Transmedia–storytelling through multiple narratives and platforms–is a fairly new medium that continues to fascinate me (see my previous transmedia posts here). Horror author and filmmaker Oldrich Stibor recently founded the company Red Right Hand Publishing to create high-quality transmedia stories, starting with the project The Black Chronicles.
The Black Chronicles has many bonus features and elements of surprise. Stibor kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about his transmedia project.
S.R: You said in a press release you think writers and developers have made a mistake when it comes to transmedia. What kind of mistakes do you believe publishers have made when it comes to digital enhancement of fiction?
O.S.: I believe a lot of different kinds of mistakes have been made in trying to bring enhanced books into the mainstream. Though I do hesitate to use the word ‘mistake.’ Tons of really terrific transmedia projects are being created all the time. But if the goal has been specifically to sell a lot of units and open the doors for a new kind of publishing to take hold, then yes I guess in that light we can say there have been mistakes. I think striking a balance between audience and participant is essential to get people excited. For instance I think asking the reader to play video games is too much. It’s too far removed from the subject/observer relationship with movies and books and in any event can’t compete with the types of gaming experiences already available. There is also the mistake of going too far in the other direction. Simply adding on content at the end like bonus features on a DVD. For example like in Nick Cave’s book The Death of Bunny Munro where the enhanced contents is simply Mr. Cave reading passages of the book. It’s a fantastic book by the way and Nick Cave is literally my favourite artist in the world but in the end that type of feature just isn’t innovative enough to really create any kind of buzz outside of his most hardcore fans.
S.R.: How does Red Right Hand address these mistakes?
O.S.: We went into this knowing that balance is really the key in winning over the mainstream market. There are some very adventurous people out there who would be down for exploring all kinds of transmedia gimmickry. Usually artists themselves. But they are a very small group. Everyone else has to be grabbed by the shirt collar and convinced. And that is not done by asking them to do a bunch of things they aren’t already interested in doing in the first place. So we knew not to ask too much from the reader. Simply download our app to smart phone or tablet and scan QR codes embedded throughout the book as you read it. The key to the experience really is that you have no way of knowing what the content is going to be or when it’s coming. It could be a bonus chapter released immediately, or maybe even a phone call straight to your cell from the killer many hours later. So in this sense, once it’s started, the book become becomes an active living thing your life that you can’t turn off simply by closing the book. Which is exactly why we chose a horror/thriller as our first project. People read scary books to be scared and we certainly feel like we’re raised the bar in that department. Part of balance too is of course having a good, entertaining book. Which based on the feedback from our many, many beta readers, I feel we have. I should say also that the books stands alone. You don’t have to participate in any of the transmedia content if you don’t want to.
S.R.: What is your background as a storyteller? Do you prefer writing or film-making?
O.S.: I work in film and television and I went to school for film but my first love is and always will be writing. I’ve been writing since kindergarten. It’s something I just have to do. I can’t feel good about my day or life or anything if I don’t get my pages for the day done. I don’t really understand where that need comes from. I think any writer would tell you that it’s sort of a curse and blessing. While it’s incredibly satisfying when it turns out right, there’s not a lot of glory in writing. If you’re a writer everyone in your life is going to think it’s a pipe dream. And then if and when you finally make it most people will think it comes easy to you. They don’t see the countless hours of you sitting in your underwear jacked up on coffee and self loathing, talking to your screen in your characters voices like a lunatic. So I can verify that the old saying ‘you know you’re a writer if you need to write,’ is definitely one hundred percent true.
S.R: What inspired you to create the horror story, The Black Chronicles?
O.S.: I have no idea where the inspiration for this project came from. I wasn’t aware of the growing transmedia storytelling world until after I had started it. I think in part the reason I wanted to do this was because I felt it would stand out and make a big splash. I think a very naive part of me thought that this would make selling it easier. Now my inspiration comes from all the people I’ve met or who have written me to tell me how excited and hopeful they are that one day they will get to experience The Black Chronicle. As a writer or simply as a fan it’s a very exiting time for me because with the proliferation of smart hand held technology a whole world of story telling opportunities have opened up that wasn’t feasible even five years ago.
S.R.: What types of transmedia elements will The Black Chronicles have?
O.S.: The Black Chronicle will incorporate all kinds of content from emails, bonus chapters, video, audio recordings and even texts and phone calls directly to your phone. Our goal is to bring the reader into the story world and the blur the lines. So all the content is in the found footage style, i.e., hand written police reports, recordings of therapy sessions and snuff films created by Mister, our villain. Mister may even turn is sadistic interest directly towards the reader herself in time.
S.R.: What are Red Right Hand’s plans for the future?
O.S.: My magic eight ball says the future for Red Right Hand publishing is hazy. Concentrate and ask again later. A lot is riding on this title. We are still looking for a publisher and agent who sees what we feel is the massive commercial potential for this project. If all goes well we have a sequel to the book mapped out and would eventually bring in other authors to collaborate on transmedia experiences of their own. Our director of transmedia content Tricia Lee Kalpakis is an incredibly gifted film maker enjoying a lot of success right now with her two award winning horror features, Silent Retreat and Clean Break. So who knows, maybe one day we will consider making the movie. For now we’re just focused on finding the right publisher who is excited as we are about this opportunity to scare the living daylights out of a lot of people.
To demo The Black Chronicles, click here.