CJ Bernstein

CJ Bernstein

The Making of The Monarch Papers – Episode Ten

In this episode, CJ and Simon discuss Fragment 10, Gladitor. This was, according to CJ, by far the longest of the fragments. It was the culmination of a lot of things they had been trying to do. This was the first time a puzzle was completely related to a character. Everything puzzle-wise that happened in this fragment happened because Aether was trying to reach out from Kemetic Solutions. Nobody was creating a puzzle for you to solve. The “puzzle was people,” as CJ said. In other words, the story was taking increasing precedent over the puzzle mechanics which had dominated earlier fragments.

Martin Rank played a big role in this fragment. Though CJ and Simon knew that Kemetic Solutions would be featured in Fragment 10, Martin’s role in the infiltration was expanded, once he became a fan favorite. CJ also noted that he and Simon had always been big fans of the ‘evil organization infiltration’ scenario from movies and TV shows, and were happy to be able to include it in The Monarch Papers.

Martin went to Kemetic Solutions to take photos of the outside of the KS building, and the readers pulled apart the images for clues. There were a lot of clues hidden in the images themselves. This was so complicated that even CJ hardly remembers how to solve it, now. One image was a gif, and hidden in the photo was the word ‘zip.’ When they converted the file to a zip and put in a password, it turned into a rich text file called “patience.rtf.” The text inside only said “63 minutes.” Also, if you went to the Kemetic Solutions website and watched their animated logo for 63 minutes, it would redirect you to their creepy promo video.

Simon’s big project for this fragment was the promo video. He said he just found a lot of stock videos of sciency things and wheat fields, and overlaid some vaguely 70s-ish music over it. Then, CJ’s voice was overdubbed with some creepy effects. CJ and Simon agreed that it was very important to make the video eerie, yet believable. Maybe if you were an innocent person stumbling across the promo, you would genuinely believe that they were trying help people. The video was also very influenced by films such as Scanners.

Meanwhile, Deirdre was in Istanbul, trying to figure out clues from her father’s journal, to follow the Path of Wool. Deirdre told the readers that she needed help with various art-related clues. Simon was influenced by the BBC 4 show, Only Connect, which is about trying to find obscure connections between seemingly unrelated clues.

After this, CJ explained that the two of them were having trouble remembering a lot of this fragment, because they were simultaneously working on three others. Simon said he looks forward to reading the book, so he can appreciate it in a new way.

Going back to Deirdre, these artistic clues were triggering emotions in her, which unlock different parts of this volume of the Monarch Papers. Meanwhile, back on Basecamp, a user named Aether was editing some of the Mountaineers’ posts. From these edits, the Mountaineers were able to find another clue in the Kemetic Solutions promo video, which temporarily changed. It was arranged so that he could only communicate while being experimented upon by Teddy Fallon (the most hated TMP character). Teddy kidnapped Aether and has been experimenting on them ever since. The Mountaineers by this point understood that Kemetic Solutions was experimenting upon magically inclined individuals for some malevolent corporate purposes.  

Eventually, the Mountaineers discovered Constance, a friend of Aether’s. They found her Tumblr account, and made contact with her. Constance told them she would only talk to them if they safeguarded their forum. Constance then told them about the Joradian Non-Material Safeguard, which became a very popular spell for the remainder of The Monarch Papers. In the spell, they had to choose 6 ‘elements’ which related to them and performed a number of rituals around them. Many of the readers who were involved got sick afterwards, from which they invented the concept of “spell-sickness.”

After that, Constance joined the forum and told them about The Low. She has very limited access to it–The Low had to seem like an enormous collection of websites, but it could never be fully revealed, because then they would have to be created. Constance then told the Mountaineers the rest of Aether’s story, and showed them his blog. Meanwhile, Martin continued to investigate. Eventually, after Aether’s video stream, they were able to find the constellation, Gladitor, which was Fragment 10!

Though it was stressful to create such a complicated fragment, CJ and Simon agreed that it was important for the puzzles to get harder, so readers would care about the characters more and more.

Links:

Fragment Ten (wiki): http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Fragment_Ten
Fragment Ten (forum): http://forum.basecamp33.com/c/tmp-fragments/fragment-ten
Phase Three: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Phase_Three
Gladitor: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Gladitor
Aether:http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Aether
Constance:http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Search?query=constance
Joradian Non-Material Safeguard: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Joradian_Non-Material_Safeguard
Deidre: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Deirdre_Green
Kemetic Solutions: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Kemetic_Solutions
Teddy Fallon: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/Theodore_Fallon
The Low: http://magiq.wikia.com/wiki/The_Low

 

Notable Replies

  1. Nice timing, I was slacking on listening to this and just happened to catch up on episodes 8 and 9 yesterday afternoon and today I have 10 waiting for me this morning!

    The Kemetic Solutions promo is powerful and creepy for sure.

    The creepiest thing is the fact it doesn’t just say ‘hey we use magiq’ anywhere. I kept waiting for them to say something like ‘we’re transcending technology’ or ‘we’re producing modern miracles’ or something to be a wink and nod to the fact that this is part of the magiqverse. Some comforting little tidbit that says ‘hey this is all just part of the game’. This isn’t really some evil corporation doing horrible things.

    But we never get that wink or nod. It’s like when we were looking at the gogetters site and people kept saying ‘But there’s nothing about magiq on here’ and somehow the fact magiq isn’t mentioned made it even MORE believable that it’s in world because…of course they wouldn’t say they use magiq!

    It’s one thing to give us an institution or organization clearly linked with magiq and have us interact with it (The low, for example). But you put in front of us an organization that managed to really blur the line about what we were looking at. That’s why I always thought KS was so great.

    Edit: Oh, question for you regarding Fragment 11 (and to some degree 10). How concerned were you really about the chance we might get too far carried away and do something like call the real Teddy Fallon, or actually try to get ourselves committed at GoGetters just to see what happens?

  2. Remus says:

    I’m in the same boat as @Robert in that I spent the evening catching up to get to this episode, and I’m really happy that I did. As someone who didn’t come to the forums until the middle of third assessment, the Phase 3 has always interested me because so much happened outside of the Deeds stuff. In particular, I had no idea how Constance became a part of the Magiqverse, so learning about how she entered the story, as well as how the Low was introduced, was super cool. Great episode as always, CJ and Simon!

  3. CJB says:

    VERY concerned, Robert! I will be sure to answer that question when we record ep eleven tomorrow!

    And yeah, I wanted the KS front to seem real, and with its realness add to the plausibility that the The Silver had gotten really good at flying under the radar.

  4. KS was seriously creepy. But also a little bit nostalgic somehow. Like 80’s sci fi novels.

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