Frequently Asked Questions
All replies are from the project's creator, unless otherwise noted.
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table of contents
The World and Story of Goodbye Strangers
What is the story of Goodbye Strangers?
Behind the Curtain begins with a seemingly unrelated story about a spaceman, James Killjoy, suffering a nervous breakdown and leaving the planet. It shift then to a fictionalized narrative of the creation and history of the Goodbye Strangers project. As the author and his collaborators work on the project, the echoes of these individuals persist in the characters and relationships within Space Madness, a story-within-a-story set in the city of North Mural.
Within the world of Behind the Curtain, the Goodbye Strangers project takes off and eventually becomes a pop-culture phenomenon, as the team works towards Strangers: V.H.Z., a project set in a fictional future where strangers are discovered by the larger world and made into inert "drone units" via "extrusion", and are used to facilitate rapid technological advancements.
The events, though fictional, nonetheless echo reality. The team suffers some breakdown and disbands, and the creator is disgraced and left outcast. The author's need to detach from reality creates Default - a character who is in need of his own escape, following the exile from some unspoken falling out with Fifi, some now larger-than-life personification of guilt and retribution.
Shortly after his disgrade, the author of Goodbye Strangers is kidnapped by the Partisans, a group of authors and other creatives who state that strangers are real, and that they are actual sensitives. They demand to know how and why their works were included in Primer, and where the author got his information from. The author is interrogated and interviewed, with these interrogations intersecting with the "Walltown" module. The creator is thereafter unheard from.
The world of Behind the Curtain is then revealed to be much more advanced in technology than previously stated, with James Killjoy's scientific work influencing this narrative's history, as well. The Goodbye Strangers project, now absent of its original creators, is made part of the "Mirinet" advertising network, leading into a future that looks nearly identical the V.H.Z. future.
Default, meanwhile, loses himself within the narrative of Space Madness, a fantasy crafted to his every desire. Within North Mural, Default works on a collaged-together sequence of disparate creative material (which we never see, but which can be assumed to be mirroring Primer and other referential modules), as well as Zeroworld, another story predicting the ominous V.H.Z. future.
But even this fantasy breaks down, and the story of Space Madness gets more and more twisted as it is pervaded by the author's anxiety, and fears of environmental collapse.
Default's use of psycholy allows him to discern information from outside of the Space Madness timeline and dimension, and he creates a detailed collection of novel excerpts, abstract drawings, and supplemental text which, as a whole, set up the layering of worldbuilding that his creative project requires. The reality-breaking structure, however, proves too heavy to support itself. It cannot be reconciled, and as Default uses larger and larger doses of the drug, his work falls further into its abstraction.
Default is left in a catatonic state, and his estranged boyfriend, Bracey, becomes more and more disturbed as higher drug doses seem to reveal a "larger plane" to reality, in which higher dimensional entities are able to see into his mind, and in which he exists only as trapped in a "thought prison" by some higher force - this paranoia echoing his very real nature as a fictional character.
Bracey and Default reunite after a long separation. They are shortly afterwards captured by Olivia North and Argona Cox, and placed into the Red Hell machine, leading to presumably fatal consequences. Following this finale, Olivia and Argona's scientific achievements lead the world, once more, into the V.H.Z. future.
Watching these events, however, is Valeks, a character who seems able to move between narrative dimensions. Having explored the world of the dimensionarians and meoms, he rides the megameom into Red Hell. The megameom's power allows Default and Bracey to be rescued by leaving the narrative itself. In doing so, all three manage to escape the world's destruction. The "higher dimensional entities" of Bracey's paranoias are revealed as the relationship between the author and his fictional characters, and that rather than being trapped, they're all connected to each other. The same Megameom that rescues Bracey and Default from Red Hell, then steps into the world of Behind the Curtain to rescue the author from his own assault at the hands of the Partisans; these entities, as well, being yet another echo of his internal fears and memories. They all team up together to leave the narrative entirely, integrating with the author's self that exists in the real world and outside of the project.
Still within the fictional world of Space Madness, the spaceman, James Killjoy, watches earth from high above in his spacestation. He holds a book called The Fearful Frontier, which has some unspoken and unexplained significance. The letters on the pages are revealed as Alphabetarians, and the story of Behind the Curtain is revealed as a fictionalized art project based on the past, created in the distant V.H.Z. future.
The flood washes away everything, and the story concludes.
What are the strangers?
That can be answered a number of ways; in terms of what the strangers represent on an emotional level, a particular memory comes to mind. I would describe cats as being a comfort animal for much of my life. Having stuffed cats in my room, keeping cards with cool images of cats. When I was in grade school, I remember taking the battery out of some object (a flashlight, or toy), and noticing that it was the kind with the black cat on it. I remember the sense of intense emotion; wanting to keep it, because I didn't want to throw away the image of a cat. And I felt very strange, and a bit sad when I threw it away.
This sensation is part of what the strangers feel like to me. They're not real, and even when they're not harmful, they're not "good". It might be a sign of mental illness to keep dead batteries because one doesn't want to throw out an image of a cat. But, the sadness is real.
That's sort of like the Buddhist idea of attachment leading to suffering, right?
What is the relationship between Space Madness and the strangers, and higher dimensional entities like the meoms, alphabetarians, and probotaxazatonians?
These higher dimensional entities (as well as Blue Hell and Red Hell) represent a higher level of abstraction, which (certain exceptions aside) the characters of Space Madness or Behind the Curtain are not able to directly interact with, or perceive.
Are there other hells besides Red and Blue Hell?
Let's dig a bit deeper to find out...
The Work Behind the Project
Where do you get your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from dreams, meditation, and experiences with synesthesia.
What is the process of creating a stranger?
In the process of developing various meditative and synesthetic practices, I began to experiment with linking up disparate concepts, and seeing what "impression" I would get; sort of like a constant Kiki-Bouba matching game. Matching words with imaginary locations, for example, was one of the most-repeated experiments, in which I would look at a word, and think of the first place that popped into mind. Over time, it became more and more automatic. I did those sorts of exercises constantly; I think because it was a way of generating new creative material for myself.
"The Kiki/Bouba phenomenon describes a scenario in which a subject is shown two shapes. One is spiky, and the other is rounded. When asked, "which is Kiki, and which is Bouba?", the majority of subjects will name the spiky shape as Kiki, and the round shape as Bouba. Through this phenomenon, we can see how sensations can resonate with one another and link together larger, more distant, or more abstract concepts."
The strangers developed as a by-product of that. Particularly during walks around streets and other developed environments, sensations would coalesce into these impressions of entities. It really taught me a lot about balancing patience, and persistence; since to feel complete, needs to feel like it has something that "grabs" me, or like I can remember encountering it. So, some of them took years to show up in the project.
And as for the visual designs, they were somehow relaxing to draw. I didn't have to worry about capturing a specific form, or whether the anatomy was accurate. But there was also a pattern, so it let me play around quite a lot in that regard. One general goal was to be able to show any three strangers, and have it be evident that they were part of the same set. Not every entity looks like a "stranger", but at the same time, there's no limit to the number of potential strains.
What is the naming system for the strangers?
For a stranger's name, the prefix denotes the strain, while the suffix denotes the sub-strain. While the same suffixes can show up for multiple strains, each prefix is specific to a single strain. Though names sometimes have semantic meanings or resonance, many are named in a more intuitive/synesthetic manner; i.e, going by what "feels right" for the strain.
How do you develop the concepts in the project?
Decisions about the project are made based on what feels most intuitively accurate to an internal synesthetic shape, as it's only through comparison that the greater shape can be revealed. Logical and problem-solving aspects come in the process and craft; the originating material itself is collected via intuitive methods. I'd compare it to a dream journal in that regard. Though skills in focus, language, and framing can be developed, the events of the dream can only be recalled, and not invented.
In the process of developing my methods in synesthesia and creating the strangers, a "reflection world" grew both more structured, and contiguous; and that's where the story of Space Madness started to take shape.
I think it was very strange, and somewhat 'remarkable' that the project came together to become what it is today. The self-consistency in themes, and events that seemed almost 'prophetic', and the way that the greater structure was revealed through meditation and intuition, felt almost supernatural to me. I do not, however, believe that this path was specifically predetermined by higher dimensional entities. Rather, it seems to reveal a number of possibilities. The first is that it illuminates something about the present reality's existence as 3-or 4- dimensional projection of a 5-dimensional (or higher) shape. It could also show that a nearly infinite range of connections and substructures permeate all levels of our reality, and it is the angle of projection and the specific connections that determine the overall shape's coherence.
Was all of this originally connected?
No, although the concepts developed side by side.
At the same time I was developing the strangers, I was also very interested in consciousness and perception; in particular, the distinction between the physical body, and the sense of self/free will. I was keeping dream journals and mapping out some of the entities and places that featured prominently; this is where you're going to see the introduction of the dimensionarian worlds, the idea of thoughtforms, and the meoms. Since these worlds were all revealed via similar processes and explorations of the same underlying structures, their inclusion felt very organic.
What are some of the works that have influenced Goodbye Strangers?
The writing of Philip K. Dick and Jorge Luis Borges; the books Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, the Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini, House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, and Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson; the art of Jim Woodring and Mori Chack; the website The Y-Leg Organism; the films of Denis Villenouve, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch; the videogames Yume Nikki, Silent Hill, and The Neverhood; the music of William Basinski, Akira Yamaoka, OutKast, Radiohead, Genesis and Peter Gabriel... as well as many, many other books, short stories, films, and other works of art.
What are your goals with Goodbye Strangers?
My goals with Goodbye Strangers are to reflect my internal synesthetic experiences, as well as give others a "toy" to play with inside their mind, and encourage them in their own creative pursuits, or to think about the processes of their own personal internal world.
If the strangers (and other concepts) within Goodbye Strangers can be used as a way to break down larger concepts into more easily understood blocks, the more the project can be used as a framework within which to talk about these ideas. The strangers can then be removed, allowing the now internalized structures to be used to think about the self, creative processes, levels of category and abstraction, and reality as a whole.
What is the message of Goodbye Strangers?
Any intentional message can be distilled as: it is always worth moving away from pain and violence – and that it doesn't matter how many times you fall down, as long as you get back up.
Who is the target audience for Goodbye Strangers?
The target audience for Goodbye Strangers is someone who enjoys exploring psychedelic and transgressive independent media, and relates to the themes and concepts explored throughout the work.
How much work has gone into Goodbye Strangers?
Goodbye Strangers represents over fifteen years of work by the creator and numerous collaborators.
When will the project be finished?
It's hard to say.
Are there any plans to publish a Goodbye Strangers book?
Not at this time.
Interacting with the Project
Can I make my own fan-creations based off of Goodbye Strangers?
You are welcome to create any fanart, fanfiction, or other fanwork based off of Goodbye Strangers. Likewise, you are welcome to create alternate universes, crossovers, or play with the material in any other way. Please link back to the site if you do, and credit the project.
Fan creations based off of Goodbye Strangers are not to be used for commercial projects, however.It's okay if you make your own stranger stickers for yourself or to give to friends, or to put on objects outdoors, or near a cat, for example, but please don't sell them for a profit.
Where can I get physical Goodbye Strangers merchandise?
Sorry, Goodbye Strangers products are only available in your imagination. (But look on the bright side; if it can never be bought, it can never sell out.)
Can I contribute art and writing to the project?
Please contact if you're interested in contributing material to the project; more details will be coming at some point in the future. Any business/merchandise collaboration is not being sought.
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