Esther’s Space- journey through my life

January 26, 2008

Wait, wait, I figured some stuff out!

Filed under: ENG 597: Literature in the Information Age — estherspace @ 12:22 am

Whoo-eee, where to begin? Jenkins presents a very clear, yet flexible, definition of convergence; he describes it as “a change in the way media is produced and a change in the way media is consumed” (16). One helpful technique for bringing all of the individual chapters together was his repetition, especially of his most pressing worry about the present state of convergence culture, the unwillingness (or inability due to lacking skills) of media producers to work together, co-creating products that can interact across a variety of media tools to give the consumer a synergistic convergence media experience.But, all of his talk about what a product of media convergence might look like made me think about the examples of convergence that I’ve already noticed in my own life. For example, J.K. Rowling’s homepage– a fan dream in the “Dawson’s Desktop” manner.

While Jenkins is focused on the internet as a hub for converging media, and we’re supposed to be thinking about the physical wires that connect technology, I think there’s a pretty strong example of convergence in literature already, outside of fan fiction. Kim, you’re going to love me for bringing this guy up, but Alan Moore is a pretty impressive writer when it comes to creating the worlds for fans to obsess over, like in “Star Wars,” “Lord of the Rings,” or even “The Matrix.” His latest project is a graphic novel series entitled “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which will consist of six volumes, two of which have already been released. The most recent publication is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which acts like a sourcebook for reading the other volumes in the series, rather than as the third volume, but maintains a narrative arc, which most sourcebooks do not.

For those readers who do not follow Moore’s work, one reviewer summed up the plot of the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” series as:

Late Victorian era England is overrun with nefarious and sinister doings. The Crown enlists some of literature’s finest – and sometimes vilest – characters to investigate: Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Mina Harker and the Invisible Man. Can such disparate and antisocial personalities unite in common cause on behalf of the citizens of Britannia? Unlikely. But the results are exciting, often amusing and utterly compelling. (David Kozlowski, comicsbulletin.com)

In the series, Moore is working on the premise that all literary characters and their lives were real, documented events in history. The Black Dossier provides the reader with a unique reading experience, for the book reveals itself as the characters learn more. For example, in the final panel of a page, a character will open a book to read it, and the next page of LoEG: Black Dossier will be the contents of the book the character was reading, often printed to appear to be the original document. As with any Moore work, everything on a page will have significance, and often will refer to other works he has done, to popular legends or mythologies, and will provide clues that the reader can appreciate only after re-reading the book.

In order to successfully compare LoEG: Black Dossier to Jenkins’ ideas of convergence culture, I must first outline some of the specific elements of a convergence media experience as he presents them in his book:

  • “flow of content across multiple media platforms” (2)
  • “cooperation between multiple media industries” (2)
  • “migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (2)
  • “consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (3)
  • “communal rather than individualistic modes of reception” (26)
  • “traditional assumptions about expertise are breaking down” (52)
  • “each step along the way built upon what has come before, while offering new points of entry” (95)
  • a “collaborative model of authorship” (96)
  • “the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts” (102)

Considering that “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” series is confined by it’s position as a printed media, Moore is doing an amazing job of tapping into all of the aspects that Jenkins discusses. For example, throughout the book Moore uses a number of different versions of printed media to further the reading experience, including postcards, newspaper, a play script, and he even includes 3-D pages at the end of the book.

Of course, Moore did not create LoEG: Black Dossier completely on his own. He teamed up with illustrator Kevin O’Neill to help him create this amazing work, as well as colorists, lettering artists, and designers. Moore knew he was doing something different, and in an interview shortly before the release, he stated:

we started to realize that we were practically handling a new form. It would be something that wouldn’t be quite a comic, it wouldn’t be quite a text with the other elements we were planning to include like the vinyl single, the Tijuana Bible and the 3D section. (from comicbookresources.com)

Unfortunately, Moore was unable to convince his editors to go for the vinyl record along with the already pricey book, so we are left with only the has-been possibility of a further converged media experience. There is talk of a later record release, as part of a “Ultimate” Black Dossier collection.

And, like any good convergence media product, the experience of reading Moore’s LoEG: Black Dossier extends far beyond the words and images printed on the page. As with his other work, online knowledge communities have formed, working together to better understand the intricacies of Moore’s work. Fan Jess Nevins hosts a site on the Sam Houston State University (Texas) network dedicated to LoEG: Black Dossier annotations, where the evidence of fan collaboration is evident. It can be found here. Sites like this one are an essential part of ‘getting’ Moore’s work, since, as one critic points out:

I doubt anyone other than Alan Moore (or perhaps his unofficial annotator, Jess Nevins) will catch every reference in Black Dossier, although the deck is already stacked against you if you aren’t British, or at least intimately familiar with British pop culture of the last two hundred years. (Jack Patrick Rodgers on popmatters.com)

However, the world is full of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fans that heartily disagree, and who look forward to the challenge of discovering some of what can be discovered in Moore’s work. I hope, for his sake, that Moore doesn’t lose his knack for staying a creative step ahead of his fans before the series comes to its conclusion. But, my friends, welcome nonetheless to the new, converged, world of fiction.

It’s hard to describe what LeEG: The Black Dossier looks like and how it functions as a reading experience,  so I will do my best to bring it to class on Tuesday, if you’re interested in taking a gander.
P.S. There was a film entitled “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” based on the first volume in the series, with some creative liberties taken, but fans trashed it as unable to capture the true complexity of Moore’s work. For more, look here.

P.P.S.- My boyfriend insists that I add a byline for him, since he introduced me to this latest book by Alan Moore, and helped me understand many of the detailed references that Moore was making.  All hail Greg.

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    1 Comment »

    1. Esther,

      Thank you for commenting. I actually enjoy some of Alan Moore’s work very greatly. I never really got into the League really, but I was a fan of V for Vendetta for a long while. My friend loved comic books and just raved about this guy all the time. I will definitely check out that site!

      Louis

      Comment by timesnine — January 29, 2008 @ 10:32 pm


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