Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Spurred on by the emergence of tablets and increasingly polished enhanced ebooks, the publishing industry is barreling towards a future in which books, blogs, magazines, video games, and websites create hybrid or even tribrid progeny, no longer discernibly one or the other. I think of this impending moment as the publishing singularity….
As the months pass I feel my old school bibliophile’s resistance to ereaders beginning to crumble. The end will come. I have told myself that once all the books on my desk have been read, I will embrace the digital revolution and happily convert. Am I walking the path of the traitor? Perhaps. Are these changes in the industry tempting me to wax philosophical? Definitely.
There is something about the “publishing singularity” that calls out to me as a writer. My newfound acceptance may be the effect of having encountered a number of talented musicians and composers over the past few years. Collaborations have opened my eyes to the potential of enhanced ebooks.
A composer friend at the Berklee College of Music once requested that I write a poem which she would ultimately set to music. The score would be written for a lyrical soprano. Since I am not a poet, I plucked one of my stories from the backburner and distilled it: poetically, lyrically. We struggled with this project for a month, but there was still a disconnect between her work and mine.
In an effort to bridge that gap I revealed page one of the original story, a page that was peppered (okay, saturated) with visual cues. I told her that I wanted to create a beautiful but eccentric city, a place that was both whimsical and lonely. A cultural crossroad. Western vibes and Eastern accents.
It did not occur to me that these cues could also translate musically. She disappeared with my story and, within a week, I heard my city come to life. It was…wonderfully unsettling. I was hearing my own prose speak a language that wasn’t words, and it sounded right. The story may have stood alone before the creation of this score, but the conversation between the text and music was so organic that reading one while listening to the other created a new, immersive experience. Literature, I realized, does not have to exist in silence.
Along those lines, I have also come along video games which hope to achieve what I would call “literary nuance.” In Heavy Rain, designed for PS3, the creators aimed to move beyond the standard menu of emotional responses that video games tend to elicit. “The publishing singularity” appears here as well, where we have a video game taking on the storytelling structure and pacing of a novel or movie.
“Most video games today are based on very primal emotions,” explains David Cage, writer and director of Heavy Rain in the following video interview with IGNentertainment:
Later in the video, Cage goes on to say:
[Video games] are based on adrenaline, stress, competition, frustration, anger. Things that are quite easy to trigger. I’m now interested in seeing how we can trigger what I call social emotions like empathy, like love, fear, hate…sadness for example, happiness… So how can games expand that palette of emotions? So we tried to experiment in Heavy Rain with these emotions, some of them are extreme. How can we make you feel sad? Can we make you cry in front of the experience? Can we make you laugh?
Lately I’ve begun to see that there is an esoteric resonance in content that makes this singularity not only attractive, but natural. The human mind, without physical impediments, experiences the world through a simultaneous concert of the senses. The evolution of multimedia has given us the flexibility to experiment across mediums in our effort to create stories.
It is a good time to be a storyteller. Modern technology is finally catching up to machinery of our imagination.