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Cardhouse and the Cage for open canon story

In a previous post, I explained my concept for an open-canon fiction. I have decided to try it, and, after some deliberation, have at last settled upon Cardhouse and the Cage as my launching story.

I must say I did not expect to choose Cardhouse, but I do think it ultimately the best suited to the task. I really had four main story-lines to pick between: Annabel Lost, Lost Hand, the Eckheart/Regis story (aka being a motherfucking sorcerer), and Cardhouse. I thought I would go with Lost Hand or Annabel Lost, because I’ve written the most prose for the former, and the latter is the most desperately in need of collaborative help (because I want the world to be so very detailed, full, and diverse - a truly convincing alternate reality). Annabel Lost I ruled out for two main reasons: 1.) it does not serve as a very good introduction to the underlying philosophy and mechanics of my worlds, nor promise much interesting interplay with the form of an open-canon story (these things being related); and 2.) in creating Annabel Lost, I want the help of a collective above all for the world-building itself, rather than the germination of offshoots within a provided context, and I would ideally like said help before I attempt to write very much of the story. Additionally, to elaborate on reason 1, my launch story should from the outset introduce my readers to what I am most interested in exploring in order that I may attract people with similar interests. Annabel Lost doesn’t really get around to my real priorities for a while: it unravels slowly, it takes its time, and great swaths of it constitute a kind of outlier in my fiction, being much more realistic and much less ‘meta’ than I usually go for.

While Lost Hand would serve as a much more direct introduction to my main interests, I fear that the beginning of the story is too strange and too stagnant (not to mention unfinished). The main character’s exploration and discovery of certain world-mechanics makes up the real first arc of the story, culminating in a kind of traumatic overload (of knowledge, one could say) that leaves him irreparably debilitated. While on the one hand this would allow the reader to learn these mechanics along with him, the reality he starts from is not entirely familiar or even finished. While not nearly so demanding in therms of detail and diversity as the Annabel Lost world, the precise nature of his world's limitations poses some creative challenges that I am still wrestling with. This, really, is why the first part of the story has been so slow: I am still feeling my way around blindly with our protagonist, trying to figure out what’s what. There is, too, the fact that the beginning of Lost Hand seems to have a rather limited and particular appeal. To anyone not familiar with the working of my worlds and the greater arc of the narrative, it is at best mildly charming, but more likely than not confusing and a little stagnant.

The Cardhouse and the Cage, in contrast, is immediately dynamic and, what is more, if I spin it right I think it could strike an ideal balance between the alien and the familiar. The setup is classic: somewhere on Earth As We Know It, a neglected child in a wretched household seeks escape through imagination. The plot is initially a mash-up of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland: there is a wish, a longed-for transformation, and a passage into to a curious alternate dimension where our protagonist is ultimately held captive. From there it is first an escape plot (not so much from the alternate dimension, but from a certain realm within it) and then a revenge-plot, both of which have easily identifiable goals. As with Lost Hand, the reader and protagonist build up knowledge of the dimension and its interface with reality together, thereby acquiring crucial knowledge as to how my worldbuilding as a whole works. Unlike Lost Hand, though, the reality that constitutes Alice’s starting-point is directly Earth-based. Perhaps most importantly (from a purely artistic standpoint), there will be a thematic (and practical?) interplay between the form of an open-canon story and the subject matter/thematic content of Cardhouse (Hand, too, would have this, but would take a lot more explaining to get there).

And of course, there is Alice (later Jezebel) herself. It takes no prolonged acquaintance or great stretch of imagination to grasp why she should be of interest: she knows what she wants - she is full to the brim with wishes - and she is passionate and fierce and outright voracious in her quest to get it. She is sympathetic without being plain, and — again, I hope — singularly fascinating without being either a fated Chosen One or an inherent Genius/Prodigy: her circumstances certainly leave their mark on her personality, but do not obviously explain everything that is unique and interesting about her. She undergoes a dramatic transformation over the course of the story (being both transgendered and ultimately trans...specied?), has distinct goals that pursues with ruthless abandon, and stands for a kind of terrifying poetic justice: at times she is helpless, victimized, debased, but she survives and ultimately triumphs. In short, she is the sort of character who makes things happen, and those things are far from boring. (This is not to say that characters who do not share these qualities can’t be interesting (see: Hand, Creare, Rhime, all of whom I adore), but it makes her easier to write a story for.) As such, she is a large part of what makes the story immediately engaging. I hope, I hope.

So, Cardhouse and the Cage is my story. I fear that I am progressing way too slowly on this, but at least I am progressing.