BY ELISE TAKEHANA
One of the first digital, generative, gamified novel, Theopolis College, comes out spring of 2016. The murder mystery asks readers to solve the case: Who killed Theopolis College President Cadence MackArthur? Sixteen writers at Fitchburg State University contributed to the international project, creating the character O Jorgenson and her world of family, friends, acquaintances, fans, and enemies. The gamified novel will use an alumni article on each potential murderer to introduce players to the characters. Here’s a sneak peak at O’s alumni article. The entire novel will be published by Hybrid Pedagogy Spring 2016.
Garden Snails and Transgendered Aliens
O lets her cigarette gather a half inch column of gray ash before she takes a drag. During that time her eyes were fixed on mine like a gorilla ready to charge.
"What do you need to ask me questions for?" She scratches her jaw, uncomfortable with the idea of me. "You won't find anything more about me than what's in my books. I ... fuck, nevermind."
While that may be all she said, O and her work have given the world twisted enigmas. Those tangled webs of thought started here at Theopolis College during her tenure as an MFA student. First drafts of her Nobel Prize winning novel Shedding Self among the Shrubbery were born at The Knot. Legend has it that fornicating rabbits triggered the first hints of her main character, Bela Frolik's, eavesdropping.
Frolik, a gardener, begins working for a US Ambassador in Norway, Geoffrey Stanz. Between fertilizing the lilies and trimming the hedge, Frolik overhears Stanz's telephone calls and occasional meetings mentioning covert operations in Eastern Europe. With each questionable phrase Stanz utters, Frolik returns to the Cold War tension that pushed him out of Prague. The more he hears, the farther back in time his thoughts take him until he arrives at both the day he was born, November 9, 1938, as it collides with the day he commits suicide, November 9, 1989.
Like her character, Bela Frolik, O Jorgenson has kept her shroud of secrecy. President Cadence MackArthur recalls O's first days in her Law and Ethics course. "O started class with a controversy when he stood in objection to my calling his name - Jorge Sanz. He screamed 'I am nothing, so call me nothing, zero, O.'" And that moment marks her performative presence at Theopolis College.
Since her first novel, O has published three other books, though a Nobel Prize is hard to beat. Her 1993 memoir details the struggle of a nontraditional gendered identity and the tortuous life of growing up in a Catholic community in Costa Rica. Her desire to maintain a masculine appearance while identifying as a female shocked her adopted family and friends and incited vicious harassment and attacks. Critics have called this memoir the "inside-out" version of Shedding Self's deeply cached transgendered images.
While her third and fourth books received less critical attention, they were her most experimental. Her 1997 travelogue Spirals featured three snails on their paths across the Balkans while her 1998 novel marked her return to fiction. Heimdallr's Music tells the story of an alien species that mysteriously manifests in Frederik Schiller's body after having a near death experience.
Readers and fans have long been convinced that O still has secrets to tell. Our English Club has had O back for readings and writing workshops for nearly a decade. Jonah Pinelas, a senior Writing major calls O "the brother and sister that inspired my best." For Pinelas "O invested all of her energies on me and my writing from midnight calls to notes longer than my drafts."
Others recall only the legends students have spun since she left us in 1986. Freshman Julia Bornes, an admissions tour guide, admits "many prospective students ask if O really did hold pagan gatherings at the stone bridge, but I can't say anything about that." With a smirk, Bornes tucks a wisp of hair behind her ear "but it's really hard for me to keep a straight face when they ask about the Octoberfest bar fight challenge she gave to the Lambda Gamma Phi brothers, I mean, seriously, who does that?"
Others remember her for the legacy she has left on the culture of the Theopolis College campus. O started the now biannual OJ's Dragaganza during her Freshman year that sparked the beginnings of a more open community to all gendered identities. Many here and around the world have looked to O for guidance on their own journey through questioning their gender.
While her past has been relatively public, O has spent over a quarter of a decade in upstate New York, seventeen of those without writing a book. The world has waited for what her mind has made next, but her long time mentor and past professor, Dr. Nicole Brown, has assurances that "O's most creatively productive times have been when she was quietest. She would be gone for days or weeks at a time when the muse struck."
Thirteen years ago, O clutched that most coveted prize and told the world, "Writing has always been my rainbow trapped in an oil slick." As one of Theopolis College's most prestigious alumnus, our community has full faith that the mysterious fifth novel will amaze.