Duel is a cross-device digital fiction thriller being developed as a collaboration between digital writer/artist Andy Campbell and digital writer/novelist Kate Pullinger. The story begins with two characters – Harriet, and Jack, her teenage son – waking up to find themselves ditched off-road on an anonymous muddy track. Thunder is rumbling distantly and it’s throwing it down with rain. Headlights appear in the hazy distance – they’re being chased across country by a frighteningly aggressive and relentless driver.
Well, we have a working version of the full episode one up and running now, and it works across all devices and most browsers, provided those browsers are up to date. And, you’ll be glad to hear, it is looking great. It manages to be both ground-breaking in terms of its use of 3D and parallax views, and a good story as well. I think it looks great, the pacy first half followed by a slightly calmer second half, two characters bouncing off each other, relationships and storylines unfolding for the reader.
Nobody has seen it yet, apart from us. I guess we’ll have to start showing it to people before too long.
This final phase has gone quickly. The first half of the episode, with its layers of video, music and text, was complex and time-consuming to create. For the second half, we felt we could go with a simpler look and feel, allowing the text more prominence, making the text do more of the story-work for us.
I’ve also got a working version of my novel finished now. I’ve changed the name of it to ‘Landing Gear’. My agent and I will be working on figuring out how to show the project, both ‘Duel’ and the novel, to publishers – how and who. That’s next.
Time to start holding your breath.
Work on ‘Duel’ slowed right down over the school holidays with time being very tight. Today Andy and I had a catch-up session. The exhibition and conference ELMCIP is running in Edinburgh – Remediating the Social – is less than two months away, two months that will doubtless speed by.
While continuing to work on developing the first episode of ‘Duel’, our plan is to finish reworking the ACE grant application, and resubmit that sometime in the next fortnight. As well as that, I’ve made good progress on my novel, ‘Our Stuff and Our Things’, to which ‘Duel’ is a companion piece, and I’m hoping it will be ready to show to publishers sometime soon. I have a short list of publishers ( – if only it was a shortlist, but no, it’s a short list) who I know to be interested in digital innovation beyond the ebook, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to pitch the project, both the novel and ‘Duel’, to them. I have no idea if anyone out there in publishing land will be interested in this project, or whether I’ll end up selling the novel on its own to a publisher, and Andy and I will move forward with publishing ‘Duel’ ourselves. We’ll see.
So, onward. Will post more news when we have it.
Andy and I have been making slow but sure progress on ‘Duel’. At an event in Bristol for ELMCIP in May, we showed a trailer for the project and we talked about our process of collaborating. Since then, Andy has made good technical progress through the first episode, and we have about four minutes of material working on desktop, mobile, and iPad now. So, it’s coming along.
I’ve also been working on my novel, ‘Our Stuff and Our Things’; ‘Duel’ is a companion piece to this novel, a digital fiction epilogue (my other on-going digital fiction project ‘Flight Paths: A Networked Novel’ is a digital fiction prologue to the novel). In fact, I’ve finished a draft of it. I gave that draft to a good friend of mine who works as a freelance editor; she came back to me with hugely (surprisingly!) positive feedback. So that manuscript has now gone off to my agent here in the UK, to see what she makes it of it. If she thinks it is ready, we’ll begin the process of showing the novel to publishers. We might offer ‘Our Stuff and Our Things’ and ‘Duel’ together as a package, to see if any publisher is interested in both.
So, we’ll see. One heartening factor throughout this process has been the steady rise in popularity of the tablet, the proliferation of new tablets, and the way that tablets and smartphones are now firmly established as part of the world of reading and viewing. This is nothing but good news for our project.
In March Andy and I met up at Andy’s house in the country to work together on the project. I hadn’t been to Andy’s house before, so it was great to see where he works – a small room with a big computer, you’ll be pleased to hear. We had a productive session together in front of the monitor: we viewed the first three minutes of chapter one several times, and discussed changes to the video and sound effects. Andy gave me a tour of the backend of the project, and we looked at the complex layers of source code behind the chapter.
Together we re-ordered and edited the video, as well as discussing how to create the final section of the chapter. While the first part is fast-paced and action-packed, the second part will be calmer and more reflective. Our discussion gave me a range of ideas for how to develop the second half of the script further, and it will be great to see how these play out. And then we went to the pub for lunch.
April has seen Andy making a series of tech break-throughs and decisions. We’ve been invited to give a talk together in Bristol, at the Performance Writing Weekend at the Arnolfini, 5 May; we plan to show a brief trailer for ‘Duel’ and to talk about our collaboration on it, as well as the work we are doing together on ‘Inanimate Alice’.
April also saw our Grants for the Arts application to Arts Council England turned down, despite being rated ‘strong’ and ‘approved’ by the ACE assessors. Big disappointment there, not the least of which because it means we’ll have to turn down our invitation to the ELO conference in the US in June, despite their offer of travel bursaries. However, ACE are encouraging us to reapply, which we will do, and perhaps we’ll have more luck second time round. It will be months before we have any further news on that.
Since my last post we’ve made some further progress on the public-facing side of this project, as well as on the work itself. Duel has been accepted to exhibit and show at the next ELO conference, Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, which will take place in the US in June 2012. Whether or not either or both Andy and I can attend will depend upon funding – we have a Grants for the Arts application in with Arts Council England and we should hear if we’ve been successful in April. We’ve also been asked to talk about Duel in Bristol in May, at an event that follows- on from the ELMCIP conference Jerome Fletcher will be hosting there.
Despite all this ancillary activity, Andy and I have been working away on Duel itself. I had a good six week writing stretch that started with the new year, and I wrote the second chapter of my novel Our Stuff and Our Things. Two of the main characters in Our Stuff and Our Things feature in Duel, Harriet and Jack, and the chapter I’ve been working on deals with the period of time just prior to Duel. It tells the story of how, and why, Harriet and Jack end up on the road, being chased by a psycho. Harriet knows the identity of the man chasing them, and, at the start of Duel, she’s refusing to tell her son Jack who he is.
It’s proving to be really interesting to work on two big inter-related fiction projects at the same time – this is not something I’ve ever done before. It’s fascinating to write about two characters in one genre – digital fiction – while also developing these characters in the context of a novel. Writing the novel means that I can develop these characters with a greater level of detail on the page, especially in terms of psychological depth, than there is room for in a multimedia text, like Duel – the novel takes place both before and after the story that is told in Duel. I can’t help but think that the characters of Harriet and Jack, as seen in Duel, will have a more developed, complex feel to them than if I hadn’t done all this extra writing and thinking in the context of the novel. At the end of the day my hope is that these two fictions will be interconnected, supporting and playing off each other, in a way that is both enjoyable and illuminating for the reader.
At the same time, the fate of these two projects, in terms of publishing, is unclear. Who knows if I’ll find a publisher for Our Stuff and Our Things? Who knows if Andy and I will be able to find the funding, and time needed, to create Duel? But we go on writing, and building, and creating because, well, it’s what we do.
Hello World, Kate Pullinger here, posting for the first time on the new project blog for ‘Duel’, a brand-new digital fiction that I’m working on with Andy Campbell. So far, we’ve had a bit of success with this work-in-progress: it was chosen as one of ten projects to be showcased and exhibited at ELMCIP’s conference in Edinburgh in November 2012, ‘Remediating the Social’. We’ve applied for some funding to go toward creating it, and we’ve submitted it to another conference for potential exhibition as well.
But now we have to get down to actually creating it. We’re off to a good start in that we have a partial working draft of the first episode, and Andy has been doing all kinds of tests and experiments, including making ‘Duel’ work on smartphones as well touchscreen tablets. This is the first time that Andy and I have worked together on a project of our own, so that’s exciting.
At the same time as working on ‘Duel’, I’m also writing a new novel, ‘Our Stuff and Our Things’. While ‘Duel’ is a complete digital fiction that can stand on its own, it will have a duel (ha!) function for me and my novel, in that it can also be read as a chapter of the novel: the story ‘Duel’ tells is about two of the main characters from ‘Our Stuff and Our Things’, Harriet, and her teenage son Jack. This is something I’m having a great time exploring and developing.
Our plan at the moment is for the first two episodes of ‘Duel’ to be ready for the ELMCIP exhibition and conference in November 2012, with the other two episodes, and the novel, coming out in 2013.