(Please note, the following recap is for real and NOT A META TRICK. You can take this recap at face value.
Again, this is for real.)
It all begins when a guy called Chad Fabuloso D’Annunzio pitches a soap opera to an excentric media corporation called the BOF. The series gets the go-ahead, but the BOF’s creative director, Johannes Dalgren, meddles with the story and insists on hiring a mysterious performance artist called Frank (no known last name), which has remarkable consequences for the show. We can later deduce that this is because Frank is a being who travels between meta-levels of fiction – for instance, between the frame narrative I just outlined, and the events of the purported soap opera. Later on, Frank ascends to the level of DVD commentary, and performs some unknown action which seems to heighten his influence over events. After this, writer D’Annunzio seems to have vanished.
In the world of the soap opera, many storylines of intrigue and glamour intertwine. The salient points:
Frank uses the events of the story, and the loyalty of his co-conspirators, to perform a number of occult experiments, seemingly in an effort to further dilute and manipulate the fiction he inhabits (although the exact nature of his doings is unknown). He does this in collaboration with Daddy Wilkinson, owner of the glamorous Intensifying Heart Club; and Dr. Adamson, who wields the power of Gastronomy. This has three long-reaching consequences: first, splitting timelines cause Schrödinger’s Playboy, a man named Pjaltur, to exist in a superstate of being written out of the show in different ways, finally ending up dead and used as an “arcane artifact” (this is the in-story term for objects that can manipulate fiction). Second, a portal to another soap opera, Modern Love, is opened. Third, Frank himself sustains terrible injuries and dies, but his soul lives on, able to possess other characters.
One of Frank’s enemies is The Mayor (alias Jorp Sturdgetown), who has been trying to compete with the Club for years. The Mayor consolidates his power when he gains the assistance of venture capitalist/adventuress Paulette Jing, who views herself as the hero of any story. Together, they wield The Mayor’s magical heirlooms, the Deluxe Jewels, and establish the criminal organisation Mystery Mask. (Well, it gets complicated. In an earlier but somehow concurrent part of the story, Mystery Mask was the secret identity of Pjaltur the dandy. But after one of Frank’s experiments, reality changed somehow and after this point, Mystery Mask is the organisation in question and is treated as if it always existed. Don’t worry too much about it.) They also have a vested interest in the mystic parts of life, and actually beat Frank’s faction in crossing the boundaries between fictions and entering the story of the other soap opera, Modern Love. What The Mayor fails to realise, however, is that Paulette is a deep cover agent of Frank’s, and has been working against her employer/lover all along. Eventually, Paulette and her friend Marcia subdue The Mayor and he is written out of the story.
Another enemy is Pastor Jing, Paulette’s uncle. This shady guy worked for Frank for a long time, acting as Frank’s spy at The Committee – the town’s peculiar and secretive government – until he suddenly turned against Frank, took over The Committee completely and openly, and revealed himself as a nefarious Scientologist! He does this with utmost showmanship, in front of many invited supernatural guests. The reason for Jing’s sudden candor is as follows. When Frank became ill, he started sending his consciousness into the metaphysical world, through the power of dreams. He did this to gain the assistance of the Mental Travelling Monastery, an ancient and cosmically neutral organisation that travels through people’s mental worlds and produce techno music. In gaining their allegiance, Frank also happened to ally himself with the Inspecting Eagles from God, a group serving the Christian religion of Big Lord God. They helped negotiate a deal where Frank would be able to hitch a ride with the Monastery into other characters’ minds and take them over temporarily. As this brought the close attention of the Godly office Jing pretended to serve, his hand was forced and he cut his ties with Big Lord God, with wide-ranging consequences for the town. Frank also cut his ties: with his mortality. Letting his body die, he now only exists through the guise of other characters.
The aged matriarch of the hair salon, Madame Morganna, is also working against Frank while not exactly being an enemy. She is respected in all camps and is able to come and go as she pleases, negotiating with the different factions and trying to maintain some kind of normalcy. She seems to have known Frank for a long time, and hints that she is aware of his ultimate goal. Morganna’s own intentions are also unknown.
In the soap opera Modern Love, there are also a bunch of crazy characters, but we don’t necessarily find out all that much about them, nor do we need to know. There are two organisations of note: the Crystal Palace, which seems to be the centre of the action and where marine biology is the topic on everyone’s minds; and the Shadow Order of Science Monks, a secret society of otherworldly deep sea lifeforms who are dedicated to extremely intense and powerful practice of the art of Gastronomy. Everyone wants to take advantage of these odd beings and their capabilities, and The Mayor actually manages to get a number of them to take employment as chefs at his restaurant. (Yeah, magic and food are used pretty interchangably throughout the story. I really don’t know why.) But when the current leader of the Crystal Palace, Professor Spectre, becomes too power hungry and tries to micromanage the Science Monks, Frank takes advantage of the situation, sweeping in with his allies to help the good people of the Modern Love story to save the day and defeat Spectre. Thus, Frank becomes a famous celebrity in that world, the portal becomes common knowledge, and Frank’s team seems to have temporarily come out on top.
Several rather more soap operaish things have also been happening. Daddy’s employees, Angél Gabriél and Salina “The Rooster” Raskova, get married “in wedding bliss” and breed themselves up a baybee (the in-story term for “human baby”). Currently, said baybee has been kidnapped by Nicky “the evil woman” Wilkinson, Daddy’s estranged wife. She is mad at him because of mysterious events in the past and hints that she knows a deadly secret about him and his daughter Marcia (who is a cyborg now, by the way). Also, the actress playing Salina was changed at one point, and her personality changed to compensate. The original Salina was the typical sports journalist – in other words, pretty much intellectually empty. The new version seems somewhat more competent, but still managed to screw up immediately and their family ended up in the doghouse as far as Daddy is concerned.
Oh, I nearly forgot. A mysterious, possibly metaphysical fellow named Duke arrived in a strange vehicle. He seems to be… doing something with regard to Frank. This has resulted in some surreal stuff. But it’s probably not possible to understand.
There you go, that’s roughly the state of things as Act 2 begins. Frank and the Modern Love crew are in cahoots, in addition to his alliances with the Club and the Eagles. It certainly seems like Frank is on top of the pile. But Pastor Jing still officially rules the town from his Scientological Committee. And how is Madame Morganna going to react now that she knows that Paulette, who she was collaborating with against The Mayor, is really working for Frank? It’s gonna be fun to find out more in Act 2: Invasive Hearts!