When I first read about emotobooks, I didn’t know what to think. The idea of illustrating stories with abstract art was new to me, interesting but alien. The world of literature is changing so fast, I sometimes wonder whether I can keep up. But much of this change is downright fascinating. There are now more ways to experience stories than ever before, and the emotobook is just another way some people are pushing the boundaries of collaborative storytelling.
Lucky for me, Jodi McClure, author of the new, science fiction, serialized emotobook, Swing Zone, has given me permission to repost her explanation of what this new kind of collaboration is all about. Be sure to check out her novel on Grit City’s catalogue.
When a Book becomes the Art.
Inside the Museum of Modern Art, Salvador Dali’s “The Peristence of Memory” is a bit of a curiosity. After passing Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and Wyeth’s ‘Christina’s World’ and larger works like Matisse’s ‘La Dance,’ you are funneled into an alcove where several panels of Monet’s ‘Water Lillies’ extend from ceiling to floor. From there, you enter a moderate white room with a few pictures so small you almost don’t stop to look at them. But just as you’re about to exit the room, something familiar catches your eye, and you step back and tilt your head. There it is…in all it’s 9″ x 13″ glory. A melting pocket watch draped over a tree limb.
Many people don’t realize the minuscule dimensions of Dali’s best known work, a picture as unusual as the artist himself. Positioned next to such majestic company, the painting, barely larger than a standard piece of paper, seems somehow understated. You almost have to wait a moment for the world around you to shrink back down to size to gain the proper perspective, and even then…it’s still really small. Study the painting and you can see it is made up of simple strokes. The kind you could have done yourself, had you a brush and an ounce of Dali’s genius. It looks almost like a watercolor under the glass, delicate and fleeting. Sunshine in the distance. A foreground veiled in shadow. The smallness itself part of the picture. Lost in its timeless depths, it’s hard not to wonder…what the hell was going on in Dali’s mind?
There have been countless interpretations of Dali’s work. Reality breaking down, the distortion of time in a dream, a touch of Einstein, a touch of Freud. Ask the artist and he’ll tell you he was just thinking about how cheese melts when left out in the sun. Some scholars say it’s easy to understand, while others rub at their chins. In the end…it is what it is. A fascinating landscape inviting the viewer to contemplate it…while Dali laughs at you from somewhere in the ether. Art is a wonderful thing.
Whether it stirs your emotions or leaves you cold, makes you think or smacks your sensibilities, art touches each individual in a different way…but every artist sets out hoping to at least engage the viewer, to make them think or feel something. Even a child’s refrigerator drawing has a story.
Illustrations with literature, though, always depicted a physical scene from the story. Back in the Victorian days when it first became popular to couple the two, the standard lithograph contained characters in rooms or out on the street. What you wouldn’t find…and rarely find even to this day…is a book illustrated with a depiction not of a scene, but of a thought or an emotion, and yet, isn’t that the more perfect combination? Instead of telling your mind what it should see…it instead invites the mind to experience the moment in a deeper more meaningful way. It stimulates instead of delegates…prompting you to connect not a picture to the scene, but a sensation.
So, you will ask, “Does it work?” Fans of Grit City’s ‘Emotobooks’ will tell you that it does. By marrying pulp fiction to impressionistic art, Emotobooks become more than just a newfangled way to use your E-reader devices. They become art themselves, poking out of an unexplored niche of pop culture like a quad colored Marilyn or a can of Campbell’s soup. They’re funky on a cyber level. A digital age oddity in a sea of normality. A thought…outside of the box…inside of a book that’s made to tantalize your emotions to start with.
Each Emotobook is three people working in unison. An author who grabs your mind, an illustrator who grabs your soul, and an editor who makes sure you stay in tune and make beautiful music together. (There’s also this guy behind a desk with a big cigar who glares down at you with the unforgiving eyes, but we won’t mention him…out of fear for our lives…)
To tease your imagination further, some of these emotobooks are serialized. (Just think of a Dickens, an Eliot or a Thackeray…sitting at a PC in their shabby little city apartments, the oppressive night air barely moving the curtains over their open windows, the distant sirens and honking traffic, the flashing neon lights below them on the street. They’d be blogging serials. There was a reason why serialized fiction enthralled an entire age of Victorian Brits. Granted, it had everything to do with books being expensive and people discovering literacy was cool, but hey, both of those things still apply…)
Swing Zone makes its debut as an emotobook serial on April 1st. It’ll be there…on the wall…in its tiny frame, easily missed besides the giant Water Lillies. I invite you to check it out. You might discover yourself lost in a fascinating new landscape.
In the year 2229, cash-starved prospector Mia Blanchard uncovers a valuable relic while digging around the swing zone, a shared forest area that lies between two cities. To the north is Freedale, a polluted militaristic metropolis on the cutting edge of high technology. To the south sits picturesque Lakeside, a quiet rural community of earth loving purists.
A delicate accord between the two cities has allowed their peaceful coexistence, but as renegade activists from Lakeside start taking potshots at Freedale, Mia’s brother, Colonel Zavier Blanchard, calls for an attack to retaliate against them. With the swing zone fast becoming a battle zone, Mia rushes to excavate her find with the help of Coltis Lawson, an archeology enthusiast from the purist side. His knowledge and almost magical capabilities only serve to confuse her further, as she finds herself unwittingly falling for a man she’s not sure she can trust.
With her opinion swaying back and forth along with the tide of the conflict, Mia comes to learn there’s more at stake than she could possibly imagine. Torn between her love and her city, she struggles to uncover the mysterious truth while trying not to get trapped on the wrong side of a very dangerous line.