but when it’s something like this that you can’t easily replay, I want to make sure the story is satisfying to the readers and build things around your choices that wouldn’t lock you into something that wouldn’t be fun at the end–I wanted it to be meaningful choices but not, hm, punitive ones. The cord was relevant because you guys decided to take it, basically, not because I set up a Requirement in the first few days that would be vital to getting a good end.

      If/when I find a way to make this that allows for all routes to be accessed I’ll definitely add bad ends in though, that’s an element of replayability versus this sort of one time thing.

  • jsorcerer

    Thank you so much! It was a true delight to wake up to a new chapter every day. I really admire your drive and consistency. I have two-ish questions 😀 I am interested in the demonic stuff too, so what is the demon society like? Would you go with the classic Dante-like hell, or is it like a completely chaotic society? And secondly, can only demon-aligned witches have familiars? No black cats and ravens? And what powers does a familiar have/provide?

    • meredithakatz

      Demon society is based loosely on an interpreted/cohesive medieval and renaissance demonology because that’s my interest, pretty much–with a story like this where I don’t have time to do more than speed research for each part, I’d want to stick to what I know! So, incubi and succubi are shapeshifters with a more solid physicality than other demons, and other demons are creatures of air and clay that exist to take forms as needed, their society comes from hell and has an elaborate court system with armies and titled nobles etc. (That’s the long answer to say ‘Yep, Dante-like hell’ I guess)

      Other witches can probably have pets who hang out with them and may have greater than normal abilities due to magic, but in this verse ‘familiars’ are specifically a kind of demon in the form of an animal who loan power and teach lessons. Basically, a witch can learn from another witch (or a book written by them) or a demon, and Istem probably actually learned from her turtle.

      I’m really glad you joined in and it was great to see you back! It’s always a challenge not just to write something each day but do enough speed editing to make it tolerably post-able and it means a lot to see people enjoy it///

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