Tentacular funtime

There’s an online Cthulhoid Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book over at Ars Technica. Internet timewaste doesn’t get much better than that.

Example quotation:


So far I’ve gotten my brains eaten in the meeting room, in the closet, and in the toilet, too. Also found a detective-style victory and a romantic victory.

Well, if you can call getting married to Cthulhu by an Elvis impersonator, in Vegas, romantic.

It’s a weird book. (And obviously it is a book, though it is a gnarl of web-pages; a book is a ready podge of text and not the physical papery thing, and you wouldn’t call a dictionary not a book even though it’s even more nonlinear than a CYOA.)

This Ars book reminds me of Zombocalypse Now, another recent and excellent tongue-in-cheek CYOA. (Hey; interview of Matt Youngmark, the writer. Good news; he’s making more.)

Also, makes me want to write something like that myself — though the mathematician in me starts making trouble by throwing up considerations like “supposing each ‘scene’ is a page long and forks into two others, and no path folds or ends sooner than the ninth scene — that’s no less than \sum_{i=0}^8 2^i = 2^9-1 = 511 pages. I’d breach the 10 000-page limit shortly after the story depth of 13 scenes. But if you suppose starting from the fourth level (8 different scenes) there are 3 sudden deaths per level… you still get an explosion rather than extinction, but you could go to max depth of 10 scenes with 131 separate endings there and a total of 282 pages. Such a pyramid is clearly undesirable, half the book being the-ends. Some kind of a lozenge on the graph of story depth and scene number would be better. Maybe stay simple, have max depth of n, and scene number doubles every step until n/2, then halves until there’s only one scene at depth n, the ultimate ending so to speak, the sooner endings being disasters of varying magnitude and a few fold-ins, maybe — though with an electronic book one could play games: have what seems like a fold-in, many routes leading to the same scene, giving the feeling of ‘oh crap, this path again’, but with initially subtle and then suddenly monstrous differences — ” and then I’m off drawing diagrams and trying to think up a nicely aesthetic formula for the times the story branches.

I have an idea for the subject, though: a CYOA about a hapless foreigner in desolate sub-arctic Finland, lost and getting loster with every page-turn. It would feature Helsinki and the hinterlands, snow and mosquitoes (what, winter and summer? I’d think up a way…), shamans and cannibals, universitymen and nameless graduate Things, Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath, Santa’s evil brother and flesh-eating reindeer, morose hicks and malicious axe-murderers, worshippers of the stars and the moon and of bear the father of all living things, and a sun careening off its axle in the land of silence, and many other Things of Finland. It’s an idea I’ve thought about before; and thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect I feel I just might write it someday!

But this Ars Cthulhu thing: this post was almost titled “forty foot goatse”, a quotation, but that might have brought weird traffic, perhaps expecting pictures of some image draped across a busy Stockholm street. Which are pictures, I mean, that I don’t have, and if the Säkerhetspolisen happen to read this I don’t know anything about the boom boxes either. Or the video projector. I am innocent!

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