Dancing in the dark at Kathe Koja's DARK FACTORY

[Kathe Koja is one of my favorite writers (actually, she's two of my favorite writers!) and her latest project, am immersive, mixed-reality dance club, is so unbelievably cool that I jumped at the chance to give her a platform to tell you about it. Don't miss her Patreon! -Cory]

Stories need an audience to be fully alive. I write novels (Christopher Wild, The Cipher, Under the Poppy, Buddha Boy, among others) and write and produce immersive events and readings (The Art of Darkness, Glitter King, Night School, ALI<E, among others), and when I work I’m always considering that audience, its shared energy and engagement with the story I’m working to tell: otherwise it’s just words in a row, props in a room.

So when I started putting together my newest project, DARK FACTORY, wanted to invite that audience inside the story from the very start.

Dark Factory is a mixed-reality dance club where each patron’s experience can be fully customized—they can dance, drink, have sex, tag the walls, revel in whatever manufactured sights and scents they choose from the menu—until the night ends and the doors open again on real life. But what if real life starts changing, responding, to something that happens in the club? What if it doesn’t stop? Would we even want it to stop?

And the doors open, the patrons start to enter, the night truly begins: the constant shift and self-perpetuating level of detail, the maze of it, the haze of it, the fog of scents like floating flowers, the sudden mirrored sheen of a wall, so the self seems to walk into itself, the hundreds of wax candles whose flickering flames are indistinguishable from true fire except they burn nothing, exist as nothing but light that itself does not truly exist—and everyone in this warehouse, show, environment, all these human moving parts, seem to have invested themselves so completely in Dark Factory that every dance step, every splash of booze, every flashed ass and fake fuck not only continually redefines reality, it simply shrugs off the definition altogether. [from DARK FACTORY]

DARK FACTORY is a novel first. But I knew that this story needed to exist in multiple ways, on multiple planes: there had to be music, and a real-world dance party, and a video—maybe with an AR/VR component?—and a way for the audience to add to the narrative if they chose. And all the puzzle pieces of the characters’ lives, their DJ playlists and posted pictures, their tattoos and t-shirts and favorite drinks, those had to be included somehow too . . . Call it a narrative mixtape, call it immersive fiction, call it a novel that knocks down the fourth wall—it’s incredibly exciting to open up this story’s world. That’s why I decided to do a Patreon for the project, to be able to offer different levels of engagement as DARK FACTORY comes to life. I’d done something on a smaller scale with my last novel, Christopher Wild, inviting readers to pledge, with work-in-progress access as the book was being written. But this turns the volume up even more.

What DARK FACTORY will read like, look like, sound like—we’re going to find out together. Time to immerse all the way, let’s dance!