Sep 25


Author Interview: Jordan Reyne, “Choice of the Cat”

Posted by: Mary Duffy | Comments (0)

Knock things over. Take a nap. Enslave humanity. Power, fame, and catnip are yours for the licking! Choice of the Cat is a hilarious 600,000-word interactive novel, the biggest text-based cat simulator ever written; you’ll play it many times as different kinds of cat! As a rescue cat, looking for a family to love and obey you forever, you find yourself sharing a home with a family on the brink of divorce. You’ll learn to manipulate your owners, their neighbors, and even their other pets to get what you want. (The humans think they’re in charge! Aren’t they cute?) I sat down with author Jordan Reyne to talk cats, dogs, and the world of this game. Choice of the Cat releases Thursday, September 28th. 

Choice of the Cat is absolutely inspired, and it is our longest ChoiceScript game. Since I edited it, I know that it’s also pretty efficiently coded, so that’s really 600,000 plus words of unique text. Tell me how it is you came to write such an opus?

An exact single cause would be hard to name. I spend as much time as I can with animals, and one of the things that always makes me laugh is their looks of total confusion when human actions take them by surprise. It’s clear when you have pets that loads of our behaviours must seem puzzling or even ludicrous to them. Human beings are pretty absurd when you think about it too. We do so many things out of habit, social pressure, or internalized cultural “norms.” In western culture we also imagine we are the completely the masters of our own destiny, and of the results of them too. Whether pets see this as weird (or see it at all) is hard to know, but what they do seem to do is revel in the small things: day-to-day events like walks, or snow, or some stranger bending down to pat them. Such random things have a huge influence on their lives, and in the end we are no different. We are all part of a massive web of interconnected activity, systems and events. The cat, because it isn’t a human, can and probably does see things differently. The PC being a cat is a way to explore both these ideas: the absurdity of human behavior and the fact of small things sometimes having big results–or conversely big things having none. I was tempted to call it “feline chaos theory,” but that would just give away the fact that I have forgotten what chaos theory is actually about.

What world are we in? I had actually thought the game was set in the UK, but it’s really more a mitteleuropean nowhere, yes?

Mitteleuropa is about right. This is set in a small European country with an electoral system that has some form of proportional representation. That is important because of Claire’s character and possibilities. Under the UK and US systems, someone like Claire wouldn’t stand a chance. She part of a small political party with maybe 5% appeal. In places like Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden, these parties have some real influence and are part of the parliament or bundestag, etc, but this is not in the UK or the States. It gives parties like the Greens a voice and an effect. Fortunately, having lived in Germany for many years, and toured around Europe a bit, I have some material to call on for my cobbled-together country that does not exist.

Is it true you’re actually more of a dog person?

Yes, for all the usual and possibly anthropomorphic reasons. They are caring, loyal, and long for walks in the forest even more than I do. The bond they have with you is unconditional, and in a world where many people don’t get that stable, reliable, caring at home, dogs can keep you sane.

Perhaps Choice of the Cat was a way to remind myself I do love cats as well. A while back, my partner brought home a cat, because we weren’t allowed a dog in our flat in London. I spent several weeks resenting her for not being a dog, and even named her “Potwor” which means “monster” in Polish. She has duly reminded me of how awesome cats are, and gave me so much inspiration for the story. She is hilarious, and dogs will always be my favorite but I’m pretty much an all-round animal lover.

Tell me about your background. You’re primarily a musician, right?

Narrative has always held a fascination for me, and yes, I used to do story-telling through music because songs are a great way of adding atmosphere to tales. Many of my releases are album-length narratives, or a collection of tales done in a sort of bloodthirsty folk-rock style. I retired though, at the time I started writing this game! I was glad to. A lot of people (including me) think that being a musician is all about music, but it’s far from the truth. The industry itself is very toxic and values a lot of unhealthy things, whilst simultaneously not valuing musicians. I was lucky to have some very supportive and awesome listeners, without whom I would not have managed to release the 10 albums I have. They really got the lyric/ narrative side of things too, and the music itself, so I will still write music for them, and occasionally do gigs for them too. In the end though, I’m happy that I can switch to straight-out narrative as full-time work.

What did you find most challenging about writing the game?

Remembering what words I have already used, and not using them again too many times! E.g., saying “you think Maddox is scary because he is scary,” is a pretty crummy sentence. In straight prose it’s very easy to avoid using the same word twice in a paragraph, but when one half of a sentence or paragraph is constructed from numerous possible states or function calls, I have to check all of them to ensure I haven’t repeated things. Maintaining style and nice-to-read prose can become difficult too, with the sheer volume you have to write to make things work. I spent almost ten years writing my first book, and it was 80,000 words. I had to manage 600,000 in around a year and a half for this project, which was pretty intense!

Are you ready to write Choice of the Dog?

That would be telling! I have choice of-ideas that I will be pitching around!

Short answer, Bernard Pivot-style:

Favorite color?

Favorite word?
Abgrund, because of the way it is made. The german prefix “ab” means to take something away. The word “grund” means several things including reason and foundation. The word itself means “abyss,” and is the taking away of reason, foundation and ground. It seems really poetic and descriptive to me.

Profession you would most like to attempt?
Furniture maker (woodworker).

Profession you would never like to attempt?

“Kitty” or “mog”? 
Doggy 😉

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