Every so often a trend appears within the arts or culture that just takes the world by storm. Many times it’s something to do with technology and as we have aged as a culture this has certainly become apparent. Every ‘art’ has its tech now and you have to live with it, adapt to it, and make it serve you or it becomes your master.
We’re at that sort of weird place with movies and 3-D right now. And by now I would wager that everyone is pretty much up to speed on the basics of this gimmick and its meager beginnings in film, its re-inventions and the failed attempts to bring it back into favor over the years. It was something like Avatar that recaptured the magic of 3-D because it used it in a way that went beyond the gimmick. The remake of My Bloody Valentine actually really showed what you could do with the technology by adding depth to the image and bringing you deeper into the film. With Avatar that effect was increased and you suddenly felt as if you were in (to varying degrees of success) that world. Now, as hit and miss as that film is, it will be remembered for ushering in a new age of 3-D that had not been captured, and isn’t really being used even now. The idea with any new tech is to advance the subject which you are grafting it to, and if you cannot do that then you want to add a new dimension or interactivity to that subject. Alas, with the 3-D movies we are getting we are getting re-vamped versions of the yo-yo on a string heading for the audience type gags and no advances, which only leads to stagnation.
To make this more relevant to me and what I do, with writing you are as limited as your own imagination and that of your readership. If you cannot make them believe that the people, places, and things you are writing about are real, at least in the universe of your book, then you’re doomed. Sure, there are no such things are unicorns but if you create one that has depth, has character, and has a sense of magic to it then for that piece they exist. I mean, Meep Sheep are not real but if I did my job right, people will WANT them to be real when they are done with the book. They will believe they can be real. With the book markets evolving so quickly, and so drastically though, it is time for the writing world to take a step back and look at what it is doing and how it can do it better.
I mean, I can writer better stories, and hope that I do, that with every story I get better. But look beyond that. Self publishing is here, it’s a fact, so what do we do about it? Well, as a self published author I say that the ‘established’ world accepts it and stops fighting it. Stops treating us like we’re crashing a private party and start working with us, not around us. There are as many good self published people as there are published people out there – and this is more of a hit on the established world and what gets published than it is a revelation as to what is out there in the self publishing world – so let’s find a middle ground. And then it comes to distribution of the work and what to do with it, and here is where the tech really comes in.
Maybe it’s time for we writers to embrace the heart of the new 3-D with our writing but just, well, not screw it up. With the advent of e-readers and devices like the iPad we, as writers, can finally bring a broader world to our readers. We can pull them deeper down the rabbit hole, as it were. With readership falling off all down the line, and fewer and fewer seeming to take the time to sit down and read, maybe we need to make the it more of an experience. Add images, sounds, films, and side stories to the story. You never want to do too much to pull away and distract from the heart of the piece, the story (and that will happen a lot if we start trying this stuff out; it’s going to be a tightrope walk) but do things to add to that experience. Even if it is to add book or story notes where you talk about why you made the choices you did, and what inspired this or that. There are so many ways to use this new tech in ways that we were never even able to imagine, and it’s scary, sure, but more than that it is exciting. It is exciting to think how we can take storytelling beyond the word and to the experience again.
The fear here will be the same as with the fear of self published authors – that the ‘junk’ will take away from the rest, and it will happen. And it will be award for a while as we learn how to use the tech in ways that enhance our work and doesn’t distract. And you will get people that have swell bells and whistles but nothing else but there is a way to make it work, just as there is a way to make 3-D work and make it a part of the film and not another gimmick or special effect. For writing, we are at the infancy of this type of infusion of tech, and it will be a long time until we start moving forward with anything more than baby steps but we have to start that long walk or we’ll be left behind. In the end what is important is the story, and how we tell them only the means to which we serve that end. But when we lose the audience for the stories for good, we’re all in trouble and no amount of tech will save us.