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Ruminating About The Future

June 2, 2011

Comics geeks like Interactive Storytelling, too.

I used to hang out constantly at the forums. In fact, the Lee in Limbo moniker was created back in 1998 when i first joined the 2nd iteration of the CBR forums, long since erased from the annals of history.

I don’t visit CBR as often as I used to, because I don’t really read comics as much as I used to, but I still find my way back there every once in a while. See, I still follow certain writers and artists, though I tend to steer away from superhero books. I used to be an avid fan, and created a fairly sophisticated (though pretty derivative) comics pantheon of my own. Nothing came of it, but I still get curious wondering what my life might be like if I’d gone down that road.

I gave up on my ambition to write superheroes a long time ago, but comics as an artform is still important to me. And yet, comics isn’t exactly the medium I’ve been looking for either. Comic fiction is still a passively-experienced, set-in-stone writing medium, boxed in by the requirements of the delivery system they were born in: the periodical magazine format. Web comics have changed that to soem extent, but most successful webcomic creators still structure their comics so they can be reprinted in paper form, which again goes back to the limitations of a printed page medium.

There have been plenty of webcomics that have bucked this trend, but a lot of the smartest experiments are unprintable, and thus aren’t making a lot of money. The micropayment system that Scott McCloud predicted in his second book, Reinventing Comics, sadly took so many years to come to fruition that msot people in the comics field still don’t think of it as as a viable means of commercializing webcomics.

Doesn’t matter. This is what I’ve been trying to figure out how to do for decades, and everything seems to be pointing to the idea that this is where I should be heading. Interactive Storytelling in Sequential Art form.

This isn’t something that just occurred to me today, either. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. A game project I was developing with my friend Deirdra a few years ago, called Stage! (which I will be talking more about here in days to come), was going to be just that: an interactive comicbook. It was actually her idea to turn the game into a comic, based on our discussions about Scott McCloud’s theories. That project got put on indefinite hiatus because I couldn’t find the time to draw the pages we needed, but we actually did write it all out and I thumbnailed it down to the last page. Deirdra is now trying out a new idea for her next game, based in part on some of the ideas we came up with for Stage!.

I’ve even decided what story I’m going to attempt to take in this direction, and it’s another dormant project Deirdra and I were trying to develop a few years ago, called Metropolis Fallen, or MetFall for short.

There DOES seem to be one small hitch in my plan. It seems that not one but two writers have latched onto this title. One of them is using it as the title of his recently-published first novel, a sci-fi eBook series. The other is a recent piece of nanofiction, kind of like Dream Job, the opening bit of nanofiction I wrote for Warren Ellis’ lost FlashMob event, Strange Machine, which I used to introduce my MetFall world almost a decade ago.

The fact that two authors have both published very recent pieces of science fiction under this title tells me a few things. One, that I’ve waited too long without exercising my right to the title. Two, that it’s time to get this story out. And three, synchronicity seems to be at play. Damn you, IdeaSpace!

It’s also vaguely possible that I’ve been transmitting this title around the internet too much, and that both of these authors may have inadvertently borrowed it from me without really realizing it, but it seems kind of unlikely, and I have no real proof anyway, so I’ll just set that theory aside for another day, when I need reasons to rant incoherently at the injustice of the world as I mess in my pants and foam at the mouth.

I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do about this. The easiest thing to do is change the name. I’m not afraid to do that. I’ve created and changed project names many times in my life. Names aren’t hard for me. Quite the opposite, in fact. Ask anyone who knows my work. Titles litter the landscape of my work like ancient ruins in Europe.

The problem for me is, Metropolis Fallen is a story I’ve been planning for almost twenty years. I came up with the title in the early 90s (while working on the Blend-a-Med line in Hamilton’s Proctor & Gamble location, which has long since ceased to exist), a little while after I dreamed up the basic story components, which involved making a 3D B&W interactive movie featuring the Marx Brothers and the stars of Metropolis, in a lovingly anarchic remake of the original, only with lots of my own weird ideas thrown in. Things like the Great Pyramid Company and the Puppetwerks, two ideas I’m still itching to use.

Point is, I’m really attached to it. It’s a barely-concealed homage to Fritz Lang and Thea Von Harbou’s Metropolis, the classic 1920s B&W sci-fi film. I can easily remove all of the references to both the movie and to the Marx Bros at this point, but honestly, that was half the appeal of the story to begin with. I don’t even actually have to remove them; just change the name.

But it’ll take a pretty amazing new name to make me feel better about it all, that’s for sure.

Anyway, the original point of this post was to once again point out that something is definitely in the air. A few years ago, only industry professionals talked about Interactive Storytelling. Now seemingly everyone is, even if they don’t know it. Something’s gonna happen, and soon.

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