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In my role as a reviewer for Hornbook Magazine I’ve recently encountered two fictions that began life on-line and then turned into paper books.  Daniel Pinkwater’s Bushman Lives started its life as an on-line serial and The Curiosities:  A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff began as a website.  This got me thinking about David Hockney.  Hockney has always been an “early adopter” of new technologies,  playing around with the potential of photocopying in the 70’s, and now using the iPhone and iPad as his media.  I was lucky enough to see his exhibit “Fresh Flowers” at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.  He says, in the catalogue:

             “I was aware immediately when I started drawing on the iPhone that it was a new medium – and not only a new medium but also a very new way to distribute pictures.  I have always been an advocate of drawing.  The teaching of drawing I always thought was the teaching of looking – very good for everybody!  I joked about it – who would have thought that the telephone could bring back drawing?  One quickly realizes that it is a luminous medium and very good for luminous subjects.  I began drawing the sunrise seen from my bed on the east coast of England.  The iPhone was by my bed; it contained every thing you needed, no mess; so you didn’t even need to clean up.  I wouldn’t have drawn the sunrise with just a pencil and a piece of paper.  It was the luminosity of the screen that connected me to it.”

            What is the story equivalent?  What can you do with a cell phone novel or  blog fiction or twitter-roman (I made that one up)  that is new?  How does the very method of distribution affect the writing?  What is our equivalent of the luminous subject?



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2 responses to “luminosity

  1. I saw Hockney's grand shops at the Royal College of Art this spring (sold out, line ups around the proverbial block, but we'd bought tickets months in advance) and there was an enormous room of his iPad paintings enlarged to wall-size — huge — maybe 8' X 10', if my memory serves me correctly. It was quite astonishing. But there was also a smaller room with perhaps twenty or thirty iPads with full-color landscapes on them. Quite amazing. Whenever I've tweeted (not much) I appreciate the fact that one has to narrow down and narrow down what one says to its barest form, which is undoubtedly good — an antidote to the over-writing that the computer lets us get away with. But that is not the case when painting on a iPod, where you have as big a range of chroma as you would have on any palette. Only the size of the piece is limited and in Hockney's case, not even that.

  2. Interesting point, Tim, that the palette is not limited on an iPad or iPhone. But the screen size is limited, so I wonder if that creates some kind of tunnel effect, having to visualize something large and with depth but through that smaller frame. I've started using Scrivener to work on novels, and I can see how that is changing the process for me. I find I can manipulate a larger story more intuitively because I can choose what to keep on screen and what to hide. I used to do all kinds of plotting on paper, and my poor brain always felt stressed by the forced logic of it, because it meant I had to stop working on the novel to step back and take a look at where it was going. Now I can glance down the list of files in my binder to get a sense of sequence, or hide the list if I don't want to see it at that moment. I can pull up a picture, or even activate a sound file if that's what I need, without leaving the work to do that. I'm still learning what works for me in this and what doesn't but it's been an oddly freeing experience.

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