Friday, August 20, 2010

3D SF sets, props, and the shape of fiction publishing to come

This is the Station 15 set I mentioned the other day -- obviously with Michael 4 posed in it. In fact, it's not until you pose a figure in the set that you can get a sense of depth and perspective. You don't realize how big these sets are till you stand someone in them!

The set itself is another of the huge and complex models we'll be using as the backdrops for science fiction tales ... we're heading towards graphic novels, and also a kind of "hybrid" literary animal. I have an idea in mind, which I think might just work. There's no way to tell, really, till you put something together and bounce it off readers/viewers. The time to do that is almost upon us. the iPod raised a ruckus in the content-provision world. Suddenly, black and white text-only ebooks are looking dry and dull. Publishers are trying to figure out ways to insert videos, sound, images, animations into books.

Now, part of you wants to say, "Why would you want to?" Because (fact!) if you shove enough other media into a book, it sure as heck won't be a book anymore.

This is perfectly true -- in fact, this is the whole point. The truth is, less and less people are reading, and they're doing it less and less of the time. People are starting to want instant gratification ... which they can get from movies far easier than they can from books! You watch a movie, the whole thing is over and done in 2 - 3 hours --

In fact (and this smarts) I've heard lately that a swathe of the audience doesn't have the attention span to sit through a movie. As a writer, artist, editor, you have to figure out how to tell your story in 30-40 minutes, max, otherwise it's too long, folks drift away.

(This is the same kind of mentality that loves 3-minute songs to death, but can't sand classical music, and when you ask them why they don't like classics, one of the things they say is, "It goes on too long." I put this to you: what's the diff between a symphony in four movements, each distinctly different, total running 30 minutes, and an album of 10 songs all sounding exactly the same ... "thump, thump, thump" in the base for a half hour, people shouting lyrics of which you can't actually make out more than the occasional word, which is usually an expletive anyway, plus a great many overdriven guitars rendering up a backing sound out of which it's practically impossible to pick a melodic line ...? To someone who doesn't like this kind of music, it seems that the same sound is being heard for half an hour.)

Take all that and switch the medium from music to literature. You get a whole lotta people saying, "I don't read because books go on too long." And fewer people (but it's still a worrying number) saying, "I don't watch movies cuz they go on too long."

ADD. Right. Message received and understood. So the publishers' next challenge is to figure out how to deliver stories in a medium that will hold the interest of modern consumers, who can't make it through the length of a novel (or a symphony, or, increasingly, a movie).

And you know what solution pops out of the bottom of this equation. Graphic novels. Comic books -- digital ones, these days. I have the strongest intuition that to survive as a storyteller in the future, a writer is going to have to work in tandem with -- not so much an editor, as with artists. In one way it's exciting. In another way it's bit frightening. But some of us are out there trying to put together the skill suites to succeed in the changing marketplace, and with any luck at all, we'll make it work. Like this:

See you tomorrow for some full-on fantasy. Michael 4 is about to get into a lot of trouble...

Jade, 20 August

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