Saturday, March 16, 2013

Library of the Future Conversation Kit 4

First up, obligatory related links: Choice of Games' latest, Life of a Wizard (warning: free demo ends just after somewhat extensive character generation) and Mike Naylor's awesome decision-tree-generated poem.
Now, where were we? This next piece is an odd duck, to be sure. It seems to be part of a larger effort to generate public interest and input in my local library system's future planning (a future which, surely, will be unimaginable -- I sure couldn't have predicted how comics and computers are as big a part of it as books today!). Interest specifically harvested from youth, targeted by this somewhat twee would-be gamebook, and their nostalgic parental cohort, me and my slice of the demographic pie. ChooseCo's trademark appears to have been licensed but I imagine the library came up with the contents themselves, as the result... is not entirely successful, even by R.A. Montgomery mixed-bag standards. The aesthetic is there, down to the typeface used, and the humour hits the kid nail right on its goofy head. On the other hand, I girded my loins for the worst when I saw the adventure boasted two endings. This is in itself an overstatement: it presents two possible stories arising from the same initial seed, presented in totally sequential order. At the end of every pair of pages you get a message like "Please turn to page 8", but that from page 6, where page 7 has an illustration. At the end of the first story-arc, you are asked if you'd like to read the next one, which follows immediately. That's not a choose-your-own-adventure, that's a... book. Even the (totally awesome) single-thread Love is not constantly wondering if you are making the biggest mistake of your life at least jumbles up the sections (as well as the chronology) to interfere with a totally conventional reading experience. I'm sure Pulp Fiction also wouldn't have worked as well if its threads were woven first-to-last. But I digress.
CYOA is a great property for a library to jump on, since where after all leads to as many different kinds of adventures as the shelves of a library do?  Anyhow, since it's related to the theme of the blog, and since I went to the effort of scanning it, and after going off about it like that... here the piece is:

HURRAY! Today is your birthday!
Well, to be accurate, today is your birthday and your twin sister Charlotte's birthday. You were born first, so you are the oldest. And according to you, you are also the smartest. Charlotte does not agree.
When you woke up this morning, your mom said "Something came in the mail for you. It is from your grandma." You read the tag on the large box. It says, "Wishing you a happy bithday and many happy travels. Please take lots of pictures! P.S. Always wear your helmet and look both ways before crossing the galaxy." You open your present and find a spacesuit and a rocketship!
Charlotte also received a birthday present from grandma. She reads the tag on her box. It says, "Journey to the stars! Happy birthday and I hope you enjoy the adventure. P.S. Always wear a helmet and be careful playing near the planets." She opens her present and finds two spacesuits, one for her and one for Trout, her dog.
The rocket is fast and before long, Charlotte and Trout arrive at a tiny planet at the end of the solar system. It looks like a nice place to take a space walk. "Come along, Trout, and let's get some fresh air." Trout wags her tail while Charlotte attaches her leash. Trout has a keen sense of smell, and she begins to sniff the ground. Then she starts to bark. Trout smells an alien nearby!
(Go to page 7.)
"Hello," says Charlotte to the little creature. "I'm Charlotte and this is my dog, Trout. We're from planet Earth. Would you like some marmalade?" The alien blinks a large, black eye at the visitors but does not speak.
"Would you like to play ball with us?" Charlotte asks. The alien blinks twice, and hurries over to give the ball a closer look. It blinks some more, then finally speaks. "My name is Cam. I come from the planet Zorkfritz. Is that Earth?" he asks, pointing to the plastic ball. "Of course not, that is a ball," Charlotte says with a laugh.
"Is that your leader?" asks Cam, pointing to Trout. "No," she answers, "That is a dog. She sleeps and plays and rolls in the mud. Sometimes she chases squirrels."
"Is this magic fuel?" asks Cam, holding the jar of marmalade close to his eye.
"No, she says, beginning to get annoyed with all these silly questions. "You put it on your toast for breakfast." Cam blinks slowly, absorbing the information.
(Go to page 9.)
"I will take your leader to my people. And this magic fuel too," says Cam, holding the jar of marmalade. "You are free to return to your planet." He points to the plastic ball. "Good-bye."
"I told you," Charlotte sighs, "I don't live in a toy ball. Trout is my dog, and marmalade is for eating. Do you understand?"
Suddenly, Cam creates a force field around Charlotte. It is impossible to move! Grabbing Trout and the marmalade, Cam runs to his spaceship and flies away. "Come back!" Charlotte yells. She struggles free of the force field and jumps into her rocket. "I'm coming to get you Trout. That little alien is no match for me!"
(Go to page 11.)
Charlotte is chasing Cam as he speeds away in his spaceship.
Charlotte is not looking behind. But if she did, she would see Cam's big brother Ev, in his spaceship, getting closer and closer.
Ev is not a friendly alien. He would not help with chores, eat broccoli or finish homework. He likes to eat entire planets for breakfast. With marmalade. Unfortunately for Charlotte, Earth is on today's menu.
The end
Now, if you want to have your turn and take the rocket to outer space, go to page 13.
Charlotte agrees that you can take the first rocket ride. "But you should come back soon," she warns. "I have to work on my science project this afternoon and I need a friendly alien to help me."
Soon, you are blasting off into outer space. Looking outside the window of the rocket, you see a planet that reminds you of a giant sugar cookie. Looking closer, you think you see lights twinkling on the planet's surface. Do aliens live here? It is worth getting out of the spaceship to take a closer look.
(Go to page 15.)
Meanwhile, the inhabitants on planet Nilla are watching you approach. Victron the leader calls for his new cadet, Voltron. "For your first mission, you have been chosen to meet the intruder," says Victron. Voltron is nervous and excited. Maybe he will be a hero and get a medal! "Use the laser. It works like this." Victron sends a bolt of energy to Voltron, causing a powerful tickling sensation on the bottoms of his feet. Voltron cannot stop laughing! "The intruder will be unable to move. Set your laser to the highest giggle setting. Good luck."
(Go to page 17.)
You land your rocket on the planet's surface. There is a flag nearby, waving in the wind, with a picture of a sugar cookie. But you are here to look for aliens that might invade Earth. A sugar cookie is not a big threat. Maybe you have come to the wrong planet.
A small alien approaches, hiding something behind his back. "Greetings, intruder. My name is Voltron. Nilla is our home. What cookie is your home?"
"Earth is my home. It is a planet. I do not live on a cookie," you explain to Voltron. He looks confused.
"We eat cookies," you add, trying to be helpful.
That is a big mistake.
"You EAT cookies!?" gasps Voltron. "Silence! I will stop intruders from eating our home!"
(Go to page 19.)
Voltron points a laser at you and fires a bolt of energy into your body. You feel a tickle from the tip of your nose to the bottom of your toes. You feel it from the inside out, and the outside in. You laugh as if you are hearing the best joke in the universe! You laugh until you have tears in your eyes. Will the tickling ever stop? "Hey," you gasp, "this is not funny." You roll on the ground laughing and crying at the same time.
"Earthlings were sent here to eat planet Nilla," says Voltron. "Now, Victron will send troops to your cookie. If you try to invade us again, we will join planet Earth to planet Nilla with intergalactic icing. The only way to separate planets is to dump them in the Milky Way."
(Go to page 21.)
Troops from planet Nill a prepare to leave for Earth. You wish you could warn Charlotte and everyone else back home. These aliens are not friends. And do not mention a single word about cookies!
The tickle laser is wearing off, and you catch your breath. "I am tired of laughing," you tell Voltron. "My eyes are watering and my tummy feels funny from shaking up and down." "Ok," says Voltron, with a mean look in his eye. "You will make others laugh. Ka-ZAM!" In a blinding flash of light, you are sent into darkness. You are in a tight space, with little room to move. You can hear familiar music playing. "POP goes the weasel..." Nearby, a baby alien giggles and claps his hands. And POP. Your body zooms up and out on a spring. You have become a toy jack-in-the-box!
The end
If you want to read Charlotte's adventure, go to page 3.

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