PerambuLit: A Choose Your Own Audio Story

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Love? Gunplay? Explosions? Ghosts? It all begins with PermambuLIT, a choose your own story / interactive audio fiction project being launched at the Boston Book Festival

Ever since I devoured all those Choose Your Own Adventure books — mine were actually Endless Quest books put out by the folks who gave us Dungeons & Dragons — I’ve been intrigued by the idea of interactive storytelling.

Here was the concept: Via a second-person point of view, the reader, aka “you,” could enter a story, assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character’s actions in response to the plotline. At the bottom of each page, you would select one of two choices of what you do next, and turn to the appropriate page. A sort of a rudimentary interactive fiction. These books are still around.

D&D is a further manifestation of this concept. Video and computer games are another. And yet the idea of writing a location-specific text adventure for adults, with multiple outcomes, but not necessarily genre-based, has always remained intriguing to me. This fall, I finally got to take part in a project that fulfilled this fantasy.

Here in Boston, eight writers have teamed up with the technical prowess of Broadcastr to produce PerambuLit, a “Create-Your-Own-Adventure” audio story, customized for attendees of the Boston Book Festival this Saturday, October 15. But even if you don’t live in Boston, you can experience this project (see below).

PerambuLit is an audio story, allowing festival-goers (and folks anywhere) to experience a fictional narrative both by listening to it and by walking along its various routes. Listeners will hear the voices of the writers themselves, recorded for this project by the online audio literary magazine The Drum. The story has eight different endings. From a premise of a date at the library gone bad, or good, you might run into a bumbling spy, a neophyte psychic, a reality TV show producer or various specters from the past.

The writers include myself; Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us; Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter; Matthew Pearl, The Dante Club; Catherine Elcik, “How to Be Sure You Want To Be a Farm Girl” in Carve Magazine; Becky Tuch, founding editor, The Review Review; Steven Brykman, National Lampoon, The New Yorker; and Power, author of the forthcoming Clean Monday.

Since the story takes place in the streets of Boston, ideally we want listeners to listen on site. You begin PerambuLit on the steps of the Boston Public Library, and use Broadcastr‘s geotagging application for your iPhone and Android to map the route. For example, after listening to the first segment, you get to choose to walk down either Boylston Street or St. James Avenue. You then tap on the audio “tag” on your smart phone screen for this route, which causes the corresponding audio segment of the story to play. Then you choose again. And again …

The story goes live today, Friday, October 14. If you happen to be in downtown Boston this weekend, then here’s the ideal way to listen.

1. Go to the steps of the Boston Public Library (Dartmouth St.).

2. Download the free Broadcastr (iTunes link) app onto your iPhone or Android phone.

3. Open the Broadcastr app.

4. A pop up window will display, offering you the PerambuLit experience; click “yes.”

5. Instructions will display, and you can begin your adventure!

But even if you’re not local, or can’t make it to the Boston Book Fest, your location doesn’t matter. You can still listen either using the app or by going to the broadcastr website, searching for “perambulit” and listening from your computer or other device.

We hope you enjoy the story.

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