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Saturday 5 May 2012

Emerging from The Waste Land

There's a lot of talk about the resurgence of gambooks, so it's nice to see quality UK newspapers like The Guardian taking the new wave of digital interactive literature seriously. Literary editor Claire Armistead writes:
"Last week, the independent publisher Profile Books launched an updated, interactive version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which leapt straight into the top 10 in the books section of Apple's App Store on both sides of the Atlantic."
Whether your preference is literary fiction or orcs-n-goblins (or both) this should be good news for gamebook aficionados as it signals a willingness in the mainstream to take the medium seriously. Hit the link to see a bunch of other interesting digital books that Ms Armistead is looking at.


  1. I'm pleased that, this time, you didn't add a picture of écorché that gives me nightmares and keeps me off your blog....


  2. That's sort of how Frankenstein's monster appears in my version, Olivier, having transparent skin. But I'll try to remember to show less alarming images from now on - I don't want to drive you away.

  3. This is brilliant. I guess gamebooks were ahead of their time and just waiting for digital media to come along and unlock their potential.

  4. Actually, Stuart, I could in theory have published Frankenstein in print form - it's not much more complex than old-style gamebooks. What the digital format has done is open it up to a mass market of non-gamers who would never have the patience to keep tabs on variables and codewords. Of course, it also looks much better than a paperback and it's cheaper (£2.99) which can't have hurt sales.

    The big innovation has been moving away from the old idea of steering your way through a plot - which, if we're talking about dungeons and goblins, videogames can now do so much better. In Frankenstein, the traditional gamebook structure has been co-opted to develop a relationship with the characters. You can alter the plot, but not massively so, and that's not really the point anyway.

    This is not to say I'm turning my back on traditional gamebooks. Far from it - my next couple of projects are reworkings of Heart of Ice and Down Among the Dead Men, and we have FL books 1-6 coming out in digital form later in the year. However, if gamebooks are to make a comeback they have to climb out of the hardcore fantasy gamer niche and embrace the broader kinds of storytelling that engage most readers.

  5. amazing news! i just disagree with the columnist where she writes "a new type of (book)that would be impossible to create within the pages of a paper book"
    And what about 30 years of (also yours) paperback gamebooks??
    But ok... great news! congratulations for Frankenstein success!!

  6. "Tricky to create," would be accurate. It doesn't matter if you are told to lose 2 hit points in Firetop Mountain, but if you're told to deduct 2 points from Victor Frankenstein's trust of you then that could kind of break the experience. And I do have to stress that the stunning visual design on this new work (by awesome art/code studio Inkle) makes every other gamebook look like fish-n-chips wrapping :-)

  7. 'Because it deals with multiple pathways, Dave Morris's new text is longer than that of the original novel.' Claire Armitstead has chosen to focus on the LENGTH of the book? Sigh.

    (Can I call it a 'book'? An 'app'? How about a 'bapp'?)

    I'm partway through Frankenstein at the moment, and I think it's fantastic. Without wanting to go into spoilers... in the part of the book that's titled, 'The First Victim', I really laboured to make sure that the titular victim wasn't one of the characters I'd grown quite attached to. Did I succeed? I guess that rereading the book will show me what might have happened had I acted differently...

    And I live in Paris, which makes the book doubly creepy. A couple of its locations aren't showing up on my GPS, though - maybe your maps are older than mine.

  8. And in fact it's not longer because of multiple pathways (though that's part of it) so much as because Mary Shelley tended to skimp on all the character stuff. So I've had to add about 70,000 words to write the scenes to show where she would tell.

    The first victim I thought of as the monster himself, though I think I know who you mean. You may not save him, but whether you feel culpable in his death is a whole other thing.

  9. This is a rather cynical viewpoint, I know, but I also think it's fairly accurate. "Apps" currently sound cool, sexy and... are for the most part re-branded "kid's videogames" that were appropriated from computer gamers by the mainstream with the advent of the iPad. So, a gamebook "app" such as Frankenstein (or the Fabled Lands) has an opportunity to break free of the appalling prejudice and snobbery that has blighted the public attitude to "kid's gamebooks" for the previous three decades. Excellent! Good luck Dave - and what's the next novel on the to-do list?

  10. As ever, Jiminy, my interest is in continuing my Mirabilis graphic novel epic. As long as a publisher will give me money to rewrite some classic novel in interactive format, I'll do it if that allows me to keep paying my artists and colorist!

  11. Will mirabilis winter volume 2 be out in hardback on june 1st as it says on the book depository website? The date has been moved back before. I want it!

    1. I hope so. Apparently it has been printed but the copies are all in a UK customs warehouse. So the delay is just dealing with the paperwork so that the publisher can get them to Amazon.

  12. Good to know. Thanks.