PROLOGUE
spaceman, come home
1969/07/24 James Killjoy returns from a successful lunar mission. Moon dust still on his soles, he's dragged, kicking and screaming, from the runway. The public-facing pretext of "moon sickness" provides plausible cover for the astronaut's sudden spell, and he is brought into a military hospital under utmost secrecy. A barrage of tests and interrogations result in a confidential agreement; Killjoy is paid off handsomely by the government.
1969/07/29 James Killjoy is released from government custody, and retires to his sprawling Kansas ranch.
▙▞▙▘/▗▘/▖▘ Using a mail-order book catalog, James Killjoy purchases a copy of the pulp novel, The Fearful Frontier.
▝▝▟▗/▝▗/▟▚ James Killjoy loads one of his personal rocket ships with fuel, food, books, and as much of his newfound wealth as he can. His hands are sweaty as he lifts off from the planet's surface for what will be his final voyage into space, taking permanent refuge in the deteriorating but grandiose Tin Utopia. In the years and decades that follow, the "spaceman who abandoned the earth" becomes a recurring fixture in song lyrics and fluff news chatter.
Look up at that dead-head spaceman ...
Saved the moon, came down a junkie ...
“Look up at that dead-head spaceman ...
Saved the moon, came down a junkie ... ”
▘▗▙▚/▝▚/▙▚ After he acquires the unused sets from Kubrick's abandoned 2001: A Space Odyssey, Orson Welles produces what he believes to be his greatest masterpiece - The Fearful Frontier, an experimental, fictionalized account of James Killjoy's descent into insanity and self-imposed exile.
The film is not well-received, and, in fact, is so widely panned that the director's body of work is examined more closely, and found to be of little cultural value.
▛▜▗▘/▙▝/▞▚ Orson Welles makes a guess appearance, as himself, in The Wishing Game. It is his final non-animated role.
▛▙▞▜/▖▚/▝▘ Alex Muto's first Partisan-era novel, The Inaugural Collapse, is published, and receives near-universal acclaim.
▗▛▖▙/▖▗/▞▟ Orson Welles performs the voice of McBastle Betrixy, the antagonist in the cartoon toy film, "One Billion Poodles". He falls asleep halfway through recording, and the sounds are used for the final fight sequence.
▖▛▞▚/▗▘/▟▙ Orson Welles advertises for a discount mattress commercial.
▚▚▛▟/▞▜/▘▜ Thanks to advances in Kaleido technology, Orson Welles is made obsolete when he's replaced by a younger, more attractive, and non-living version of himself.
Who is James Killjoy?
It is on July 20th, 1968, that the American astronaut, James Killjoy, becomes the first human being to save the moon. But after the former fly-boy plants the flag and flashes that classic smile at the camera, and the footage clicks off.
Upon returning to earth, Killjoy suffers a violent breakdown; a shattering glimpse of some unspeakable structure, sliced through from the end of the universe. The spaceship's rockets still hiss white steam when he's pulled down and stretched out across the runway, gasping for air.
As stargaze shimmer scrapes the descent.
By the next after-summer, James Killjoy recedes from the public eye altogether. He uses the unspendable accumulation of wealth he is given in return for his complete silence, Killjoy retreats from the surface of the planet altogether, and spends his remaining years in seclusion aboard his spacestation, the Tin Utopia.
Earthman, come home
As the years pass down on the earth's surface, wars are waged and walls are razed and towers crumble into diamonds, and scientists develop new bombs; cold bombs, empty bombs, foul and sickly bombs. Up in space, the years tick down, but not the hours. Killjoy succumbs to his moondust addiction, and in a metallic haze, watches down on the restless earth below. The constant loop of movies and television shows echo through the empty halls, and our star spaceman scrawls notes in the margins of the only book upon the station, a pulp science fiction novel titled The Fearful Frontier.
the big bad dream
1945/07/16 At 5:29 in the morning, the Trinity nuclear test is conducted as part of the Manhattan Project.
1945/08/06 At 8:16 AM, the nuclear bomb, "Little Boy", is detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
1945/08/09 At 11:02 AM, the nuclear bomb, "Fat Man", is detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
19▙▞/▞▞/▟▚ An unknown event occurs. It is known only through impressions; ▞▝▝▝▝ ▙▞▜▗▞ ▝▙▖▚ ▘▗▟▖ ▜▘▘▚ to leave him with ▗ ▞▟▜▘ ▞▖▞▙▞▞ ▞▞▞ ▝▙▖▚ lasting alteration to his perception of the world.
1996/25/26 The body of JonBenét Ramsey is discovered in the basement of her family home. Her murder remains unsolved.
2001/09/11 The Twin Towers are destroyed
in an act of terrorism.
PART I
the project's beginnings
The project known as Goodbye Strangers begins in the summer of 2008, when drawings of the condroni, ladroni, and lindroni are posted on various social media platforms. The website's first incarnation follows shortly.
a website with really strange monsters
The online encyclopedia is mainly focused on describing various "strains" of strangers – cartoonish non-animals with surreal, and often negative effects upon the human mind and body. The strangers operate via unseen physics, show up in largely derelict, transient, or industrial locations, and can only be seen by special individuals called sensitives.
with psychics, blanks, and other non-standards (to say nothing of the various sensitive sub-types) appearing comparatively late into the project's history.
Despite themes of urbanization and societal decay, the project do not act as direct social commentary. The strangers rarely represent a specific theme, and the entries instead reflect a more collage-like impression of both physical and emotional sensations.
Similarly, although sensitivity is described as being "more common among minorities, outsiders, and outlier individuals within a population", these specific groups go unidentified.
The narrative of global collapse is presented in a vague, non-linear manner; there are no central characters, and the names and titles interjected throughout the text do not appear to bear a specific meaning.
above: the site's first incarnation.
above: a later version of the site.
The years pass, and the website receives continuous updates and sporadic expansions, as well as abrupt relaunches, reframes, and unexplained gaps between updates. As new content is added and old material is removed, each change further refines the site's structure, and brings the world into clearer focus.
but, it's not getting any closer to telling you what you really want to know.
And you already know something bad is going to happen. Aren't you worried about a flood?
and, bring on the menagerie
Though Goodbye Strangers remains a personal creative endeavor, the author does not work on the site alone. He is joined by a friend and frequent collaborator, whose influence has been present even in the project's early days.𐋎
𐋎 Having contributed such designs as the eodromi, adroni, and simdroni – among many more.
The author has since found minor independent success with the Wrong Neko line of figures, as have the artists as a pair, with the limited-edition Lesser Saints collectable toys.
this was also the first introduction of Blue Hell and Red Hell to the general public.
Vinyl... except, I don't remember being able to hold them like that.
Following this, the two begin to work on the site more closely, with the intent of launching a line of stickers, products, art books, and other "art products". The collaboration leads to the reboot of the site, and the launch of Primer – thus introducing the first "module", and inaugurating the project's modern era.
Module | Primer
Primer acts as both an introductory guide to the strangers themselves, as well as a portal into the world that they inhabit.
followed by...
Module | Minuet
An encapsulated version of Primer. Though its structure has some similarity to a deck of cards, the specifics appear largely unstated.
Ꮖ. comments 3
did you know that this is the first time that the number thirteen shows up??
DON'T GIVE THEM TOO MANY IDEAS RIGHT AWAY.
you can sort them like a deck of cards. it's kind of neat.
umm its EXTREMELY neat
left: Primer, in its first appearance.
above: a break in the fourth wall.
For the majority of readers, however, it's not clear whether the website is an an art project, the precursor to a novel, or an attempt to drum up interest in a commercial series. Narrative and character are minimal-to-nonexistent, the supplemental notes are difficult to parse, and the writing is obtuse. Criticism falls on the project's lack of accessibility, niche appeal, and the overall similarity of the "strangers" themselves; a tonal continuity that continues with the release of Module 2.
Strangers | Module 2
On its surface, Module 2 picks up right where Primer left off. The xoridromel saunters in as the module's king strain, and the entries continue – now skipping numbers, now breaking the rules, and as each stranger debases what we thought we knew, the first drops of the flood start to drip through the cracks.
above: an early collaborative print design in four variants.
The website fails to gain mainstream traction or popularity. This lack of financial return is one of many factors leading to the eventual closure of the project. The website is put on hiatus, and the pair part ways. The vast collection of unreleased material is left unfinished and unseen.
. The connection fades away, and the gosdragons are now left to wander the vast expanse; incomplete worlds, incomplete words.
PART II
the second collaborative era
And yet, the project is not forgotten - and after a hiatus of several years, the author returns to the work, this time with a new collaborator. Together, they kick off yet another "new era" of Goodbye Strangers with a new module, Zeroworld, as well as Gutters, which peers between spaces that were once left unstated, giving a formal glimpse to the characters of Space Madness, and the city of North Mural.
There was always only the city, there was always only the one place, and it keeps repeating, over and over.
above: visual development materials.
Bit by bit, the world of Goodbye Strangers continues to expand. Though it remains an obscure piece of outsider media, there exists, nonetheless, a small and dedicated following. Visitors to the website envision themselves or their favorite characters as sensitives, or create strangers based on in-jokes or outside media. Fan-strangers abound, and new friendships develop through connections to the project.
Throughout it all, a distant future is alluded to with greater frequency – the static-buzz haze of the V.H.Z. era, and beyond that, the looming threat of unspecified catastrophe known only as "the flood".
find out what happens in VHZ, and beyond...
the project takes off
Then, the unthinkable happens, and the project takes off, thanks largely to the tireless efforts of the team and fandom. The project's followers grows in number and ferocity, and for the first time, Goodbye Strangers turns a profit.
The new funding, however, does not solve the old problems. The writing and concepts become more difficult for readers to understand, with constant restructuring and contradictions to the narrative and worldbuilding. The team members are not able to put their own ideas into motion, and each new project leads to new conflict.
The fame, meanwhile, does not seem to impress the creator, who seems uninterested in, or unwilling to engage with the fandom. The initial narrative, which described a spaceman, does not seem any closer to tying into the story - instead, the author seems exclusively focused on developing the setting and characters of Space Madness, rather than create a real story for the Goodbye Universe world.
Look up. That looks a lot like water, right? Or, maybe someone's been crying.
PART III
the long breakdown
you can go another way, you know.
Did you know, there's a place where you can be all by yourself ... in your own imagination!
that's a dream... starting
over from scratch... !!!
make it go away with strangers, making it
all go away, today!
Hey, you! That's right, you...
Do you feel unable to speak?
Like your voice can never be heard? Like there's no one out there who understands you? Like you're smothered beneath the weight of so much trash, and there's no way to get out? Are you looking for a friend? Are you frightened, or alone? Are you frightened? Are you frightened? Are you scared of being alone forever? Are you looking for a friend? Are you afraid of everyone you meet? Do you feel alone? Do you feel alone?
Are you scared of people?
The author's behaviour grows more unpredictable. His social anxiety worsens; he cannot speak to friends without growing nauseous and light-headed. He cannot reach out to new individuals without panic attacks.
Unable to handle the pressures of the role as project lead, the author detaches from reality, and loses himself entirely in the fiction of the world.
Though their support of the project has been unparalleled, eventually, the rest of the Goodbye Strangers team can no longer tolerate the author's erratic behaviour, nor can the community stand behind a project that has strayed so far from its original potential.
are we hearing this right?
it's so, so disappointing.
he's letting you down. not following through. getting erratic. are you a loved one who's been harmed by this ° »ò¹¹ ¡¹ ¤¹ and nowhere ¡¹ ¤§§¹ ??? just try and imagine it now »
The project disbands, and the team members move on to other endeavors.
Walltown
The author is not heard from for some time. By this point, he has lost himself entirely in a constructed reality that cannot be sustained.
This does not mean, however, that he has escaped outside attention.
are you feeling closed-off?
hey, that's not ... an unregistered stranger??
he keeps changing the rules, is your stranger still an authentic strain, or has it been discontinued or...?? find out what to do in the WORST case scenario, §Ú ·Q »¡ § you can fall asleep to good dreams again ` ¬O ´©
With the hopes of both punishing him for his misdoings (as well discover the sources of his information), a heretofore unseen group of writers known as the Partisans abduct the creator and bring him to an undisclosed location. There, the questions begin.
For the Partisans, it was humiliating enough to have their endeavors trivialized by the ravenous strangers "fandom" – but their ego will not allow the irredeemable "creator" to continue to disgrace them with this repulsive association.
Why did you include us in this?
I wasn't really... I wasn't really thinking... the subject's eyes roll back, and his mouth remains open.
What about all those quotes - and recontextualizing our books like that?
the subject does not speak, as another dose is prepared.
The author's disgrace having left him now without the relative security granted by his collaborators and friends, his disappearance goes relatively unnoticed. He is interrogated, fed a mixture of drugs, and deprived of food and sleep, as the Partisan's questions waver between confusingly vague and frighteningly specific.
Material D, LZD, and psycholy.
Module | walltown
The creator's responses, however, do not bring the Partisans any closer to understanding.
the product tie-ins
With the Goodbye Strangers intellectual property now absent of its original creators, it enters into the "free use" corporate domain.
The now-franchise pairs with the Mirinet advertising network, as a deluge of new strangers products are launched.
help build tomorrow's profits
strangers, for babies! ·| ° ¡°°·F babies love strangers!™ »Å ªº
baby-safe strangers for a stranger-safe baby, strangers might make your baby SMARTER?? why not give it a try, experimental childhood with STRANGERS!!
imagine it...letting strangers put their hands all over your baby, acclimate your baby to strangers today!
The brand new way to get inside their head...
That's right, it's Mirinet!
Module | Sunsets 1987
It's finally here – a module for everyone. With its stylish ad copy voice and references to real-world music, Sunsets 1987 gives only vague hints of the impending end.
a brand new, new brand
When you read these words inside your mind right now, whose voice are you really seeing or hearing? Does it sound like your own voice?
...or, does it sound like someone else's?
left: initial drafts for Mirinet's visual aesthetic.
Meanwhile, the crowds outside can't get enough. They want new strains, new modules; they want videos games, and the latest products. There are billboards, collectables, crossovers and spin-off projects. And suddenly, the future does not look so different from the far-off techno-future foretold in the story itself.
A stranger-themed variant of Neko Atsume, and endless guest appearances on The Simpsons.
But you still want to know just what happens next...
And everybody's either excited or scared about what's going to happen in VHZ, but no one's quite ready for the flood.
to be continued, in...
Goodbye Strangers: V.H.Z.
Behind the Curtain
return to Goodbye Strangers