Bones of the Angel is an experiment, an attempt to tackle several different hypotheses at once.
Magical Realist Literature vs. Fantasy Genre Fiction
While I was earning my English degree at Kenyon College in Ohio, I often found myself at odds with a number of my classmates, even some of my professors, on the notion of how useful certain types of literature can be. I actually had one of my professors groan out loud when I mentioned that I enjoy the work of Jonathan Carroll, and that perplexed me. From a certain standpoint Mr. Carroll's work can be considered 'genre' fiction, as it is often marketed as fantasy, plain and simple. In many ways, however, his work is a form of contemporary non-Latin American magical realism. I hesitate to refer to him as an American magical realist, as he currently makes his home in Vienna, but that may be the most accurate term for his work.
What, then, separates Mr. Carroll from, say, Salman Rushdie or Louis de Bernieres?
The first of my hypotheses is as follows: what separates a work of 'fantasy genre fiction' from a work of 'magical realist literature' is dependant upon the extent to which the plot focuses on relationships and the human condition. The trick is to find the balance between introspective character development and plot. Can a book keep a reader alternating his or her reasons for turning the pages between finding out what happens next in the overall storyline and finding out why these characters interact the way they do?
To explore this idea, Bones of the Angel explores several themes on several levels. First, the main plot focuses on what happens to a group of people when what appears to be the skeleton of an angel is discovered in the middle of a small town. Second, the story attempts to explore the way people deal with innocence lost in the form of broken trusts and relationships. Third, the story experiments with ideas of motion, and experiments a bit with the ratio of dialogue to description.
The hope is to create a literary page-turner.
The second area of experimentation is what you're reading right now. This microsite is intended to act as an experiment in digital storytelling.
In the last couple of years, several new forms of digital storytelling have emerged. First and foremost is the weblogging phenomenon. Your usual weblog consists of a series of more-or-less daily installments of a public journal. Webloggers tell their visitors about what's happening in their daily lives, what interesting things they've found on the Internet, and, by extension, who they really are. Authors have recently begun to experiment with this as a marketing tool; Neil Gaiman, for example, keeps a weblog in which he makes daily entries to tell his readers what he's up to next. This form of constant behind-the-curtain tour is both compelling and voyeuristically thrilling. So this is what he thinks like. Cool.
Second, many digital storytellers are experimenting with multimedia works. Artists like Laurie Anderson have been doing this for decades, but now you have such remarkable experiments as authors like Tom Clancy lending their skills to video games. One thing I hope to do as this story nears completion is to experiment a little with some multimedia components, but we'll see what happens.
Finally, one of the new digital storytelling components that has interested me the most is actually to be found in the film industry. The arrival of DVDs as the prevailing home film library format has also ushered in the new practice of including extras like outtakes and documentaries on each disc, and even 'extended editions', such as the 3.5-hour version of Lord of the Rings. I hypothesize that one way in which e-books could become more interesting as a format is by including similar extra content. At the very least, it could be fascinating to include a CD-ROM with each book sold that included this behind-the-scenes treatment, excised chapters, maybe even an extended edition that a reader can print out and read at their leisure. At the very least, providing this kind of added commentary could provide future scholars with all kinds of new source material for their theses.