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All the fun of the fair, with added theology

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Apologies for the silence. I plan to rectify this with a steady stream of posts that will dazzle and fascinate over the coming weeks. Failing that, I will post links to funny things that I see on twitter. But I will be here – realize that silence in the blog world is pretty much like not turning up to someone’s wedding – you quickly become dead to them. But since it’s nearly Easter, return from death is topical, so here I am.

And here’s something loosely related to Jesus that I’ve enjoyed recently – a panel discussion at the London Book Fair. There’s a link. Promise.

The London Book Fair and theology

Visited the fair on the Tuesday and saw a great panel discussion featuring, among others, MG Harris, the author of the Joshua Files (@RealMGHarris on twitter). It was about interactive reading communities, and transmedia storytelling. Harris was talking about the digital extensions of her Joshua Files books – how readers can find codes in the book and use them to access “secret” websites. I’ve not actually read the books yet, but now I want to.

This approach reminds me a bit of Alan Moore and a bit of Tolkien.

Alan Moore…because of his interleaving of the fictional and the real – and his use of a united fictional universe, in which Rupert the Bear lives on the Island of Doctor Moreau (he’s a mutant experiment you see). In Alan Moore’s worlds, the barriers between various fictional realities and real realities are broken. MG Harris talked about “pretending” that the Joshua Files are all true – they operate on a complete suspension of disbelief, or at least, a shared tacit agreement that this is all real. Real life and fiction have a good chance to overlap in cyberspace – not just in Second Life and all that sort of thing, but in readers’ interactions with books. I’m definitely seeing more and more websites, for example, that treat the characters of stories as real people – or create fictional authors, like Lemony Snicket, who are a part of the story’s universe (In the case of some book packagers, you get fictional authors of a different kind – where a book is written as a team effort then they stick a made up name to it. But that’s slightly less cool and exciting to me.)

So, Harris’s stuff is Moore-ish in that way. But what she was saying also reminded me of Tolkien’s idea of “sub-creation” – Tolkien talked about human creativity as sub-creation, versus Divine Creation. You could also look at fanfiction as sub-creation – the author says let there be story, and there is story… but then the readers become writers within the universe, copying the Great Creator in the Sky/at the book signing. The mood at the panel was pretty pro-fan fiction, which was great I feel, as that liberates stories and allows them to grow legs and run amok.

But Harris is also engaging in sub-creation within her own universe – once you take a story into a different medium, you’re playing in your OWN sandbox to an extent. Reworking the materials of your own storyverse in an interactive way offers all kinds of routes in to sub-creation for the readers, whether it’s just in terms of how it fires their imagination, or if it encourages them to think of their own “off camera” Joshua stories.

All in all, it was an inspiring panel. I’ve been thinking for a while of various ways in which I’d like to extend my stories into the digital, interactive realm, and seeing someone really throwing themselves into it made me think, hell yeah. Bring it on.

Because it’s always easier to be enthusiastic in American English than British English.


Tonight, I’m going to watch Have I Got News For You being filmed. I’m very excited to have the chance, finally, to see all the stuff they can’t broadcast for fear of getting sued. Shall give a full report tomorrow. Haven’t actually looked up who the guests are, though hoping it’s not someone who’ll goad Ian Hislop into an unfunny political rant.


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