From CSI to Literature 2.0
According to Variety (August 27, 2008), “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker has made a seven-figure deal with Dutton to create a series of three suspense-thriller “digital novels.”
Similar to the project that I wrote about last week [visit my post about Stephen King’s “The N” here], this new project from Dutton corresponds with the emerging literary segment that I mentioned a few posts ago leveraging hypermedia – a new media vehicle for storytelling referred to formally as “Electronic Literature” or “EL.”
According to the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO), the term Electronic Literature refers to works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.
Within the broad category of electronic literature are several forms and threads of practice, some of which are:
- Hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web
- Kinetic poetry presented in Flash and using other platforms
- Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects
- Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots
- Interactive fiction
- Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs
- Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning
- Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work
- Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing
Zuiker’s project is a publishing hybrid that broadens traditional book reading into a multi-platform experience that includes filmed components and an interactive social networking site.
At the conclusion of each five chapters, readers will be given codes to log onto a website that will feature two-minute filmed vignettes providing a cinematic bridge to the next five chapters. At the book’s conclusion, readers can join an online community in which they can interact with others and hatch characters and storylines. “The best suggestions will be incorporated into future titles,” Zuiker said.
Zuiker’s first interactive title, “Sqweegel,” will be published by Dutton in fall 2009. Series revolves around an ex-FBI forensic investigator who retired early after his entire family was murdered. He becomes a rogue forensic detective, taking on cases that are too grim and graphic for “CSI.”
Zuiker came up with the idea when he set out to write a crime novel and realized he had problems with the traditional format.
“I personally don’t have the attention economy to read a 250-page crime novel from start to finish,” he said. “I realized that the way I’d like to consume a novel is to be rewarded every couple of chapters by seeing something visual that enhances the narrative.”
Zuiker will write a 60-page outline for each book, then supervise a novelist who’ll turn it into a 100-chapter book. Zuiker will write and direct 20 “cyber-bridges,” the two-minute video segments that supplement the pages.
Zuiker said the series will seek to bring advertisers to publishing through product placement in the book and the Web portal.
The verdict is still out if this can compete with the comfort of a paper-bound good ol’ fashioned book.
Clearly, this genre will continue to grow as more people embrace it as an alternative to television and other electronic media. It is truly “snack sized” entertainment that offers a more dynamic, immersive experience for the reader.