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The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!
The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!
The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!
15,352 backers pledged $580,905 to help bring this project to life.

$500k. >:0

To Be Or Not To Be just broke $500k. There's seventeen hours left and we broke half a million dollars in pledges. Thank you all so much!

Two days ago when I said I would "literally explode" if this happened I thought "hah hah there's no way this will happen, hah hah hah jokes are funny". Since then this joke JUST GOT REAL, and since Kickstarter's Terms Of Service mean I have to make a best-faith effort to make this goal come true, I have spent the past while scouring the OED looking for linguistic loopholes (my hobby).

Tell me about "literally", OED!

  • In a literal, exact, or actual sense; not figuratively, allegorically, etc.  Used to indicate that the following word or phrase must be taken in its literal sense, usu. to add emphasis.
  • colloq.Used to indicate that some (freq. conventional) metaphorical or hyperbolical expression is to be taken in the strongest admissible sense: ‘virtually, as good as’; (also) ‘completely, utterly, absolutely’.

No help there, plus my opinions about "literally" are well-known. Okay OED, give us "explode", surely you can help us out there??

  • trans.To clap and hoot (a player, play, etc.) off the stage; hence drive away with expressions of disapprobation; to cry down; to banish ignominiously. Also fig.Const. from, out of, and with double obj. Obs.

That's no good, nobody's going to be satisfied with me booing a performance of something using an obsolete sense of a word! What else you got, OED?

  • To drive forth (air); to emit.

Hmm I could toot, I could definitely do a toot but that hardly seems like the best way to celebrate a publishing project reaching $500k.  Though it probably has the virtue of never having been done before?

  •  intr.To ‘go off’ with a loud noise. Of gas, gunpowder, etc.: To expand violently with a loud report under the influence of suddenly developed internal energy; hence, of a charged jar, mine, etc. Of boiler, gun, etc.: To fly in pieces, burst, from a similar cause.

No OED this is precisely what I'm trying to avoid!  Although I appreciate that you're now peppered with animated gifs I do NOT want to expand violently if I can avoid it; this is a life choice I made long ago.  Last chance:

  • trans.To cause (a gas, gunpowder, also a magazine, mine, etc.) to ‘go off’ with a loud noise; to ‘blow up’.

Ahhhhh YES - right at the bottom is the sense I need, and thank you transitive sense of verbs! I will cause something to explode. I will LITERALLY EXPLODE A THING.

Right now I think I will make a paper-mache thing and work with that, but I'll consult with my father (an ENGINEER) on the best approach towards making a explosions happen, and whatever happens YES there will be a YouTube video of it. This is a silly stretch goal but CONTRACTS IS CONTRACTS. 

Dear diary: today we made a Shakespearean branching-path book reach the real world and we exploded something while we were at it.  Don't even act like you're surprised, diary.

Once again, thank you all so much: To Be Or Not To Be has shot past every goal I could make for it, and now it's even shot past the silly ones. This is amazing, and there's still 18 hours left.  Time enough for one last stretch goal:

  • $525,000 = everyone already getting a sticker (check the rewards list to make sure!) will get another sticker that reads "I BELONG TO SOMEONE AWESOME" that will go great on your book, your laptop, or on your monster truck.  Normally I'd worry about releasing such a powerful sticker into the wild, but I'm confident in this case that we are cool.

Here's one more illustration from the book: it's black and white here, but it'll be colour in the book, and it features Hamlet and Ophelia Winning Fights, Making Out, and Being Totally Awesome. It's by Carly Monardo!

Thank you all so much! We're in the end stretch now, and very soon we'll be switching gears from "kickstarting this book" to "getting this thing done and into your house".

I can't wait to share it to you!


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    1. Brian Reyes on

      I think imma bump my pledge just for kicks! C'mon 6gajillion dollars!

    2. Jason Merrin on

      We won! + another $25,000. More stickers now?

    3. Ryan Huff on

      @Dora, within the Thirty Minutes it turned out. Good call. :D

    4. Missing avatar

      dora on

      Yeah, with the boingboing and Wired shout-outs the numbers are skyrocketing faster than ever. We should have 550k within the hour, and I'd be shocked if it doesn't reack 600k tonight.

      By my reckoning you'll have 15048 physical books going out as of this moment, and rising (your poor signing wrist!). The next challenge will be to get this to the top of bestseller list when everybody and their monkey's already got a copy!

    5. Nupur Maheshwari on

      550K is swift approaching. Guess 525,000 wasn't really much of a stretch, was it?

    6. Missing avatar

      Eliza on

      He stumbled in; this man from more than cold
      Disheveled was. The soot upon his brow
      And shrapnel in his hair his courage told:
      A man who might still bleed but never bow.
      “I’ve come through time,” he cried, and then collapsed.
      We rushed him to the board. Too soon, his voice
      Grew weak; we leaned to hear his tale. He gasped,
      “Tis you must pick. You all must make the choice!”
      Of what? we wondered as he faded out –
      Not death, but from our sight, as if a ghost.
      His packet left behind had but one note:
      “You must blow up the thing you love the most.”

      But wherefore quibble? Quick – explode the thing
      an be it Hamlet, T-Rex, I, or king.

    7. Missing avatar

      Timothy Romero on


    8. Missing avatar

      Ian Vassilaros on

      So with 10 hours left and you are at $540k, you might actually crack $600k. You need something super mysterious and special at that point. Perhaps... perhaps you write one more possible character choice into the book? I can only imagine your take on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be much funnier than what has been done previously. Or maybe play as Claudius FROM THE BEGINNING. With all manner of wins/losses from there?


      Just some thoughts on how to make the book more awesome.

    9. Kate Merriweather on

      Seconded the following scenario:

      The explosion must be of a log cabin, and he must wear a T-Rex costume whilst doing it. There must be mad libs by other people dressed as utahraptor and such, following the standard format of the comic.
      Make it so! Pleeeeeeaaaasse?

    10. Missing avatar

      Raymond Rollin on


    11. Kyle Hutchinson on

      When you sign 16,000 books maybe your hand actually will explode. (Do mine first please!)

    12. Ben & Thea Pratt on

      The explosion must be of a log cabin, and he must wear a T-Rex costume whilst doing it. There must be mad libs by other people dressed as utahraptor and such, following the standard format of the comic.

      Make it so! Pleeeeeeaaaasse?

    13. Marina C. on

      Explode an Andrew Hussie, Ryan. A RL-sized replica of the Huss. You know you want to. Because FRIENDSHIP.

    14. Nupur Maheshwari on

      I second/third/fourth/whatever Joshua Carmody's motion for you to explode an I. :)

    15. Matt Crawford on

      I am with Joshua More: choose your own explosion!

    16. Missing avatar

      Wymar on

      @Rachel: funnily enough I entertained the same thought.


      Heh, it'd be pretty funny if Ryan decided to explode a globe or something, though.

    17. Morgan Payne on

      Other option: pretend explode was a typo for explore, and explore the fictional theology surrounding dinosaurs or something more Ryan Northy.


    18. Christina Squitieri on

      $527,000? This is SICK. I propose PDF versions of the book poster!

    19. Jennifer Klettke on

      *snerk* I keep coming back to kickstarter to find notifications and new stretch goals which have already been met.

    20. Rachel E Jones on

      Oh God guys, what if Ryan explodes the world and we never get to read the book? I smell a devious plot!

    21. Virgilio Ruberti on

      several hundres of dollars were pledged and the 525k stretch goal got beaten in the 5 minutes it took me to read this update. I must confess it's entertaining to watch the figure go higher and higher. where will it stop?

    22. Missing avatar

      Noah Cohen on

      Clearly the only choice is to build a small log cabin, pack it with nitroglycerin, and then have an animatronic T-Rex stomp it. Heck, I would kick in up to three dollars to a separate kickstarter to fund just this.

    23. Missing avatar

      Wymar on

      A non-exploding Ryan is fine too.

    24. Jessica on

      I also believe that the sticker should have a tattoo counterpart.

    25. Missing avatar

      amy billingham on

      given the theory that the world is ending tomorrow, i really hope this "exploding" thing doesn't get any more literal. assuming we make it through, i'm looking forward to seeing the video!

    26. Samuele Arcidiacono on

      OT: Can you imagine if Sam Brown was involved, and we could finally see an exploding (hopefully figurative) dog?

    27. Diana Walter on

      Joshua Carmody's got it in one (or, in Roman numerals, "I"). Though you should also do the Ryan Effigy and/or dinosaur, just because.

    28. P. Hadek on

      Ryan North, you just made me laugh at a dictionary entry. What manner of super power is that?

    29. Joshua More on

      Surely the only way this can happen is that Ryan picks several suitable options, and then presents us with a choose you own thing to explode game. Then it really will be a fitting way to celebrate this amazing project's success.

    30. Gal Friday 612 on

      Holy crap, I can't wait to see what is exploded! Also, HOORAY FOR STICKERS!

    31. Missing avatar

      Matt Pharoah on

      Okay, I made a typo and said iterally. It's up to you to decide whether I meant literally or iteratively.

    32. Missing avatar

      Matt Pharoah on

      I figuratively exploded when I saw that the ammout pledged had shot up from 450 kilodollars to $512,431 overnight. Congratulations, Ryan.

      I will now wait to receive what is iterally the best PDF ever.

    33. Unclever title on

      The solution is clear. You must create a paper mache replica of yourself fill it with explosives of some kind and LITERALLY EXPLODE THAT THING.

      But what pose should the North piñata take? Perhaps a standard trex pose?

    34. Missing avatar

      Betsey on

      A wonderful month of updates coming to an end, though I'm surely not alone in looking forward to updates between now and shipping next spring :-)

      If looking for an idea for a level unlock .. perhaps include the book structure poster for the teachers receiving books. Some may like the audio version, too, for students who need the assistance. Cheers!

    35. Missing avatar

      Dan Rosart on

      I was going to say exploding Yorick skull, but yeah, letter I seems truest to the pledge.
      "Alas, poor Yorick. I exploded him, Horatio."

    36. Tyme on

      Josh Carmody totally has the answer!

      Exploding I!

      Ryan, Are you super excited that someone plegded ULTIMATE CHAMPION IN ALL POSSIBLE TIMELINES 2000?

      Or just terrified that you have to paint now?

      Also, Please post the finaly result so we poor folk can at least admire your work from afar.

    37. M on

      Ha! Maybe inserting an ending into the book that results in your death by explosion? I'll let you work out the details, but corresponding full-color artwork of said author exploding would be expected. ;-)

    38. Niccole Paytosh on

      What about a Hamlet/Opehlia themed (blank) journal for our own writing? Or stationary. I'd love stationary.

    39. Missing avatar

      Kathleen Hunt on

      I'm with LC and Laura - exploding a replica of yourself would suffice. I'd also accept exploding the letter "I", but it wouldn't be as much fun IMO.

    40. Missing avatar

      Laura Mullen on

      Hmm.. I do believe LC is on to something here... a paper mache replica of yourself would make the completion of the contract even more literal.

    41. Missing avatar

      Annie Boyle on

      Congratulations! And Dinosaur Hamlet thirded!

    42. School of Night on

      I would rather you not explode or burn yourself making a silly pizza and simply add plush Yorick skull bonuses to the lower pledge levels.

    43. Missing avatar

      Joshua Carmody on

      If you made a giant paper-machine letter "I" then you could fulfill your promise that "I will literally explode" using both the transitive and intransitive meanings of "explode" AT THE SAME TIME!!!

    44. Alex H.

      I second dinosaur Hamlet.

    45. Missing avatar

      Alex Daily on

      The paper-mache exploding thing should absolutely be either a dinosaur OR a Hamlet.

    46. Liav Lewitt on

      Something's set to be afire,
      Set by Awesome Ryan North,
      Set to 'splode with sounds most dire,
      Set to be in touch with torch.

      This makes me happy THANK YOU Ryan. WE'RE BEST BUDS NOW.

    47. Missing avatar

      LC on

      You will literally explode... a paper mache creation. Well, okay, I guess that means you can continue to serve the public with dinosaur comics.

      Can it be a paper mache replica of you though?

    48. Missing avatar

      Chris Stave on

      Do keep in mind that New Hampshire, a short distance north of you "literally" has fireworks for sale.

    49. Martin Dickson

      'sticker that reads "I BELONG TO SOMEONE AWESOME" '

      I guess that won't be available as a temporary tattoo? :)