From seaweed as inspiration to a published book
Strolling on the rocky beach of Brighton, England, in September 2009, I marveled at the beauty
of the seaweed that I found along the shoreline. I wondered, what if seaweed was an important source of food in the future? Thinking about this scenario, I pictured a group of people living in the near future, walking along and harvesting the seaweed, it being an important source of fresh vegetation to supplement their scare food choices. I imagined that this struggling group of people came from an eco-city, built near the beach. A city that was built to protect them from the ravages of climate change.
I returned to London and the image of people of the future harvesting seaweed stuck with me. My imagination continued to roam, exploring what living on Earth might be like with climate change in full impact, in about 30 years time. In a harsh environment where life on Earth had become very difficult, I imagined that an eco-survivalist community would emerge, to save a few thousand people from certain destruction.
At that time, London’s Olympic Park was under construction, and I could see it happening from my balcony. Everyday, I saw the structures get bigger and futuristic looking buildings taking shape — like the velodrome and the aquatic center. It looked like the eco-survivalist city that I was imagining. Here was another sign for me that I should do something with the ideas taking shape.
I also thought about a haunting story that my mom had told me. When I was a baby, in the 1970’s, she was at a highway rest stop somewhere in America, where she met an older woman who was part of a group of nomadic gypsies. The old woman asked my mom if she could take me away into the woods and do some sort of blessing. Terrified, thinking that the woman seemed like she wanted to steal me away, my mom held me tight and walked away. Throughout my life I often thought about this scary interaction of my near abduction, and developed a fear of any kind of group that seemed like an insular cult with its own, twisted, practices and ideas. What if my imaginary futuristic eco-city, green and well-meaning in principle, was actually a dangerous cult group?
I wanted to tell this story that was forming in my head. But how? I decided to start seeding bits of my futuristic story at various places on the Internet, taking a “transmedia” approach. I had this idea that it could be like a multimedia treasure hunt. You could search for the tag “Hai はい” on Google and find parts of the story. I wrote pieces of the story on Flickr and on my Vox.com blog (unfortunately Vox was closed down and I lost most of my content).
I shared the bits of the story with a few people. But, nobody really understood what I was doing. So I talked with my colleague Joan Smith about the idea, a multiplatform media specialist, and asked if she wanted to create the idea of a futuristic climate change story as a transmedia entertainment project. She loved it!
Joan and I set about shaping out the idea and exploring what medium the story could be told with. It was Joan who came up with the idea to call the story “Ark” in reference to the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, rather than using a Japanese character that no one really understood. We imagined a TV show, a movie and ultimately thought of turning it into a Facebook game, like FarmVille. At one point we even dreamed up the idea of having an Ark theme park. We loved the idea that the story of Ark could start in a multimedia platform, online, and morph into other forms of entertainment. We dreamed big, we planned, we explored all of our options. And we had a blast.
We started talking with people about Ark. We met with Maz Nadjim who was then the head of social media for the agency Ogilvy, we set up a meeting with Channel 4 and we had a great talk with James Estill a multiplatform content producer who runs Not From Concentrate. Through discussions with a games production company, we found out that it would cost us £100,000 to build a Facebook game like FarmVille. Well, neither of us could figure out how to raise that much money, and we both put the project aside and moved on to other commitments.
But I couldn’t let the idea of Ark drop. Then, the phenomenal success story about the book Fifty Shades of Grey broke in the news. Millions of people were reading the book. It started as an ebook, published by a small company in Australia. At the same time, I read about the self-published author Amanda Hocking who had made millions publishing her ebooks.
Eureka! I thought.
This was what I needed to do with Ark – it should start as an ebook!
Well, I started writing the Ark story in August 2012, and now in April 2014 my first book In Ark: A Promise of Survival is live on Amazon!
Hey, I am no perfectionist, and there are definitely a few typos and errors. I’ll likely do another round of proofing and possible editing, and in the future post a new version. But, I did it, and I’m learning a lot and looking forward to see what happens with this adventure. By the way, in the middle of this adventure my son was born — so it has been a slow process of plugging away at writing and learning how to self-publish, while being a new mom.
I hope you will read my book, and, if you like it, please rate me some stars and post a review to Amazon.
Thanks for your support!