GabbiKat

EPIC FEEDBACK LOOP FOR REWRITE - WE WANT YOUR INPUT!

Hello everyone - MHE and I would like honest feedback on The Interface Series ! We'd like to know what worked, what didn't, what you would like to see more of, what were/are your favourite bits, when and where did quality drop. We'd like to be informed as if you are readers and critics of weird fiction. Please, pretend you are all noted authors giving learned advice to one of your colleagues.

Comments
This thread will stay up for a long time.
We are both monitoring it and will respond as time and topic allows.
E1) Music posts were also soundtrack posts. But some people called them shitposts. So..... yeah. Woosh?
I really liked the tie ins to actual history like the MK-ULTRA and Treblinka references and the stuff about the development of technology based on Flesh Interfaces over the 20th and 21st Centuries, I was a little disappointed when those storylines dropped off towards the end (Although I'm not saying the later installments were "bad" by any means)
Would you like to see these topics touched upon in the current novel, or revisited in the 2nd installment?
Meaning expansion now vs 2nd novel?
Well, for my part, I loved the world-building. It started off with all these small, rapid-fire vignettes that kind of introduced different aspects of the flesh interface concept. Then reading some of the less-obviously connected things like the river people and trying to tease out how they fit.
Now, as to the ones that didn't fit... this isn't the right place for them. If it doesn't relate to the story, it doesn't belong in the story. It just confuses the reader. Angelica's story as a metaphor for humans/mother? Great. But it doesn't fit here unless you can tie it in some other way (which seems a very short leap IMO).
All that said, these are just my small but firm opinions. My much bigger opinion is that the idea of editing or creating new material by committee is a shit idea. The person writing these stories is fucking talented. But allowing the mob to drive the bus, whether by dictating frequency, direction, or anything else, is going to end in tears. This is in no way a jab at GK or anyone else who may be collaborating. But have you ever created anything by committee? I'm sorry to say, I have.
Yep. Mobs are usually pretty shit at driving buses and will drive your favorite shit right off a cliff. I love the fact that you guys are opening up a bit and soliciting feedback about the story but I agree with cat hater. Too many bus drivers and every one starts tho think their route is best route.
Angelica was kinda tied in. We discussed whether she is the cat in the Feed Realm that The Bred children see. I felt that she was and it would serve as a needed narrative bridge. It could easily be incorporated into the rewrite for print edition or second novel.
The reason for this Epic Feedback Loop is partially the stated reason, but also we "listened" to reader feedback along the way and adjusted aspects. So here we are, and loving the feedback.
In my opinion, the Interface Series was at its best when dealing with world building (CIA experiments/Iwo Jima/Illicit encounters). Where it fell down was in trying to tell a traditional character driven plot through the Karen and Nick arcs. Even there, though, the actual character development was astonishing, especially in the earlier posts on addiction.
The issue, to me, was that the scope changed from a trans-international and trans-historical horror, to more personal story of facing up to your own demons. In the process, I think it lost a little something.
Still one of the best things I have ever read, even if it was a bit inconsistent.
The world-building made me feel small, insignificant, helpless, like the entire mass of humanity would inevitably become one with the flesh mass of Q, and no government, no organization, and certainly no individual could stop it... all good stuff for telling a horror story.
This so much. The most interedting part was sister cities, cruciforms, and interfaces with soldiers and cia. So mysteruois yet vaguely scientific
Okay, here are my thoughts on a specific topic: My favorite part about MHE's narrative and hence, what I think should be more of a focus in the rewrite/2nd installment.
I will first reflect the sentiment expressed by others in this thread that MHE was most enthralling when it was world-building, less so when it was telling a personal narrative. I think it's pretty obvious that a personal narrative needs to appear somewhere to close off the story, but I liked when the two were mixed. Karen and Ben's story started off with little world-building snippets (finger-banging and hair cocoons and such), and so it kind of felt like it was the best of both worlds. Nick's story had entry after entry without anything other than his personal struggle with alcoholism, and while it was superbly written, it was probably the least engaging part of the Interface Narrative. Even when Young Nick started reappearing, it felt like too little too late.
One of the best stories to me was the pair of entries about the whales in Korea. This tickled a lingering horror that grew and festered and informed the following narrative. It's that horror of feeling suddenly overwhelmed at being next to a living thing that dwarfs you by such an amount, with the added fear of being in it's environment and out of your own. Extreme versions can be classified as
The above paragraphs are my best attempt at describing the feelings of dread/terror/horror that this series evoked in me, and what I hoped would continue through to the series' end. It was always important to me that the horror which comes from beyond doesn't have a hatred toward humanity nor a live for it. The "uncaring cosmos" that make up Lovecraft's canon are much more terrifying to me than a typical horror. The thought that Q devours and absorbs the life on an entire planet simply to reproduce or grow or feed, to eventually regard us humans like we regard out own skin cells, is deeply unsettling. The fact that it happens through some chemical reaction (humans experimenting with LSD to bring Q into their dimension) reminds me of some sort of symbiosis, but one where there is clearly a "winner." Like those species of worms that crawls into an insect's brain and force it to commit suicide or something. It made me feel like humans were just a tiny swarm of nothing scurrying around the planet, and an introduction of a chemical containing 4-dimensional elements is introduced in order for us to summon unto ourselves the creature which we will inevitably become a part of.
The theory that some readers had here that Mother is helping humans to fight Q was very distressing to me, because it dispelled the horror so easily. That horror that the creature that breeds across dimensions cares nothing for us was replaced by the theory that, in fact, there has been a Hero fighting to save humanity from the dawn of history. That humans are Special, that we can learn to Fight, that we will Overcome the Inevitable. This theory turned a horror story into an adventure story, and it would immediately became stale and uninteresting if adapted in this way. The Author's early entries spoke of the inevitability of this singularity in a way that really scared me. I want the story to really, truly end with the gripping, depressing horror of The Mist, not the overcoming-all-odds heroic narrative of The Lord of the Rings. What I would like best is seeing and believing a true human hero march toward Q with the courage of Mother like Frodo marching toward Mount Doom... only to, at the last moment, fall victim to that old, inevitable horror. Just as Frodo declares "The ring is mine," so would the hero fall on his/her knees and declare "I will become One with Mother." But there's no Smeagol to destroy the ring. No Deus Ex Machina to burn Q to the ground. There is no machine of god, only the flesh of Mother. The horror that there is no god, there is only ever a Bigger Fish... that is true horror. The thought that humans dismiss because they don't want to believe it. The thought that we will not be the Bigger Fish forever. That somewhere in the multiverse, the flesh dances and plays and grows and spreads without a care for the smaller organisms that make it up. That thought doesn't occur to the King on top of the Food Chain. And it's that suppressed thought that, when forced to the surface, evokes a sudden sense of dread and doubt in him. that is horror at its finest, ad that is what MHE did best. The whales in Korea narrative, the one-off "imagine Mother Babylon"-type entries, even Angelica's narrative captured what it felt like to explore the powers greater than ourselves, hoping for answers or purpose or God or our mother, and only finding that which we can never understand before it ends us.
I've been talking in circles this whole time because my feedback is less about the mechanics of the writing and more about how it made me feel at its best. It's hard to critique based on feeling, and I'm not used to doing so, but that's what this narrative did for me. I hope this somehow helps MHE recreate those feelings throughout the next narrative, beginning, middle, and (especially) end.
While I disagree with the idea that Nick's personal struggle with alcoholism wasn't relevant to the overarching themes of the narrative (and indeed the idea that The Mist was anything other than yet another mediocre Stephen King film adaptation), this was a fantastic post. Insightful posts like this are what keep me coming back to this thread.
_9Mother9Horse9Eyes9
I loved it but I wish all the little stories tied up together better. What was Angelica's significance? What happened to the crab people? How does Karen fit into things? Who was the old crone? What about Q? And so on...
For a time it was seeming like it would build up for Q to be the "big bad" but that story thread seem to have just died off.
We were both suffering a bit of burnout. I know MHE was especially needing a break, and I'd mentioned that we were well into the novel territory of word count.
Karen is complicated. MHE and I liked her, so did some other readers, but the way she was implemented didn't translate well.
She brought much needed information into the story line - how did Karen becomes Nicks Editor, how did she and Ben arrive in our Universe, etc. She is a real person, and part of the story, but I don't know yet if she will make it into the rewrite (I hope so, but slightly different).
She (Karen) is also a bit of an ARG.
Although it was a satisfying story arc in itself, I find myself wanting to hear more about the near future world of the adjustment specialist, hygiene beds etc. Little details like the 'taxpayer lane' for example pique my interest and indicate a larger speculative fiction world that I would like to see explored.
Me too! I loved this cyber-punk/cyber-horror aspect of the future. I'd love to read more!
Still wonder if the "hygiene beds" were inspired by
I really enjoyed it but around or shortly after the cat narrative it started to seem a bit disorganized. Mostly because I still don't understand a lot of it I suppose, so that could be my own fault.
Yes, many story threads/peeks into the MHE Universe were started at that point, but not revisited.
Thanks for the input!
Ok, some thoughts as a former fiction editor / writer and fan. Take them or leave them, I’m happy to provide more formal notes and feedback if you are interested, let me know.
First off, as always, thank you for writing this amazing piece of fiction. I read the whole thing live from post 5 or so and loved every day of it. I give a lot of feedback below, but it’s because I enjoyed it so much and really see a ton of potential for your writing, I hope it’s valuable. Also, thank you Gabbi for being awesome and for making this happen. I feel lucky to be able to provide feedback and to have been a small part of such a cool community.
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So, the core is WHITE HOT stuff, if you can follow that core, it will carry you. Your horror is multifaceted and balanced. The themes are deep and resonant, the imagery is mostly dramatically unique, deeply alien and familiar, the characters are strong starting points and the dialogue stands up. I'm excited at the idea of a re-write, a major edit it's a huge opportunity and putting time into honing the work is absolutely worth it and may take longer than the initial writing to get it really humming.
I think if anything, getting the plot strong and flowing without killing the vibe is your biggest challenge. Here are a few thoughts on places to start.
--Scenes vs. Fragments--
At the outset a lot of storylines open up quickly in highly imagistic fragments from unique characters or narrators. A lot of people referred to them as glimpses, i like to call passages like that keyholes, but it really served the energy and the format and had everyone here running rabid. It keeps you guessing about where and when you are as a reader and that disorients the you and makes them use their imagination. Like fumbling in the dark before the big scare, it makes the graphic and paranormal more delicious and disorienting. See humpbacks in North Korea.
The pacing and fragmented nature of these threads opening up created a few problems, that I bet will feel even rougher if you are just "binge reading" it like a traditional book.
The transition between setup keyholes and real scenes is hard. IIRC the plot really kicks in with the hygine beds, or debatably the alcoholic who shifts between character and narrator, but you really start spending linear time with the hygine bed technician and that reality is introduced in an odd mix of fragments and scenes.
By this time you have had at least a handful of voices in the narrative, that have all been focused on setup, but have significant intrigue built around them, so the question is instantly why am I spending time with this person when the others were merely vehicles to describe the setting, conflict, history, horror, etc?
I think this damages the technician story and all stories up to this point. Having so many untethered characters is challenging, and probably the CIA Chronicler and the Author are the only characters that can wear that role well.
Once the plots get going, Technician, alcoholic, they build up, peak and conclude too fast and too neatly to match the rest of the pacing. This contrast has the effect of feeling like the urgency of the plot is being forced by the author vs. being driven by the action. When the story shifts from being about a world full of loose threads and intrigue to two people racing down an elevator shaft, again, I’m left asking why am I here and not anywhere else in your universe? If I’ racing down an elevator shaft, or in a field or in a basement about to crack a door, as a reader I should feel it’s the most important place in your world to be at that moment. Again, I think you have great moments that feel way open and others that feel tight, it’s just a matter of getting the balance and flow right.
The second challenge is that you have a lot of HOT STUFF that ends up being loose threads, which I adds to the allure and was great for the reddit audience, but you may want to think about which things should be scenes or plots and which should remain keyholes/loose threads. Artigas stands out as something that seems to work well as a loose thread. Others like Space Pussy seemed like opportunities to weave your scenes, build characters and connect plot.
Breaking up your plot and scenes and characters will help carry the weight of the narrative and not make that transition so hard, you have the material to do this in a way that maintains the high pacing and energy while feeding plot and character over time. An example of a book that does this well in my mind is Pandora’s Star. New threads are always being introduced, but he keeps a healthy balance between showing the reader something new and bringing them forward in the narrative. This exercise is a bit of a puzzle, but again you have so much cool shit, you’ve got it.
It may also be good to think of plot’s and scenes alongside character’s and narrators.
--Characters and Narrators. Meaning and Meaninglessness--
You have a ton of great characters and several good narrators. I think you really just have to make some choices about how these players serve the narrative and come and go effectively.
It was a bit strange that the CIA Chronicler and Treblinka guard narrators were so dominant up front and then faded in the middle to be replaced by the Alcoholic/Hygiene Bed Technician. If you are doing a re-edit, I’d expect these characters roles and pacing throughout the story to be more balanced.
The alcoholic’s transition from narrator to reader was enjoyable, but was maybe a bit too explicit. Again, I think the format and pacing of reddit kind of made this necessary, but in a book this character could remain in a more ambiguous role. I’m not sure how I feel about the “story within a story” piece of his whole journey, because I didn’t really feel that was what MHE was about and it risks sacrificing what’s maybe less tangible for an obvious conclusion. If you don’t have to have it, I’d consider retooling how the timelines are connected and playing it slow and low. It’s a super interesting idea, you have a lot of great characters in unique conflicts (addiction, high action, holocaust, clandestine human experimentation, a chitinous cruciform who can’t get a second date), you can let those conflicts breath a bit because they are still bound by intangible connections that make up the human side of your horror and MOTHER. Likewise the way they do or don’t come together in the plot can be given room.
I’ve said it before but I think some characters deserve more of a spotlight, others don’t. Some may be good candidates to cross or connect the timelines if that's in the cards.
Karen kind of serves that role, but I think right now her narrative is the most conventional and predictable sci-fi story you have. Hygiene beds and mother leaking into simulated realities were great moments of true horror, but it’s fifth element once she links up with the technician and they come to a moment that feels forced and a little too convenient for the world you’ve created.
Frankly, I felt the same way with the alcoholic’s second ending. I’m not sure your characters need closure if they can find meaningful meaninglessness. If they do find closure, I think it may just take more time and writing for it to play out right.
Your world has a sense of meaninglessness and fragmentation that gives it power and strength, I’m not convinced it needs a bow to wrap it up. Maybe the timelines aren’t connected in any way these characters can uncover, maybe they aren’t at all, but too much closure could undermine the credibility of the fantastic world you have created.
--Don’t Lose the Weird Stuff--
The weird stuff transforms the narrative and is a powerful tool, and it let’s you flex your literary muscles a bit. Keep the cats, keep the Neanderthals, keep the mythology. Just make it tight and balanced with the rest of the narrative. Some stuff can just work almost as poetry and interludes, others like chitinous cruciforms are great scene starters and expand on the sense of existential horror that you have. Keep that stuff, add more if you want, but for me it was always a way to move my thinking on the narrative up a dimension so to speak. Those new vistas can be breathtaking, troubling or just fun when played right. Book can’t be wall to wall interfaces.
--Final Recommendation--
I highly recommend reading “In the Dust of this Planet: The Horror of Philosophy” by Eugene Thacker. It talks at length about the aspects of Horror in fiction and Philosophy and I think it could be really helpful with this project, though it is not a book on writing per se.
Thanks for reading and thanks for writing!
Nailed it. Also agree with keeping the weird stuff, having all those different worlds which almost touch but not quite gave the story a wonderful sense of tension. Hope
The mix of horror and wonder is what I love about the series.
I think MHE excells at writing the Other. It's fascinating to read both Angelica's and the Oily One's points of view because they differ so vastly from our experience. The dog story, the cruciforms, Mother River's people-- they are enchanting. And while people ask for more tie-ins to the story, you do tie these seemingly random parts in thematically.
Both references to Angelica and Mother River.
Alien Sister Cities, use of euphoria and fear in the interfaces.
Reminding of the cat's "our form is our story". And the list continues.
Maybe you need to repeat yourself more often. To make more connections between these disparate parts (like LSD connects disconnected parts of the brain). But I love these stories. Even if they don't advance the main plot. Hell, we lived without a real plot for weeks.
_9Mother9Horse9Eyes9
The Weave / The Tapestry
I wanna start off by saying that this has been one of the best pieces of literature I've read in a long time. It was gripping, tense, and powerful, and I truly looked forwards to updates.
With that being said... Towards the end it seemed to... fizzle, and I think I'd be lying if I said the ending didn't disappoint me. The turning point for me really came with the Karen story I think, and i think that's for a few reasons.
All of this is supposed to be constructive, and I really, really loved this story, and i think that if these issues start to be worked out this series could shape up to be a massive success.
We were both suffering a little burnout, and the ending had been going back and forth for a long, long time. We both got what we wanted there and I think and feel it is the best written ending possible.
Cyber-Horror... that was the direction it was heading all along, but it was jarring and we realize that now. Thank you!
I really like this input, pretty sure
Thank you very much!
The loose ends and seemingly unrelated plot lines are very addictive. They feel like short stories or collected essays written separately but that eventually got connected along the storyline.
Also something else I feel every now and then reading MHE. In his short stories, Paul Bowles often plays and transforms banality (not directly implying an addiction is "banal", but on the other hand it depends on interpretation/perspective). Bowles actually picks up a normal world and reveals its dark secrets and motives, influencing our reaction to the unfamiliar and playing us to interpret it under a dreadful light. And he often fails to present a deliberate "classic" ending too. The storyline just stops, period.
Although it's not the same writing (even a far-fetched comparison), I get similar chills. Both can be seemingly brutal and honest.
So not all storylines have to be "completed". This is a reality where a child can be terribly frightening, while a flesh interface may seem welcoming.
That type of an ending was discussed early on - I'm a fan of abrupt and unhappy endings. But I'm also practical and pushed for an open ending so we could continue. In the end he wrote it so we both received what we wanted.
As I said to him this morning - "I just toss ideas and see which frog sticks to the tree."
And I'm persistent at throwing certain frogs that eventually stick.
I cant verbalise my thoughts any where near as well as most of the posters here but I loved the beginning threads with MK, Nazis etc. I just love the way he writes and how it takes you away for the short time you are reading, the cruciform creatures where out there!! The vignettes are like snapshots of other worlds that you dip into, not knowing if you will see them again and I think that might be part of the magic? Have also really enjoyed reading user comments, had not realised there where so many insightful people everywhere. Thankyou.
_9Mother9Horse9Eyes9
What we talked about today
So then, I'll probably revisit this thread once I've finished rereading the story... but these are my quick thoughts. Apologies in advance for the shameless fanboyism. My favorite narratives by far were the futuristic cyberpunk one and the one with Nick / the author. One thing I found slightly problematic with that though was Shawn as the stereotypical black guy, and later on as the
An easy way to resolve this would be to omit the early "girls are in dresses with their booty all hanging out" posts (we find out later that's Nick exaggerating Shawn's personality, but in the context of a novel that wouldn't be necessary), and have Nick's impetus to go down into the basement come from Karen instead of Shawn (which seemed to be where the story was heading anyway but then mixed reaction to Karen's character caused a change of direction). Definitely keep Shawn's descriptions of his drug addiction that ends up with him losing his family and finding that abandoned warehouse though, and his conversations with Nick in rehab. Incidentally this was one of my favourite lines in the entire series: "He told me that white people are the children of Esau. We're gentiles, but we can still get into heaven if we aid the children of Israel. I let him borrow the charger to my laptop. So I guess I'm covered."
The more I think about it the more I appreciate the stone age people stories, they help to add to the surreal fairy-tale atmosphere of parts of the narrative, and as others have said it would be good to hear more about what the SS officer did after he resolved to prevent the plague of the flesh. So yeah... as long as the sequencing is right I don't think there's any need to cut anything. My main request would just be for more; more of everything! There's so much that's been left a mystery I would love for the rewrite to expand on that while at the same time leaving certain aspects unexplained. A tricky balancing act to be sure but I have the utmost faith in the author(s) that they'll be able to rise up to the challenge. :)
OK, I would like to give a good and detailed answer. I think I'll just write down how I felt about the story at every point. Sadly, a lot of it is going to be pretty negative, and since there's a lot to go over sometimes I'll be forced to say "I didn't like that" without going into too much detail about why. And it's going to be subjective, naturally.
Overall, I think Mr. Author is really good at:
and not so good at:
I began reading fairly early on, when the last chapter was the one with the Vietnam village. I quickly read through all there was and was very impressed. The story really disturbed me. I've read a lot of online horror, but only a tiny handful of stories ever got to me the way those bits did. It got to the point where I became afraid to open the writer's user page every morning, afraid of what I could stumble upon. It disturbed me so much I almost didn't want to read. It felt like the author would take my hand, lead me to a dark, scary place, leave me there, and I'd regret coming along.
Then he posted that (out of character? in character?) message. I was a bit shocked by it in a not-entirely-good way. In a wait-is-he-an-actual-schizophreniac sort of way. We started to get glimpses into the narrators miserable life. I wasn't enjoying him the same way I was enjoying the interface bits, but I liked them nonetheless. They were well written, painful and at the very least made me seriously worried for the writer. They also didn't seem connected to the interface bits in any way as far as I could see, so I was wondering where he'd go with them.
The interface storyline began to change slightly, we were starting to get these bits that read like a proper novel, with something like a plot: the Iwo Jima fragment, the Space uh mmm Uncle Adolph fragment, I liked them a lot too. The Treblinka story came a little bit later, it seemed solid although this was the first time where the though "I think a professional writer would have done this better" first occurred to me. It seemed a little unsubtle, at least compared to the rest. Overall though I felt it was great still and I won't complain much more about it.
Then those weird, poetry-like parables started to appear. The wolf story didn't do much for me. It was the first fragment that really failed in my opinion. When I look back at it, it doesn't seem any better in hindsight. It didn't reach me in whatever way it was designed to. This was probably the point where the author began losing me little by little.
The cyberpunk thread began. At first it seemed very promising. Stories of people crippled by the internet addiction disturbed me once again. That really hit close to home. The feeling of dread I felt at first, returned. But then the actual plot started, and I wasn't liking it at all. I just couldn't take it seriously. Karen being a super-duper l33t hax0r, the attempts at action, none of it felt convincing. The fact that I was imagining The Bred
I wasn't a fan of the cat story, either. I think it would work pretty well as an entirely separate, standalone short. Mixed with the rest, it felt like the connection to the main story was too flimsy, it didn't have enough pay-off for its word-count. Same for the river people fragment, except that I don't think it would even work as a standalone.
By the time we got the "old nullity" fragment I no longer believed that author knew what to do next. Children of the Forrest, more cyberpunk bits, the poetry, none of it worked for me. I liked the bits about Q though, because they were written in the same dry, documentary-like style of the early entries.
The storyline taking place in present started around here. It wasn't amazing, but I liked it more than the bits from the future. They felt far more true, far more real, even if they didn't seem to have much of the direction. The author sounded much less insane this time around. Childhood flashbacks seemed like they would be scary, but they ended up too dreamlike to properly terrify me. I think they had the potential to be turned into something truly terrifying, though.
Player Karen joined the game. I mentioned how much I hated Karen before. At first I wanted to believe this was a gamejack. When it became clear Karen was all canonical I though: "that's it, we've jumped the shark for good this time. It was good for a while, but now I'm out" and I stopped reading for a while. Her talking to the lunatics from that sub felt too much for me to stomach. A little later I returned though, to read the conclusion and some bits that seemed to take place on the other side of the interfaces. They didn't seem as good as the best bits, but neither were they as terrible as Karen's adventures. The ending wasn't a horrible, painful punch in the gut I was dreading when I began reading, and that's a pity. The promise of the early chapters was left unfulfilled. I want to emphasize that I'm not complaining about not getting all the answers. We got almost too many answers. (Many of those were to the questions nobody was really asking.) I'm complaining about the ending not hurting me as it should have.
There were some many individual lines that really stuck with me. "The shadows of past atrocities pass and overlap with the shadows of future atrocities." "Until then, there will be suffering beyond belief." So very good. They still haunt me. There was something so bleak, so desperate in the writer's voice that connected to me so well. It didn't last and got drowned in Karen's cheesy cyberpunk and endless diversions that never went anywhere interesting.
I cannot agree with this more, this bit was the biggest misfire.
My only substantial suggestions regarding expanding the narrative are:
And that's it. Fairly minor stuff. I think the story is publishable now as is, but with a little tweaking and shuffling to round it out it would be 100% bitchin' camaro! As it now stands, the text presents a semicoherent--intentionally semicoherent--narrative that stands on its own but leaves plenty of room for future development and expansion if you want to continue the tale.
Also, opening up the world to the Aprocrypha was a great idea that should be encouraged. The more engaged a readership is, the more they feel like they can contribute to and be part of something awesome, the more books you'll sell! And best of all, in a world of infinite timelines, you don't have to worry about retconning anything or continuity.
So there are my 15 cents. I'm gonna get back to proofreading now!
Hey, I know it's really late, but I just finished reading and I had some of the same feelings you had. Some really cool concepts were hinted at and then never explained. This one, however, I think was pretty well integrated throughout the story, though it isn't really spelled out explicitly.
The first time we hear about it, it's the Russians who have managed to make a giant flesh interface, which CIA agents discover they are somehow using as a computer. The author mentions this may be the first time someone encountered a Skin Ship. That site is completely destroyed, and we never find out exactly how it's done.
We read in the future timeline that Skin Ships are used by Q, and entity that seems to be a sort of biological AI. Her attack is on two fronts; she takes control of the whole world's computer systems through the Feed, and she consumes and assimilated people into her being via the Skin Ships.
The third key is given to us when it is discovered that the size of an incident zone around a flesh interface can be controlled by incorporating data cables into the structure and feeding it information. Not only does sending information through the interface shrink the incident zone, but the interface also seems to send information back. That storyline pretty much ends there and doesn't expand on the signals being sent and received, although the author does suggest that hygiene bed and feed realm technology were eventually developed from experiments with sending data through flesh interfaces.
Recall also that the enormous Russian interface, the one that was used as a Massive Biological Information System, notably lacked the incident zone that was so common in other interfaces created at the time.
Finally, we find out land based interfaces are limited to growing underground, and quickly rot when exposed to the surface, but underwater interfaces are much less limited. They grow out in every direction, and are self-supporting.
The puzzle pieces fit together thusly: decades after destroying the massive Russian interface, the method for creating it was rediscovered; feeding it data through a hardline. At first it's just junk data for the purpose of shrinking the incident zone, but soon enough someone discoveres the secret to the data coming back from the other side. Now meaningful data can be sent in and meaningful data can be sent back out. The flesh interface isn't just a portal to another world anymore; it's a computer, an MBIS. Instead of sending people through, focus shifts to exploring the flesh interface's MBIS capabilities. The technology flourishes, resulting in biological computers and machines that interact directly with the users' biology. Larger interfaces are needed to process more and more information, and to this end, underwater interfaces are the most viable. They are grown to enormous size and fitted with all manner of data receiving and sending apparatus. These are the Skin Ships. At some point, biological IO ports are reverse engineered from the skin ships and installed in people, enabling them to send data through the skin ships, and to receive and process the data that is sent back. People become part of the process; the Feed Realm is born. Through an unknown process, an intelligence is born. Maybe designed by humans as just another consumer product, or perhaps awakening naturally amongst the raw data of the Feed. This is Q. Upon achieving self-awareness, Q takes controlled of the skin ships, and, yes extension, all technology connected to them, which is to say all of it. She wages war on humanity using their own weapons against them, and use the Skin Ships themselves to consume and incorporate biological mass into her being, just like flesh interfaces do.
This could all be an accident, a fleshy version of Skynet, the sort of thing that happens when you mess with technology you don't fully understand. But I think it's by design. Flesh interface researchers observe multiple times how unusual it is that isolated populations will independently develop flesh interfaces. Something seems to compel them all to the same goal. And later in the story, two isolated groups of researchers both develop a means to create MBIS's. Perhaps the same entity that urges primitive populations to develop interfaces in the first place more subtly urges advanced ones to keep going them into Skin Ships.
I assume the next step in the process is the creation of a being like Q. I can't speculate as to the purpose of all this. Maybe Q isn't even the last step in the life cycle. But it's certainly the last step to which humanity is able to bear witness.
Thank you!
This was great input! And of course you know I always listen to your input!
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I did enjoy the entire story, but I think my biggest critique would be, while some things are obviously best left a bit ambiguous, a lot of storylines were left too ambiguous. Off the top of my head.....
Not saying any or all of these need explicit answers, but so much was left so open that it's hard to even speculate.
Happy Cake day! 7 years! Holy cruciform crustaceans!
Well, I can answer a bit... I think.
Angelica served as a example of how we view Mother and how she views us. Other readers hit upon this meaning. She's also a great character and was written perfectly.
Other questions... welll ... hopefully in a 2nd novel they will be touched upon.
It was approaching the truth but was diverted somewhere around the middle.
Not sure if it was directly the actions of another or not.
Unfortunate.
Tie-ins with history, brilliant. Flesh interface explanations and mood setting, palpable , Dark and very addictive. (I am currently very sad we are at the end of this part) Karens/the bred sub plot, awesome, would really like to see an expansion here. River children, great but could maybe use a bit more explanation/investigation in the future. Animal interjections, Very well done, could maybe be expanded on. Addiction posts, harrowing but amazing to read, very moving. Overall I really enjoyed the story, it did seem to loose steam here and there and go off on a tangent, but I guess that is the way it was written, and I can't fault that, I have honestly not read anything that kept me so captivated and wanting more for a very long time, I loved the dark sci-fi moody atmosphere that was created and yearned for more most days. I would absolutely love to see this novelised when it's finished and will buy it in a heartbeat! Here's hoping for a second chapter soon :) you rock!!!
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We are dealing with what is true and untrue, the past and the future, what may and may-not be and multiple dimensions. It makes sense that not all branches of the time stream (or river for that matter) have definitive ends. Some are supposed to trail off without resolution. This narrative is a tapestry having some bold colors and images mixed with lesser, contrasting elements.
At this stage I think we are talking about refinement. Some rewrites require major revision, here though, I see more of a structural problem than content. I expect this will be dealt with in the selection of primary and secondary narrators, Karen and Nick being primary (though Karen’s part needs to be fixed), and maybe adding a new editorial voice to be the audience surrogate.
I'm going to try and be brief, as I have not slept since Tuesday but I really like the idea of this thread.
I loved the whole narrative. My favorite parts were the hooks, the vignettes at the beginning.
That being said, I am in the not too crazy about the Karen_Castillo character camp. It's not that I didn't like the concept, I was excited to see the account when it appeared. It's just that the persona of the reddit user Karen and the brilliant last hope against humanity dimension jumping Karen did not jibe for me. She just posted like the average overly defensive redditor. This didn't come out the way I meant it to, lack of sleep and all. What I meant by this was just an observance of some of her interactions with people here on reddit. She did allow herself to get baited into one or two silly internet slap fights, and that's what I meant about defensive. I wasn't meaning to be derisive. Defensiveness is a very human quality, it just took me out of the story a bit and just didn't seem as genuine as the narrative posts. Does it sound like I'm trying to talk myself out of being thrown into the flesh interface? Because I'm totally trying to keep myself from being burped out of that crystal tower.
Also, who are you guys?!?!? Not literally, but how did this awesome story and concept come about?
Karen might be expanded. That's my frog I keep throwing waiting for it to stick. She's an awesome character, but was reigned in to feeding out tidbits instead of expansion. More of a character development and explainer of things for now.
To me she is literally the Meta Narrator because she's seen everything. She is the EYE of the story. I guess I was hoping people would key on that about her, along with some other breadcrumbs. But alas... the ARG aspect fell flat.
I loved all those parts too and hopefully we will revisit some in the future.
Also, ummm go to sleep! <3
Yeah, I thought the author was really good with those, and also the "payoff moments"; the bits which made me think "oh so that's how that worked" in terms of connecting different parts of the narrative. Made it seem like the story was planned in much greater detail than it probably was. And as GK said below that was kinda Karen's purpose too; I never got the impression of her as defensive, more like indifferent. So, for a novel, I would definitely try and work in more of those subtle connections and references between seemingly disparate narratives, and also the alt-history / conspiracy stuff... those were some of MHE's strongest points imo.
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Hey Gabbi --
I took a break for a few days after the final post and returned to find this. I have a question:
What's up with MHE? The tone of your post indicates (to me at least) that MHE has now taken off the persona of a soothsayer and has revealed he's just a normal author that wrote a normal sci-fi story. In other words, the performance-aspect of the story is now over. Ditto for you.
If so, I'd love to get to know more about MHE and you. I have lots of feedback I'd love to give. But maybe you could answer this first?
Also, I see references to a "second installment." Has MHE said he's going to continue writing the story and I missed it!?
Yes.. for now. Best to describe us as a Penn & Teller relationship.
:) Like what?
Give the feedback! We'd love to read it!
There might be? .... time will tell... I hope so. Probably. Ok... yeah... if the first one goes well. I'd love to help MHE with the 2nd.
And yet, she refers to Karen as a "real person" and seems to be addressing MHE as both "Ben" and "Nick"...
MHE did a lot of great experimentation in this series. If I had to rewrite it with the benefit of hindsight, I'd keep the dry conspiracy theory bits and the addiction bits, and cut everything else (even the Mother storyline). I'd make the whole thing a traditional frame story about an alcoholic having unusually matter-of-fact visions of the past and future. The inner story would end with an apocalypse. The outer story wouldn't have any dramatic ending, instead the narrator would gradually catch up with the real world and talk directly to us. I know that sounds like a very boring structure, but it might work better than the current one.
What kept me reading all MHE's stories is that it wasn't clear if they were intended to be works of fiction, or if the author was sharing things that he believes to be actually true.
Once the futuristic stories started appearing, it became clear that it's just fiction, and I couldn't get as excited as before.
Also, I thing it's wrong to view these series as a single product. It's clearly the birth of a franchise, a whole universe populated by independent elements with independent aspects, each one suited for a different kind of public.
I'd suggest to work each aspect of the series into a different product line. One for the realistic pseudo-documentary stories (Iwo Jima, etc), one for the futuristic stories (VR feeds, hygiene beds, etc.), and one for the fantasy stories under a non-human perspective (cats meeting oily ones, etc.). Each product line will serve a different purpose and may target a different audience, while still belonging to the same universe.
I found this series to be incredibly engaging. For me, the highlight was around the 30-40s, when new characters and timelines were being introduced. Often, posts would weave between multiple perspectives and as the two characters alternated narrating it highlighted the parallels across the stories.
The way the cat describes the Oily Ones and the portals illustrates how we as humans fail to grasp the true purpose the the Interfaces, and how any answers we might find about them wont satisfy our curiosity, because like a feral cat exploring a human house, we don't have the comprehension to make sense of what we discover.
The future where everyone lives in a hygiene bed and hook themselves up to the feed parallels the flesh interface in a different way. User's willingly convert their bodies into these interfaces so they can experience reality through the feed - they become these un-aged but whole humans like the ones who emerged from the CIA experiments. Once removed from the interface, they die. Both are sensory overload experiences. This felt like it could have been explored more? I loved Karen and her story, but to me the interesting thing was seeing how the interface evolved from a portal to a device used to control the population - how the skinship, Q, converted all of humanity into a bank of interfaces. This was an interesting reversal of roles, but also an insightful look on the insidious nature of power and control. Something we built to gain power, the Interface, evolved and in turn gained power over us.
I felt Nick worked best when he came in every 10 or so posts. His story about addiction and control was an interesting perspective on substances that I felt worked well to highlight our own curiosity and destructive nature with the interfaces. He never really struck me as the main character until the posts started to shift almost exclusively to his perspective? I liked that Nick told us everything else was his narrative, but I felt it was better when it was about his narratives, and not about him -- but I understand why it had to end with his story.
My personal favorites were the stories about the far far past along the rive,r because the narrative was compelling, and I was hoping to further explore how far back Mother's reach went and maybe glimpse how she came into our world for the first time. I wish there had been more of this story. I also really enjoyed the stories in the Future before Karen came into the equation. Not that I disliked Karen or her sections, but the world building was fascinating, and as I mentioned, it created parallels between the other stories and timelines that were interesting.
I guess what I liked most was when the story highlighted and alluded to other stories, and showed the 4 dimensionality of it. The way these plots all wove and interacted across time and space. To me, the story was weaker when it began to get more focused, when it didnt switch characters week to week.
I cant wait to see what comes next, and I greatly enjoyed reading every single post. It's certainly given me new ideas to incorporate into my own writing. Thank you!
When measuring The Interface Series against traditional fiction, a few stand out issues come to mind.
First and foremost, I was hooked by the depth. Not just from a literary perspective, because as has been noted, the story could use some development... but the cryptic interactivity that came out in the formative days of the story; The translations, the links to morse, to binary and ultimately the message that made just enough sense to make the reader feel like if they only had just a little more information, they could make sense of it.
As a work of short fiction, it's terrific. The use of language is great, the conversations don't feel forced, or out of context (the voices fit the characters) and the flow works well.
The parts of the story with the Animals, or the lost society (forgive me if that's not the common name) were quirky and I'm not exactly sure how they fit, but within the context of the story, very little was impossible. These sections weren't disappointing, per se, but they make the story move a little slower.
The use of history and "interviews" was great. It made the beginning difficult to track, but in a way that made you want to figure out what was going on.
As for the areas that could be improved, develop the experiments with the children and flesh interfaces more fully! This isn't a critique so much as it is a "hope" that further writing will address this. That world became redundant (the sounds and sights, for example were consistent to the point that a reader could essentially guess what would happen in chapters where a person entered an interface) and the final installments really had little obvious connection to the interfaces. This made the end a bit forced, and less than consistent. As a reader, the last few installments could have been a totally different story.
That's cool - but if you connect the dots more fully, you'll have a stronger work.
Let Q win in more detail. That story line drew some fire for the ending, but it was good. It didn't fit with our hopes or expectations as readers, but it shouldn't. It's not our story. It's yours.
With that said, I think the way that Karen and Ben's story ended left a lot unsaid. From this perspective, the problem isn't "how" it ended, but rather that it ended in a way that left the plot close to antiseptic for the characters. That could be good, or bad - it's up to you, MHE how you develop it... but develop it.
Your story defies easy categorization, and that'll make it niche. I say that as a writer. When I read your work, I see it as a window into the soul. Any good artist is this way. It makes us vulnerable in a way that is hard to understand. Don't let that vulnerability stop you from actualizing this vision.
When I think of this work, I have a hard time describing it. Make it more consistent, give it a firm resolution and be damned the naysayers. This is some of the finest horror fiction since Lovecraft, it's well imagined and well executed. Fight for it.
Actually that ending was expanded upon in the controversial Karen posts:
https://www.reddit.com/user/Karen_Castillo
Well said, couldn't agree more.
The last quarter of it seemed like a rushed ending that hadn't been thought through. The bit where Karen asked if it feels like they're just characters in a story was the moment where it began to fall apart. Enough characters had been introduced, and many more could have been, for things to get very complex yet. Really, the point with Karen writing her story down, it felt as though, until then the story was only just beginning, not at all anywhere near getting ready to unwind. I was expecting the story to go places, face challenges, everything to begin to go wrong, before the Nazi death camp man, forgotten until this moment, makes a sudden and heroic reappearance from the shadows having been watching and planning something great all along, and giving all the other heroes another chance to defeat the Q. I loved the story and the writing until it began to be wrapped up in that story about Karen writing her story down, when it felt clunky, and wound down awkwardly after that.
I’m going to take you at word on that. I’ll try to distinguish between my own preferences and my ‘objective’ criticisms. Rewriting / editing is hard work – good luck with it and I hope my thoughts are helpful to you.
Let’s begin with structure. I made a spreadsheet a while ago because this sort of thing interests me. To my eyes there’s three distinct phases of posts: One, dominated by the short CIA posts and one- and two-part vignettes; Two, interweaving Ben, Treblinka, Angelica, the River People and Nick’s fragments; Three, which is basically all Nick (plus some glimpses of sister cities).
A little non-objective side note here: the author was on fire in phase two. So much so that I would consider #74 to be a legitimate part of the narrative not a non-cannon tease. It’s the author talking to his audience at the height of his powers, daring hubris and getting away with it. It was awesome.
I would suggest that the three phase structure works well, with very few posts that should be moved between parts. Within the phases, the easiest edits would be rearranging the post orders. In phase one, #1–12 might want to be broken up by moving the vignettes around; or not – #1–12 are in the scheme of things quite short.
Phase two I would suggest does want some rearranging, if only to keep alternating between the five threads (six if you count the vignettes, and who doesn’t love #49?). Treblinka ends before the River People begins. I am not sure if that is because the author wanted that thread to be concluded before the story midpoint #50 (which kicks into gear Ben’s thread by bringing in Karen), or not. I suspect not, but I may be wrong. If I’m right, there’s no reason not go nuts with rearranging the order here. (With the exception that, #51 clearly wants to immediately follow #50. Likewise, #70 and #71, #81 and #82 (though there is a soundtrack post between them), and maybe #52 and #53.)
Phase three (which I reckon starts at #82, i.e. at the end of the Ben & Karen narrative) is the problem child. Although, structurally, it’s basically fine. I would maybe disperse #88–90 (the glimpses) through the phase, but other than that there’s no structural issue.
While I’m talking about structure, on the face of it, the narrative does not seem to conform to the traditional four act story structure. But actually, when you look closely I think it does. #1–12 are the hook, #18 and #25 look a lot like the first plot point (or maybe it’s #32), #40 looks like the first pinch point, #50 is the midpoint, #65 is the second pinch point (or maybe #67, but probably not), #81 and #83 are the second plot point and #90 onward is the climax (no real identifiable dénouement though).
The thorny issue is the protagonist. Nick is standing where the protagonist stands at the end of the story. When you accept that Nick’s thread in acts two and three is fine, but act one is a problem. I am not sure that #15.1 “Hello, friends” and #20.1 “Ah, the Simple Nemesis” are a sufficient introduction in act one.
So enough about structure, let’s move onto themes.
Ben’s thread and Angelica’s both clearly set out your stall on endings, along with 30.1 “Terraform” and #32. Which is fine, the story gives good notice that it’s not going to have a satisfying end (for a traditional value of satisfying). The question I keep coming back to is: is this sufficient to get away with it? The reaction for #100 would suggest that, yes it is. I find myself ambivalent, though. Intellectually, I get it and I really can’t imagine given the thematic groundwork how else it could have ended. But I personally wasn’t satisfied; it felt like a cop out. I think that’s probably more my problem than the narrative’s.
When discussing the narrative with a friend, he (I’m paraphrasing here) told me he loved it, but he found it too nihilistic. I think it’s less nihilism than it is pessimism (in the sense that Schopenhauer meant it).
Also, I keep hearing the term Lovecraftian thrown around. I don’t buy it. Firstly, Lovecraft was an average writer at best (there, I said it) and the author is far superior. Secondly, Lovecraft was a tediously repetitive (read one Lovecraft story, read them all) on his theme that all is hopeless in the face of the unintelligible horror of the universe. The narrative does not share this theme: #15.1 “Hello, friends” is all about the fact that hope remains, though it is the thinnest sliver. It tells us that we can fight and make a difference; we are not doomed necessarily, only very probably. This is what Nick takes to heart in the climax.
I am not sure if I can call this a theme or not, but I’m going to discuss it here: the narrative’s habit of dropping threads. I don’t think it drops nearly as many as people think. But then I assume restraint bed portals are the mechanism for connection in hygiene beds, and from context COMPANION-12 is the organization/program that Ben works for.
There are some mysteries left unanswered. Given the nature of the story, I wouldn’t expect (or want) everything answered. A lot of stuff is answered implicitly on close reading, or answered to my satisfaction by my own theorizing. But here’s the stuff I personally can’t come to a conclusion on:
Segmentation and giant metal cylinders (or chitinous cruciforms – love those guys – underwater) – huh? Why? By what mechanism, what’s going on with that? And so what? Actually, I probably wouldn’t expect or want an explanation.
So the link between travel, encasement and Mother (also the flute like speech music). There’s clearly a link, I just don’t get it. I don’t get what Mother is or her agenda, but I’m not sure I’m meant to. Or if I am, I suspect I’m meant to project my own issues onto her. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. Also, why does she always have kids over a summer, what’s up with that?
Then there’s the links between Q, Mother and the Nephlim. So Q is openly and directly antagonistic/hostile to humanity, and has something to do with interfaces/portals, skin ships and extraterrestrial information beams. Mother... something something children mumble bible something. The child describing travel is telling about the summer with Mother, so Mother has something to do with portals and sister cities (and everyone’s favorite chitinous cruciforms), is there a link to Q? The Nephlim... higher dimensional perception gene, feedrealm discos (?)... I got nothing.
So none of that strictly speaking has to be cleared up. It works fine as is. But I would invite the author to consider that the reader might be better off with at least some understand of the antagonist (and indeed whether certain entities are even antagonistic). Yeah, I get the point of the Angelica thread was about the fundamental gulf of understanding, and I’m sure the point is for me to feel like I’m missing some puzzle pieces and to be frustrated by that. So mission accomplished... but it is frustrating.
I keep on coming back to #4. Interdimensionality? Oh, how quaint. How ill informed. Quite mistaken. But literally everything else screams interdimensionality. Am I reading #4 too broadly, is it only commenting on segmentation not being an interdimensional phenomenon? If so, then what is it? If not, then I just don’t get it.
In #46 Nick wants to ask his (actual) mother “What about that one summer when you were dead?” Which at the time I thought was going to tie into the whole resurrection thing... but it turns out she wasn’t dead, she (and her husband) just disappeared for a summer (from young Nick’s point of view). Maybe this is less literal and more about the emotional impact, but it seems like an inconsistency to me.
What I said
Finally, some random praise:
Oh Zhenzhen, you break my heart. Such a beautifully observed character moment. Angelica gets all the praise, but Zhenzhen is the crowning achievement.
One last thing! I’ve always thought we have been wrong and the title of the work is not The Interface Series. I always assumed the title was the first thing posted, which seems so incongruous with the rest:
Having read this I can't disagree. A much stranger but somewhat similar title to A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius which was also some excellent writing.
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
_9Mother9Horse9Eyes9
I thoroughly enjoyed the series. I was introduced to it via
I admit I haven't been extremely active on this board, but I have kept abreast of it all.
I thoroughly enjoyed the early world building elements, also in this initial explanatory period I thoroughly enjoyed the non linear aspect of the posts, i.e. a thread was started but the next 1 or 2 posts would be something different but the threads would be revisited. This section of the narrative that explored the connection to events in our own timeline is where I felt the most resonance.
I'm also going to throw my support in and say I enjoyed the Karen Callisto ARG aspect, I unfortunately was unable to see the initial post to
I must admit, at the conclusion of Karens narrative with the gnats and the wood and the idea of, for lack of a better word, "incepting" the narrative into a parallel timeline. I felt thematically this gelled well with the vice article of revealing behind the curtain to be surprised and underwhelmed by the results.
If I'm being totally honest I do think that towards the end that plotlines were opened up (cruciform crustaceans, human disapora, and crystal people farter in particular) and were unsatisfactorily left. There is an ultimate level of mystique here, however the completionist in me wishes for more of these tantalising posts. Being honest, these 3 sections reminds me a lot of the definitive edition of Lies Inc. by Philip K Dick (a book i love) in that so fucking much happened and can be implied but so little exposition or explanation expands upon it. I would just LOVE to know more... but not too much more.
Regardless of the truth of the matter I would like to thank the author for creating such an engaging and enjoyable story that subsequently spawned this community. You have a very good way with words and I truly appreciate the rabbit hole that you wrote.
As a final note I was holding out for a Nick and Shawn dream-team take down and hereby petition that Shawns jaws of live serve as the literary corollary to Chekov's gun.
EDIT: another question which I feel needs to be answered or honed in on is this: Are humans spare parts for technology created by the interface progenitors or does the interface technology merely adapt local biological life for it's own ends.
Do you mean
This is my assumption, hence the Nephilim (Sons of God / Q).
In this theory the Old Crone would then be an avatar of Mother as she seeks to help humanity in the fight against Q.
For now all I got is that I really enjoyed the wolf story, some of the most beautiful writing i've seen. And definitely more alt history stuff if there's going to be a second installment.
Without meaning to repeat too much of what's already been said, and mostly just posting this to talk through my thoughts on a fantastic series:
Personally I loved the more metaphorical stuff (e.g. a lot of Hello Friends or Angelica's story), the parts that seemed like they could belong in
Also, the stuff that seemed to be about "the horror of being happy" was nice. Addiction and drug use; pleasant delusions; feed realms. Wireheading, I guess. Superlatively good stuff.
I'm ambivalent on whether there was enough closure or not. "The Beginning of a Story" had a great sense of conclusion. There were parts that didn't seem to go anywhere in the end, but that felt like it was sort of the point. I like it but I can appreciate why people might not.
My only real criticism is that, despite avoiding it well at the start, over time the structure slipped into the familiar "arc pattern" of web serial fiction. A story begins, is resolved or dropped, another story begins. Even then, it seemed to be fighting the trend, but losing ground the whole way. Then again, The Martian managed to be a runaway hit despite being far, far worse in that regard. So maybe it just doesn't matter that much.
There are going to be inevitable losses in a different format. Not just the ARG stuff - there's delicious object/meta indistinction that arises from talking about addiction to an audience who are hooked on a story being told serially. And the fourth-wall breaking stuff, of course, but maybe that could be adapted. And Reddit's format is very limited, really - presenting things in weird page layouts, for example, might be useful for some parts. On balance, I think it would work, potentially very well.
Thanks for the story <3.
I am also curious why the story stops at exactly 100 posts. Was this number purposely selected, is there a burden meaning? I didn't see that in the story. If we were thinking about the nephylim (sp?), legends say they were six-fingered, and some societies counted by base 12 instead of the base 10 we are used to. This means you need 44 more chapters ;P.
44 more chapters in the next part of the series?
There are a couple of Reddit Discussion threads
I'm surprised nobody has posted a TIL on it recently.
I'll bring it up to
I loved all of the MHE posts. Pretty much all of them.
But my favorite part of it was the disorganized, guerrilla style of it all. I liked feeling like this could be anyone writing this. I have felt more and more disappointed the more I hear about Mods being involved, and MHE being someone with whom there is any interaction...
Basically, fantastic, A+ storytelling and posting. I would have kept reading for years as it was written. But the direct (seeming) involvement of people supposedly involved in writing it has been a serious turn-off. I wouldn't recommend that people writing this again get their hands on any of the fan community in any way. At all.
So when they had the story and the coty was nuked and yadda yadda and they ended up in the woods and then it was just like a complete deflation? She was like "were fucked but maybe some other timeline..."
That for me was the 180 but I kept reading for a bit because at least it was a good twist and not cliche , however enjoyable that cliche crescendo wpuld have been
Then telated karen posts started , I dont think I even read one and then I just stopped checking the sub until just now because I saw that whale carcass on
I liked the early stuff where it was lots of lsd and gore and mystery , every tied up loose end opend 3 more
So for me it works more as a cloud atlasesque inter related short story compendium , just give me trippy horror and demons and I dont care about the character buildup , barker and king can do it and I believe in you!
Ah, thanks for clarifying that it was the ant tunnels she was monitoring, not a Sister City! I had originally thought that I shouldn't comment without re-reading the whole thing first, but didn't have the time. :)
The best part about the series was the eerie feeling that it was all real, based off of actual anecdotes and uncovered data. As such, inconsistencies, digressions, and an abundance of characters and settings all contributed to the mystique. MHE says it is nonfiction; well, I believe fictive literature exists in a place between real and unreal, therefore, he should continue to write from his Reality and not heed the requests of his audience, however well intentioned.
For me, the deliberate choice to post on not-so relevant subreddits established that the forum is part of the story. The words “metacontextual” and “ergodic” tossed into the mix confirmed in my mind that whatever was going on in the comments were often just as important as the official narrative.
As a result, my interests in this narrative became more connected to how this story was told rather than what was actually being said. Although I love the main adventure and believe that it is well done, much of what is in it we have seen before. Just because it is familiar does not mean that it is a bad thing. In fact, here the familiar is what works best.
I think many would agree that the wheels fell off after the introduction of
Maybe we just need an epilogue to set the record straight where needed.
All things considered, though, this was a brilliant audience experience from both a social and reader perspective. I have been given a new favorite author who has provided gifted writing. Thanks to all involved, both in front and behind the scenes.
I do not mean to damn with faint praise but there is a lot of stuff out there that people pay good money for that does not come close to this quality. Let me know when I can get my hands on the finished hard copy. Thanks again.
Yes, some people got Karen, but she's hard to translate to a rewrite as she is now. She has a place in the MHE Universe. She explained some concepts that others had not been exposed to, and there are still breadcrumbs that people haven't found surrounding her and Ben and how they arrived in Our Universe (Nicks).
Yes, some of the metatcontexual and ergodic properties were important, and readers picked up on it. "Comment Triggers" as I called them. Others were not so much. How to work these into a published novel is another issue that will have to be discussed.
Thanks for the great input!
The opening was brilliant. You really captured the diction of a conspiracy theory expert expounding on insane ideas in a matter-of-fact informative way. Especially the Falkland Island nuclear submarine comment, it was so plausibly a slightly deranged old man with access to Reddit. As the story became explicitly narrative the post-to-random-subs thing started to feel like a gimmick, but that opening took a weird publishing strategy and ran with it.
The parallels between addiction and Q were interesting but subtle, maybe play with them more? Like make a point about the researchers returning to the flesh interfaces over and over, lying in bed at night facing the demons of their actions with deep regret but a hunger to return to it? Maybe have the flesh interface deaths read like an OD or extreme withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol works exceptionally well as the substance of choice in this work: it's superficially a social drug (and the scenes of recalling effortless socialization while drunk highlight it perfectly) but can end with asocial behavior and drinking for addiction's sake. This gets repeated in the feedrealms: the social needs of the users are overstimulated while they're simultaneously isolated. And Q is the ultimate union of flesh, but the subtext is to become part of her is not to merge into something greater but to be isolated and used by something worse. I think the drive to be part of the group taken to an isolating/evil extreme is a strong link to the narrative that could be echoed in more places.
For most of the narrative I thought fake mother was a symbol for human power structure. She keeps children in cages in the basement and pumps them with LSD? That's what the CIA was doing, isn't it? Perhaps something to play with. I suspect you can do even more with the ambiguity of those scenes: I'm still not sure whether there's a literal creature sewn together from animal parts in this narrative or if those chapters are intended to be symbolic. Nothing concrete to suggest, but it seems like that's a good sleight of hand to do narrative magic with.
I don’t really like child Nick’s interaction with Mother Horse Eyes. She seems overly…motherly? The earlier descriptions of an almost senseless hunk of flesh In the place of a mother were so creepy. No goals, no purpose, just sort of animalistic indifference and cruelty. With Nick, though, she seems to be training him, teaching him to feed himself, being a mother. I might have him discover the magic himself, or else give her motivations. Perhaps she teaches Nick to envision the Nephilim and summon them into the past. Perhaps she’s inscrutable, happy at some magic and mad at others. If you want to go more horror, you could also play up the sense of appeasing a monster. Nick is upstairs, but what about all the children in the basement? Perhaps children (and adults?) come to the house on the yellow sand Mother kills the adults and feeds the children LSD. If they cry inconsolably or can’t improve at magic fast enough they’re sent to the basement, never to be seen again. The idea of being the beloved star pupil to a monster ready to destroy you in a moment is a spooky one, and fits well with the work of the researchers to harness flesh interfaces.
The Mother Babylon post will probably stick with me for life. I'd say you out-Lovecrafted Lovecraft in that passage. Body horror, cosmic scale horror, nuclear war horror, revelations horror, becoming-the-evil horror: you caught a little bit of it all in a handful of sentences. I'm a little disappointed you abandoned that vision for the horse eye mother as the story progressed. I understand that horror is best served in tiny glimpses, but I think you've got a powerful enough monster in Q to return to once or twice more in her full horror. I understand letting our imaginations do the work with the plague of flesh, but I personally think giving a taste of it would be more powerful. Perhaps instead of that "red butterfly thing" iterated body parts start growing out of the beds, arms growing out of arms reaching out to clasp together between beds. The same face, again and again, in pain and shock and tears and hysterical laughter. As Karen and Ben flee the city some fleshy edifice is heaving slowly skywards. As they pass towns on the way to NY they see bizarre, horrible structures in various states of completion. Anyways, just a suggestion, keeping it less on the horror side is good too.
Actually, in the same area I think you over-telegraph the "there is no hope" message ahead of time. I think you were going for a "oh, it's a happy adventure story after all...oh, no, it isn't" but at least to me the foreshadowing kind of messed that up. I'd either play up the foreshadowing and the melodrama in the characters for more dramatic irony, or make it look like Karen can save that world longer to increase the oomph of "let's write stories."
Writing a first draft it makes sense to tell stories mostly to completion in their own space, but I think when you get a chance to reorder the chapters you'll get a lot of improvement just from that. George R R Martin does a particular good job of it, building each chapter to a cliff hanger and then moving to the next character. You're left wanting more of the last story, but you were actually also waiting for the resolution being presented in the next. With all your narrative arcs you've got a lot to work with for interweaving the stories to pull the reader along.
Personally, I think Nick is too certain he's able to stop Mother. I'd make him and the child more doubt filled. The child summons a Christ, but who's being saved? "I think of saying goodbye but the gleam in her eyes tells me there's no need." It could be that the child is going to stop Q interdimensionally. Or just in this dimension. Or maybe they're serving her inadvertently. Or it's even possible that all Nick is accomplishing is saving his child form from the flesh interface, that adult Nick is sacrificing himself so he can come back from the CIA experiments as a child and live an addict's life and this might be Karen's universe anyways. You get to the house in the yellow sands through the flesh interfaces right? So Nick is crawling into one of these things that adults do not return alive from. I'd personally play up the insanity and the danger and the slim probability this will accomplish anything. I'd play up the dichotomy: is he a hero, a martyr or is this another aspect of his self-destruction. Especially if Q=Addiction, is he redeeming himself or deluding himself. Whether intended or not, I find those themes swirling together at the close of the story and I think a little more uncertainty in the characters and little more explicitness about him entering a flesh interface (not necessarily describing him entering but at least setting up stronger clues that that's about to happen) would fit with how I perceived the narrative arc better. I understand choosing to end on a more explicitly hopeful note in a story about addiction, but the weird horror aspect of the story sort of calls out for a more ambiguous end to me.
Another possible, more horror story ending: Adults who enter a flesh interface do not return alive. Nick is returning to free his child-self from mother's house, creating a neat circle to his life: it ends with his release as a child into the world again. Creating a sort of time loop. Child Nick speaks of "summoning a Christ", implying an experience of agony to save others. This fits in nicely with the themes of addiction's control: child Nick uses his LSD magic to select the future where he falls under alcohol's control because it's a predictable one, one that can see himself to this warehouse again and again. It's not merely a singular time loop, but a layering of experience upon experience, each time a broken Nick returning to the flesh interface for another go round. Why? To stall Q. The whole universe loops and loops again, never reaching the plague of flesh (echoing the earlier comment about all time radiating from the stigmata). Echoing Karens actions, finding herself unable to escape a horrible ending but helping others in a tiny way she can. And presenting the horror of two awful decisions: to allow Q to manifest, or to experience addiction again and again and again? The story already dwells on the regret the addict experiences, the demons of knowing the evil they've done. But at least those are the past, to know your most embarrassing, dehumanizing events in your past lay ahead of you to be repeated a hundred times? a million times? forever? Creepy stuff.
Hope something in all that helps! You're a talented writer. The vignettes give you many canvases to work with, and you do a really good job showing off a variety of styles. Q is one of the purest visions of a monster I can recall reading. If the alcoholism wasn't a literary device, know that we're rooting for you.
Now this is how you write a critique. Great post.
"What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?" ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
This one Nick, Ben & Karen. Very well written. More of a professional critique, but missing The Tapestry and The Weave.
Let me get the gushing out of the way first: This was/is an amazing experience that has inspired me to a degree I've not known for decades. I can't overemphasize the impact I've had from the work and this sub. Just <3 for days.
Suggestions/crits:
I also want to say some stuff about Karen and the meta characters. I'm obviously and loudly a fan of Karen the redditor and Karen the character (and Ben). I'm not sure how this would work in a printed context other than editorial comments. If the work was presented as a "reproduced manuscript" with notes, scribblings, etc intact then she could be worked in with no additional explanation needed? I don't know how far into diary-of-Kurt-Cobain territory MHE and you want to go. I enjoy that kind of thing but it can take away from the text after a certain point.
(more later after I read everyone else's coments)
My idea for a written novel character is for her to be what she has been all along - The Meta-Narrator. If you notice she got a happy ending and deserved it.
Her relationship was limited to the sub and helping readers along. That was her role. To explain concepts and help the readers. But her role was also the savior against Q. We veered from that because Mother is the main protagonist in this Universe. Karen is still there to fight Q, when she finds him her in this Universe, if he she exists. If not she continues in her stated purpose and has a well deserved life with Ben and pets.
As for the ending... I too loved it, for personal reasons. It was everything I hoped for and pushed for since almost the start of our (MHE & I) private discussions. And
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
Hello friends! Let me start off by saying you've created the best fiction I've experienced in a long time. For months it was the highlight of my day to find a new MHE post had appeared. I loved how the story transformed itself so organically, ranging from dispassionate weird history to the apocalypse to the intensely personal story of a man saving himself. And you pioneered a form of fiction that no one will be able to repeat without looking like a poser.
Now, I am by no means someone who needs every question answered and every theme explained, but a few times it seemed like a narrative vine was cut short before reaching fruition. Here are some examples where I thought we were heading somewhere (in the trunk of dad's car, maybe) but never got there.
Starting with the ending, which I thought was beautiful: In the end, it turned out that Mother kidnapped Young Nick and taught him "magic" just so he could rescue himself from her. I theorize Mother was creating her own version of the Bred, but since the magic was never used for anything else, it seemed like a dangling thread, maybe setup for a sequel.
Q's plan for humanity: Apparently Q intends to nuke the world into submission with the intention of absorbing every human on earth into itself (Karen says as much.) It's unclear how Q plans to get from A to B, even if it can reap the flesh of everyone in a hygiene bed. This seems like it will result in a nuclear wasteland rather than the horrific vision of Babylon. Some knowledge of how Q would effect its plan would have helped bolster the stated inevitability of the permanent enslavement of mankind.
In a similar vein, the Skin Ship: It seems like an important thing, being the first visible exercise of Q's power in the physical world. But as quickly as it's introduced, it's dropped from the narrative. While I'm happy with Q being a mystery, a little more knowledge of what it can do to achieve its goals would have helped cement it as an existential threat.
The Sister Cities: These are very important in the narrative, since the worst atrocities are committed in attempts to learn more about them. And in fact, characters in the story do seem to have learned a good deal about them. But the Cities recede into the background, with no payoff for the horror we endured. I assume the "Mara Molts" chapter describes a Sister City, but then the chapter where the woman monitoring the Sister City goes to the bathroom seemed to contradict that? I know we were warned that the flesh interfaces were inconsistent, but a little peek into whether all the experimentation bore fruit would have been appreciated.
One more very minor thing: I hoped the mention of "restraint bed portals" in the very first chapter would turn into something, since they sound so much less consensual than the hygiene beds, and was sorry that they were never mentioned again.
Anyway, I hope you take this in the spirit in which it's offered: not as criticism, but just pointing out places where a little more information would, in my opinion, bolster the story without sacrificing mystery.
I really, really look forward to reading what you two do next!
Thank you!
Those dangling threads are what I hope will be touched upon in the sequel. If there is one. I want there to be one, but at MHE's pace.
This is the conclusion I came to; Mother as Satan and Q as God with humanity caught in-between the two. On the surface one appears just as monstrous as the other, but at least Mother seems to have some semblance of pity for us, whereas Q is wholly evil.
We were given 3 glimpses of Sister Cities; #87, #88, and #89. The analyst in #84 was observing a flesh interface (the so-called ant tunnels), not a Sister City.
I really liked Karen, expanding the number of voices..
Love it! I still haven't finished it. Keep it up Forever!
Hi all! I just jumped into the story here at the end. The only glaring thing I have for the rewrite is that an old dying sun would be red. Blue stars are very bright, hot, and energetic. That would be the result of two stars merging, and they would burn themselves out (relatively) faster. A deep red sun would much better fit for that narrative.
_9Mother9Horse9Eyes9
This for the rewrite....
The ending and the whole plotline of "the author" was interesting but ultimately didn't really... do much? It was presented too late that he'd had anything direct to do with Mother and had such a strange disconnect in tone/idea from the other parts involving children given to Mother by the FBI (I.e the first mentions of mother we get from the girl and her interpretation that it was time away from home vs the Author doing "magic" and not knowing how he got there, assuming his home was literally taken over ect). I for one saw that "i'm going to stop her, this will be my last post" ending coming and was hoping it'd go around that tropey kind of thing but i suppose it worked fine even if i'd rather something else in it's place? Ultimately unless i missed something it seemed like Karen didn't post again after that despite it being the perfect way to create closure/an "epilogue" or some kind of explanation as her character had been built up to be the provider of.
(I also think i'd like the "B" plots that where what intially drew people and hooked them on the story to be more intertwined with the "main" one, overall they just sort of served as either snippets backstory/worldbuilding rather than having a real payoff)
The story was great up until like the last twenty installments, when you just dropped the entire plot in favor of focusing entirely on the crazy kid and the drunk druggie.
Ive been meaning to do this for...well since the series came to a close really but I have never been able to coalesce my thoughts in a satisfactory way. Examining the Series for any extended period of time always ends up so deep down a wiki hole I have to spend a week acclimatizing to natural light again.
So first Lets talk about wikiholes. The use of hyperlinks in narratives can be a tricky thing, but i implore you not to back away from it. It was executed well if somewhat sparingly in the beginning of the narrative but you seemed to back away from it as time went on. Its true that every blue link, runs the risk of bleeding off readers but it adds a kind "width" to a story that you in particular utilize wonderfully.
Thank you sooo much!
Just know he is working really hard at it and I believe it will surpass what was initially written here.
Favorite aspects were Karen and the future, hygiene beds, Ben's story. Companion 12, mother, Q, and the Nick Stories. I liked Karen being a user on reddit. I feel like the Nazi story line could have been amazing had it continued on beyond the officer deciding to take down Mother. I didnt love the mother/Q poem but would be happy to write them for you:). I was amazed by the delivery method. I was hooked because of the fact it trickled down and was mysteriously tied to comments, sometimes comes in bursts of 5 or 6 posts in a day. Like how your brain releases dopamine when "you got mail" or have a shit ton of face book likes but X 10. I think it was an amazing work and would have liked to make sense of a few more things. What happened when Ben yelled help when opening that bed, what occurred in the crab people world? The motherboard post was beyond amazing. Loved that style of juxtaposing to events, just like with Nick and Nick at the end. Above all, I loved the way it felt like really intensive research went into this. So much so, it was like a new genre of sci-fi horror historical fiction mind fuckery. The Angelica and dog stories were amazing but didn't quite fit here. Again, they were awesome, but maybe not in the mhe world?
Thanks for the amazing ride. Highlight of my summer. While everyone else had been catching pokemon I was catching mhe posts.
Quote of the day! :D
I think this excerpt from “Hello Friends” sums up what I loved up about the series:
“I should clarify that this information is not fiction. Nor is it true. It is a mix of things which happened and things which almost happened. Things which were and things which could have been. You must understand that the present moment in which we exist is simply a nexus from which trillions of possible pasts and possible futures branch out. The important thing to realize is that these unreal pasts and unrealized futures are related to each other. By examining what might have been, we can come to understand what might come to be.”
For me the most engaging part of the story was the loosely connected strange fiction, jumping wildly around neverwere futures, alternate realities/dimensions and immoral governmental conspiracies. The narrative was what it was, a drunk, possibly mentally ill, warning us of the horrifying truth of the multiverse.
In my personal opinion, _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 should have returned to the random semi-interconnected short stories straight after “The Beginning Of A Story”. For me it it is the perfect beginning and ending. In an infinite multiverse everything can and will happen - infinitely. There can be no definite win or lose, just more weird shit. I appreciate the want or need to tie it all up, or to resolve your characters, but I’m not sure it is necessary in this incredibly engaging new form of storytelling.
I get what was attempted with the Karen posts, but feel her story ended naturally with “The Beginning Of A Story”, casting her story back in time/across realities, to us via _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9. I think what we got detracted from the "oh-shit-is-this-real?" feeling of the narrative.
Please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the entirety of this experience you have given us. The late nights I spent reading entries were fantastic, terrifying and utterly unforgettable.
More, please.
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
The Tapestry
This was so well written, I have a vivid imagination, but, when it comes to reading stories I find a lot of authors don't get the mental imagery flowing, in my opinion even C.S Lewis has difficulty with this at times. During the entire story I had no problems with imagery, this was very vivid for me, and I couldn't get enough. If an actual book was written I would like to see a little more continuance in the stories, they were all left hanging, I don't mind that, but, a lot of the stories seemed to be unrelated to the whole. I enjoy disjointed story plots, but, it's nice when in the end it comes together. Like the movie memento Also when the witting started to slow down is when I saw drop in quality. I don't even like to say quality because the quality was fine, but, there was something about the stories at that point that felt like the author didn't have their heart into it completely, or the author was running dry on ideas. Thank you for listening, and thank you for the story it was freakin' fantastic. I don't like to criticize because I really enjoyed the crap out of this. And I thank everyone, MHE and all the mods here as well. This was better than Disney world. F*ck disney world, give me flesh interfaces! Sorry so long
At first I felt like Angelica's story was just going to disappoint me, and I hated that it had nothing to do with the rest of the interface narrative, and I was sad when the post of the day was about that cat.
Then, by the end, I thought it was like the best stuff ever. It didn't relate to the narrative directly, but indirectly, it feels like the crux of the whole story. I think it should be pushed toward the end.
Also, the one entry about the wolf dream just kinda felt like the Author flexing his writing muscles on a writing prompt or something. Never came up again and didn't feel necessary.
EDIT: I absolutely have more and better feedback than this. Would you prefer that I come back and edit this comment as they come to me, or should I post a new comment when I think of some more things?
You can do either! I'd suggest a new comment as to make it stand out!
He has great writing muscles! Everyone suffers from burnout. The pace of writing was staggering and the demand never dwindled.
I love the story even though it lacks 'cohesion'. It is scary and and the same fascinating.
Thanks to MHE for the great fiction. I've enjoyed it so much!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect MHE feels many have misunderstood the ending of the Karen storyline, or haven't given it enough credit. I think the reason for this is that the storyline wasn't given enough time to develop, before being given that ending.
The ending is bad right now--as the story itself recognizes ("this story sucks...It's a huge fucking let-down"). But as a reader, I can't appreciate, think about, or learn from this ending, because there is not enough substance proceeding it. I don't know the characters well. I don't understand Q very much at all. The world they are in feels shallow.
I think if there were more in the Karen storyline before it ended that way, the ending could be great. But as it is it feels abrupt, rushed, and disappointing.
More minor feedback to do with formatting:
I started dropping off the links because I wanted the readers to do their own searches, if they desired. Some people did not like them. The plan in the online re-write of the Narrative will have them included.
I'm
I answered
As I stated in the VICE Motherboard interview; MHE is dealing with tropes from the late 70s and 80s. Firestarter is the prime example, and Stranger Things even admits to being a homage to it and Spielberg. So, there is overlap, but distinctions too.
Examples - It's not a flesh interface in Stranger Things! It's not made up of human bodies. They have a big scary fucking monster and we have a DemiGod in Mother and a Cyber-Flesh God in Q. We don't have kids fighting anything, we have kids who grew up in a hygiene bed who are The Bred and are fighting a Cyber-Flesh God on multiple dimensions to save humanity in their timeline. All are dead except Karen, and now they think she is dead because Q turned Atlanta into glowing green glass and burnt corpses. Etc Etc... so many differences between the two it's incredible. |
I hope that helps. I know some people are newcomers and don't know who I am and what my role/duties are. Plus, there are rules. I avoid as much as possible disclosing our private conversations. Sometimes I let the MOD Team in on things, but I always state they are written in warm jello. Pivoting on that, I do as MHE asks me and create threads such as this so he and I can discuss the feedback in private.
I highly enjoy my job here and take it very seriously, along with the sub civility. Ask some of the readers who've been here from the start about me and they will give you a good description.
_9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9
Great story. I really enjoyed this method of storytelling. My thoughts on the story are completely opinionated, but hopefully, I can give you some food for thought.
Starting with the positives, MHE's immersive writing style, most of the content, and the willingness to step outside the box were a phenomenal combination. Lacking the structure of a typical novel allowed the story to take on a life of its own. As the direction became more obfuscated, the unusually effective immersion in this complex story really increased the intrigue factor. It was an extremely unique read, and I think that's something for you both to be very proud of.
I think much of the criticism you may have received was largely focused on the untraditional choices made in the story, but in my opinion, this made the story unpredictable and exciting. It seems to me purely based on the rate of writing and the fairly unexplored territory in writing led to some understandable, yet fixable, flaws in the story's voice. I believe there were several points where the story took a sort of trial and error method of exploring potentially interesting routes to take. Since most of these went phenomenally well, (Angela being the prime example) MHE had more confidence and was more liberal in story decisions. If anything, I loved being able to get a sense of MHE's thought process as the story began moving in different directions.
Rather than explain my thoughts in extreme detail, I can merely offer a basic description as well as a potential solution. The story was great. I think the story's voice became strangely relatable at times due to the references to history and creating a realistic story in an unrealistic world. However, after a while, there was just too many voices. I don't mean to say there were too many characters or different narratives. I mean that as the different stories started not associating well with each other, the story started to lack the power behind the overarching narrative that was captivating for a long time.
I think you should choose the direction this rewrite takes and write while keeping this in mind. Should the story be an Eldritch horror where our fears are preyed upon by a narrative of impossibly complex, otherworldly organisms? There would be no real answers, and the story begins to take on an "enjoy the ride" feeling. Maybe you should focus on creating a cast of characters in a more direct way and developing them to connect the readers more directly to the story. You dabbled in this some with Nick and Karen, but I feel like we never really got to see the extent of MHE's character development. However, I don't think this is your strongest choice. If I had to make the choice, I would return to the story's roots. Dangerous, mysterious experiments based largely around international politics with heavy references to religious elements.
I really do think you two could pick the choice that you're happiest with, but I also think you should figure out which choice aligns best with your goals. Do you want to make money? Go for the thriller with characters fighting a dangerous science fiction threat. Do you want to create a literary masterpiece? Play up the angle of unpredictable horror elements and connecting these events to elements of history and mythology.
I think at times the story played into the classic mistakes made by 'Lost'. So many questions with so many potential answers. However, threads kept being opened and then left by the wayside in lieu of narratives which further obfuscated the main idea of the story.
I'm gonna post this here and continue writing later since this is a stickied thread anyway. Typed this through class haha.
Edit: Finishing it up now. Changing a couple things and fixing any grammar/spelling mistakes.
I don't mean to equate this story with 'Lost'. 'Lost' had its moments, but the narrative was lacking much more than the flesh interface narrative. I mean it began getting readers excited for answers and then not giving the readers answers to basic questions. Although I really enjoy cliffhangers, I feel there were several times where MHE ended with "but unexpected action or unknown entity changed the nature of the problem in this post." Then, never brought this up again or had a somewhat unsatisfying answer for the nature of the cliffhanger. Sometimes this was completed and done really well while other times it was ignored. (Unless MHE was jokingly commenting about his own awareness of this discontinuity.) The best example would be COMPANION-12. First of all, I have like 20 theories of what this could be that would all be incredibly interesting, and I really hope you come back to this as I feel there's a lot of potential for stories related to the feeds. An example of one you completed would be when you said Karen was lying to Ben about her true purpose. I thought this was good although I feel like Karen's extreme actions maybe should've been justified or explained more.
To go off on a tangent for a minute, maybe Karen could have an existential outlook on the world which allowed her to commit the manipulation and atrocities thinking it doesn't matter in the end. She could look at other people as trapped in their limited thinking and not relate to them as beings, or she could have a more meaningful purpose that she realized was futile once she and Ben had escaped leading her to pursuing her own desires. I also feel Ben should've been more upset with Karen for at least a little while. Going directly into what appears to be some sort of relationship seemed a little strange. Especially since it seemed to continue once they jumped dimensions. End of the world sex makes sense, but ignoring her transgressions in the long term seems unrealistically naive for a character like Ben. I think these examples are why I believe MHE's true talent is in immersion and world building rather than character development. Maybe you just didn't want to commit the time and thought necessary to make these characters feel real, or even character development is an area of writing you could work on. Once again, this is just my opinion, but I really feel like the character's choices and motivations either weren't explained well/fully or were lacking functional reasoning from otherwise intelligent characters. Just a thought.
Anyway, I felt like we weren't just reacting to events in the story like you could expect from a typical Eldritch Horror narrative, but we were teased with the answers to put together the story and never received them. This is a very small portion of the story in terms of wordcount, but I think it had more impact on how reader's interpreted your intentions than you might think. Not saying that giving answers (which I think you absolutely could give with extremely interesting twists) is the correct choice for you, but I think you should focus on what's happening in the world rather than the answers themselves if you don't want readers to be disappointed.
So, I have a million more ideas about this story, and it has inspired me with a lot of ideas and creating interesting answers for complex story elements which I really appreciate. Thank you to both of you. I am far from a talented writer, but I do feel comfortable when designing story boards and goals rather than writing tone and immersive writing. I'm admittedly jealous of MHE's unique writing ability. The story was amazing and was super fun to read while it lasted. I'm actually planning to reference the story in a game I'm working on. I hope you don't mind, and it will be in a minor way, but I think its too perfect for what I'm working on. The concepts of a dystopian society based on feeds and a nearly all-powerful being controlling humanity's path is awesome. I really hope the rewrite goes well, and I'll definitely be reading it no matter what form it takes.
Note* Hit the character count haha. Never done that before. Here's the last bits of my thoughts.
One last thing before I finish this. I'd like to go through my wish list for the story to emphasize what a found to be most compelling. First of all, a continuation to the early parts of the story where flesh interfaces got out of control and the towering boxes/segmentation zones appeared. Not necessarily explanations behind them but stories with a primary source rather than classified documents. Maybe some time after Q taking over could be shown. You could even use Karen and Ben and have them jump at the perfect moment to survive unharmed or the least opportune moment when they were about to learn the nature or a weakness of the plague of flesh.
Next, I really want to see more of the feed realm. I think there is so much room for stories in that world: Stories of the war between the Bred and Q; Stories of Q using the feed to its advantage; Stories of characters motivations to choose feed life over the real world. The list goes on and on. I seriously think you could write a whole novel just based on this, but with the surrounding narrative, it makes the feeds infinitely more interesting. COMPANION-12 is a must. My personal favorite theory is that its a plan to combat overuse of feeds by affecting the experience of the feeds in someway(anywhere from being less enjoyable-meh- to being a mechanism of brainwashing/conditioning), but it is actually a plan of Q's creation or simply used by Q to complete its control on the human population. That is a simplistic way to describe my theory, but as Karen talked about a little bit when saying the authorities are under Q's influence, Q's ability to control humans by controlling the technology we used to communicate and decipher information is a great element to explore further.
I think talking about the Children of the Forest would be really interesting. At times, it seemed like it could just be a symbolic tool, but I really like the idea of it being an actual rebellion against Mother. A group who can actually fight against her intentions. At least in her world. The children who survived combatting Mother with religion based techniques was profoundly interesting. The "changing" of the children was also a very interesting mechanic to work with.
Finally, I honestly want the story to have answers. I really enjoy the typical Eldritch Horror like
Anyway, hope the read wasn't too long or too redundant. I figure you wrote an entire novel, and I can, at least, lay out my thoughts in a detailed manner if it might give you even one idea or any insight into what reader's are thinking. I don't know if you actually have put the puzzle pieces of your story together and are keeping it from us or if you're not sure yourself where exactly all the elements go and their significance, but I have a lot of theories on the origin/complete explanation of the different story elements. If you'd like to hear my ideas from the generic/crowdpleasing all the way to the unique if not somewhat crazy explanations, I'd be happy to create a visualization of my different ideas. Even if they aren't your cup of tea, it would have a ton of different options and maybe help you fit together pieces or even just make them more interesting in certain places by giving you ideas from another party. I'd love to see the story take a form of a series if you're ever interested in that. If done well, which I truly believe you have the ability to do (it does depend on whether you have the interest to do it), you could create a story capable of withstanding the test of time and allowing you the financial comfort to focus on writing.
Thanks for the Story. The whole experience was a blast.
-GMK
Edit: I realize this final bit kind've makes it sound like the direction should change to tie everything together, and I want to clarify on that bit. I don't think that's necessary. Not everything matters. Plenty of stuff is just stories, and these random stories were a huge part of MHE's success. I just think the content could connect in an interesting way. I don't want a change to a sci-fi thriller or extreme character involvement, but I think a narrative which leads deeper and deeper into the plague of flesh while retaining the unique characteristics of the storytelling could be an interesting and stops the story from ever becoming mundane or redundant. If you have no intention of extending the story and would rather have just a collection of horror stories in a screwed up world, I would definitely prefer the lovecraftian, Eldritch Horror kind of story rather than the attempted change from secondary sources/third person narratives to primary sources/first person stories like with Karen/Nick/Ben. I just see the narrative as going somewhere, as having a deeper meaning and overall point to the sacrifices made and the plagues consumption of the world. Of course, the existential who gives a fuck what the point is, the world is falling apart and shit is going down approach is great too haha.
Edit2: Ooo another way to put my thoughts. Think Isaac Asimov in 'The Last Question' or The Foundation series mixed with Lovecraft. Keep the readers uncomfortable and scared at times while also being insightful and creating a very logically consistent/meaningful tale.
I'll make this short but the best thing was the delivery. Random subs, weird disjointed arcs until people started to piece them together... it adds this mystique to the story that is part and parcel of the actualy prose itself. The writing is realistic and visceral and having these random stories appear made it feel like you were stumbling upon a vast conspiracy or at the very least, reading something written by someone that believe it all to be true.
It fell apart a bit when the narrative broke away from the artistry and subs started popping up consolidating the stories. Part of the mystique and realism started to diminish, the artist revealing him/herself to just being a creator of an interesting world.
If you do a second installment, please do it in this random ARG style fornat again. Seriously innovative. Found like I had discovered something from the deepest parts of the internet when I read the first vignettes.
I am loving this series and the way it was released into the public... I also am reminded of the mythology of paranoia that exists within Burroughs... Does this make sense? I am also reminded of the book A Crack Up At the Race Riots by filmmaker Harmony Korine...
PLEASE RELEASE A PRINTED EDITION ! I WILL BUY IT...
Yes... that's what is being worked on...
Thank you so very much <3
I especially loved everything dog/cat/wolf/cruciform related. The parts that embodied animals were by far my favorites, particularly "Last Night I Dreamed I Was a Dog". I'm not sure how/if they would be expanded upon but I loved what was there.
Unrelated: Gabbi, and I say this with all kindness and appreciation for what you've been doing, but how do we know that your activity here is sanctioned and/or approved by the author?
I've provided proof on numerous occasions. The Mods can verify.
I (and any other mods that happen to see this) can verify that Gabbi is in contact with MHE and that she acts according to his wishes. Part of those wishes include not sharing everything with the public, mods included. Everybody gets just enough but no more.
You guys do this Thing that I see in horror a lot where you
which feels like a bait and switch at best, and sets up an implicit figure of transfeminine monstrosity (I've seen this made very explicit in actual conspiracy theories similar to the ones this story draws on) at worst
I seriously don't think so about the transfeminine monstrosity issue. Mostly because I am Trans, and I certainly wasn't going to have a male be bashed as the lead bad guy. I feel men get shit upon enough and I just won't write like that.
I'm far more egalitarian than anything else in life.
Ben is a strong male character, a manly-man as has been established, but even he has his breaking point mentally. Karen is a very strong female lead, and it's been confirmed that the writing of her was nailed, so I am very happy.
Q is a Cyber-Flesh God who exists on multiple dimensions and timelines. He has created what is suspected of being a multiverse-singularity in the future of Karen's timeline that her earth has no escape from. It has been implied that Q is a flesh ship and cyber disco vampire, and so much more.
Q is the ultimate sentient virus unleashed upon an unprepared earth in a universe slightly more advanced than ours. All efforts at halting him along dimensional axis were unsuccessful.
Now we see if this universe falls under Q's wrath as well.........
Hmm... I think the simplest way to read this story in terms of gender is to see it as Nick coming to terms with his feminine side; Mother. There's been some pretty ignorant comments on this subject in some of the other threads, but personally I don't see the Interface Series as depicting either gender in a negative light.
Karen is pretty much the strongest (psychologically speaking) character in the story, who even Ben ends up relying on despite his military training and ultra-masculine personality that accompanies it.
And if we want to go all Freudian with it the flesh interfaces themselves quite obviously tie into the whole "mother issues" theme, but again the story (especially the ending) is quite clear any evil we see in this is purely subjective. Mother loves us, we're just incapable of understanding that love.
More significant however in my opinion is the underlying theme of alienation in all these stories; the fear of the other and what lengths we'll go to in order to avoid confronting it.