Feb 25 2014

Final Boss Battle: The Level Beyond Numbers

Over the past six months, I’ve been “leaking documents” onto this site, publishing in sections a story called Read If They Get Me. Another set of documents goes up today, which I’m proud and a little sad to announce are the last ones. Part of me wants this to go on forever, but there are too many other projects out there to work on. Read If They Get Me is now fully available online and completely free.

Now I want to hear reactions. The story gets more nuts as it goes on, and I always wanted the climax to challenge people, but I think this ending is really going to blow some minds. Things go all out of order, into pieces which require you to create your own interpretations. More so than the rest of the story, different readers are going to experience the ending in vastly different ways. I can’t experience that as a first time reader. I can only try to anticipate paths through the format I designed.

Leonardo da Vinci said, probably in Italian, “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” and that has never been truer for me than with this project.

I started outlining it in 2009, wrote a rough draft in the summer of 2010 and used that to edit and publish events in semi-real time under the title Managing Downtime from that fall through the summer of the next year, when the project became too complex and overwhelming to tie together at the speed events were “happening.” I needed time to think about it.

During that serialization process, I kept a version number and the word “beta” just under the title of the site. I also maintained a changelog, so that regular readers would know about changes to already published events without having to go back and reread everything. Mostly, it was a record of the publication of new chapters and changes in the design, growing in the direction of what the format has now become. The final version number was 0.7.8, logged on August 31st, 2011, but the story was abandoned without an ending.

It wasn’t until last year that I decided to overhaul the project, a reinvention too fundamental and wide-reaching to put into the same list of changes. One decision I made early on was to remove the changelog and the overview of the story it provides. Level by level, that new version has built up to the conclusion now presented.

I don’t know if I still consider the story in beta. I decided to borrow a term from programming, call its new status “feature complete,” meaning it has all intended parts and functionality, but there could still be bugs to work out.

For example, I went back to a few already published chapters last week, fixing errors in the link structure, making “Blackberry” always capitalized and flipping the order of two paragraphs so one thought process flowed better. At some point, I may decide to call a version of the story the full 1.0 gold master build.

I actually think a lot about the idea that stories are software run by our brains. No way of telling a story can affect everyone the same way, but they’ve been known to produce amazing effects on compatible minds. Bugs in the process are aspects of the story that break immersion, but this story is designed to be experienced on different levels of immersion than most. Confusion is meant to be part of it at times, but confusion as the first step to greater understanding.

Now that it’s all out there with no known bugs, I can only wait for the story to test its own compatibility with other cerebral hardware. So I abandon it again, to exist in the minds of others.