Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Right. I needed that.

The funny thing about being me is that there are things about yours truly that, to anyone else, are patently obvious. From inside this great melon of a head, though, "patently obvious" doesn't even come near it.

The biggest of these things is the way my brain works. Or, occasionally, doesn't.

See, the upside of being me is that I'm gifted with a really spectacular imagination. Seriously. Were I presented with a Proustian questionnaire, the answer to "What do you like about yourself?" would be "My imagination." The downside, though, is that the answer to "What do you dislike about yourself?" would be a four-way tie between my weight, my temper, my memory, and, yes, my imagination.

A great imagination is both a blessing and a curse. It's a great blessing because, I swear to God, you're almost never, ever bored. If I'm sitting in an airport waiting for a flight that's been horrifically delayed, and I've somehow been caught without my laptop or reading material, I'll start to make stuff up. Usually I jot it down in the Moleskine notebook that I almost always have in my breast pocket, because otherwise my dratted lousy memory will dutifully file it away in some dusty corner of my brain and just as dutifully promptly forget where that was. However, a great imagination is also a horrible curse because it has a nasty tendency to make you freaking paranoid.

Take this morning, for example. After wrestling about 4,000 words into approximately the right places for the THESIS OF DOOM™ (as I've taken to calling it here in the last couple of weeks before the THESIS DEFENSE, ALSO OF DOOM™) I started to look over the great bloody beast and promptly started to panic. Not only is there a long, long way to go before the thing resembles a single coherent document as opposed to its current state of existence as FrankenTHESIS, but my imagination began to make some horrible harrumphing noises in the back of my head. No joke, it sounded exactly like Michael Gambon.

"You know," said imagination-Gambon, "it's really not very good. I mean, have you seen the blog of that Christy Dena woman? That's the kind of thing you should have been doing two years ago. I don't know what you've been doing – all you're suited for now is more design work, aren't you? I mean, you're woefully underprepared for any kind of academic work, wouldn't you say?"

It drove me screaming out of the house. Well, not screaming, but it did drive me out of my office and dang near out of my head.

Now, to my credit, I'm learning. Remember at the start of this post when I said that there are some things that would be perfectly obvious to anybody else on the planet, but not me? Right. One such thing would be that the only things I'd eaten all day were Easter candy and the odd Mountain Dew. Another such thing would be that I hadn't really seen sunlight in two or three days. A year or two ago, those things wouldn't have occurred to me. Now, though, I'm starting to cotton on to the fact that there is such a thing as blood sugar, and another thing as melatonin. So, while I was indeed driven out of my office, I managed to keep enough of my wits about me to pack my laptop in my bag, grab my copy of No Strings Attached and my copy of the last chapter from The Many Lives of the Batman, then get outside for a walk. I walked from the house to the train station, then took the T one stop to Porter Square for lunch at Bruegger's Bagels. Packed with protein, I left in a decidedly better mood and then walked from there to Harvard Square, enjoying the sunshine and recharging my batteries, then spent a few hours in the Starbucks at the Garage, where I read all of No Strings Attached and reread the chapter. After that, I went back outside and walked from there to the Utrecht art supply shop on Mass Ave, picked up some supplies ("our chief weapon") and then walked to Central Square, where I jumped back on the T and headed home.

As a result of all of this, I feel infinitely better about both my thesis work and my place in the universe. It also led to something of an epiphany regarding transmedia storytelling in general.

I think the biggest problem facing transmedia storytelling is that experiencing it is perceived as being work. The resistance to shifting media types is due to a combination of hierarchy of tastes (people perceive theatrical-release film as being the highest of all media types, and additional components in direct-to-DVD releases, comics, novels, video games and so on as 'lesser' forms) and plain old inertia. This is both bad and dumb – when transmedia storytelling is done right, it should be a delight. Audiences should be excited to see a story shift media forms because of the added opportunities each media type provides. There are things you can't do on film or television that you can do in comics, as Joss Whedon's Buffy Season Eight is proving right now. Once upon a time, news that a video game is coming down the pike based on a favorite property was cause for celebration, not dread. We need to produce better media in order to overcome this dual stigma, and we need to develop ways to engage our audiences in the unfurling of a story in the same way that we might engage them in a game. Transmedia storytelling should be a constant string of new pleasures, much the same way that a game – or a good story in any media, come to think of it – continually rewards an audience with additional 'hits' of pleasure as they find out new stuff about the story world, about the characters, about the plot, and so on. Transmedia extensions shouldn't feel superfluous, they should enrich the world and make the audience hunger for more. Henry's right – each component should make a valuable contribution to the whole. All too often I think producers forget that, which reinforces the negative perception of transmedia extensions as cheap grabs for more money. We've got to overcome that.

That's what I have to bring to the conversation. Dena's done an absolutely bang-up job in her research in the field, but I think my own thoughts from a storyteller's perspective, coupled with my experience in game design, software design and user interface design, means that I really do have a valuable contribution to make here. I just had to give my brain the things it needed (protein and melatonin) to get me back into the right mindset to see it. With that in place, and with the reassurance that creative, positive places like Henson do in fact exist, I'm feeling recharged and ready to dive back in.

My THESIS will be good, and it will be mine. It may not be as strong as Dena's PhD research, but then again it is only a Master's thesis. I've got to leave something to do if CMS gets that PhD after all, right?



I like your work, Geoff. That you can do it while walking/having lunch/drinking coffee is fabulous. Mine unfortunately takes more... equipment.

Hey do you have any leads on Science Writing (or writing about science). I am thinking about trying that on for size?

Thanks for the kind words, Nick. And I do, actually – MIT has a one-year Graduate Program in Science Writing that might be right up your alley. When you come up, maybe I can introduce you to somebody!

I have seen the website, but I am concerned about dropping another $30k for another master's degree. That said, I would be interested in meeting some of the peeps in "Your Fair City."

Nonsense. Master's degrees are like Pokémon -- gotta collect 'em all!

Ha ha. It would allow me to avoid the real world for another year, but it would put me further into debt!

So, what are you going for next?

Very cute. I am going for dinner.

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