Inanimate Alice

Slow Reveal at Univ of Maryland Art Gallery

26 March 2009 | Comments (0)


‘Inanimate Alice’ features in Slow Reveal, an exhibition at the University of Maryland Art Gallery.  We are there with friends J.R. Carpenter and Andy Campbell, among others.

More ‘Inanimate Alice’ stories

26 March 2009 | Comments (0)

Came across another three ‘Inanimate Alice’ stories, from Mrs Kluge’s class, ‘English is Fun!’.  There’s even an episode that involves a young Prince Andrew!

Inanimate Alice and Mash-Ups

19 March 2009 | Comments (0)

My collaborators on Inanimate Alice and I are continuing to try to push the project on to other platforms and out through a variety of routes - at the moment we have plans for a book with a version for iPods, both looking possible as revenue streams.  Part of the goal of this on-going project is to find ways of creating revenue, something at which we have pretty much failed, apart from winning prize money from time to time.

One of the very gratifying (though completely non-revenue generating) developments over the past 18 months has been the way that IA has taken off in classrooms around the world, from primary to postgrad level.  And the other day I had a great thrill when I came across (via my Google Alerts) four Inanimate Alice episodes, created by a group of teenagers who have been categorised as hard-to-teach and slow learners.  These episodes are great - a combination of piss-take and actual new stories - really inspiring, and also hilarious!!!

If you are interested, here are the stories - they are mostly around 1 minute long.

Inanimate Alice and British Council

9 March 2009 | Comments (0)

The British Council have begun recommending ‘Inanimate Alice’ for teachers of English in some countries - it’s up on their website where you can rate it according to how useful you find it as a teaching tool:

The Observer and the future and me

22 February 2009 | Comments (0)

‘A whole library in a wafer-like form’:  nice piece with an interview with me in the Observer newspaper today, by Kate Kellaway. Nice to be in the vanguard, or even the guard’s van, of the future of the history of the future of the book, though to tell you the truth I wish I was more like Andy McNab, at least in terms of sales figures.

There’s something odd about seeing one’s self interviewed on paper… I’ve done it many times, but still have this sense of being boiled down into a few quotes, nothing more, nothing less.  Hmm.  That’s a gloomy thought for a Sunday morning. Time for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Foreign Rights

10 February 2009 | Comments (2)

The Marsh Agency will sell the rights to publish ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in translation, and word has it they are enthusiastic about the book, which is good news in these doomy downturn days.  Still, I won’t hold my breath (while, maybe just for a little while).

Translation rights should be an area of publishing where the old models hold firm for a bit longer than in the rest of publishing. British and American publishers already squabble over who has the right to sell the English language editions into which territories, but at least Swedish publishers don’t have to worry about Italian publishers muscling into their territory and vica versa.

Peter Carey wrote an angry piece in ‘The Guardian’ on Saturday; in ‘Australia’s Rights Wars’ he describes how native Australian publishers don’t stand a chance of promoting Australian talent in a globalised publishing market, reduced as they are to ‘distributors in a global chain’, as Australian literary culture is destroyed.  The same argument holds true for Canadian publishers; Canadian writers have produced a huge wealth of great books over the past thirty years, supported in many cases by government subsidies.  But now there are very few Canadian-owned mainstream publishers left; my own publisher, McArthur & Co, may be the last one standing.

With our project ‘Inanimate Alice’ we’ve undertaken an experiment in publishing translations as well as the original English language edition; commissioning and publishing these translations has been one of the most popular aspects of the project for both readers and educators. A print writer could, theoretically, commission and self-publish their own translations alongside their own books, provided they could find the right distribution model.  The problem with Alice is, as ever, also one of its greatest strengths - it’s available online for free.

Agent Carmen Balcells in Spain has struck a deal to publish e-books of her two Nobel Laureate writers, Marquez and Cela, direct to digital with Spanish digital publisher Leer-e. Two things are worth noting about this - the e-books retail for 5 Euros, cheap and cheerful, which is what many of us have argued must happen in this country for the e-book to take off and for the economics to make sense to readers; as well as this, the agent Balcells is returning to an 18th century model where agents were publishers, and there was no middleman. I think that more agents in the English speaking world are going to be flexing their muscles in this direction shortly.

A note on that 5 Euro e-book price - I wonder what the breakdown of payment is overall:  1 euro per copy to the agent, 1 euro per copy to the publisher/retailer, 3 euros per copy to the writer? I live in hope.

Digital Books are already here

4 February 2009 | Comments (0)

Another thoughtful post from Michael Bhaskar over at; he argues that talking about the future of the book is kind of redundant, because, in many ways, that future is already here. He names ‘Inanimate Alice’ as an example of digital fiction (already here, yes, most definitely) and says:

“To recap, digital books/fiction looks like this:

- ebooks and ebook derivatives

- ??writerly” computer games

- stories told used existing forms of social media (blogs etc)

The first and the last are already realities. Pretty much every large publisher has an ebook program; most publishers are now using social media for at least marketing. Both authors, publishers and others are increasingly using social media more creatively. The middle is the most difficult for those involved in books. The big winners maybe authors and agents who can begin to sell rights for game spin offs and/or get involved in the process of conceiving game ideas.

Lets not wait for the future anymore; it arrived in about 2006.”

Here’s my comment:  This is a thoughtful post Michael, and a useful summary of where things are at currently. And thanks for mentioning ‘Inanimate Alice’. Your list of forms for the digital book/digital fiction is useful, but I’d like to add a fourth item: a hybrid form that takes elements of all of the first three to create a new kind of literature for a born digital generation. I’ve no idea where this will live, in terms of the platform, but for me the word ‘literature’ and all it implies about quality of writing, quality of narrative, quality of experience, is important.

Terminal:  In Search of a New(er) Digital Literature

16 January 2009 | Comments (1)

[caption id=“attachment_72” align=“alignleft” width=“288” caption=“An exhitition at Austin Peay State University”]An exhitition at Austin Peay State University[/caption]

Alan Bigelow has curated this gallery-based exhibition.  He has included ‘Inanimate Alice;  Episode One:  China’ in it.  This is a thrill for Chris and me; we’ve been included alongside some wonderful work. The online iteration of the exhibition is elegant and interesting.

Alan is a talented digital writer; you can find his work at His most recent work, ‘My Summer Vacation’ is a terrific piece of digital fiction that uses audio files and multiple points of view to tell a simple, dramatic story.  I met Alan last May when I attended the ELO Conference in Vancouver, Washington; we’d been conversing online for a couple of years by then and it was great to meet him in the flesh.  I find that when you meet people for real after knowing them online the experience is almost always completely fascinating; people are always just like they are online, except better.

I have no idea where Austin Peay State University is though, apart from the fact that it is in the US.  The show is in a physical gallery space, but for me it exists only in cyberspace.

Hello world!

20 October 2008 | Comments (2)

Hello.  My plan is to write a blog for a year.  During this year, I’ll be working on a number of fiction projects, including ‘Inanimate Alice’, ‘Flight Paths’ and ‘Lifelines’; as well as this, my new book, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ will be published - July 09 in the UK, autumn 09 in Canada.  I’ll continue to teach on the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University; I’ll continue to mentor students privately; I’ll continue occasional one-off speaking and teaching and reading gigs.  I’ll also attempt to stay abreast of the discussions around the current state as well as the future of reading and writing and publishing. I don’t plan to post anything personal - just a collection of things to do with writing.

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