Geoffrey Long
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The termination of interminability.

My friend Peter actually came up with that title, but it so perfectly sums up my current state of affairs that I had to swipe it. Thanks, Peter.

At 9:31 AM this morning I received the email from my THESIS advisor. The document has been accepted. I am now officially graduating.



The end times.

All right, I'll admit it. I'm in a little bit of trouble here.

My THESIS is due on Friday. I'm meant to be doing final revisions to the paper – and I have been doing revisions, but I'm concerned that I might not be doing enough revisions, or the right revisions. The defense went well, but pretty much my entire panel said something to the effect of "Yeeeeeah, about Section 3..." Which, you know, is completely fair. I myself had been saying similar things before, but now that I've written it (and presented a good chunk of it at MIT5) I feel like it oughta be in there. Maybe not all of it – the section I wrote using the Clive Cussler/Breck Eisner Sahara fiasco as an argument for why transmediation can be better than adaptation for popular series wound up, I think quite appropriately, on the cutting room floor – but the "Radial Maps and Mike Mignola's Hellboy" bit does, I think, offer some good models for ways to think about modeling transmedia applications and then capitalizing off of those models.

Which brings me to the trouble. I'm waiting to hear back from one of my committee members so I can incorporate his edits into what I give the others – but if he comes back saying something like "you need another 15 pages' worth of thinking here in Section 3," I'm sunk. Because, as I noted last week, I have hit the Wall. Were I a cartoon character my face would be smushed flat as a pancake, my body would be flattened out and I would be wobbling around like a piece of paper trying to stay upright as I teetered about on 2-D feet. I'm sure I'll have more to say about transmedia storytelling later, but right now my conceptual tank is empty. I remember feeling this way after wriitng my research paper for C3, that all my thoughts on the subject have been wrung out of me, leaving me struggling to reinflate like a crushed stress toy. I'm hoping up to Heaven that I don't hear "Fifteen more pages," because if I do, my inevitable response will be, "Uh, I got nothin'..."

I suppose I should clarify – part of the trouble isn't that I have nothing, it's that what I have to say is way outside the scope of this document at this point. If I were to turn the THESIS into a book (which is, admittedly, still part of my grand scheme), then my next steps will be to further develop my thinking about what goes into a transmedia franchise and in what order. I'll probably interview creators working in each media type (as well as a couple working across media types) and find out what they've found the strengths and weaknesses of each media type to be. I'd talk about how those strengths and weaknesses might help determine what type of media to use when first starting a transmedia franchise (books are cheaper, movies have bigger audiences, television is omnipresent, games are interactive, etc.). I'd create more graphs. Basically, I'd keep going the way I'm going, but I still think all of this complexity is book-level stuff, or doctorate-level stuff, not Master's-level stuff. There's plenty yet to do, but I don't have the juice to do it now and this isn't the right time for it. Scope, people – it's all a matter of scope.

So, yeah. I've been trying to heal my brain with judicious amounts of other media. Laura and I went to see the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie this weekend and I picked up the Xbox 360 TMNT game while I was at it. Both have left me saying, "Um... Cowabunga?" They were fun, don't get me wrong, but maybe not as much fun as I'd hoped. The game is a real quandary – you can tell that the dev team spent most of their energy on the sets and movements, which results in a game that focuses less on ninja combat and more on ninja acrobatics. I've gotta say, this is extremely cool, up to a point. The battle scenes are repetitive, there have only got to be about a dozen different bad-guy models in the game, it's tricky as crud to get the tag-team function working in combat, and the biggest sin is that it's a freaking one-player Turtles game. What the heck? I haven't seen a one-player Turtles game since the original 8-bit NES game, which, if I remember correctly, was freaking impossible. The 360 game doesn't have that problem, at least – for the most part, it's a cakewalk. This is probably due to its being targeted at kids, but it has the nice side effect of being largely relaxing. It's fun to take your Turtle out for a run around New York when you can run up the sides of buildings, leap from building to building, and even occasionally engage in bouts of nunchuk-assisted flight. The low difficulty level also means crazy Xbox Achievements – I feel kind of guilty for using such an easy game to catapult my Gamerscore, but hey, I pretty much doubled it in less than 12 hours. Nice! (I've added my Gamertag info to my elsewhere page for the interested.)

Oh, and when I haven't been playing TMNT, I've been playing Pinball FX from the Xbox Live Arcade. Lots and lots and lots of Pinball FX. This may very well be the best virtual pinball game I've ever played. Seriously. It's so cool my trigger fingers are threatening to blister. I've already thoroughly spanked Edery; any other takers?

(Time passes...)

I think, all things considered, the THESIS will be fine. Since I started drafting this post around 8:30 AM, almost 14 hours ago, I've crafted some more graphics, rewrote a good portion of it, and polished up a ton of typos. I still have some time left, and I'm still waiting to hear back from William... All in all, though, I think the document is pretty solid. It's a good examination of the theoretical underpinnings that enable transmedia storytelling to exist, as well as a solid bit of idea-generation for where it can go from here (and how it can be capitalized upon).

Now, whether or not Henry and William think the same way remains to be seen... *gulp*


What value transmedia?

I'm knee-deep in reworking Section III of my thesis this weekend, wherein I'm trying to demonstrate the actual value of canon when it comes to transmedia storytelling. My case study of choice? The new 'season 8' of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told in comics form by Whedon himself. Why? Simple.

When Whedon's Fray, a comic about a slayer in the far-flung future of the Buffyverse (and somewhat iffy in its canonicity) debuted in June of 2001, it entered the charts at #98, with sales of 18,247 copies. The first issue of Season 8 debuted in March, 2007 at #9, with sales of 109,919 copies. I know there are other factors at play here, but I'm hoping to do a graph of sales numbers for each of the Buffy comics to demonstrate how important canon actually is... We'll see if the data backs me up, but still – one hundred and nine thousand, nine hundred and nineteen copies sold. Da-yum.



Apologies for not posting this yesterday, but I have now (more or less) successfully defended my Master's THESIS at MIT. I still need to do some last-minute revisions, but it looks like I'm going to graduate!

The defense was both a lot of fun and kind of awkward, since I wasn't wholly certain what the procedure was supposed to be like (and because one of my four committee members failed to show). When I got into the room, Henry asked me to talk for a little while about my work, why I chose this topic and so on, and so I took a deep breath and proceeded to yammer on for a little while about the particularly odd road I've chosen for myself as a storyteller in academia, and about how I started thinking about transmedia storytelling several years ago when I read Henry's article, and how I came to MIT, and where I might be going from here. After that, Henry and William and Frank and I sat around and talked about transmedia stuff for about an hour and a half, which was great fun. Lots of laughter and notes-comparing, some harrowing bits but mostly a lot of just chatting and thinking and conversation. We talked for a little while about the weird hybridity of the room, with Henry and William as academics and Frank as an artist, and about the few people out there that are practicing hybrids, like Umberto Eco. That's what I want to be when I grow up – an Umberto Eco, storytelling and writing and thinking and doing my thing. William told a story about having Eco guest-lecture in a class of his once, which was just brilliant. I was officially jealous. We spoke for a while about the trajectory that this thesis has taken, and about where it has to go after this – as William puts it, I'm in cow stomach 3 of 4 – and about timelines; I have to get a revised draft to William by Sunday so he can read it and punt it back to me to polish up on Monday to give to Henry on Tuesday. If Henry likes it then, I can dot the T's and cross the I's and turn it in next Friday.


What happens after that? Well, a few days ago in a one-on-one meeting, William looked me in the eyes and said, "Well, here's a hard question – do you want to graduate on time?" I blinked. "With another six months' worth of polishing, this could really be something," he added.

I thought about that for a second, then nodded. "Yeah," I replied. "I do want to graduate on time. But there have been a number of other CMS grads who have gone on to turn their theses into books. Since it looks like I might be sticking around MIT for a while, do you think that would be an option?"

"Oh, definitely," he said.

So there's that. Maybe this time next year I'll have a pile of copies of Transmedia Storytelling: The Book to start passing around. We'll see. For now, though, I think I'll be satisfied just to get its THESIS incarnation done... And then, perhaps, I can start writing the word as simply 'thesis'.

But yeah – I'm not entirely out of the woods yet, but I'm close! Woo-hoo!


The 44,558 and the 9,900.

My THESIS defense is this afternoon from 1-3. That means that as I write this, I have approximately two hours and forty-five minutes in which to shower up, format a title page for people to sign, get something for lunch and hustle my butt in to campus. That translates into right around 9,900 seconds.

The latest draft of my THESIS, which incorporates many of the changes suggested to me by Henry and William so far, is 44,558 words. This translates into 174 double-spaced pages, with a few graphs and a table. I have no idea what my committee is going to tell me this afternoon; feedback so far has been positive, but I remain nervous. The last draft they'd seen, the one they reviewed, was somewhere around 4,000 words and 14 pages lighter, which I'm going to have to explain this afternoon. This means I probably won't get signatures from everyone today, which is okay. I fully expect to have to run this thing under Henry's nose at least once more before I can turn it in, which is too bad since I know he's swamped to the breaking point these days.

Anyway. Hopefully I'll have some good news to report here this afternoon. Wish me luck... Here we go!


All in all, just another brick in...

It's official. I have hit The Wall.

Luckily, I hit the wall after I sent a draft to my thesis committee early this afternoon, and after Henry sent me a nice note saying that the latest draft I'd sent him was "SIGNIFICANTLY and SUBTANTIALLY improved" (emphasis his). Thank you Jesus. I may have a chance of graduating on time yet. Maybe.

So, yes. This is what the wall feels like. So far today I've done scattered bits of random research, preparing for my presentation at MIT5 tomorrow on Demon Circles: Radial Maps and Mike Mignola's Hellboy, which also happens to be section 3.4 in my THESIS (which is right near the end, actually; the 'sections' are each somewhere in the vicinity of 50 pages long). This is good, because it means I am still technically working on the thesis, even if I'm moving at a snail's pace. I'm also buying random crap off the Internet. Oh, Internet. How I love thee. You let me buy things like a Kia Asamaya Evil Batman and a Willow Rosenberg (!) on deep, deep discount. Bless you.

The last time I was this whacked-out and surfing the Net with my credit card I wound up with a Hayao Miyazaki Princess Mononoke t-shirt that was a size too small. I think Shannon has it. I seem to recall she was getting good use out of it, last time I checked.

And now, on a completely unrelated topic, some bloke found a mummified fairy in Derbyshire. Creeeeeeeeepy.

Yes. This is what the wall feels like.


Oh, man.

The last time I posted a 'score' (read: wordcount) about my THESIS, it was up to 28,712. This was before my advisor laid into it. Now, less than a week later, I've sliced out big, huge chunks of text and added in even bigger chunks, grafted in an all-new framework, including six subclasses of hermeneutic codes based on Barthes' S/Z that should prove useful for understanding how we author types drive readers through a narrative and a proposal for a four-question formalist analysis to be applied to any extension in a franchise to evaluate its value to the larger whole. I've also done an almost shot-by-shot reading of both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, applying those six codes to each one.

The current THESIS score: 40,471. That translates into approximately 160 pages, even after having chopped out great huge parts.

Basically, the feedback that Henry gave me has turned this into a prototype for a doctoral thesis. I am not the least bit certain as to whether or not this is a Good Thing. Maybe I'll know in the morning.

Justifying HD-DVD.

I don't think anyone has written extensively yet about the great boon that high-def DVD could be to academic media studies. I'm currently re-(re-re-re-re-re-)watching Labyrinth and trying to make out exactly what it says on the clippings in the notebook in Sarah's room. Not the headlines, mind you, the text. If I had this in HD-DVD, I could probably read those clippings. Oh brave new world...

Aside from that, I'm struggling to not hit the wall here. I'm on the right track, I know it, but uber-close readings of things take a lot of time! I now have nine pages of notes on the possible migratory cues in The Dark Crystal, but creating those notes makes watching the film take about three times as long as normal. Jeez...

Well, "if it tweren't a challenge, it twouldn't be worth nothin', would it"?



That's it, it's official – my THESIS is far and away the nerdiest thing I've ever written. My most recent draft includes Barthes, Genette, Lévy, Umberto Eco, Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, Indiana Jones, Hellboy, Neil Gaiman, the Muppets, Stephen King, Batman, Superman, Stargate, Final Fantasy, Star Wars, and, as of this morning, the Battle of Wolf 359.

I can't wait to write the index for this thing.

Birthing Athena.

I'm in a very weird place with my THESIS. On Thursday night I got 3,000 words' worth of feedback from my thesis committee chair that pretty much eviscerated most of what I'd given him – or at least that's how it felt. Looking back on it now, it wasn't only not that bad, but it was also necessary. The trouble is, I'm supposed to have a draft of this thing to my entire committee tomorrow, so I've been working my ass off on it in every spare minute I can grab. The timing's not great, either – Friday and Saturday were dominated by the annual Convergence Culture Consortium conference that I was required to attend, and Sunday I got up early and jumped a plane to Ohio for a surprise birthday party for my Dad. That was totally worth it (the look on Dad's face was priceless), and a plane ride and an evening in my old room both helped me plow through massive amounts of literary theory. Monday morning I took the red-eye from Akron back to Boston and I spent all day yesterday hammering away, chugging through more literary theory and reworking Great Huge Bits of the THESIS.

It dawned on me this morning that this might be how Zeus felt, attempting to birth Athena fully-formed from his brow. My brain is killing me.

That said, I'm encouraged by a couple of things. First, over the weekend I reread parts of Marie-Laure Ryan's Narrative Across Media, a collection of essays on narrative theory and comparative media studies that the department sent all of us before we arrived on campus. Back in the summer of 2005, I hated that book. Every other sentence made a passing reference to some theory or theorist that I'd never encountered, it relied heavily on academic jargon that was all gobbledygook to me, and it was, to my mind, largely impenetrable. Fast forward two years (and most of a Master's degree) later and now, much to my delight, I can read through the text with little difficulty. The concepts make sense, the framework is in place... I speak the language. It's similar to the feeling I had when I was teaching myself how to think in HTML code for the first time – new mental processes are being forged and new wrinkles are being jackhammered into my pulpy gray matter. It hurts, sure, but it's a good kind of hurt. I'm even coming to appreciate Barthes with the help of additional references to serve as translators. I'm also looking forward to doing a closer reading of Gerard Genette somewhere down the road – his thoughts on intertextuality, especially the bits about hypertext and hypotext, are really fascinating...

A quick tip: anyone interested in doing any kind of media studies or literary theory should pick up a copy of the Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory and just start reading anything that interests you, following the cross-references and seeing how it all fits together. That's something I wish I'd done as an undergrad, rather than trying to plow through Terry Eagleton on my own. My brain needs to have context in which to place all this stuff, which is something that a lot of professors seem to shun. I'm not entirely sure why. When and if I ever become a professor, I'm going to make these types of things required reading – any text I assign will come with context stapled to it.

I'm also developing an even greater appreciation for Umberto Eco. I knew I admired the man before, but now moreso than ever – he manages to pull off exactly the same kind of thing I want to be doing down the line, albeit perhaps a little more accessibly. Eco writes both important critical essays and important literary novels in the same vein as Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think that's what I want to do for my next book, especially if I can't sell Bones of the Angel. BOTA was pretty 'poppy' – now I'd like to do something that applies some of the things I've been learning here. With what time, I'm not sure, but I'll have to carve some out somewhere.

Right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm still having labor pains...