Back in September, podcast novelist JC Hutchins tweeted about a friend’s new gaming blog. A little over a week ago, he did it again. And I’m glad he did — since January 2008, Rachael Webster has posted some rather insightful and snark-filled articles critiquing recent game releases under the moniker “PixelVixen707”. The blog has attracted some attention, and Pixelvixen707 even had the impeccably good taste to list ARGNet on her blogroll.
Only one problem: Rachael Webster isn’t actually real. Although the blog’s archives go back to January 2008, the domain was only registered in June. Compounding the problem, her employers at the New York Journal Ledger have a tendency to report news that hasn’t actually happened. Some of that news involves her boyfriend Zach Taylor, a rather popular art therapist at Brinkvale Psychiatric Hospital. With the recent addition of personal posts to the PixelVixen707 blog, a simple gaming blog slowly yet subtly drags you into the rabbithole, as GameSetWatch noted earlier today. For a bit of irony, check out Rachael’s article on Matt Hazard, an action gaming franchise that never existed, as described by Ralph Tokey, a game developer that never existed.
These assets set the stage for JC Hutchins’ upcoming supernatural thriller, Personal Effects: Dark Art. The story revolves around Zach Taylor, an art therapist who uses his patients’ personal effects to help decipher their mental problems. However, according to JC Hutchins, “Zach gets far more than he bargained for when a new patient is admitted to the facility: a man who is a suspected serial killer.” The thriller will showcase a spooky storyline featuring a young optimistic hero, in addition to a relentlessly cruel villain with a secret.
The novel, produced by Jordan Weisman’s new company Smith & Tinker and published by St. Martin’s Press, is set for a Summer 2009 release. Like Weisman’s previous novels Cathy’s Book and Cathy’s Key (co-authored by Sean Stewart), Personal Effects: Dark Art will feature transmedia storytelling that will allow readers to become the “protagonist by proxy” through exploring the packet of personal effects that comes with the book. The reader, by interacting with the same clues and items as the protagonist, can uncover secrets that “truly affect the outcome of this already-written narrative”. Jordan Weisman and JC Hutchins spent a lot of time planning and brainstorming for the book in a process that Hutchins refers to as “a completely positive experience. The discussions were free-flowing and fun. No egos, no fussiness, just two tale-tellers sitting down and hammering out the best possible story.”
The focus of the Personal Effects experience is on introducing beginners to alternate reality gaming. The goal, Hutchins explains, is to “tell a compelling tale that moves the reader, no matter how (or in what media) that reader is experiencing the story. I deeply appreciate that reader-centric sensibility.” In order to reach beginners to the genre, the Personal Effects series is build to “resonate with the individual reader.”
Although the Summer 2009 release date is a long way away, JC Hutchins assured us that “we do have additional pre-release online fiction that we plan to unleash in 2009. I can’t say much about it now, but it will leverage my strengths as a storyteller and podcaster, and will feature online-based transmedia experiences. Everyone involved in Personal Effects wants to make sure that we properly introduce newcomers to the ARG concept, and “educating” them with pre-release content seems like a good fit. This kind of pre-release fiction is also a “first” for promoting a novel, which is a plus.”
JC Hutchins became famous for his 7th Son podiobook trilogy as well as his innovative grassroots marketing efforts. Numerous celebrities including Nathan Fillion, Richard Hatch, and Cory Doctorow lent their voices to the podcast’s “Story So Far” introductions. With a core group of active fans evangelizing for the podcast and generating user-creative content through his own personal street team (the Ministry of Propaganda), Hutchins is bringing a dedicated crew of fans eagerly chomping at the bit for his next release. Hutchins noted that he has some special promotional stuff cooked up for the hundreds of MOP “agents” running out in the wild.
Watch our site tomorrow for an interesting interview with JC Hutchins.