The Myst Reader - Background


Myst co-creators and brothers Rand and Robyn Miller often created fictional worlds and stories as young children. Their vision was refined by the works of fantasy and science fiction writers such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov; Star Wars offered them a glimpse at an exciting, fully realized fictional world. Younger brother Robyn began working on a children's novel called Dunnyhut; though he never completed the work, elements from the story influenced aspects of Myst's story.

The video game Myst tells the story of a special book which serves as a link to a world known as Myst. Myst is the home of an explorer named Atrus, who lives on the island with his wife Catherine and two sons, Sirrus and Achenar. An unnamed protagonist drops into Myst and finds the island strangely deserted. As the player explores Myst, they discover Sirrus and Achenar trapped inside two books. Both swear that their parents are dead due to the machinations of the other brother, and instruct the player to repair their books so they can be freed. In truth, Atrus and Catherine are merely imprisoned, and both Sirrus and Achenar are guilty of growing power-hungry and destroying Atrus' books. The player frees Atrus, leading to the events of the sequel Riven.

The Millers began the game's development by sketching out puzzles and each individual world the player would explore in the game. As the brothers were conceptualizing the various worlds, they also wrote down pieces of the story. At some point in the development of these bits of story, Robyn explained in an interview, "We started realizing this story is actually something we thought the public would enjoy, so we started pressing to make happen." Buoyed by strong sales of the video game, publisher Hyperion signed a three-novel, US$1 million deal with the brothers.

The Miller brothers wrote the entire first novel, but were unsatisfied with the result; the Millers pointed out that writing a character for a novel is much harder than writing the characters of a game. Hyperion recruited author David Wingrove to assist with the project; the Millers ended up giving Wingrove a detailed draft, and the author rewrote the entire book. The book's design was made to fit the themes of the game; the novels are made to look like journals found in Myst, with embossed covers and pages darkened as though with time and use.

To promote the release of The Book of Atrus, the Millers embarked on an eleven-city book tour. The publicity stemming from the book and game surprised the Millers, who remained unaccustomed to their new-found fame. "The excitement is in talking to people who've walked through our world," Rand Miller said in an interview. "But we're not used to signing books - we're a bit out of our element."

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