Jul 25


Author Interview: Christopher Huang, “The Hero Unmasked”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (1)

What’s this? Front and center on the main shelf of your local comic store sits the first three issues of the Hero Unmasked! storyline from The Swashbuckler! As it begins, you have everything you’ve ever wanted. Your TV news show is the highest rated in the city, and you’re engaged to the mayor, with two weeks until the wedding. But when superpowered criminals kidnap the Swashbuckler, you realize the awful truth: the person in the ransom video is your identical twin, and everyone thinks it’s you!

The Hero Unmasked is Choice of Games’ latest release, coming Thursday, July 27th. I interviewed author Christopher Huang over email.

Tell me about what influenced your world creation for Hero Unmasked. What kind of a world is this set in… Are there really superpowers? Is there magic? What about the vampire factor?

The world is almost exactly like our own. Almost. I generally feel more comfortable with more realistic fiction, and the idea that everything could actually be happening the next block over. And if we’re in what is essentially the real world, then … what if you discover that what you always considered a minor talent is actually a superpower?

So superpowers do exist, but they are exceedingly rare; or perhaps they are under-reported. Not everybody realises what they can do, and those who do, might choose not to do anything with what they have. Magic also exists, but is even rarer still: you pretty much have to have either energy-based superpowers or a few centuries of dedicated study in order to work “magic”. It’s to the point where most people don’t consider magic to be a serious concern. Of course vampires are also super-rare and often thought of as myths. That’s how you’d see them in real life, after all.

In a way, the rarity issue is all a bit of a throwback to the time when every superhero was pretty much the only one of their kind in their city … before crossovers started to seem like the rule rather than the exception. The idea of the superhero league is cool, but there’s also something to be said for the romance of the lone-wolf vigilante, I think. A long time ago, someone gave me a copy of “Batman from the 30s to the 70s”, and it’s really interesting to see what Batman was like back when he was “the Batman”, and Robin hadn’t entered the picture at all. He had much more in common with the likes of the Green Hornet or the Shadow: people, possibly with an exceptional ability or two, but essentially living in the real world and dealing with real world crimes.

Are you a big fan of comic books? What are your favorites?

I have to admit … no. I appreciate the comic book as an artform, but it’s not something I’d go out of my way to collect and read, especially as it seems that most franchises are so bogged down with backstory that it would be like starting “War and Peace” at the 2/3 mark. At least, that’s the impression I get.

Otherwise … I think I’ve always been fascinated by “Cloak and Dagger” (though I’ve only ever come across one or two issues of their comic) and I remember really enjoying the stack of “Warlord” comics my father passed on to me once. I also like the humour of “Asterix.”

What kinds of social issues did you have in mind as you were writing Hero Unmasked? Or is this just a fun romp?

It’s meant to be just a fun romp. That said, it’s always possible that some news story or other might have influenced my subconscious … I have had the experience of looking back at my own work and finding messages that I never intended.

What did you find challenging about the process of writing in ChoiceScript/our game design?

Keeping track of variables! Coming from parser-based interactive fiction, where it’s possible to overload a game with too many variables … I may have almost injured myself trying to keep the number of variables down, perhaps unnecessarily. And then, I’ve gotten a little used to having variables anchored to objects, whereas here it’s more a question of remembering which variable is associated with which story element, and remembering to keep similar variables consistent with each other in terms of usage.

There are a number of things I’d do differently if I were starting over, I think. For one thing, I’d store the names of the romantic interests in variables more distinctly differentiated than {Lover1} and {Lover2}.

Are you a fan of interactive fiction in general? Any favorites you’d like to share?

Oh, yes! I’ve been dabbling in interactive fiction half my life now; my first entry to the annual IFcomp was way back in 1998. So many to choose from … but if I had to pick just one right now, I think I’d go with “Augmented Fourth”, by Brian Uri!. (Yes, the exclamation mark appears to be part of the name.) In it, you’re a musician who’s given an enchanted trumpet, but you start with just one song/spell on your repertoire: “Ode to a Duck”, which conjures a duck out of mid-air. That should give you an idea as to what to expect. To my knowledge, Uri! hasn’t produced anything else since then, which is a shame. I really enjoyed the whimsical humour.

What else are you working on now as a writer?

I’m undergoing developmental edits for a novel slated for publication sometime in mid-2018: “Murder at the Veterans’ Club”. The link is https://www.inkshares.com/books/murder-at-the-veterans-club, though developmental edits have introduced a few changes since that page was first set up.

Proust/Pivot Style Questionnaire Questions

What is your favorite word?

“Ecclesiastical”? I’ve sure I’ve recently decided on something else as a “favourite word”, but it won’t be the first time I’ve forgotten and reverted back to “ecclesiastical”.

Your favorite color?

I like sepia tones: browns and beiges with a bit of grey mixed in. But that can get a bit drab, so a splash of something bright in the middle is usually quite welcome.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I think I was meant to be an accountant. I just picked up my third “volunteer group treasurer” appointment a couple of weeks ago (they’re going to really love me at the bank) and I wonder what it would be like to do this professionally.

Which would you not like to attempt?

Politics. I wouldn’t want to be in any position where my personal decisions could seriously affect countless lives. I don’t think I’d ever be ready for that much responsibility.

Marvel or DC?

Flip a coin? Well, I guess I’d have to go with DC simply because it stands for “Detective Comics”, and I like my mystery fiction.

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