Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Choose Your Own Hamlet & Wheel of Misfortune at YALLWEST 2016

YALLWEST, the West Coast YA and Middle Grade book celebration, was a book fest more than an e-lit fest, but there were two key moments that dig. lit folks would dig.

Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be!
The first was a session by Ryan North, featuring his forthcoming Romeo And/Or Juliet, the sequel to his To Be or Not to Be, Hamlet-based CYOA.  Ryan is well-known for his Dinosaur Comics and his work on Squirrel Girl and other comic titles.  But this venture is a pure labor of love. He self-published the Hamlet book following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I stopped Ryan after a panel to chat with him about choice-based fiction.  The question was whether there's room for more choice-based fiction in today's MG and YA markets.  His answer, an enthusiastic YES. He said he loves the possibilities for branching fiction and that it was his love for the form that led him to self-publish his Hamlet, proving to his publisher that there WAS a market.  

Our second notable encounter was with Pseudonymous Bosch, the author of the Secret and Bad Magic series, one of my daughters all around favorites.  

At the end of YALLWEST, Bosch co-led with C. Alexander London an interactive session called StoryMob in which audience members collaborated with authors Veronica Roth (Divergent), Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children), and Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen) to write fan fiction.

The highlight was the Wheel of Misfortune, a physical multi-colored narrative device spinner, which featured possible plot reversals, including Bureaucratic Dinosaurs and Heartbreaking Terminal Illness. The WoM was a beautiful send-up of the the novelistic technique of the reversal, while at the same time an random-plot generator that parodied formulaic (algorithmic even) kids' book writing.   When Heartbreaking Terminal Illness came up and was chosen multiple times, Bosch complimented the audience's commercial instincts.

This event reminded me of interactive lit because it featured collaborative writing with an aleatory component, reminiscent of storywriting games, but which also made some hay out of overused story devices, which for its satirical eye toward mass-produced commercial fiction and its frivolity, never ceases to amuse.

These two moments encouraged me to return to the joy of working with my two favorite collaborators on our choice-based projects and also reminded me how much readers are also writers, something George Landow (of Hypertext fame) tried to teach me many years ago. Certainly, something all writers of fiction (digital or print) should keep in mind, though they might be led to believe otherwise by the bureaucratic dinosaurs of the publishing world.
Authors, Audience, and the Wheel of Misfortune

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