When working towards completing my PhD in Media Arts and Practice at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, I knew I wanted to develop an original storyworld that demonstrated the best practices I was describing in my research. By creating my own storyworld from scratch, I could use it as a demonstration for how my theories could be put into practice.
The storyworld of Spookshow is Harry Potter meets Carnivale. In 1917, near the end of WWI, the Central Powers discovered that the witches and wizards from fairy tales were real and hiding in Germany's Black Forest, and press them into service. They cast a spell equivalent to a magical atomic bomb, which transforms the Western half of the United States into a vast forest filled with monsters and other strange, magical creatures. The religions of the world rise up to confront the threat of real magic, banding together into one Church and throwing their support to the Allies. In 1917 the Allies narrowly defeat the Central Powers, and the Church launches a New Inquisition to capture and eradicate magic users, sending them into hiding. By 1928 the Church has consolidated its power, becoming a highly fascist leader of the world, and magic has become the new rock and roll, with traveling "certified fake" spookshows exhibiting strange beasts, clockwork automatons, and "displays of true magic" to scandalized, rebellious and thrilled audiences everywhere.
Spookshow consists of three key components - the animated series Spookshow 1928: The Great Casey Smith, the graphic novel series Spookshow 1921: The Great Wilderness, and the illustrated novella series Spookshow 1917: The Great Disaster - that are narratively intertwined and distributed via a shared digital platform. This platform monitors what the user has experienced in the storyworld, and unlocks additional content based on what the user has experienced and what she hasn't, including an Encyclopedia and a Gallery that unlocks additional content as the story unfolds.
Spookshow made its debut as part of the "Pata | Meta | Beta Cartographies" gallery exhibition at USC in December of 2016, with a more developed version exhibited at the "iMappening 2017" gallery exhibition at USC in May of 2017.
In 1921, Stephen Schadel arrives in New Orleans aboard a ship from Europe, and begins using his magical talents as an illgal traveling medium to provide some degree of closure to people who had lost loved ones in the war. As he goes, he also discreetly asks if anyone has seen a particular couple traveling with a young child. Before long, he runs afoul of the Church Inquisitors, and flees north up the Mississippi River. The Inquisitors give chase, and what follows is a cutthroat game of cat and mouse that unfolds across the transformed United States leading to the traveling circus known (for the moment) as Cromwell's Carnival of Curiosities...