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Über dieses Buch

Contemporary culture is packed with fantasy and science fiction storyworlds extending across multiple media platforms. This book explores the myriad ways in which imaginary worlds use media like films, novels, videogames, comic books, toys and increasingly user-generated content to captivate and energise contemporary audiences.



Introduction: Frames of Reference

In Fantastic Transmedia I argue for a broad definition of transmedia storytelling, one which is capable of accounting for the multiple kinds of interrelated narrativisation that can occur across media. As I’ll show, this is more radical than it might initially sound, since various commentators have attempted to demarcate transmedia storytelling in very specific terms according to often very strict criteria. This is entirely understandable given the potential scope of the area. Yet, as I’ll demonstrate, there are ways of categorising different kinds of transmedia storytelling which can successfully map the area without excluding closely related phenomena because they don’t meet these very specific criteria. I concentrate on the genres of fantasy and science fiction, exploring why these related genres have become the dominant modes of transmedia storytelling. While others have suggested that this is largely down to the kinds of fans these two genres attract, I contend that science fiction and fantasy boast generic characteristics which make them particularly suited to storytelling across different media platforms.
Colin B. Harvey

1. Fantastic Transmedia

I’m standing in a cinema foyer waiting excitedly to be allowed entry. I’m here with two of my oldest friends, both male, whom I’ve known since I was a kid. We’re surrounded by similar thirtysomething males, a few women and huge hoardings depicting characters from the film we’re about to watch. This is the British Film Institute’s IMAX Cinema, located in the South Bank district of London. We’re here to see Tron: Legacy, the sequel to a film that meant a lot to us in our youth, Disney’s 1982 movie Tron, about a character who is sucked into a computer game world.
Colin B. Harvey

2. Stories and Worlds

DayZ is a transmedia storyworld. Its diegesis is expressed in multiple ways in a variety of media, including games, a website and a novel, as extracted above. Its originating form was that of a ‘mod’, a term used to describe the modification or expansion of an existing commercial videogame (Egenfeldt Nielsen, Heide Smith and Pajares Tosca 2008:159). In the case of DayZ, developer Dean Hall took the military simulator game ARMA II and its expansion pack ARMA II: Operation Arrowhead and transformed them into a multiplayer open world survival horror game ( 2012). The scenario is that a fictional post-Soviet state called Chernarus has been attacked by a virus which has previously eradicated most of the world’s population. As a player you’re told you can either act alone or team up with fellow survivors to negotiate the hazardous wasteland. Your opponents include zombies and other players ( Dean Hall and the creators of the ARMA II game, Bohemia Interactive, are currently developing a standalone version of DayZ.
Colin B. Harvey

3. Of Hobbits and Hulks: Adaptation Versus Narrative Expansion

For the most part I had an analogue childhood. The stories I read or watched were brought to me via books, comics, our DER rental television set, or through very infrequent trips to the cinema. The first explicitly digital object I can remember seeing was an IBM calculator my dad brought home from work in the dying days of the 1970s. It was a piece of beige plastic with rubber keys and a red digital display. After that there was a series of Casio digital watches. Then, in 1983, I came second in a Daily Express and Laskys competition to ‘Design a House of the Future’ and won an Atari 800 computer for myself, plus a host of computing equipment for my middle school.1
Colin B. Harvey

4. Canon-Fodder: Halo and Horizontal Remembering

In the previous chapter, I suggested that archetypal forms of adaptation tend to remember the narrative structure of their source material in a vertical fashion, in order to differentiate it from the horizontal remembering that characterises transmedia storytelling. In this fourth chapter, I turn my attention more fully to the operation of cultural memory across a franchise, examining the means by which characters, plot information, setting or themes are rearticulated between transmedial elements. Such horizontal remembering is key to transmedia storytelling, since this is the means by which transmedial expansion is accomplished. As has become increasingly clear in the course of this volume, legal frameworks play a crucial role in determining what can and cannot be remembered, and therefore in circumscribing canon, the collectively agreed mythology to which storyworlds must ideally adhere.
Colin B. Harvey

5. Configuring Memory in the Buffyverse

In this chapter, I look more closely at transmedia fandom through an examination of audience engagement with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossmedial franchise. Originating as a feature film, Buffy evolved into a popular and well-regarded television series that in turn produced its own televisual spinoff and spawned a wide range of other media such as comics, board games, toys and videogames. In common with other fandoms, Buffy fans are indeed, as Self observes, a diverse group of people who negotiate the franchise’s transmedial content in a wide variety of ways, though the shared values of ‘cosmopolitanism and tolerance’ suggest they’re also rightly described as a ‘community’. For some fans, the Buffy merchandise Self speaks of is intrinsic to their identity and this sense of community, but it might also be seen as integral to maintaining the particular identity of the Buffy brand.
Colin B. Harvey

6. Material Myths and Nostalgia-Play in Star Wars

Transmedia networks clearly demand different sets of configurative practices dependent on the specific attributes of the medium being engaged with at any particular time. A physical Buffy the Vampire comic is engaged with in a different fashion than the television series that spawned it. Playing Halo 3 involves a different set of configurative practices from those involved in reading the tie-in novel Halo: Primordium. In other words, the specific material and energetic conditions of the medium play a central role in determining the nature of the possible configurations available to the audience member in question, whether we frame them as ‘viewer’, ‘listener’, ‘player’, ‘reader’ or more loosely as ‘participant’.
Colin B. Harvey

7. Fantastically Independent

The various transmedia projects I’ve so far discussed have been large-scale, corporate initiatives in some sense, or at least licensed works farmed out to much smaller companies by much larger organisations. In this penultimate chapter of Fantastic Transmedia, I explore a variety of transmedial works which fall wholly outside of the dominant, big-budget paradigm. Instead, I concentrate on contemporary and recent transmedia work which seeks to utilise digital media, sometimes in conjunction with older forms of communication, in the telling of fantastically themed crossmedia stories. As I’ll show, some of these projects fit the intracompositional model described by Dena and which I’ve yet to discuss in any depth, while others are more obviously intercompositional in their approach, once again spreading across multiple, discrete media platforms. In all cases, as I’ll demonstrate, memory is a dominant characteristic in the construction of fantastically themed, independent transmedia work.
Colin B. Harvey

8. Transmedia Memory

As I’ve shown throughout this book — and as the above news story amply demonstrates — transmedia storytelling has always been more pervasive than it’s been given credit. In its most explicit version, transmedia storytelling tends to be articulated as such by those who own the IP rights to the creative work in question, and is likely to be controlled in a highly directed, integrated fashion. In other examples the control can be far looser, as in the case of some licensed tie-in material examples; and sometimes manifestations of transmedia narrative lack any official sanction, as is the case with myriad kinds of fan creation, ranging from prose-based fiction, fan films and audio productions to machinima. In some instances, science fiction and fantasy storytelling provoke varieties of transmedia memory which aren’t necessarily narratives in their own right but affordances, which may or may not trigger the storyworld in question: from Star Wars toys to certain kinds of videogame, to craft inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer to cosplay, and even including stone gargoyles on Scottish churches.
Colin B. Harvey


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