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Why do we want to write for a digital platform?
2015-07-25 13:13:45
What_does_the_reader_want
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Now that’s a question we’re not going to approach an answer for. You have your reasons: you might anticipate an alternative to linear narrative; a challenge that’s not been met by the physical book; an escape from formats and expectations. Your reasons are your own, and we’d be the last people to inquire after them. What we will say though, is that to really grasp the nettle of digital technology, you have to anticipate that this is different. It can be more than a novel in a digital wrapper (and if anything has come through loud and clear, then it's that digitalling the novel is a waste of everyone's time). It can be something we’ve not seen yet. Something exciting. Something risky and something not-of-the-now.

That utopian ideal, though, is our biggest problem. How do we conceive of something that is so unfamiliar, so not-now that it really addresses the what-could-be of digital. Here’s another way to look at the problem:

Every piece of Science Fiction is addressed through a lens of now. We cannot avoid this. The techno-utopian ideas of Star Trek are projections from the 1950s and 60s. Solaris is Russia. Star Wars is the United States. Writing SF in 2014 without addressing Climate Change in some way or form is to deny contemporary culture[^1].

It is with writing and reading. Every great leap forward has been built on what we understand, what we see around us. The CD Rom failed because it wasn’t different enough. DVDs are VHS are cinema in a portable format. Hypertext is different. Not so new as we think (Borges, Bush, Nelson all predate your authors by a few dozen years), but still a radical step.

What we did with it, though, is largely predictable (If you're reading this in your own order, here's a good place to go. We didn’t really try anything new.

To repeat a phrase, that’s our problem. Our brick wall. The fog within which we make work. How do we do things differently? How do we break out of conventions?


[^1]: Read this: It's by Margaret Atwood, and it will make you think.