[GUEST POST] A.R. Witham on The Future of Publishing


A.R. Witham is a multiple Emmy® award-winning writer. He spent a few years working for Quentin Tarrantino during the making of Pulp Fiction, and for the next several years he was paid to write action screenplays including the Christopher Lambert & Ice-T cult hit Mean Guns. His most recent work is the World’s First Moving Novel exclusively for the iPad, Black Jack.

All Along the Watchtower

by A.R. Witham

Part of the fun of being a geek is living in the future. We serve as the bellwether of the things to come. We are the lookout whose eyes are fixed on the golden horizon. We are Heimdall standing vigil at the Rainbow Bridge. And it is good.

Hell, it is awesome.

As outsiders, we embrace X-Men as being important because all of us are outcasts, we value Narnia for giving us an experience of faith without the church and we applaud Hunger Games for ripping the old masks off a deeper truth. As geeks, we embrace these things before anyone else gets to them, and we love them best.

There is a new future coming, and it is amazing.

I’m talking about the old ways, gentle readers. I’m talking about books.

When I was a kid, the whole idea of an iPad was just a dream, something Ender Wiggin or Jean-Luc Picard would use; a whiz-bang neato idea, but no closer to reality than Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber or George Jetson’s pneumatic tube people-movers.

All of a sudden three years ago, these things are freakin’ real. There are stories to be told with these magic tablets. New stories.

I know we all like the smell of old paper, that vanilla lignin scent of aged books. We love that magnificent array of trophies upon our bookshelves – that collected booty of a thousand campaigns that shows strangers our wisdom is to be respected, perhaps feared. And some of us are resentful that these little damn glowy-screens are pretending to be books.

I mean let’s be honest: we geeks can be a little entrenched sometimes. Okay, let’s be more honest: we geeks are the harshest critics in the ‘verse. We will flay and butcher a film before the first trailer has even come out. When we receive news the Terry Brooks’s Shannara is being turned into a series at MTV, we grab pitchforks and light torches to go burn down the studio before they can holler “But Jon Favreau is directing!” Let’s be totes amazeballs honest: You could put a Neil Gaiman script of an ILM-driven Fahrenheit 451 directed by Joss Whedon starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Scarlett Johansson, and some of us would cross our arms an say, “Feh. Truffaut did it already.”

Real geeks live in the future. We see it coming, and we’re the ones who meet it before it gets to the front gate, hand it a Boba Fett mug of hot chocolate, throw our arms around its shoulder and say “let me show you around, pal.”

The advent of film gave Georges Méliès an excuse to stick a rocket in the moon’s eye; radio gave Orson Welles the chance to stage a Martian invasion. iPads and Nextbooks and Kindles are little glowy magic portals to another world…if we will open them.

A few of us are working to build a story that is geekworthy out of this new technology. Madefire and NARR8 are bringing comic books to moving life. Eli Horowitz took a crack with the geo-cached groupthink novel The Silent History. My Emmy®-winning Black Jack team built a fantasy epic for the iPad that builds layers of interactive animations to make the pages feel like magic.

There are a lot of very good minds working to build the future of storytelling.

Because here’s the other hard fact: young people are reading less. They’re not reading for fun. For most of them, reading is something they are forced to do for school. And that, fellow geeks, is unacceptable.

The book is evolving past pulp-and-cardboard, and it is our responsibility to be on the bleeding edge, to spyglass the exceptional stories and to lead the way there. Because they listen to us. They do.

So keep your eyes open, keep your heart open, so when the 21st Century Georges Méliès (who, more than likely, is going to be some weird little twelve-year-old pigtailed girl from Ohio) pulls back the curtain on something spectacular, we’re ready to welcome her with that hot cocoa and a fistful of Stay-Puft marshmallows.

Because anyone who can make reading magical deserves our best welcome.