Storytelling at a Comic-Con

We tried a comic-con experiment this last weekend.

I say we, because while it started out as my crazy idea, I managed to convince several people to join in, most notably my writing partner and co-author, Annalisa Parent. Here’s the idea: let’s a write a custom story for a specific comic-con, the North East Comic Con in Wilmington, MA. More than that, let’s play it out as a live, interactive story at the con, costumes and all, and see how people react.

The story was about super heroes as told from the perspective of a sidekick, well, a woman that works for an agency that outsources sidekick services to super heroes. The agency is called No.2 Inc. Kate Taylor, the “protagonist assistant,” was sent to retrieve a laptop containing sensitive data that was then stolen and later reappeared at the con. When she arrived to reclaim it, she discovered the situation was far more complex than she assumed and she needed more information to get her laptop back without getting caught.

In order to get that info, she enslists the help of conference attendees with smartphones via Twitter. Here’s the interactive part of the story. Attendees are encouraged to take pictures, meet with vendors, and pass all the information back to Kate before the con ends.

We also had an antagonist, the mysterious Carle Group, voiced (Tweeted) expertly by Jon van Luling, interferring, harassing, and generally trolling Kate while she attempted to pull off her reverse heist.

Then, for those who wanted to know more about the story and Kate, we wrote an ebook version of the mission with all the behind the scenes details. By the way, you can find where to get the ebook and pictures from the con at http://apologue.co/no2inc

So was it successful? Depends on what you mean by success.

People loved the idea. From vendors, to actors, to attendees, I was told over and over this was the coolest idea to hit a con in a long time. But there were a number of problems that prevented us from making a truly cool experience.

The first, and biggest, was that the network was absolutely awful at the con. Moreover, the promised public WiFi didn’t exist, which made it difficult to run this thing, let alone participate.

The second problem was that not everyone was using, or even liked using, Twitter. But then, no one could agree on their favorite social media platform either. That was a definite facepalm moment for me. You know that moment when an assumption catches up to you and boots you in the butt? This was mine. We rallied quickly and added Instagram and Facebook to the mix but by then half the con had gone by.

The third problem was what really got me. This is one of those problems that I didn’t really anticipate because it never occurred to me until I was standing on the con floor. Turnover. For those who enjoy the chaotic math surrounding crowd dynamics, this was fascinating. I don’t like that math. I just found it frustrating.

Turnover: meaning, how soon before someone gets their fill of the con and leaves. The answer is not simple. For example, if a con is small, you don’t spend as much time there. Also, if a con doesn’t have a lot happening other than vendor tables, you don’t spend much time there. If a con is small but there’s a ton of people there, you spend more time there because there’s more to see: namely cosplayers and friends. If a con is small and there’s too many people there, you get overwhelmed and get something to eat while things die down a bit.

The bigger a con gets, the messier the mechanics. Who are the celebrities attending? How many panel discussions are happening? Are there any sneak previews of upcoming projects? Here’s the thing I find funny about this. Messier is generally better. At the popular cons, when the numbers get larger, the turnover stabilizes. People may be leaving at the same rate, for any number of specific reasons, but you have enough other people replacing them, that the population doesn’t spike as often.

Complicated, right? How this affected me was that if people stayed longer, I had more people involved in the story. If the crowd was thin, less people. If you had a day like I did on Sunday, where there little attendance except for two decent spikes, it’s hell to keep story momentum moving. In the beginning, people leave faster. In the middle, people want the whole story to play out immediately, until it gets too crowded, and then they leave.

What I can say is that I know a lot whole lot more about how to write an interactive story for a con than I did before attending this con. Will Kate have more missions? Absolutely. She one of the more interesting characters I’ve written. I’m not giving up on her yet. And the whole interactive part? We’ll work it out. Because, as I said, people really really liked it.

I hope you like it too. As I mentioned you can find more about this story at http://apologue.co (the “imprint” I created for this project). Go there and start clicking on things.

Daniel Mills Interview

Lovecraftzine has recently published an essay from Daniel Mills, and they just named him the Weird Fiction Author of the Week. Over on their site, they published a short interview with him:

Please tell us about yourself — as much or as little as you’d like to say.

I am the author of the novel Revenants: A Dream of New England(Chomu Press, 2011) as well as the short fiction collection The Lord Came at Twilight (Dark Renaissance Books, 2014). My fiction is often set in the hills and valleys of rural New England for the simple reason that I have never lived (or, indeed, ever wanted to live) anywhere else. I grew up in the Champlain Valley and attended the University of Vermont in Burlington before moving back to the same Vermont town where I was raised and where I currently live with my wife, daughter, and cat. What else? I’m twenty-nine years old, an unrepentant anglophile and lover of ghost stories, weird tales, and all things Victorian.

 

Read the entire interview here.

New ALIBI JONES Podcast Novel From Mike Luoma

Vermont Science Fiction Writer and Podcaster Mike Luoma has a brand-new science fiction novel launching this week on Glow-in-the-Dark Radio! Alibi Jones and the Hornet’s Nest begins: http://glowinthedarkradio.podomatic.com/entry/2014-11-15T07_10_20-08_00.

Alibi Jones and the Hornet’s Nest – Free science fiction audio adventure in a classic vein, exclusively on Glow-in-the-Dark Radio! Alibi Jones rescued friends from the planet Kismet, accidentally blowing up and destroying the place in the process. Fought a Time War against the Devrizium everyone strangely forgets. Now he’s been sidelined, and the inactivity has him bored. Never good. What’s next for Alibi Jones? Meanwhile, out beyond the border of the Solar Alliance an ancient, giant, derelict ship has materialized. What is it doing in human space? Listen and find out as we begin the adventure!

http://glowinthedarkradio.com

Digital Storytelling Workshop with Nate Herzog

Nate Herzog of #Storyhack fame will be holding a digital storytelling workshop with the Burlington Writer’s Workshop on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 6:30 PM!

If you have a digital story you’d like us to take a look at, great! Let us know in advance. Otherwise, we’ll learn more about digital storytelling and get a sense of some of the platforms we can use.

Take a look at the notes from a few previous meetings. This PDF serves as a primer for digital storytelling.

Learn more about how we operate.

This workshop is made possible by the generous support of the Vermont Community Foundation.

The event will be located at Studio 266 at 266 South Champlain Street, Burlington. Sign up here!

Fiction: Disturbance at 124 Sycamore

Friend of GMS, Bill Simmon has recently released a short story to Medium.com called Disturbance at 124 Sycamore. Here’s a taste:

The house was unremarkable. Like most of the rest of the houses in the neighborhood, it was built in the 1930s by Italian laborers, but was now occupied by Puerto Ricans. Looking at it from the street, there was nothing peculiar about the place, except perhaps for the large number of cars that were parked out front, which was a bit unusual for a weekday. The small garden by the front porch had not been tended to in some time and on this day, it was filling up with the cigarette butts of the nervous and impatient smokers who periodically stepped outside for a breather.

Inside, the house was crowded. Half eaten casseroles and pies adorned every table. Mrs. Delgado was indisposed so some of the neighborhood wives had naturally fallen in as proxy hostesses — refilling wine glasses, picking up dirty dishes, scolding children who misbehaved. The men of the neighborhood chatted quietly with solemn and concerned faces. Some tried to console Mr. Delgado, but inevitably gave up, unable to dislodge his far-away stare and anguished countenance.

Read the rest here.

Middlebury College: Variations on Utopia in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction

Variations on Utopia in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction

Middlebury College has a really interesting event listed for today: Variations on Utopia in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction. The event will take place from  4:30 – 6pm in the Robert A. Jones ’59 Conference Room on the college. Here’s the blurb:

“Variations on Utopia in Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction,” a talk by Mingwei Song, associate professor of Chinese, Wellesley College. Dr. Song has published books and articles in both English and Chinese. His Chinese books include Criticism and Imagination (Shanghai, 2013) and The Sorrows of a Floating World: a Biography of Eileen Chang (Taipei, 1996; Shanghai, 1998; Hong Kong, 2001). His first monograph in English, titled Young China: National Rejuvenation and the Bildungsroman, 1900-1959, is forthcoming from Harvard University Asia Center. He guest edited a special issue of Renditions (2012) that featured the English translations of 13 Chinese works of science fiction. He is currently writing a new monograph on the utopian and post-human imageries in twenty-first century Chinese science fiction. Dr. Song’s talk will focus on the works of three influential authors who created the “new wave” of Chinese science fiction: Liu Cixin (b. 1963), Wang Jinkang (b. 1948), and Han Song (b. 1965).

I’m particularly looking forward to reading The Three Body Problem, which is due out next month from Tor Books. This looks to be an event not to miss.

 

Strange as Night, Dark as Fiction #2: Daniel Mills

Hosted by the Renegade Writers’ Collective and Geek Mountain State, Strange as Night, Dark as Fiction featured Vermont writers delving into the unnatural and fantastic last year. We had a camera on hand to capture those moments for you. In this second installment, Daniel Mills reads from his story “Isaac’s Room.”

This reading and others from that night are cablecasting on VCAM, Channel 15 on Comcast in the greater Burlington area, at 10:00am and 10:30pm on Fridays for the next eight weeks or so, moving into sporadic rotation after that. You can also find them on Geek Mountain State’s YouTube channel as they are released.