We are introduced to Nas Eddin, a young black AIR member surviving in his suburban house in southern San Francisco, months after the invasion has occurred. He is running out food and is considering making a bid to win the supplies traded by vultures. We are also introduced to the narrator through upcoming emails sent to his account prior to the invasion. The narrator's decision to call on a vulture will prove decisive as it sets an unexpected chain of events that will test his belief and his will to survive the apocalyptic world of OA.
The release date for OA 1.0 will be available for iPad (iOS 5.1) on iTunes April 19th 2012, in commemoration of the death of Charles Darwin. The first of five phases of augmentation, OA 1.0 is broken down into twelve levels:
6. Great Panic
The main conceptual difference I see between video games levels and books chapters is the progression in difficulty. The fist level of the average video game guides the player into getting an understanding of the basic rules and workings of the game world. In the following levels, the player face challenges that increase in difficulty and that test the player's skills and understanding of the rules. By the time the player completes the last level and has reached the end of the game, the player has mastered the game. It is this passion for rules and for mastery that sets the player apart from the reader, the game from the book, and the level from the chapter. In most games, each level has its own theme, design, and driving rule. A level works as a set of challenges with an emphasis on a specific rule or game mechanic, and a well designed game builds its levels on top of each other, first revealing the most common and basic mechanic before progressively revealing its complexities. In the apocalyptic world of OA, death is the most common and basic reality, it is the narrator's main preoccupation, hence the first level is called Death. In the second chapter we get to know more about the narrator, about his former life as a drug dealer, hence the second level is called Weed. As the levels progress, they build upon each others like layers of a cake. So the last chapter is called Life partly because it is about life, but also because all the previous levels together create a lens through which the meaning of life in OA can be understood:
Chapters are defined by their author, while levels are designed for users. In the former, the meaning stems from its inception, while in the latter the meaning arises from its reception. It is only when the players challenges the levels that they in turn become meaningful. Like divinities, levels are not meant to be understood or worshipped, but challenged:
Through the television screen, the computer and more recently the touch screen, the screen has redefined the other. The other now exists on the networks, as a node, as a connecting dot, as a web of relations, as an avatar, as a friend, as a follower, as an image, and also, as an email sender and recipient. Sartre said Hell is the others, hence what could be a better way to experience a hellish, apocalyptic future world than through the collaborative storytelling of others? Inasmuch as the narrator is alone throughout most of the story, the screen is his connections to others, his umbilical cord to the world, or to whatever is left of it, while his email account serves as a connection to the world before it became a hell.
I had just moved into an expensive condo in downtown LA. I was broke because the start-up I had just started working for hadn't paid me in months, and by broke, I mean broke as in can't pay the subway ticket to go to work broke, as in count the pennies left in my wallet broke. This was in October 2008, right in the middle of the financial crisis, I looked on craigslist like a mad man but jobs were hard to come by. Hell, internet access was hard to come by, and everyday I tried my luck and hoped to find an wi-fi left unprotected. I barely had any food, I didn't have cable, it was getting cold outside, I had nowhere to go and nothing do to. All I had was time, a laptop, bills to pay, an eviction notice, a heart full of anger, and a strong desire to escape it all. So I escaped the best way I knew how: I started to write. But being broke made me bitter, more so it changed my outlook on life. I was starting to think differently about my situation and how to resolve it. I was starting to consider doing things I had never thought of doing before. I was starting to think that any way out of the mess I was in was as good as any another. I was starting to think about the bottom line, and only that, because for the first time in my life, I felt like I had nothing to lose.
Fortunately, it didn't come to that, but it was out of that frame of mind that I came up with the story of a loner trying to survive an apocalyptic future by risking everything in a deadly gamble. At the time, I was completely immersed in Baudrillard's philosophy on simulacra, which meant I couldn't just write a fiction, I had to write something more than fiction, something haunting, daring, and epic, something somewhere between reality and fiction, something hyperreal. I didn't know exactly how I was going to do it, but I started writing and the answer eventually came from Tarik, a good friend from the Bay I had kept in touch with. Tarik was no writer, but had failed to graduate from high school because he spent his time buried in books he stole from various Oakland libraries. When I told him about my project he gave me a few advices, one I took to heart: to make my writing as personal as possible, and to base the fiction on real life experiences.
That imperative for intimacy and authenticity became the added dimension I needed to guide my steps into the narrative. It may seem paradoxical to write earnestly about an apocalyptic future crawling with blood-thirsty aliens when I've never lived through any of that, luckily. However, most of the story is inspired by personal experiences, and in the parts where I had to be creative, I tried, either physically, psychologically and/or, emotionally, to immersed myself in the experiences, I tried to create vivid, synesthetic, and living images that became anchors, very much like memories I could always go back to. Tony Montana said it best:
The original title I had picked for the manuscript was Fallen Angels, but I changed it when I tried to fix the loose ends of Chapter 7, trying to find an believable way for the narrator to live and make it to the following chapter. I had hesitated between rewriting the chapter or coming up with a deus ex machina, when the answer came to me: do nothing. I had spent a week trying to come up with an answer when I realized I didn't have force the issue, I didn't have to come up with an answer. In fact, and this became true for the rest of the story and the following revisions, I didn't have to do anything but let the events play out, because by then the elements of the fiction were so interconnected that their interactions organically created and resolved the conflicts of the narrative. When I let the story tell itself, Fallen Angels became Ordo Abchao. The hyperreality I had aimed to create was no longer mine, I may or may not have been at one time its creator, but the world of OA no longer needed a creator: