By LAUREN MESSERVEY
Author: Aaron A. Reed
Horror readers love when a good story can keep them on the edge of their seat: it’s part of what makes the horror genre so much fun. But what if the story itself was never the same, and that each person who read it had the opportunity to steer the story in a different direction, thanks to a digital, interactive alternative to the “choose your own adventure” books we loved as kids?
Aaron A. Reed’s game/book SUBCUTANEAN ensures that the reader never has to fall victim to a predictable endgame ever again. When college buddies Orion and Niko discover a secret subterranean floor in their home, they do what every curious character in horror endeavors to do – they investigate. The resulting nightmare is a tangled web of frightening doppelgangers and treacherous labyrinths that make Silent Hill look like a theme park.
Through this, the pair learn the secrets of this subterrestrial lair, and discover the nature of their true feelings for each other, mainly through the basis of Orion’s budding obsession with his longtime friend. Reed says that this attitude of longing is a sensation that almost every reader can resonate with: especially if the reader has ever needed to keep their romantic interests a secret.
Reed based his story off of his own experiences as a young gay man coming to terms with his sexuality while attending college in a conservative, “red” state. Set in the late 1990’s, the story predates same-sex marriage and the fight for marriage equality, a period that was incredibly challenging for Reed and others in the same position. The story itself is a coming-of-age tale with a nightmarish twist where nothing is what it seems, and the road taken depends entirely upon the reader.
The creation of SUBCUTANEAN involved Reed developing a custom syntax where a myriad of story sequences could co-exist within one master text. Although the story itself has one core plotline, each version has different locations, details, contexts, and alternative plot lines and characters to ensure that each story is completely unique. With each new copy of the story, there’s a new translation of the source material, which is then typeset and delivered in a new book. Since it’s impossible to predict exactly what the reader is going to be anticipating, the story has a myriad of versions available to subvert the reader’s expectations.
It’s an awesome concept, and it’s one that is likely just a preview of things to come for storytelling in the digital age. Although the one-of-a-kind and customizable children’s books have been around for some time, the same can’t be said for a lot of adult fiction on the market. However, Reed’s book has proved that the demand for customized adult fiction has always been there.
Since its inception, SUBCUTANEAN has already garnered an avid following. The book has received over 1400 “Want-to-reads” on Goodreads, and if the rising market demand for this type of digital storytelling is any indication, this is only the beginning for Reed and other authors who are looking to break the barrier of interactive media and traditional storytelling.
Reed is the winner of IndieCade’s “Best Story” for his book/game hybrid THE ICE-BOUND CONCORDANCE, and a top-ten recipient of an interactive fiction prize for his book BLUE LACUNA. When he’s not creating outstanding interactive fiction, he’s working as a freelance game reviewer and technical consultant in his home base of Santa Cruz, California.
You can order your copy of SUBCUTANEAN on Amazon for Kindle (only for texts that don’t change with each purchase), or through Reed’s website at https://subcutanean.textories.com. This is an innovative, interactive media experience that no horror fan will want to miss. Check it out!