I’ve been a long time fan of novels that go the extra step and bring the reader right into them. They could be called Augmented Reality Books, but Transmedia actually sounds cooler. They are a type of book that really reach out to its readers, in more and interesting ways than ever before.
A few years back, I had the immense pleasure of enjoying the Cathy’s Book trilogy by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. This was before most people could afford an iProduct of any kind. The first books set up (carried on through out the series) was to solve the mystery, read the book and call the numbers.
It was a heck of a lot of fun. The only problem I had was that there was really nothing to solve, it was a complete story in that it didn’t involve a lot of mystery. Thus the extra evidence that came with the book (photos, an old coin, a napkin marked with lipstick, family trees, drawings) didn’t really have much to do with the mystery of the story itself.
Neither did the phone numbers. It was cool trying to figure out which phones to call, which voice mails to listen to, which places to leave a message to get one in return. This is where the book really came alive and it didn’t charge me any long distance either. Again, however, there was that disconnect. The phone numbers you could call didn’t have any connection to the book.
I was a little unnerved that there was no relation to the story and the Transmedia element to the story. It ended up feeling like a package for the story. I still love that trilogy of books, don’t get me wrong. They got almost everything right. It was a great story with some really cool twists and the first time that a novel had tried to become something more.
Patrick Carman stepped things up with his award winning Skeleton Creek series. The series of four books works on a simple premise: One half of the story is told through Ryan’s journal the other half through Sarah’s videos. There’s a web site where people can enter passwords to view the videos. In order for the rest of Ryan’s journal to make sense, you have to watch the videos. This can be limiting if you’re reading the books away from home, but they are quick, fantastic reads and shouldn’t take you longer than a day or so to devour.
With Skeleton Creek, Transmedia Novels took a step forward. Patrick Carman created a multi-platform adventure that worked: the books and videos worked in synchronicity with each other and brought novels to a new level. Carman would later bring Transmedia Novels to the next level with Dark Eden, a book app that is part video, part novel and part audio book. The amazing thing about Dark Eden, aside from its multi-media aspects, is that the story isn’t lost. The books work great on their own as books but come to life as an interactive app.
When The 39 Clues came out, I was intrigued…until I realized that you had to collect carda long with the series and have a chance at winning prizes. I passed on reading the books solely for this reason. It all felt like a gimmick to me, getting kids and parents to spend money on card packs when the books and their online elements should have been enough. Sure, the online elements looked cool and it was perhaps marketed more to boys than girls (the whole card trading thing) but it certainly didn’t excite me.
The Infinity Ring series. Book One: A Mutiny In Time by James Dashner came out recently and I had to admit that I was curious. It’s published by Scholastic, the same people that put out The 39 Clues series. I checked out the transmedia elements before picking up a copy of the eBook.
The Infinity Ring: The King of Diamonds is free to play, either online or in app format. There is a web site where you can go to register and enter codes that come with your books. That’s it. The game is free online and it’s a free app. All you have to do is buy the book. Getting the book gives you codes you can enter online. I’m not sure what the code gives you, to be honest, except access to play each episode of the game that will come out with each book in the Infinity Ring Series.
Online components don’t work too well for me as I don’t play a lot of games online, but they are catering to everyone and not everyone has an iPhone or iPad or iPod. The web site is stylish and the app is fantastic fun that works well as a companion to the book (as in, the whole thing makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve read the book). My only complaint was that I didn’t like the voice acting in the game, but that’s easily turned off. It’s good to note that the app does need wifi to play it, even as guest, so The Infinity Ring: The King of Diamonds won’t work well on your iPod with wifi while you’re away from home for the day.
Added to this is the fact that the game is really well linked to the book. You can play it without reading the novel, but you’ll be missing out on the story that really helps the characters to come alive when you play the game. The book even comes with a Hystorian’s Guide in two formats: If you get the physical book, the cover come off and the reverse is the guide. If you get the eBook, the Hystorian’s Guide is included or you can download the PDF from the www.infinityring.com web site. The app is a quest game with little mini puzzle games as you go along and the whole production of it is just gorgeous. The joystick controls to move your character are a little wonky, but the app is just amazing, so you can overlook that. It even gives you the ability to take 3D pictures of Paris as you roam through its streets which become part of your online profile.
Of course, all this would be moot if the book was subpar. Thankfully, it’s an incredibly well written and historically accurate time travel adventure that will have you hooked from the first page. Set in a future not unlike our own, Dak and Sera must use the Infinity Ring to fight the SQ, a corporation responsible for some of the most dangerous natural disasters the planet has seen. In order to do so, they become part of a secret organization known as The Hystorians, first begun by Aristotle. Sera and Dak will have to travel back in time to fix the past in order to save the future.
I started the book last night and I’m almost half way through. Here’s the thing that I was really impressed with though: the transmedia elements to the novel (web site, Hystorian’s Guide and app) really made me want to read the book. And having read most of the book already, I’ll get more out of playing the King of Diamonds app. I was really impressed with how well they have seamlessly woven the relationship between the book and its multi-media elements. Both can be played or read independently of each other, but both come alive when used together. Best of all, there are no card packs to buy, nothing to collect, nothing extra to pay for.
The Infinity Ring Book One: A Mutiny in Time is a flat out thrill ride transmedia experience. And I’m not ashamed to say that I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for The Infinity Ring Book Two: Divide and Conquer by Carrie Ryan which comes out in November.
The Infinity Ring Book One: A Mutiny in Time is the next step in Transmedia Novels. I can’t wait to see where the series, and transmedia, are going to go. I, for one, am along for the ride.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains is in want of more brains[i]. There is no truer statement to describe the world of pop culture today. Zombies have invaded our world like candy-they are the new It Monster. There are literary classics that have been transformed by them and an entirely new literary genre now exists because of them.
The question we as a society must ask ourselves is: why? Why are we fascinated by what are essentially walking cannibals? Some would argue that we are fascinated by death, or that in death we crave a hive mentality. However, part of what makes zombies trendy in today’s popular culture is their literary appeal.
Zombies have existed in our culture since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which was published in 1818. They gained a cult following with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, but they have existed within the pages of books for much longer-for what was Frankenstein but a walking corpse?
The literary world got a jolt in 2009 when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith was released by Quirk Books. It created a literary sensation when the publishers released the first ever zombie mash up novel: for the first time, a classic and zombies would exist together. Not only is this a brilliant marketing ploy that capitalized on three different markets (cult, geek and the curious), it was a huge gamble-one that paid off big time[ii].
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not only went on to become a New York Times best seller, it also spawned and entire genre of books. Quirk Books launched the successful Quirk Classics line which has grown into an empire and a whole new literary genre: the monster mash up. The zombies still reign supreme, however and Quirk later released an heirloom edition, a prequel (Dawn of the Dredfuls, 2010) and sequel (Dredfully Ever After, 2011) to the novel as well as a graphic novel by Del Ray Books. The books have inspired a whole host of copy cats including Queen Victoria Demon Hunter by A. E. Moorat (Hodder, 2009), Abraham Lincon – Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (Grand Central Publishing, 2012), and even The Undead World of Oz (Coscom, 2009), some arguably better than others.
Suddenly, people that had never read a classic novel in their lives were picking up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, engaging themselves in the world of Jane Austin. Though Pride and Prejudice and Zombies continues to be popular, there is large public outcry from literary purists. Those that love Jane Austen’s work are horrified at the very thought of tampering with such a classic novel.
However, instead of doing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a disservice, the zombie plague seeks to make a classic novel more interesting and engaging by highlighting the bizarre social protocols of London in the 1800’s. For example, in one memorable scene during chapter eleven: “…Mr. Darcy cut the two zombies with savage yet dignified movements. He then made quick work of beheading the slaughtered staff, upon which Mr. Bingley politely vomited into his hands.”[iii] There are scenes in this vein all through out the novel. The zombies don’t take away from the classic of Pride and Prejudice; instead, they highlight a society that was worried about social status and proper behaviour. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies also created a literary genre that, instead of dwindling like most literary gimmicks, continues to gain in popularity.
Zombies themselves have also experienced a boom because of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The monster mash up continues to grow and change; there are even zombie poetry anthologies[iv]. The Centre for Disease Control has also gotten on the zombie bandwagon and published a graphic novel aimed at adolescents in order to prepare them for the zombie apocalypse[v].
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies not only launched a new literary genre, it helped to pull zombies from horror movies right into our pop culture mindset and brought zombies to the masses.
One thing is clear, however: Zombies have changed the literary landscape forever.
[i] Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Quirk Books, 2009
[ii] “Zombies” — billed as 85% Austen’s original text and 15% brand-new blood and guts — has become a bestseller since it was published earlier this year, with 750,000 copies in print. There’s a movie in the works. And it has spawned a monster — or, more accurately, a slew of literary monster mash-ups.”
This was published in the Los Angeles Times in August of 2009, just four months after the novel’s initial publication.* See: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/aug/17/entertainment/et-austen17
[iii] Chapter 11 (PAGE), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, Quirk Books, 2009
[iv] Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry, Write Bloody Publishing, 2011
Just to celebrate, I thought I would post my short piece, titled Death’s Shadow. It’s available now in the collection 100 RPM: One Hundred Stories inspired by Music. It’s a fantastic collection. Tales so short you can eat them like candy for bed, but they will stay with you well into the daylight hours.
There is even some music for you to listen to at the end, the song that inspired the piece. Each story in 100 RPM is told in words, but came from an idea inspired by a song. Tres cool non? Even better, each story is told in 100 words, tiny bite sized short stories, even episodes, you can read anytime, anywhere.
And when the music is going, dance a little. 🙂
Get your copy here:
Upon waking, she spoke: “Is there a word for what I am?” She glanced at him, her eyes red with unshed blood.
He took in the paleness of her complexion, the blue veins like a roadmap under white skin. “Yes, there are many.” He took her hand in his. “But that matters not what they call us.”
“What have you done to me?” She asked.
“My heart died when you passed on.” He told her. “I have found a way for our hearts to live beyond death.”
“We are not beyond death.” She told him. “We are now deaths shadow.”
Inspired by My Body’s a Zombie for You by the band Dead Man’s Bones
Welcome to the new blog! Why a new blog you ask? Well, I LOVE Tumblr, but I really wanted something with a bit more panache and a bit more functionality. This blog will allow readers to comment, an easier interface and it just looks darn cool.
Don’t worry though. I’m keeping my Tumblr blog as it is so you can always go back and check it whenever you’d like. But this new blog will allow me to interact with readers more and a bit more flexibility in how I post.
So click away and enjoy! And welcome to the new blog!