Tommy Taylor, the Transmedia Tycoon

To be perfectly honest, I thought I was going to hate these graphic novels when I first found out they were assigned to us. To my surprise, I now regret that I haven’t started getting into this genre earlier. I found the story of Tom Taylor and his literary alter ego Tommy Taylor to be truly engrossing. I found myself finishing each novel in one sitting, and yearning for more once it was done. The use of withholding information from both the characters and the readers creates a feeling of menace and intrigue that causes the story to take over the mind and occupy it fully as you experience it. I really enjoyed these readings, and intend on continuing to read about the adventures of Tom and Tommy.

Even more surprising to me than my immediate love for these tales was the immense number of connections i found to the topics we have discussed in this course.

Several times throughout these novels, their creators Mike Carey and Peter Gross use the portrayal of different types of media to convey what is going on (kind of) in Tom/Tommy Taylor’s world(s). News stations and forum postings are used to give the story a more substantial flesh and provide more information about the climate of the world Tom is living in, and how that world is reacting to the seepage of narrative reality into the real world. By incorporating these different forms of media, Carey and Gross give us information about the world Tom Taylor lives in, and how that world relates to Tom himself in a way that proves to further the plot with detail and intrigue. This use of transmedia is a great example of how it can be used to create a more compelling and realistic narrative.

A very prevalent theme in these novels is the blending of the worlds of fiction and reality. We imagine stories to be ideas confined to paper and text. Sure, they can be turned into movies and cartoons, but they originate in the mind of their creators and continue to exist as ideas and concepts created to tell a story but not to interact with the real world. In the Unwritten novels, Carey and Gross have created a narrative  in which the world of literature not only interacts with the real world, but can directly effect it’s inhabitants. In the case of Cosi, this blending is done by choice. She chooses to bring the world of fiction into her life consciously. Like the Cloudmakers in McGonigal’s ‘This Is Not a Game’: Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play, Cosi has completely immersed herself in this fantasy world. Players of The Beast lived their lives for the game, searching for clues in the real world and blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Even after the game had finished, players found themselves looking at the world through the eyes of a Cloudmaker, searching for the next step in the game. Cosi, much like these gamers, cannot separate herself from the world of Tommy Taylor. She teaches hexes to her younger brother, and responds to her father best when he mimicks the professor of magic from the books. Her ability to recognize Tommy’s world as fiction fails, and her life ends because of it. Her death is an immediate consequence of the world of fiction infiltrating reality.

Tom, on the other hand, is participating in this blending of worlds unwillingly. Where Cosi has deluded herself into involvement, Tom outright rejects his connections to the fictional world, though they keep pulling him in further. I’m not sure of how this story ends up, i have a sneaking suspicion that Tom Taylor was not Wilson Taylor’s inspiration for Tommy, but the direct result of Tommy’s creation. If this theory is true, then Tom Taylor is not only involved with the emergence of the world of fiction in the world of reality, but a key component of it. Wilson Taylor is the puppet master for this world. His creations, and those of many famous authors before him, are interacting with reality as he has written them. Wilson’s characters, both good and evil, influence the real world for better or for worse. Wilson’s the puppet master, hidden from his creations but still influencing their actions, as we see with Lizzie Hexam and her communication with him via book and radio in both narrative and real worlds.

From a narrative perspective, Carey and Gross have created a complicated but interesting story. Their choice to begin the series with an excerpt from the story world of Tommy Taylor immediately gives the reader the sense that they are going to be experiencing more than just a linear plotline. Throughout the novels, Carey and Gross bring us to various different times and realities. Greg Costikyan describes stories as linear, like events linked together like beads on a string. Unwritten, on the other hand, is the medling of one reality with the fictional world of stories. The world of Tom Taylor and the world of Tommy Taylor are two parallel strings, with beads that bring them together, and other realities that branch off in the form of other literary works. For instance, the appearance of the Frankenstein monster in the world of Tom is the bead connecting the fiction of Mary Shelley’s novel and the reality of Tom Taylor’s world.

The map given to Tom by puppet master Wilson is the physical embodiment of the bead that connects all of the narrative strings. The stories are tied to locations in the real world, where they can interact and influence the life there. Tommy Taylor, and his world of magic, and Tom Taylor’s world of reality are the two main threads, with Tommy as a constant connector.

The Unwritten is the culmination of pretty much everything we’ve talked about in class up to this point. From the general ideas learned about transmedia, to the presence of the endearing sidekick (Mingus vs. Floyd). Even fan fiction is represented with the “torture porn” version of a Tommy Taylor story written at the horror writer’s convention. With these novels, Carey and Grossman have provided us with an interesting and compelling narrative that represents the blurring lines between reality and fiction, and how this can effect our lives. It also plants in my mind a frightening thought: What if my life is part of a bigger story? One that’s being written by an invisible puppet master. Even more engulfing than The Game, because I don’t even know it’s happening. Is Tom Taylor a figment of Wilson Taylors imagination, come to life? Or is he really his son? I look forward to having these questions answered, and experiencing more of this transmedia powerhouse.

 

-Robin Murdoch

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About niborhcodrum

People tell me I remind them of a chipmunk. I've never really known how to feel about that...
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