Among the busy workshops at the recent London Author Fair at Covent Garden’s Hospital Club, one was an “author exchange” led by the husband-and-wife team of Dave and Roz Morris. And while Mrs. Morris has her own reasons not to be a household name despite selling an average 500,000 copies per book--she’s a ghostwriter, shhhh--Mr. Morris’ work may have sailed right past you because the first set of tools he brings to the table are those of a game designer. A very accomplished one, with some 70 game-book titles to his name…which, on Twitter is @MirabilisDave.
In fact, when I mentioned that in 1991, Dave Morris was the UK’s top-selling author, he offered up one title you’ll definitely know:
Now we know who to blame for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And as you dive for your old copies of Buried Treasure (1990), Dinosaur Farm (1991), Splinter to the Fore (1991) and more, don’t cry for Morris. He’s eight months into the rather expensive development of a 24-episode time-traveling TV series, a show with a “videogame design ethic,” for a network that must remain nameless for now:
This will be good news for fans of Sherlock in the UK and Fringe in the US:
Morris, who’s celebrating a not-quite Teenage birthday this week, in fact, is almost 30 years into a career that exemplifies what some see as the right way to bring “transmedia” to publishing: he comes in by the game-design door, not the author window.
In our #PorterMeets interview — running on multi-tracks, itself, we are so transmedial — Morris talked about his French Revolution app-setting of Shelley’s Frankenstein for Michael Bhaskar’s Profile Books.
The interactivity in Morris’ Frankenstein (now available both for iOS and Android systems, we learn) is your engagement with the book’s titular protagonist:
In that dynamic , you find what Morris knows about why transmedial work fails or succeeds. “Interactive stories are my interest, which first require the author to do no harm…Don’t stick in interactive bits just for the sake of it.”
What Dan Franklin, PRH’s digital publisher, was writing about at The Bookseller’s FutureBook this week in “Authors! The Future of the Book is You” plays right into what Morris is able to define as one of the key stumbling blocks in this kind of work.
“The writer must be a transcendent, not immanent, deity,” Morris tells me. Yes, he used “immanent” in a tweet. What game designers know is that they must create a story world and then hand it to the reader/user, stepping back to allow that interaction to guide development. Of course, this veers from the traditional authorial role. The author no longer is quite in control. Which, Morris says, is closer to How Life Works:
While ceding narrative control to readers and users may be one of the trickiest elements of fully transmedial development, it’s one thing Morris doesn’t have to do in the work that gives him his Twitter handle, Mirabilis: Year of Wonders.
Its original installments appeared in Random House’s The DFC comic. Now, Morris and his co-creators, including illustrator Leo Hartas, are carrying the work on, satisfying their “love of comics and visual storytelling,” nothing interactive about it. Books 1 and 2 are out now, Book 3 is coming in October and an Italian translation is on the way:
And on the way to Page 1000? What would Morris do to help publishing folks get closer to the transmedial mode that’s proving so hard to capture?