Well, this is Scary

Okay, so does anyone else feel like throwing up (in a good way maybe?) when they think about this project? I really hope I’m not alone on this one, because this project is scary.

Anyway, here are the 3 ideas I copied from the email I sent Ray last Thursday night:

1)   Exploration of New and Social Media as a “playground” for fiction writers (I’m particularly interested in supernatural horror fiction and “strange tales.” Research could lead to a number of projects, but I’m thinking of a fiction piece that would be designed similar to a viral marketing campaign or something similar that makes use of a variety of media and modes of transmission.

2)   Riffing off the theme of supernatural/horror/speculative fiction, criticism has been made about the lack of a monster that resonates with contemporary audiences: we keep appropriating monsters from the historical past (ghosts, demons, vampires, zombies, etc.) rather than creating ones of our own, that belong to our present. So, what would it take to for a monster to have the same cultural impact as the aforementioned enjoyed? What would this creature (is it even a creature?) look like? Why would it engender fear on a widespread, cultural level? What societal anxiety would it speak to, and to paraphrase Jeffrey Cohen’s 7th thesis on monsters and culture, what would it say about us? These questions could drive research that would culminate in an academic paper or maybe even a piece of fiction

3)   Working again from the idea of new modes of fiction production, it may be really rewarding and interesting to try to conceptualize, design, and potentially even implement a sort of magazine or ezine (or maybe even a hybrid) for writers experiment with new methods of narration and storytelling to submit and publish their works. Maybe a generalist approach would work for this, or maybe I could even narrow it to a particular genre or type of experimental writing (likely horror or spec fic related).

Now, I’ll come right out and say that I crapped out that third idea because we had to have a third idea. Fortunately, in the shower on Friday before class, I remember I really enjoy gaming in all of its forms (board/card/video/mobile/flash/whatever) and that got me thinking that maybe I could do something with games related to idea 1, and I think I mentioned this in class already. So this is where I’m currently at with my conception of the project, and it’s admittedly vague.

To simply what’s going on in idea 1, I’m interested in the ways we can use things like New Media or non-traditional media (like board and card games) to tell stories in ways that haven’t really been explored that much, in ways that force a reader to change how he or she reads and experiences a work of fiction, that is specific to the medium or various media an artist/writer/developer/designer constructs for him/her. While people have written flash fiction with the help of Twitter, for example, the endeavors I’ve happened across have felt forced or gimmicky, and I think this is because these writers are trying to adapt social media to the ways the already know how to write. This makes perfect sense and I don’t begrudge them for doing things they way they tried. But I’m interested in how these new and rarely explored avenues can shape the way we write and more importantly, tell and experience stories. I want to create something like Ted’s Caving Journal (which will terrify and anger you should you choose to read), or  Journey, or Marble Hornets does.

This is where project 4 (also known as shower project) works its way into the post:  I would like to look at some successful (and not so successful) attempts to create these news ways of telling stories, and perhaps design a story of my own. I foresee a number of challenges that come along with this project, including but not limited to technology and personal learning curve limitations, available time to commit to the project, the issue of creating a convincing story and then presenting it in a convincing medium, avoiding gimmicks and other negative buzzwords that rear their heads in scathing reviews of bad movies/music/tv/anything/everything, etc. It may even be possible for me to work bits and pieces of idea 2 into this project; a monster story where the medium is the monster could be an interesting (the more I write the more pretentious this gets) way to approach the “story” of the project. Who knows? Gotta start somewhere. At the end of the day though, I’m interested in the intersection of narration, reader experience, story, and new and non-traditional media.

For me personally, being able to design, write, implement, and publish a horror story through something like a cooperative/collaborative flash or mobile phone game that makes use of a variety of media to not just help the story move along, but to create the entire experience, would be a really cool way to end this minor and my time at Michigan; it would combine some of the most important experiences and thoughts I’ve had in these last four years into what I could honestly say would be a capstone. In retrospect,  every step I’ve taken in my long, winding, and oft frustrating journey through my undergraduate education has pointed me toward this project.  But that doesn’t make the idea any less terrifying. I’m happy with the seeds of ideas I have here, but anything anyone can add to help them grow would be greatly appreciated.

3 thoughts to “Well, this is Scary”

  1. Your post led me to look up Marble Hornets. I had never heard of such a method of implementing a story/game (or is it not a game? As someone averse to horror, I don’t really want to click on the video links. I even put the first video on mute because something at the back of my mind was bracing myself for a shock image/sound). The methods of relaying fiction that you mentioned are really interesting. They go above and beyond simply writing and leaving words to translate into images in readers’ minds to actually immersing readers/viewers in a real setting that stimulates imagination and heightens participation.

    I love your second idea about analyzing what would make a good monster for our present time. There is a lot you can draw upon to create a monster that embodies our current fears. And I can imagine you using this monster in a piece of fiction that is told through a medium like one of those you mentioned. Then your project can have two main components – the more analytic “behind the scenes, in the making” type of thing to lay out your writing and production processes and the work of fiction itself. In short, love your shower idea!

    1. Wow. This writer is really awesome. Patchwork Girl sounds incredible (though I don’t really have access to the full version of the piece) and is right in the vicinity of what I would like to be doing. I wasn’t even aware of her existence, but her interest in non-traditional story telling is really compelling. Thanks so much for the suggestion!

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