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Best Practice Makes Perfect

A collaboration with Domino developers about how to do it and how to get it right in Domino

I went to a fantasy writing convention this weekend, and was introduced to something kind of cool. You might know how some popular TV shows -- especially SF and fantasy shows like Buffy, Star Trek, and Firefly -- inspire people to create fan websites, write fan fiction (their own stories with the same characters and setting), and so on. A few people have decided to take this one step further -- they're doing the same thing, only they dispensed with the TV show. They got together a production staff (small, since they're not actually filming anything), cast the show with a mix of real, imaginary, and posthumous actors, and they pretend to have produced the episodes, release little snippets of gossip about the actors, create blogs and LiveJournal pages for the actors and (oddly) for the characters who are purportedly fictional (so that you can send them email and see what they're doing in their off hours), mocked up script pages with the actors' handwritten notes on them, sell show merchandise....

They have everything but the actual episodes (which are posted on the website as novellas at exact times the episodes were to have aired, so that the fans will know what they're supposed to have seen). I suppose this saves a lot of money on production -- and they still have hundreds of fans speculating about how the episodes are going to come out, writing fan fiction; one of them, knowing from his LJ that one of the fictional characters would be in her neck of the woods, emailed him and set up a date. (She got stood up -- couldn't be helped, as that character was having a really bad week -- and now he's posting to his LJ from his hospital bed, lying to his friends about how badly hurt he is so they won't worry about him). Someone sent him brownies.

Anyway, the result is Shadow Unit. Check it out; it's fun; and the episodes, written by the "high-standards" fantasy authors Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear and Will Shetterly -- really are quite good; certainly better than what you'd expect to see on TV.

P.S. Yes, the fans all know that the show doesn't really exist -- unless possibly a few of them are seriously schizophrenic. It's all part of the game.

P.P.S. I don't think they've figured out a way to make money from this yet -- the merchandise sales don't do much more than cover their costs, if that. But they're having a blast doing it. In case you think it's a really cool idea and want to see it continue, they do take donations -- or you could buy a tote bag.

P.P.P.S. Season 1 is over, so it's not quite as much fun at the moment. But they plan to start up again along with all the regular series in the fall, so make a note on your calendars, and in the meantime catch the reruns to see what you missed.

Andre Guirard | 22 June 2008 09:05:32 PM ET | | Comments (1)

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