Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Media

Lately there has been much buzz about new media as the coming platform for publishing -- ebooks, cell-phone serials, integrated computer stories. Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear have launched THE MONGOLIAD, a serialized "social book" that is a novel but also allows readers to add music, video, and other content. The line between stories and games becomes ever blurrier as top-notch SF writers are hired to craft the stories underlying video games and to write the dialogue for the characters. However, I don't think any of these ventures have gone as far into innovative media as Michael Swanwick, who has published a lovely story written on dead autumn leaves.

You can view the Halloween story on Flickr ( ) Each of the hundred-plus photos features one or more fallen leaves, each with a word written on them. The colors and background of the leaves often reflect the content of the sentence. The result is amazing, weird, and deeply elegiac.

I emailed Michael to ask how such a project occurred to him. The impetus was his wife, Marianne, who remarked that October always made her want to write "death" on fallen leaves. From such small seeds grow entire stories.

October Leaves is also available in print form, with full-color photos of the leaves, at the Flickr URL. But do check out the on-line version. And try to ponder where publishing could possibly go next.


Bryan H. Bell said...

I'm impressed. Not only is the medium unique and appropriate, but the language is beautiful. It took some adjusting of the Flickr presentation to get the story to flow at a decent rate. At first I just clicked to advance to each picture, which made the story too hard to read. Then I set it up as a slideshow using the fastest playback setting:

This worked much better.

Some subtle autumnal background music would enhance the effect, don't you think?

Nancy Kress said...

I think music would be great. Perhaps Michael will see this!

Sean Craven said...

Nancy, thank you so much for this. I've been struggling with ideas regarding combining prose and graphic art, and this showed me a whole new avenue of exploration.

It was a really lovely piece, and the strange additional depth generated by the photos was kind of amazing. Sort of Bradbury grows up.