Today is April 1, a day that lovers of old languages celebrate as #WhanThatAprilleDay, named for the springtime pilgrimage depicted in the Canterbury Tales.
My editors at Choice of Games and I are furiously working to bring out my Chaucer-inspired interactive fiction, The Road to Canterbury. We hope to bring it out in the month of April, because we’re just that nerdy. It’s in copy-edit now, so it’s looking good.
The Road to Canterbury tells the story/stories of a group of pilgrims that includes Chaucer and his wife, Philippa de Roet. It’s set in 1375, before Chaucer had a chance to write most of the Tales and set them into his frame narrative. It’s not a strict retelling, by any means, but there are plenty of nods to the Tales.
There are, in other words, a few Easter eggs* for Chaucer fans, in the long and noble tradition of fan service.
The references in The Road to Canterbury were more than just a bit of fun. They were a reminder for me of the role that the reader plays in any work. The Road to Canterbury is overtly interactive—the reader makes choices to determine the story’s path—but any story is interactive in the sense that it works with what the reader brings to it. As the game has gone through the beta-testing phase, it’s been fun to see how different readers find different eggs. Some readers will catch my Hamilton reference; others catch the reference to the Tale of Sir Thopas.
The original Tales capture a form of storytelling that was itself interactive, as the pilgrims listened to each other, interrupted each other, and even chose their stories in response to each other. They, too, would have caught references and in-jokes.
Chaucer’s work has proven infinitely adaptable and flexible over the centuries, and I was very grateful to have a chance to play in his world.
*Which could be “egges” or “eyren”, depending on which dialect of middle English one used (according to William Caxton, writing about a century after Chaucer).