Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

November 2007 Archives



Uh-oh, part III.

Current word count of tomorrow's presentation: 3,300. No joke. Add to that a concern that it's simultaneously too esoteric and not really saying much that's new, plus a passage about fanfic that I'm sure will have my critics over at Henry's calling for my head... Oy! Snip snip snip snip snip...

Ghostbusters goes Transmedia.

Somewhere deep down in my soul, my fifth-grade fanboy self is squealing with joy while my nearly-30 modern self is reeling from a bizarre sense of cultural vertigo: according to Cinematical, Ghostbusters is coming back as a video game – and this canonical extension written by Aykroyd and Ramis will make Ghostbusters a transmedia franchise. I think I just found my dream job.

Uh-oh, part II.

I'm reporting to you live from FuturePlay 2007 in lovely Toronto, Canada. So far I'm happy to report that I consider the trip to have been already worthwhile, due to my getting to hang out a little with Stephen Jacobs, John Lester, Mia Consolvo and Constance Steinkuehler. A good time is being had by all.

So why the questionable post title? I'm continuing to work on my presentation for tomorrow and discovering, in a unique blend of horror and excitement, that I actually have tons to say about the way that transmedia theory (can I call it that?) and negative capability play into the way that interactive narrative is currently developing and informing narrative structures in other environments, such as television. Were I to publish my thesis as a first book (Transmedia Storytelling by Geoffrey Long) then what I'm scribbling away on now could easily be the follow-up (Every Screen a Bonfire: Transmedia Theory and Interactive Narrative by Geoffrey Long). This is both very good and very bad – good because I'm excited I have something to say, and bad because oh crap, how am I going to sum this up in a 15-minute presentation?

Still, life is good. Time to head back downstairs for John Lester's keynote on Second Life. Good times, good times...



I just wrote a 2,150-word essay on the use of user-generated content in video games to present at FuturePlay later this week, and I just realized it may need to be heartily reworked to sound less like a blog post and more like a, you know, presentation. Still, it's good to know that I still have a day to work on it and that I have at least that much to say on the subject. Also, what I do have to say may be a little overly academic...

At what point can we strip away the modifier 'user-generated' and simply refer to this stuff as 'content'? One answer may come from examining the distinction between the two parties involved in the consumption of content -- the audience and the storyteller. We can say that the storyteller is the producer of the content and the audience is the user -- and user-generated content occurs when the audience then turns around and becomes producers themselves, creating content based on what they've already consumed. If the characters, settings and conflicts of a narrative can be seen as the rules of a system, then the first person to tell the story of Odin is the producer, and all the people who retold that story with their own interpretations can be seen as creating user-generated content. When that story is retold with enough individuality, then it sort of breaks away from its predecessor -- like how we recognize tales of Odin and Zeus as being related but also individuated; tales of Zeus are then retold and the process continues. This is the way oral tradition works, and the way copyright law absolutely doesn't.

That's where the modern storytelling system breaks down. Storytellers can make a living at it when their audiences are small, when the tools to tell a story are exclusive to a small number of people, and when their audiences are willing to pay. Now, when the YouTube generation is equipped with a global audience, cheap tools and audiences perfectly willing to ignore the stuff behind a pay wall and find their content somewhere else for free, are we storytellers screwed?

In a word, no.

More at FuturePlay, in whatever form it happens to take...


Early Christians, early lions.

Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be running too far out in front of the rest of the pack... And, honestly, that doesn't seem to be that far ahead.

This weekend I received a coupon in my email for an additional 25% off anything at Barnes and Noble, on top of my existing Member discount. Given that Members get 10% off all paperbacks, 20% off all hardcovers, 30% off many new release hardcovers and a whopping 40% off bestseller hardcovers, an additional 25% off is nothing to sneeze at. So tonight I marched into my local B&N, picked out what I wanted, and kept on marching up to the register. Once there I whipped out my iPhone and showed the clerk the code she needed to punch in to give me my discount.

Said clerk shook her head. "I'm sorry, sir," she said. "I need to have a printout of the coupon."

My face fell. "But the code you need is right here on my screen. Look. Right there."

She shook her head again and pointed to an envelope next to the register. "I need to have the physical copy to put in this envelope in order to prove that you used the discount."

The mind boggles. So, essentially, B&N is saving a decent chunk of change by placing the printing charges onto the shoulders of their customers. Environmentally this makes some sense, since theoretically the only ones printing the things will be people who actually use them, thus saving boatloads of poor, defenseless recycled trees, but still – if you're going to go digital, then bloody well go digital – legal restrictions be damned!

Any e-coupon system worth the bits it's built from should be smart enough to not only look up a Member's code, but then also change the record in the database to mark that the code's been used – which, incidentally, is an infinitely faster system then stockpiling crumpled, inkjetted printouts. C'mon, people – join the 20th century already!

Home and Abroad.

It's just a little thing, but it's a nifty thing nevertheless: the travel website Home and Abroad picked one of my photos to illustrate their Shanghai Art Museum page.

Welcome Things.

To those of you visiting this blog for the first time from things magazine, welcome. Hopefully you will find some observations, projects and other creations that will interest you. By way of introduction, let me refer you to my bio.

For old friends and regulars, hey, look -- I was picked up by things magazine!

Morpheus with Insomnia?

Many of you Gaiman fans in the audience will know Marc Hempel as the artist on the next-to-last book in the Sandman series, The Kindly Ones. Hempel apparently wasn't quite finished with the character once the series was over – behold the lampoon episode "Insomniac" at Tales of Munden's Bar...


RIP Norman Mailer.

Awww. Norman Mailer passed away today. He was 84.


SNL on the Writer's Strike.

Holy crap, I didn't know Saturday Night Live could still be funny!

Yeats on folktales.

I find it largely depressing that W.B. Yeats was bemoaning the acceleration of culture back in the 19th century:

These folk-tales are full of simplicity and musical occurrences, for they are the literature of a class for whom every incident in the old rut of birth, love, pain, and death has cropped up unchanged for centuries: who have steeped everything in the heart: to whom everything is a symbol. They have the spade over which man has leaned from the beginning. The people of the cities have the machine, which is prose and a parvenu. They have few events. They can turn over the incidents of a long life as they it by the fire. With us nothing has time to gather meaning, and too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold. It is said the most eloquent people in the world are the Arabs, who have only the bare earth of the desert and a sky swept bare by the sun. "Wisdom has alighted upon three things," goes their proverb: "the hand of the Chinese, the brain of the Frank, and the tongue of the Arab." This, I take it, is the meaning of that simplicity sought for so much in these days by all the poets, and not to be had at any price.

Yeats wrote that in his introduction to his collection Irish Fairy and Folk Tales,published in 1888. Almost 120 years later, I'm still sitting in my chair nodding in agreement. "Nothing has time to gather meaning, and too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold." What would Yeats make of us now?


Remember, remember...

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Ever should be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys,
Let the bells ring!
Holloa boys, holloa boys,
God save the King!
A penny loaf to feed the Pope,
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him,
A pint o’ beer to rinse it down,
A faggot o’ sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.
Then we’ll say the Pope is dead.

The kind souls over at Making Light are posting a number of intelligent thoughts, comments and what-have-yous over at this post. For my part, I'm contemplating taking V for Vendetta into work today to put on the big-screen when nobody's watching.


The library of Umberto Eco.

So the hurricane has come and gone, and it was nowhere near as apocalyptic as the weather reports were making it out to be. I stayed bundled up in the house most of the day, watching Day Watch, reading a good chunk of the excellent Eisner / Miller and another stretch of Terry Eagleton's Literary Theory: An Introduction. Late in the evening I ventured out again to return some DVDs that I'd picked up for Laura which, unfortunately, stubbornly refused to work in our DVD player, and swing by the Harvard Bookstore to pick up a copy of Umberto Eco's On Literature which I'd noticed lurking on their bargain racks last week.

This is one of those times when I've bought a book and brought it home, only to suspect that I'd bought this book before. I know I'm on my second or third copy of the Eagleton mentioned above, but I think this is my second copy of On Literature – either that or I'd read through part of it at a bookstore someplace, decided I wanted it for my library, and then abandoned it because it was, at the time, too expensive for my then-budget. God bless the bargain bins; even if it is my second copy of the book, eight bucks is hard to mourn too keenly.

My favorite part of the book so far is an essay about influences, which Eco wrote and presented himself at a conference about Borges' influences on Eco. (That had to be a somewhat dizzying experience – to attend a conference about your own work. "Yep, no, unh-uh, that's interesting, they gave you a Ph.D. for that?") In it, Eco lets slip that as of that writing, his personal library exceeded some forty thousand volumes.

Forty. Thousand.

Heh. I have some catching up to do.

Still Alive.

Perhaps it's cheating to watch the closing credits to a game before I've beaten it myself, but when Uncle Warren links to it, I consider it fair game. The song is indeed quite cool, with traces of The Murmurs to it. Anybody out there remember The Murmurs? 90s girl rockers? "You Suck"? Anybody?

Rock me like a hurricane.

Batten down the hatches, me hearties -- there's a massive hurricane rolling its way into Boston as I type this. Am I worried? Hells no -- I ran out to the store first thing this morning to stock up on milk, batteries, and, um, a copy of Day Watch (which I never got to see in the theaters and have been dying to see ever since, thankyouverymuch). And, if the power cuts out, I have a great whopping pile of books that I happen to be in the middle of to finish. How this will affect my admittedly meager labor on the NaNoWriMo front is anybody's guess, however.

Still, this is my first weekend at home in nearly a month, and I'm so completely and utterly thrilled to do as little as possible. I still have a bunch of little loose ends to work on, like my presentation for Futureplay and various and sundry other projects, but still... No travel for me today! Woo!

Bring on the rain!


My new desktop image.