Sebastiano Brocchi‘s name is, by now, very well-known to all our readers. Author, director, illustrator, Sebastiano has made a life out of art and today he’s back on our vampirical website to announce some juicy news and a series of new exciting projects.
First of all, welcome back. As you are surely aware, it’s always a pleasure to have you with us. A little bat has told us that you have several very important announcements to make. Are you ready?
So ready and so happy to be back on this amazingly curated, extensive, varied and interesting platform. Thank you.
Let’s start with the project that those who frequent your surroundings have heard the most often about: Vita di An. Can you give us a preview in just a few lines?
Vita di An will be the first comic set in the narrative universe of the Pirin saga. It won’t follow plotlines that are already present in the novels but will, instead, have a new and totally original story: this will allow those who are already familiar with the other products in the saga not to have to go back on paths that they have already discovered before and instead meet a new adventure full of surprises.
The protagonists of this story will be An and Hallfuri, two characters that were already mentioned in the trilogy where, however, their corresponding stories weren’t explored, they are revealed in this instance in all their – dare I say – “epic” extent and will intertwine and determine crucial events in the overall economy of the saga. In brief, one could say that theirs is the story of two young men in search of immortality (a theme that follows humanity ever since its first appearance in epic literature, I’m thinking of the Epic of Gilgamesh as an example), but their journey will shine a light on how immortality itself can be seen and interpreted in very different ways, to the point of even taking on connotations that are the direct opposite according to how one understands it. That is what will end up bringing forth the deep differences in the cores of the two protagonists, possibly making their aspirations and even their destinies irreconcilable.
The Vita di An project is linked to the Eselmir videogame. Why opt to further it through a comic rather than another videogame?
Let me preface this by saying that the videogame contains a kind of “secret epilogue” (that can be unlocked only after solving all the riddles and the secondary quests of the graphic adventures) that functions as an open ending that also acts as an introduction to a series of events where the protagonists are none other than An and Hallfuri. The story could have definitely continued through another videogame sequel but several factors contributed to the choice of a comic instead.
One of said factors was a mainly “practical” and not insignificant aspect: the realisation of Elsemir (at the hands of an indie team with old school, and mostly “artisanal” methods) meant no less than five years of work and a good amount of challenges to face. We were more than satisfied with the result we obtained then but at the same time, we were aware that it would have been very difficult to embark on such a task again, especially with the means we had at our disposal and without a team behind us that could rival those of bigger software houses.
All that aside, however, it was also a specific narrative choice that will allow us to further expand the expressive range of the saga, already very rich when it comes to its multimedial aspect. The comic was a path that I had been racking my brain about for a long time and that I wanted to try my hand at regardless. A new narrative and artistic challenge with its own intrinsic rules to explore.
Vita di An is, in its own way, very peculiar. In some ways, it is not just a comic but it also lets the reader interact with the story. Can you explain the reasons for this choice?
You might think I’m kind of obsessed with interactivity, and in part that might be true in that I do believe that some of the magic of a big saga comes from the possibility for the readers to let the author hear – if not their voice – at least their choices. There’s a sort of magic in that, considering that projecting free will on a story or at least some gaming choices tends to create a unique connection between the media and the person enjoying it. That’s why after a videogame like Eselmir and a series of brief spin-off novels tied to the character of Tasar (where the reader can choose between two different paths by either going with the light or the dark destiny), I wanted the reading of the comic not to end up being completely “passive”.
That’s what pushed me into inserting, here and there in the comic, some mini-games, puzzles and riddles that will let the reader relive, at least in part, the feelings experienced throughout the point&click game. Moreover, you’ll be able to notice the perfect stylistic continuity that links the illustrations of the videogame and the comic, in order to grant and seal the impression of finding oneself in the same story, just with a different medium. As if the pages of the comic were, in some way, screenshots of the videogame transposed on paper.
Now, let’s talk about another project. What is Il Libro dei Cieli d’Opale about?
To put it simply, it can be described as a “genesis” and a “theogony” for the fantasy universe of the saga, but I can already tell you that nothing will be “simple” about this book. It would even be hard, for me, to define it as a fantasy novel seen as it doesn’t really adhere to the traditional canons of plot construction. I’d see it as more of a philosophical and spiritual text that inserts itself in the tradition of mystic literature, from the Vedas to Esiodo, from Dante’s Comedy reaching up to some of the classics of spirituality closer to us such as Gibran‘s works.
The intent to create a mythology of the origins is dependent on my will to express a series of deep reflections on the nature of things, the meaning of life, divinity, the big questions of existence, something that is in part already evident in all of my works, but that in this case will be distilled to its very essence. Closer to poetry than it is to prose in the way we commonly understand it (with passages in which one can breathe in Sufism or even Angelus Silesius), it will be a text soaked in Hermeticism and esotericism, not with the intent to be willfully cryptic, but to preserve the strength that only dreamlike and visionary images can convey, speaking to the soul more than it does to the rational mind. This goes as much for the written parts as it does for the emblematic illustrations (that I’d go as far as to define “iconic” considering the style) that accompany the book.
How did the idea of writing a prequel to your main work come to be?
I’ve always loved myths about the origin, additionally, I consider myself a big lover of Hermeticism and I can add that, in Alchemy, the Magnum Opus has often been compared to the Creation. Suffice to say that Le Jardin de L’Alchimiste in Eygalières (France) opens with the Jewish word Bereshit (also the word with which the Book of Genesis begins) as if to say that the aim of the work of the alchemist is to re-create themself as the world was created in the beginning.
Il Libro dei Cieli d’Opale will try to give a mystic and deep sense to several aspects of this creation, demonstrating how everything has a purpose in the context of a bigger harmony. The construction elements of the world are soaked with a raison d’être that can reveal something about ourselves and the meaning of our paths.
Following this premise, however, I don’t want to deny that in my book there will be several factors that are also important from a purely literary point of view, both when it comes to the overall understanding of the saga (and the causes of many of the later events) and also for the pleasure itself of discovering an epic story, a high-fantasy that will be able to stand on its own two legs even without having read the other novels, kind of as a one-shot work basically.
With Il Mercante di Verità, you’re facing another, different challenge. How was the idea of a story written in collaboration with an entire Facebook group born? Have you already had a similar experience?
Even though, as I already mentioned for Tasar, there is a limited manner of interaction between the readers and the evolution of a novel (with the reminder that, initially, the adventures in Tasar originated in collaboration with a mobile app and only later became my literary version of the events), this time we come face to face with a type of episodic, interactive novel in which the participation of the audience is brought to a whole new level.
Unlike in Tasar, there are no more pre-built blocks that the reader can combine according to their “moral” preferences, but rather a sort of story the advancement of which is controlled by the choices of the readers as the chapters go on through polls, or enrichened by specific quizzes and questions that the group answers. I had never before had such an experience and it needs to be highlighted that it represents a considerable intellectual and creative challenge. Il Mercante di Verità comes out every Monday and every episode is written in the time between each and based on the results of the surveys.
A single episode could, for example, end with the question “where is the protagonist going in the next instalment?”, and the options will be several possible locations. That means that it will effectively be the readers who determine the movement of the protagonist in the novel, which puts the story halfway between a book and a videogame, working as if the readers possess a joystick and are able to explore the story to their own liking. However, as opposed to a videogame, they won’t be able to make individual choices but only collective ones, it will be the majority vote to determine the story. The whole experience is even more interesting if we take into consideration that Il Mercante di Verità is structured like a thriller: the protagonist is a spy investigating and looking for truth in a remote northern fjord.
The readers feel like they’re going through curious and unexpected events, some don’t even seem to make sense or to be related, but as the episodes go on, everything will start coming together and showing a specific reason for being part of the plot. It’s a very difficult thing to do when you have to, every single time, adapt to the choices of the readers but I am sure that when the big ending arrives, it will be clear how every piece of the puzzle actually does have a precise collocation in the story.
How has this idea been received? Have you been getting any interesting feedback from the Scrittori e Lettori Fantasy community?
One of the aspects that has been best received was the prospect of having several episodes read in video and audio recordings, there were numerous volunteers and you can, in fact, listen to several episodes of the story both on the Facebook group and on my YouTube channel as read not by professional actors and voice actors but by members of the S&LF group itself. This has definitely been a contributing factor in strengthening the idea of a shared experience and helping readers “familiarise” themselves with the story.
Something that I had to push aside as the story progressed was asking questions directly to individual readers, giving them the chance to put forward ideas to insert in later episodes, that’s because, overall, people are quite shy when it comes to exposing themselves and interacting so openly, especially in a context they haven’t entirely gotten to know yet. Nevertheless, even that experiment brought interesting results: some names (of ships, for example) and characteristics of the characters were taken directly from readers’ suggestions. Just to mention one: Salt Gem, the name of the protagonist’s ship, was one of the names the community offered.
Can you say you’re satisfied with this experience?
As I said, it has been a very demanding experience to carry out regularly, and up until now I haven’t missed any of the weekly appointments (we’re currently on episode 14), it was kind of a challenge with myself and for the time being, it seems to be working. I found a community that was interested and that took very kindly to the project, and a small group of “aficionados” has formed that hasn’t missed a single episode. I believe there won’t be too many more episodes now before we can conclude this “first season” of the adventure, which will most likely become a book/ebook once it is finished; but I’m still very open to the possibility of picking it back up later on for a second season or with a completely new story based on the same mechanics. We’ll see.
Let’s go back to the world of gaming. We know you’re currently developing a manual for a tabletop game, can you tell us anything about it?
That’s exactly right. For years, people have been telling me: “considering its lore, your saga would make a perfect RPG!”, but I have to admit that my experience with that field is very limited, and I could never have hoped to enter such a project on my own. Luckily, with the help of the Best Sagas Facebook group in particular, on which there was a column entirely dedicated to tabletop games, I had the chance of experiencing Federico Buonanno‘s vast knowledge of the subject, he’s an old friend (at least on social media, because we haven’t had a chance to meet in person yet).
So one day we started talking in more concrete terms about the possibility of collaborating on an RPG project based on the Pirin saga. Federico then suggested to me, specifically when it came to the mechanics of the game (one of the most important aspects), to entrust the help and expertise of Enea Traini, and that’s how our trio of “adventurers” came to be and how we embarked on the interesting and ambitious project that is The Rulers of Gaimat, which, even though we’ve been working on it for several months, is still in the beginnings of its development because of its complexity.
What are your expectations for this project?
Aside from its nature, definitely insertable under the vast umbrella of works like Dungeons & Dragons, I would love it if it could emphasize the specific characteristics of the saga. The setting is not the “usual” pseudo-medieval era of castles and dungeons to explore, but rather a continent where flourishing civilisations clash with each other for supremacy through magic, fairy-like creatures, big battles, ancient prophecies… the settings are varied, monumental. Rather than find ourselves facing travelling knights and ominous ruins, we’ll come face to face with nations that have reached their highest splendour, led by powerful rulers who want to best others both in war and through civil and cultural conquests (a kind of high-fantasy Age of Empires).
It’s a world already very rich in lore that keeps expanding and that will be made even wider thanks to other projects and artistic collaborations with creatives of many talents, as has already been the case last year with the Pirin Civilizations artbook.
Thank you so much, Sebastiano, I hope you enjoyed the time you shared with us and that you’ll come back to visit us again when all these projects come to fruition so we can delve into them even deeper. As usual, before you go, would you like to give a shout out to our readers?
Thank you, my warmest regards to all and at this point… see you next time, I hope I’ll be able to share with you all new and interesting projects!