It’s 11:00 on the uptown R train. At the 23rd St. stop, an older gentleman steps onto the car and pauses in the doorway as he scans the half-empty seats. A smile slowly speads across his face. Whispering, as if talking to himself, he slowly walks towards the woman in the corner seat. She’s smiling too, their eyes are locked. He slides into the seat next to her and she removes her headphones as they lean in for a kiss.
I quietly observe this interaction from the other side of the car. Something about these few minutes seem strangely ritualistic. I like to think they do this every night. After a long day at work, they’ve arranged to meet here.
In that seat.
In this car.
At this stop.
On this train.
The corner seat on the uptown R train is theirs. In the middle of the huge city, they’ve carved out a spot to meet so every night, at 11:00, they know where to find each other.
When I got off the subway a few stops later, they were exchanging stories about their days. I smiled as I stepped out of the car onto the platform. The city is moving all around them but to those two that seat in that car on that train was their universe. Because every night at 11:00pm, that’s the only spot that matters. Everything else fades away.
I devoured this Wired profile on Russell Quinn, a software developer and designer from California who is releasing his first novel, The Silent History, later this year. What makes The Silent History so interesting is that it’s a completely iPad and iPhone native story, utilizing the strengths of a digital device:
Now after a string of behind-the-scenes successes, Quinn may be about to transform the art of storytelling itself. This summer he will launch The Silent History, a sprawling electronic novel that plays with the mechanics of how stories are told, taking full advantage of the tablet’s GPS and touchscreen, along with platform features like in-app purchasing.
Up to this point, ebooks have been little more than digital translations of the printed book, adding little new to the act of storytelling. By embracing the digital medium, Quinn includes maps and location data and ways for readers to interact with the book by submitting their own “field reports.” The novel will be released serially, a new chapter is automatically downloaded to your device every weekday for a month, and designed to be read in 10 to 15 minute chunks, catering to how we often read on such devices.
One key difference in how this e-book works is that the narrative is serialized — reminiscent of the days when novels were introduced in magazines and newspaper episodes before they were published in full. The serial is broken into six parts, each one spanning several years in fictional time. (The story begins in the summer of 2011 and ends in 2043).
Readers can join at any time and absorb the back-story. A new episode is quietly synced with your device every weekday for a month and each piece is designed to be read in 10 to 15 minutes — on your commute to work, say. There’s a month break in between each of the six parts, so the entire project will take a year to unfold.
What I love about this is it’s completely embracing the device without trying to hold on to the traditions of the printed medium. “I love the printed book,” Quinn says. “But I’m not romantic about the book, either.” I’ve long felt that if digital and printed books are to co-exist, they both need to play on and emphasize their inherent strengths. Quinn’s The Silent History seems to be pushing us in the right direction.
The Eternal Thread
“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” —Muriel Rukeyser
The oldest recorded constellations are from old Babylonian astronomy, beginning in the Middle Bronze Age, somewhere around 6th century BC. Constellations consists of the grouping of starts, their proximity to one another, and the patterns they form. These patterns have created Leo the Lion, Taurus the Bull, Orion, and Scorpius. What’s interesting is the idea of constellations is man-made, created out of the seemingly random shapes we see in the sky. We make sense of these stars by layering characters and stories on top of them.
Story is how we relate to the world and to each other.
Reflections on Reviewing Portfolios, or, some suggestions to help you get a job
I was honored to be asked by Northampton Community College, a school where I spent a year and half, to come back and critique portfolios of the current graduates. I remember what it was like to be on the other side of that table showing my own book, thinking how much I thought I knew while also finding the feedback and response to my work incredibly helpful.
I’m not sure I was as helpful as I would have liked to be, though I tried to give constructive criticism and feedback and generally challenge the students to think about why they made the decisions they made. I found myself saying a similar things to a few students and thought it might be of help to write them down to share here. These suggestions are less about actual design concepts like typography (it’s too big) or layout (use grids—obviously) and more about presenting your work in a thoughtful and intelligent way.