The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Worldbuilding and world-extending: Discoveries and questions

I kicked off this week with a big, messy post about, basically, fan fiction. Now that I’ve talked it through a bit with my incredible fellow seminarians, I think my questions boil down to: What are the aspects of a creative text that are most conducive to fostering fan fiction? and How do those attributes translate to nonfictional domains?

Here are the boundaries I’ll draw around my curiosity:

  • I’m more interested in creative responses to discrete creative works (e.g. this in response to this) than I am in creative stuff made with creative tools (e.g. this built with this). That is to say, I’m less interested in the general phenomenon of people building things with games or tools that are about building things (e.g. what makes Legos so conducive to worldbuilding?).
  • I’m more interested in the wealth (in all dimensions) of responses a work produces than in the inherent creativity of the work itself — the world built on top of or in response to a thing, rather than the world of the thing.
  • I’m (ultimately) most interested in how these attributes of creative works apply outside the most familiar domains of fan fiction such as fantasy fiction, Star Wars, etc. I’m curious, for example, how one makes nonfiction that produces fan-nonfiction.

Some familiar examples of the types of creative responses that strike me as fitting into my framework of what I’ll call “world-extensions” are modding (EG), fan fic (EG), and cosplay (EG).

Some of the more unfamiliar examples that strike me as possibly alike enough to cluster with these things are:

  • An interplay of visual artworks, like the Picasso and American Art exhibit, and particularly the range of artistic extensions of / responses to “The Studio.” (Including Picasso’s own extensions of that artwork.)
  • Op-eds and punditry in major national newspapers and the sort of mirror-world that pundits fashion in concert with one another. (Thanks, Robin!)
  • Parody Twitter accounts, like @MayorEmanuel.
  • Wikipedia.
  • Memes.

Lastly, here are some of the nascent hypotheses I’m forming about aspects of a work that can help bring about world-extending:

  • Expansiveness and/or continuity: The world should feel big and open enough that folks feel there’s room to play with it.
  • Strong, recognizable systems: The rules and boundaries of the world should feel solid enough to provide a common structure to any world-extensions.
  • Focus and blurriness: It seems important that there are areas of the world drawn in fairly vivid detail, but also aspects of the world presented only suggestively. Things to grab onto, and things to fill in.
  • Fandom: This kinda goes without saying, but the work needs to have enough attractions that a critical mass of folks will fall in love with it.

There are a few other dimensions I haven’t reached the hypothesis stage for:

  • What’s the effect of otherworldliness? Are works of fantasy more conducive to world-extending than works based more solidly in reality?
  • How much of world-extension is related to things such as age and gender? We all seem particularly interested in extending worlds when we’re young; does the desire dissipate as we get older and busier?
  • What about the degree of user/reader/watcher/listener investment in the text? To inspire fan-fiction, is there possibly a sort of attentional summit that, once ascended, begins to tunnel the person deeper and deeper into the world of the text?

Today and tomorrow, I’ll be crashing the #worldbuilding tag on Twitter to explore some of these questions. Do join me!


The Kirby Cosmos

Apropos of nothing: I love the Celestials. (And these renderings of them in particular.)


The new comics page

This isn’t brand new, but worth reading if you’re into comics, web comics, and what either or both might become: Warren Ellis muses on an emerging aspect ratio for webcomics—one perhaps reminiscent of those weird old newspaper adventure strips.

I was in a diner the other day and picked up a printed newspaper. To be precise, I picked up the comics section. The thought that occurred to me was: Now this, here, is a fully dead format. But what fun, while it lived! The comics page! Shouldn’t there be some new-school version of this? Some webcomic aggregator that pulls a bunch of the best together and lays them out in a great big liquid wall to fit phones and tablets and big broad monitors alike? And pays a bit back to each creator?

It’s fun and strange to remember that drawing a syndicated newspaper comic strip used to be—no kidding—a path to riches. I mean, if you got your drawings in front of the right people at Universal Press Syndicate, and they liked it, and the salespeople pitched your strip and a bunch of papers picked it up… you had it made! I mean sure, you then had to draw a comic every day for the rest of your life. But even so. I drew a few editorial cartoons for MSU’s student paper, and I will admit to dreaming the dream of daily comics, and of syndication. I thought, very briefly, that there might be no life better than the life of, say, the guy who made Get Fuzzy.

Anyway: Why isn’t this a thing? Is it in fact a thing and I just haven’t seen it yet?


Digging in the corporate crates

I found this randomly, in a classic web one-link-leads-to-another sort of way, and I’m sorta fascinated by it: a collection of new webcomics all based on old, defunct Bandai arcade games:

Shiftylook exists to excavate the buried treasures of the Namco Bandai group, bringing back to life characters once thought consigned to a lonely oblivion.

The comics are pretty light—

—but the approach is interesting and brave. Call it the Watchmen strategy. Watchmen happened because DC dusted off a bunch of characters it had acquired from Charlton Comics—Nite Owl?!—and handed them over to Alan Moore. Any corporation with moldy old IP can do the same: “Here, we found these characters in a box under the stairs. Can you… do something… with them?”

I’d totally sign up to write a comic based on some weird forgotten video game.


Avengers Assembled


What a fun, revelatory, and (of course) timely visualization.

Update: Here’s Jer’s post about the project.


The Bat-Man of Bas-Lag

China Miéville is writing a new series for DC Comics.

There’s no way I can’t give that a try.

(It’s not a Batman series though. Sorry if my headline got you excited; I couldn’t resist.)

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Recently assembled cultural artifacts

I was at a conference called NewsFoo this past weekend. In sessions and in conversations throughout the event, folks shared a number of impressive or memorable cultural artifacts they'd encountered; I wrote down as many as I could. I often stupidly neglected to note who pointed out what. Where I've remembered the source, I've included her. Thanks to everyone who shared!

First, some British psychedelia from Alastair Dant and Nicola Twilley – a show called "The Magic Roundabout" that was apparently pretty fantastic:

Read more…



Connected to a previous post: What if the rest of the Justice League posed like Wonder Woman? (Don’t miss the comments.)


PR for superheroes

Don’t worry, Snarkmarket isn’t going to become a comic-book blog. But this FAQ from DC, sent out to comic book stores, is super weird. This is what happens when you mix corporate PR (absurdity level: high) with comic-book continuity (absurdity level: absurd)…

Does The New 52 undo events or continuity that I’ve been reading?

Some yes, some no. But many of the great stories remain. For example – Batgirl. The Killing Joke still happened and she was Oracle. Now she will go through physical rehabilitation and become a more seasoned and nuanced character because she had these incredible and diverse experiences.

“Incredible and diverse experiences”??!!

But okay snark aside, the nuts-and-bolts business stuff later in the FAQ is actually kinda interesting.

P.S. “Incredible and diverse experiences”??

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Batman would never stand like that

Continuing the comic book theme: this 2010 post by Megan Rosalarian Gedris about gender and presentation in comics is great… largely because instead of telling, it shows:

That’s Megan’s rendering, copied directly from source material; here are both versions side-by-side. And here’s more.

Comic books politics aside—this made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.