"New technologies should create opportunities for writers to be creative pioneers."
A couple weeks ago, our VookMakers introduced me to Shuffle: an e-novel, whose technology and reading experience are based on the shuffle feature of an iPod. In Shuffle, seven strangers are mysteriously intertwined, each tied to a different song found on an iPod. The novel is a series of short stories, each about one of the characters, that can be read in any order by "shuffling" through the eBook. It's a clever update on the notion of hypertext fiction: the reader clicks on an iPod graphic at the end of each chapter to create her own literary playlist.
Vook talked to author Christopher Rickaby, who released the novel under pen name James T. Raydel of fiction-collective Lulzlit. The project started at the Digital Conference of the London Book Fair in 2024. Chris tells Vook, "All the talk was of the new publishing platforms available, but people only seemed interested in transporting the old narrative structures of a novel onto the new platforms. That didn't make sense to me.
"I reasoned that the new technologies should create much more opportunities for writers to be creative pioneers; that, thanks to the new platforms, there had never been a better time in literary history to experiment and take risks.
"As I was listening to a Johnny Cash song, I hung my head on my iPod one afternoon and the image of the shuffle mechanism and the possibility of shuffling seven stories that were each distinct but connected by shared themes and images leaped into my head. I thought that it would be a great way to structure content that had been designed specifically as a purpose-built e-novel, not just a print book that happened to be available via iBooks, Kindle etc. To create, in short, a book with seven possible beginnings and seven possible endings letting the reader decide which is which."
"As I further worked on the project I thought about other aspects of taking a novel across multiple platforms and was inspired in part by Kurt Vonnegut's famous quote: 'all of fiction being a practical joke making us laugh, cry and care about things that absolutely never happened at all.' I came up with the idea of creating a fictional provenance, the possible author of the book James T. Raydel in the form of the fictional fiction-collective Lulzlit.
"The idea was to create a true transmedia novel which layered immersive fiction across multiple platforms. In effect a literary layer cake with an e-novel through which the reader shuffles as the cream, the Lulzlit site as the sponge, and the activities of its seven writers on Twitter as the jam. The reader can engage with any or all of these content strands each is designed stand alone but stimulate interest in the others."
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