Multi-dimensional Books

"Pandora Opens Box" by the amazing Su Blackwell

The other day I was hanging out with my friend, Jeff Aach, and he asked if I’d given any thought to the digital possibilities for The Devil of Echo Lake. Of course I like the fact that low prices for ebooks by new authors enable readers to take a chance on something different, but I hadn’t really thought about the potential for certain kinds of digital books to deepen the reading experience and blur the line between books and other media.

Jeff, being one of my many computer geek friends, was quick to enlighten me, and by the end of our Guinness fueled chat, I was seeing digital publishing not just as a cheap convenience, but as a multimedia platform for writers who dabble in more than one art, or who are willing to work hard on exploiting the form with collaborators.

Everybody knows that one advantage of the ebook is how you can include more illustrations without the costs traditionally inflicted by four-color printing. And illustrations have always enhanced the fantasy genre, whether it’s Alan Lee’s understated pencil sketches in the margins of Tolkien, or Clive Barker’s explosions of oil paint in his own Abarat books. But I’m thinking beyond illustrated or graphic novels with this.

I’m a musician, my main character is a musician, and I’m thinking about a book with a soundtrack.

The story is based in part on my own experiences playing in a band, and later working in a studio, so the songs mentioned in the book do exist beyond the fiction. In some places I only reference titles, in other places there are snippets of lyrics, but the songs I gave to Billy Moon are real, and wouldn’t it be cool to hear some of that music, synched to the page you are reading, in a rock-and-roll thriller?

I guess a Kindle edition wouldn’t do it, but a special edition for iPads and other tablets could. The experience would still be about reading a novel–that’s your primary engagement with the story–but the beauty of this technology is that the device knows what page you’re on. Because of that, if artfully employed in a way that never threatens your connection to the narrative, but only deepens it, the possibilities for multi-dimensional fiction are very cool.

I picture a reader not only hearing music during certain key passages, but also seeing shadowy, foreboding images floating behind the text, fading in and out. Maybe even photography flashed at the screen so quickly that you’re not sure what you just saw, but when added to the context of the suspenseful passage you’re reading, freaks you the fuck out. Horror tales are fertile ground for this kind of thing.

Anyway, here’s the song Billy and his band are playing in Chapter One, closing out their Tokyo show and their world tour. It’s called Remote Control.

Non-fictional credits: music and lyrics by Jeff Miller & Doug Wynne
performed by Medicine Pipe.


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