Theater Obscura is a work best classified as science fiction though it deals not with futuristic inventions or distant lands in faraway galaxies, but with present day possibilities and the art of illusion. In part one, titled Paradise Revealed, we follow the protagonist’s entry into a secret Order by way of an illusory apocalypse. Somehow there are survivors, he sees, and though he at first eschews human contact, he is eventually drawn to the various groups of people that remain in the aftermath. His ride is a rocky one but he is slowly given access to the labyrinth that the Order has set up in various locations around the “universe.” Using the effective device of juxtaposing the future with the past, an atmosphere of mystery is created by tracing the Order back to the Middle Ages when a number of art wizards founded a secret brotherhood. This brotherhood prevailed and, through their secret rooms and hidden locations, individuals could be brought to other planets and into alternate dimensions. By mixing reality with art, the wizards had created their own private world and they hid it in pockets of what the “others” called reality and planet earth.
The experience naturally confuses the protagonist, a young man, and he begins to follow the riddles that present themselves to him. After the bombs go off, he secludes himself in the countryside until he is led into a strange commune and then to a huge library encased in vast chambers beneath the earth - or in a mountain, he is never quite sure. Eventually he realizes that he has been placed in a sort of circus and that all is not what it seems. But the wizards have buried the secrets to their magic deep in the illusions and he can only wonder how these strange individuals operate. He begins to appreciate their art on a deeper level when they let him live out a number of his fantasies in a sort of magic cinema. Thereafter he becomes one of their apprentices and a “keeper” of the secret labyrinth.
Part two, titled Picture Show, deals with a different protagonist who lives in a world in which television and film is illegal. Following the revelations regarding the harmful effects of television, the government took action to limit its use. This led to a complete ban on the projection or viewing of moving images. Without access to the outside world, the inhabitants had little sense of current events and were easily manipulated into believing almost anything. The press, literature and music were also severely restricted. Television and video equipment was mostly destroyed but there formed a black market which consisted of underground “arcades” where addicts watch subversive material alone and in groups. The protagonist, a fifteen year old, is lured into this world by a new classmate and, as his curiosity and “addiction” grows, he discovers some tapes and, thinking that they are windows into other worlds, convinces himself that time travel and space exploration is possible. It isn’t long before he is introduced to video games which in his world are considered extremely harmful and immoral. Eventually he discovers games that are played in an entirely virtual world driven by computers. Or so he thinks.
While part three, titled Reality Incorporated, begins in yet another dimension with another protagonist, it also ties the stories of part one and part two together in a dramatic conclusion. The protagonist of this part works for one of the recently formed “adventure companies” which specialize in making fantasies come true. The story opens as society is beginning to feel the effects of this new form of entertainment which is quickly getting out of control and confusing people who now are never sure if they are in one of these adventures or not. Morality controls are introduced but too late to stop those involved in producing fantasies of a lurid nature. The money is simply too good and the proprietors move to parts of the world where such “amusements” are permitted. We follow the protagonist, this time a young man trained in acting, to the Americas where, as it turns out, such games are being used to gain political influence. The “hero” goes undercover and joins one of the rebel movements to neutralize it but soon after begins to sympathize with their ideas and ambitions. He is led to their side which starts him on a strange journey that culminates in a meeting with an enigmatic man who dictates the movement from a massive complex located deep in a remote forest. But what is illusion and what is fact? This is the question posed when Drake, the fifteen year old from the second part, appears thinking that he has walked into a technological device called the Dreamskope. Frank, from the first part, appears on behalf of the Order and, once again, the brotherhood joins the rebellion only to eventually take over and secure the new lands for their own purposes. The work closes in a medieval theater with the Order deciding what changes to make to their ever expanding labyrinth. The strange combination of performance art and proclamation that follows indicates the Order’s desire to clean up the “evil” once and for all and to do so by revealing their presence after centuries of secrecy.
Theater Obscura is a story of considerable length. It is possible that the work will be divided into separate books which together would form a trilogy or even larger collection. While the work is reminiscent of science fiction, it remains in the realm of literature and focuses not on futuristic devices and alien creatures but, rather, on the questions of human existence, history, art and philosophy. The book reveals that many of the magic principles in use today were actually invented in past ages and that reality is perhaps little more than a carnival trick. The work attempts to convince the reader that with an imagination and a little help, the human race could step into paradise. And regardless of society, the individual is free to step on the road to adventure. The amusement park, it seems, is already in place...
The following passages are taken from the first part of the work.