Heaven Will Be Mine is a science fiction visual novel released in 2018, created by Aevee Bee, Mia Schwartz, and Alec Lambert of the games development companies Pillow Fight Games and Worst Girl Games. Visual novels have a greater cultural presence in Japan, having only recently begun to gain a popular following in North America, given the increasingly globalized nature of cultural media and the availability of software like Twine and Ren’py. Heaven Will Be Mine is one of the recent North American examples of the medium.
The narrative of Heaven Will Be Mine takes place in an alternate reality in the year 1981. Humanity had ended the Cold War in order to unite against an Existential Threat, taking to space in large armoured vessels known as Ship Selves in order to navigate the void and mobilize against the Threat. Years later the Existential Threat has been revealed to never have been a threat at all, merely a weak interdimensional interaction governed by, reflecting, humanity’s own actions. Humanity now sits at a crossroads, torn in three directions, represented by three political Factions.
The Memorial Foundation, following the emptiness of the threat, wishes for humanity to return to Earth and reclaim its heritage and strength in the safe haven that nurtured it throughout the long years of history. Cradle’s Graces declares independence, stating their wish to build a new home on Mars, while still preserving their humanity, finding the harmony and respect in drawing upon their past while progressing into their future. Celestial Mechanics, composed of distant research colonies, wishes to embrace all the new forms of anatomy and culture that humanity is taking within space, leaving behind old and stagnant ways.
The (w)reader enters the narrative at this point, viewing the perspective of one of three pilots, one for each faction, over the course of eight days during which the future direction of humanity in space will be determined. Each pilot is the result of a defunded training program that took children at an early age and trained them to operate Ship Selves in order to fight the Existential Threat. Now that the Threat is no longer a concern, many have been left at loose ends, adrift and searching for meaning, much like humanity as a whole.
Luna-Terra of the Memorial Foundation is a veteran of the period when the Threat was taken seriously. She operates a sturdy, yet antique model of Ship Self, the Original Archetype Mare Crisium. Pluto is the darling of Cradle’s Graces, a powerful psychic operating a new form of Ship Self that manipulates supermassive gravitational effects, the Creation Star Type Krun Macula. Saturn is a rebellious wild card, commandeering the experimental new Ship Self that was created within the same research program as Pluto’s, but utilizing a new kind of exotic matter that is able to infiltrate and exploit enemy craft. Her Ship Self is named the Interloper Prototype String of Pearls.
A significant mechanic of the novel’s structure is the tripartite framework which governs the interactions between each pilot, each faction, and also between each pilot and their own faction itself. Each pilot has their own Graphical User Interface and faction liaison, as well as goals that may or may not align with the ultimate aims of each faction.
The player determines the outcomes of conflicts, balancing their duty to advance the goals of their own faction with their desire to connect and form platonic, romantic, or sexual relationships with the other pilots. This will trigger different endings and encounters depending on which pilot “wins” in the immediate choice and which faction “wins” the most encounters overall. Multiple playthroughs are necessary to grasp the full scope of the novel, in both the thematic and narrative sense.
A visual novel typically relies on a branching structure, wherein the narrative is largely portrayed through conversations with various characters and diegetic texts contained within the publication, with images appearing above a text box that takes up the lower third of the screen. Characters generally appear in a three-quarter view portrait with a limited number of facial expressions that will be displayed throughout the dialogue. These headshots will generally appear in front of a static background. Heaven Will Be Mine generally hews closely to these stylistic conventions, with some variation. At times, a third-person omniscient narration will occupy the centre of the screen. The music, composed by Lambert, is an instrumental synthesizer score, at different times shimmering, droning, or rhythmic. For her part, the visual artist, Mia Schwartz, draws on a diverse set of influences. Often the backgrounds and “action sequences” tend towards abstraction. The characters themselves are portrayed in a manner that displays influences from mid-80s Japanese animation similar to the “fusion comics” movement (so termed by Frank Santoro) of the late 2000s and early 2010s. Narratively, it also shares cultural DNA with these comics, in that the creators work with common genre signifiers of their specific childhood and young adulthood during the 1980s & 1990s (in this case, fighting robots in space) to address and work through their concerns and apprehensions about contemporary adulthood. This is also an extrapolation of the creators’ earlier visual novel, We Know the Devil, which uses the trappings of summer camp and supernatural horror to address adolescent anxieties.
Aevee Bee, the writer, uses this narrative to engage with themes of embodiment and transhumanism reminiscent of a literal, eroticized, and hyper-dramatized adaptation of Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory, particularly in the Celestial Mechanics’ goals, narrative, and ending. Throughout, the concept of creating and maintaining relationships through conflict and compromise is foregrounded, moving between text and subtext, and revolving around a central preoccupation with the idea of newly discovered agency and and accompanying paralysis of choice that presents itself after the social structures of youth and history have fallen away. These themes are conveyed within an overarching queer context, while being set against the backdrop of interplanetary war.
Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181.
Santoro, Frank. “Fusion Notes.” Comics Comics Mag. July 31, 2010. Accessed: https://web.archive.org/web/20101214113737/https://comicscomicsmag.com/2...
This entry was composed as a part of Professor Astrid Ensslin's course, DH 510 Digital Fiction, at the University of Alberta in February 2020.