Vee is a girl with a peculiar talent: she can implant memories into your brain, and make you think you remember something you never actually experienced. She’s not supposed to abuse her power — she’s on the run from a top-secret lab and needs to keep a low profie — but then a classmate at her new high school ends up dead, and Vee is sure she knows whodunnit… and welllll…
The best way to explain Retcon is to imagine a scene where Vee is talking to the sheriff: he explains how a blue pickup truck was spotted fleeing the scene of the crime, but Vee “convinces” him the truck was red. If you scroll back to read his description of events, you’ll see the text has changed: the truck was red, and always has been red.
The more Vee meddles with reality, the more the story changes to match, as if their new memories are the actual truth. The only things that don’t change are the unassailable facts: texts and photos that tell a story that starts to seem downright impossible to explain. But somewhere in the mess of lies and false truths, the real answer starts to emerge… and the only one who knows to look for it is Vee.
Retcon will be a web application, viewable on computers, tablets and phones. As you scroll through the story, it will detect where you are, and revise the earlier text accordingly. Users will be able to save their progress by logging in via social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter etc).
The story will be told over five “episodes” of approximately 20,000 words each, but thanks to Vee’s rewrites, the total wordcount will end up closer to 150,000 (approximately two decent-sized novels).
Once I have my funding in place (meaning actual cash, not just pledges) I have a pretty strict timeline to produce the work:
|Weeks 1 & 2:||Create the code that powers the product. Scroll position detection, re-creating of previous text without glitching the current scroll position, user logins and state persistence etc. Programming stuff.|
|Weeks 3 & 4:||Write episode 1, at 20,000 words, with inline notes about what each “event” will change.|
|Weeks 5 & 6:||Implement those changes while testing the result with the actual software. Experiment, test, confirm. At the end of week 6, the system should be reasonably ready for testing.|
|Weeks 6 – 12:||Write the other four episodes, at the base level, with inline notes. Meanwhile, beta testers will be compiling input about episode 1.|
|Weeks 13 – 18:||Implement the variations into the text, and test as I go. Rewrite where necessary. These variations will cover all the episodes in all kinds of strange permutations, so it will take a while.|
|Weeks 19 & 20:||Fix bugs found by beta testers and do another set of run-throughs to ensure the product holds together.|
|Weeks 21+:||Launch one episode per week for 5 weeks.|
This will be a free-to-read project with no ads, dependent entirely on sponsorship support.
Wait, so the book changes? Yes, as Vee uses her power, the text you’ve previously read will be re-written to match the new reality she’s spun. If you scroll back to check a detail, you’ll find that detail is now different.
Wait, but why? Quick or honest answer?
Honest. To explore the meaning of truth, and the implications of a flexible reality. In a world where “fake” is a matter of perspective, how far will people go to hold onto their version of the truth?
OK maybe less hones— And furthermore, what happens when there’s clear evidence — time-stamped security camera footage — that conflicts with a person’s reality. What will they do to rationalize the contradiction? Self-doubt, denial, or some elaborate story to allow all the pieces to fit together?
What’s the quick answer? Because it’ll be fun to see Vee trying to undo the damage she’s done.
Do I need to re-read the whole story multiple times? No, but you can if you want to. There are two levels at play: you will know that Vee has mucked with reality, and you’ll see how it affects her, going forward. What re-reading does is show how, in those individual moments along the way, the characters are trying to make sense of their own memories. A-to-B reading is the active experience; A-to-A-to-A is the introspective experience.
Why are there episodes? I like the structure of episodes, from a storytelling perspective. It lets me write to a theme for a while, without wallowing in it. Also, I like cliffhangers, and if I don’t write this as episodes, you’ll get to the end of the book and discover a cliffhanger there, and then you’ll be sorry.
Will there be a print edition? That would be a 900-page choose-your-own-nightmare of a book, so no. Not any time soon.
Isn’t this just silly? Yes, yes it is. That’s why it’s a public proposal, you see.
MCM is an author and Emmy-nominated screenwriter with a knack for the eclectic. He got his start creating and writing the award-winning animated series RollBots (YTV/4Kids), about robots that transform into marbles and race on sky-bound rollercoaster tracks. He’s also the co-creator (with Craig Young and Cory Morrison) of the preschool series Shutterbugs (TVOKids/Knowledge), as well as the internet fable The Pig and the Box, downloaded over 2 million times in over a dozen languages, and praised by award-winning author Cory Doctorow.
In 2011, he was invited to “perform” a livewritten novel (The Archivists) at the Vooruit arts centre in Ghent, Belgium, creating an 80,000-word thriller in realtime, broadcast on the internet to an audience of tens of thousands, using input from the audience to influence the story. Beyond that, he has also written for the TV series Justin Time (Disney/Netflix), Ollie: The Boy Who Became What He Ate (CBC), True and the Rainbow Kingdom (TVOKids/Netflix), Worry Eaters (Hahn Film), and co-story edited the series Terrific Trucks for NBC/Sprout.
In his spare time, MCM merges code and fiction, like the app-based Dirt (iOS/Android) — a mystery told in texts and photos. He lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and two daughters, and also the damn cat who wakes him up at 2AM to look at socks.
Because this is a big project with limited commercial viability, I'm asking for pledges to help finance it.
Donors will get early access to the finished product, as well as their name in the credits.
This is a non-binding pledge: you're just saying you're interested, and if/when the project goes ahead, you can fully commit, or walk away, no questions asked.