The Making of The Monarch Papers - Episode Eight


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In this episode, CJ and Simon discussed Fragment Eight: Tigrantula. This included the Cagliostro’s final performance, as well as the end of Phase Two. CJ started by discussing the many branching options present in this fragment. For example, Lauren might not have died, the Cagliostro could have failed at his plan, or Deirdre might have gone to the Morgan Library. This was the shortest fragment, because Calling the Corners was completed in two and a half hours. Originally, CJ planned to have Cole lay low for a day or two after he made it out of the library, but because the readers were clamoring for more (and because CJ and Simon really wanted to take a break), the events that followed were rolled into the same narrative event, to make for a big finale. After this, CJ and Simon took a one month break.

Cole found the letter, and immediately afterwards, the readers gathered to cast the Calling the Corners spell, using six Mountaineers for grounding, each of whom used an object which had great significance in their lives, and in the process, they lifted the spell which had been placed on Deirdre to hide her from magiq. Cole was planning to go to Deirdre and tell her everything, once this was done, which he did successfully. After this, the Cagliostro’s final performance was all that remained.

CJ talked about how he’s long had a fascination with old magicians, and how this contributed to the creation of the Cagliostro. Simon talked about how during the creation process, he watched an old movie about the actual Cagliostro, and his role in the court of Marie-Antoinette. This was also a major source of inspiration. CJ and Simon had also wanted, for a long time, to create an Ackerly Green radio show, and to paint images in peoples’ minds, using audio. The final performance audio was the first concerted attempt to do this. A woman was fired on Fiverr to play Lauren, and CJ talked about how somewhere, there’s a recording of him playing Lauren, to try to convey to the actress how she should sound. Simon also enjoyed recording a new song (done in one take!) for this recording. An attempt was made to make the contents of the recording specific enough so that readers understood the ground rules of what was going on, and yet mysterious enough so as to leave behind a residue of mystery. For example, we still don’t know the details of exactly what the Cagliostro summoned. Simon mentioned that both he and CJ admire authors who leave out just enough detail so that the readers can build their own world on top of what is provided, and that this was their aim with this recording, as well as in the rest of The Monarch Papers.

Also, the second assessment happened during this period, and because Patreon was exploding by then, CJ was able to hire someone to create a 3D tetrahedron. CJ, Simon, and Jonny were also all together in New York for the beginning of this fragment, and so it was a productive and nostalgic period for everyone involved.

CJ then talked about how after the Mountaineers had successfully performed Calling the Corners, they were supposed to receive a word from the Book of Briars. However, at this point, it still hadn’t been established that The Book of Briars website would always release the next word. Therefore, it had to be arranged for the word (Caprathorn) to be revealed during the Cagliostro’s performance. In the end, it was subtly snuck into the dialogue near the beginning of the video. (As an interesting side-note, the decision was made at the last moment to add Simon’s voice as an undercurrent to Lauren’s, when she says “I am the Cagliostro,” to enrich the transformation.) Also, new viral ads centered around The Cagliostro were released around this time, and this brought in tons of new readers (by the end of the fragment, the readership had tripled!).

Deirdre then wrote a poem on her blog, to finish the spell, and to confirm that she knew the truth about magiq. Nobody knew what had happened between she and Cole, and where she was planning to go after that. The concept of The Low was also revealed, at this time. Some readers were interested in joining, but as CJ and Simon explained, this would be impossible, because they would have to write thousands and thousands of pages worth of ‘secret content,’ which The Low is assumed to possess.

After this, the second assessment began. Readers had to place six animals around the various faces of the tetrahedron, after which it would open. Unfortunately, this was the biggest mistake of The Monarch Papers: the rules used to open the tetrahedron didn’t work! Therefore, the readers had to perform a ‘leap of faith,’ and break the rules exactly one time, in order to open it. Interestingly, the readers never realized what had happened, and only became more and more frustrated and involved.

In the end, Phase Two produced three of the biggest fan favorite characters (Lauren, Martin, and The Cagliostro) and therefore was an enormous success. CJ and Simon ended the podcast by talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. CJ prefers season 3 over all other seasons, whereas Simon prefers season 6, though he is still reluctant to commit to a single favorite season.

In the next week, CJ and Simon will talk about Phase Three, and how puzzles became less important in this new phase.



The Monarch Papers (in-game):
Fragment Eight (wiki):
Fragment Seven (forum):
Phase Two:
Calling the Corners: