Salvatore Pane

Tag: LOST

Worst. Spoilers. Ever.

4. Age 12. Location: Comics on the Green. I had been reading the Clone Saga storyline in the Spider-Man books for 3 years. Everything had been building to a final revelation of just who exactly was behind replacing Spider-Man with a clone. In those days, I didn’t go to the comic store every Wednesday, I went about once a month and bought all the books I was behind on. So I missed the final issue by about three weeks. I went to the store like normal and picked out the issues, but at the cash register some teenage nerd looked at my picks and said, “Man, I couldn’t believe it was Norman Osborn behind it the whole time.” 3 years of my life! 3 years of my life! I didn’t read comics seriously for 10 years after this incident (combined with the oft maligned Onslaught crossover).

3. Age 21. Location: Parents’ House. During winter break from college, I came down with the flu. So I read. I read a lot. I had just finished a very lackluster novel by Nick Hornby that mentioned another novel called Revolutionary Road by some guy named Richard Yates, and I bought that next on a total whim, mostly because Richard Russo did the introduction. I was stunned. And to this day, RR is still my favorite book. But halfway through I dropped it and lost my place, and when I picked it up it was open to somewhere close to the end and I read the words “April Wheeler was dead.” I was only maybe 60 pages in. O youth! O lost!

2. Age 22. Location: Parents’ House. I’d just graduated from college and was spending my days subtitling DVDs in Scranton while waiting to move to Pittsburgh for grad school at the end of the summer. I was watching Attack of the Show on G4, because sometimes I like to be pandered to, and they did a segment about spoilers in which a man dressed like Doc Brown revealed how various season finales would wrap up. I didn’t believe him, didn’t believe that the frat boys at G4 knew anything. But then Doc Brown stared out from the television and told me that tonight, on LOST, Jack’s flashback wouldn’t be a flashback at all, that it would be a flashforward, that season four would be about the cast’s attempts to get back to the Island. A part of my soul died that day.

1. Age 14. Location: Steamtown Mall – Electronics Boutique. I skipped school to go see The Phantom Menace with my mother. We arrived downtown where the movie theater was but tickets were sold out for the first morning showing, so we bought some for the afternoon. The mall was next door, so we went over there for awhile where I killed time in the video game store salivating over posters of Chrono Cross which would be released later that summer. And then, while minding my own business, some asshole in a dragon button up shirt (remember those?) started talking to the clerk and said, “Man, I can’t believe Lucas killed off Qui Gon AND Darth Maul! I thought they were going to be in all three.” It was up until that time the worst moment of my life. Little did I know that my life would soon be ruined by sitting through The Phantom Menace, the greatest tragedy in all of human history.

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Comics Roundup X: I’m Still Doing This

Ok. So I haven’t done one of these in awhile. The reason is because bi-weekly was just too much. I don’t discover that many new comics, and most of my roundups were becoming “Hey. Read The Walking Dead, Sweet Tooth and Amazing Spider-Man” over and over again. Moving forward, I’m only going to do one of these if I have five new books to mention, or if one I’ve previously hyped is launching some mega storyline or something that’s especially new reader friendly. Get it? Got it? Good.

1. Morning Glories #1 written by Nick Spencer with art from Joe Eisma

Morning Glories is about two things near and dear to my heart: cardigans and ties.  Actually, it’s a cross between LOST and Richard Yates’ A Good School (or any prep novel really). I don’t want to dive into too much of the premise because the discovery is half of the fun, but Morning Glories centers on a group of high school students with the same birthday who are brought to a mysterious prep school. The first issue floored me. Jump on this train before you have to trade wait.

2. Taskmaster #1 written by Fred van Lente with art from Jefte Palo

I fell in love with Taskmaster as a character during Christos Gage’s awesome run on the sadly canceled Avengers: Initiative. When I heard Fred van Lente–whose Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Zombies stories must be read to be believed–would be picking up this character post-Siege, I was instantly intrigued. But this first issue is better than I could have imagined. So many strange gangs! Look at that Revolutionary War-era militia! If you want an off-the-wall superhero story filled with levity and a dash of insanity, pick up Taskmaster. This one’s a miniseries too, so if you’re not down with the never-ending stories of most superheroes, there are no worries about that here.

3. 5 Days to Die #1 written by Andy Schmidt with art from Chee

Mark Kleman and I interviewed Andy Schmidt about 5 Days to Die a few weeks back. Go read that, then pick up Schmidt and Chee’s noir-soaked romp. It comes out weekly, and the final issue comes out next week. That gives you just enough time to catch up before the big finale. Don’t wait on the trade for this one. Support single issues, and we’ll see publishers take more chances on stories like this one.

4. Fables vol. 1 written by Bill Willingham with art from Lan Medina

Sometimes I get into things really late. I started watching Twin Peaks in 2010. I began my descent into Battlestar Galactica last fall. Fables is another of those examples. It’s pretty much a holy text in comics but I never read it, never even knew the concept. I’ve been sick the last few weeks and picked up the first trade on a lark. Everything that’s been said about it is true. This one’s a knockout. If, like me, you don’t know Fables, it’s about a cast of fairy tale characters who are exiled from their homelands because of an unseen Adversary (think Diaspora) and relocated to a small apartment complex in New York City. They self-govern while trying to conceal their magical natures from human, who they call the Mundane. If you like Harry Potter, jump onboard the Fables bandwagon.

5. Archie #616 written by Alex Simmons with art from Dan Parent, Jack Morelli and Digikore Studios

If you don’t read this, you hate America. Ball’s in your court, playa.

Flashback Monday: How I Single-handedly Fixed the Comics Industry in 2005

The worst paper I ever wrote in college was for a graphic novel course I took in 2005. I was at the height of my literary snobbishness, and the sheer idea of reading a comic book made me rip off my monocle, slam it on my mahogany desk, and announce that “This is preposterous!” I read a boatload of comics growing up–the entire 200 issue run of the Spider-Man Clone Saga–and those were all pretty awful. So imagine my surprise when I ended up genuinely loving almost everything we read in the course. My position totally changed, and there were some weeks during my second comic reading heyday where I’d spend fifty dollars on new releases alone.

Unfortunately, this newfound enthusiasm didn’t translate into a decent paper. I started writing one that compared and contrasted Cather in the Rye and Ghost World, but about two pages in, I realized I had nothing else to say on the subject and wrote the rest of the paper about the comic industry’s notoriously low sales and how that newfangled iPod and iTunes store might be the key to salvation (five years before the release of the iPad and digital distribution). I’ve attached a portion of the second half of the paper below. What was so odd to me while rereading this is how close it is to what actually happened once the iPad was released. However, it wasn’t the indies taking advantage of the new medium, it was the major companies, the Marvels, DCs and IDWs of the world.

Below is the second half of my 2005 paper. Don't worry, I won't bore you with the Ghost World/Salinger stuff.

….how can the graphic novel capture a wider audience? Scott McCloud spends much of Reinventing Comics discussing the complete and utter failure of the current comics distribution method: the direct market. “The readers are just as abandoned by the corporate system as the creators, despite the importance supposedly given their hard earned dollars. The average comic shop can offer only a tiny fraction of an industry wide selection that is itself extremely limited in scope,” (McCloud 77). The graphic novel has not reached its mass market potential because it is using a more flawed version of the corporate distribution system that prose books have being using for years. As a newer medium, graphic novels require a newer method of distribution. Later in Reinventing Comics, McCloud discusses the possibilities of the internet and how that can one day be the future of distribution for comics. Originally published in 2000, McCloud simply was writing from a point of time which could not possibly suggest the method I am about to propose.

In November, the Apple Corporation announced that it will have sold a total of 37,000,000 iPods, their biggest handheld entertainment device, by the end of 2005.  The latest version of the device, the fifth generation iPod, has the ability to display video and pictures. Realizing that an installed base of 37,000,000 users is an astonishing opportunity, ABC quickly cut a deal to allow television shows, including recent hits Lost and Desperate Housewives, to be bought through Apple’s online store, iTunes, for $1.99 each and then be allowed to be viewed on the user’s iPod. Within two months ABC and Apple had sold 3,000,000 videos, as a result, NBC, CBS, and FOX are currently scrambling to pursue deals of their own with Apple.

This device is targeted at the 15-24 age group predominately, and is quickly changing the way we consume media. No longer are we shackled to our televisions to catch the latest episode of whatever primetime show is our current favorite. Even radio is changing and moving into two distinct camps, the satellite radio stations and Podcasts, which are free radio programs you can download from iTunes and listen to on any portable media player. The reason I bring this up is not only because of the cross section between iPod users and the readers necessary to bring the serious literary graphic novel out of obscurity, but because I believe the iPod itself is a possible solution to McCloud’s distribution problem that caused “a huge number of America comic book retailers [to] shut down,” (McCloud 10).

The current iPod and its cheaper variation, the iPod Nano, have the ability to display pictures. If the comics industry, specifically the independent comics industry, applied a similar method of distribution on iTunes as ABC has, a whole new golden age of comics would occur. Comic shops, delivery, stocking, and paper consumption would be completely eliminated. Also, the problem of knowing what to buy but not where to find it, a problem McCloud also brings up, would be abolished to as the iTunes database is literally limitless and could hold everything from Jimmy Corrigan to Wacthmen and back again. Prices could be fixed by the individual creators, and amateurs could upload their work automatically, just in the way that iTunes handles free Podcasts. With this system in place, creativity would flourish, as readers would have the choice to buy from the big two comic companies, Marvel and DC, the independents like Image and Fantagraphics Books, and weekend cartoonists. Also, the stigma associated with comics being a geeky medium would be shattered by combining it with an item, the iPod, so closely connected to what is hip and cool. If Ghost World was released today as a $9.99 download direct from iTunes to your iPod, I would highly bet that its readership would increase tenfold from its current measly 90,000.

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Thoughts on Endings: Lost, Infinite Seriality, The Illusion of Change, and What It All Has to Do With Literary Fiction

People who knew me in college can attest to the fact that I was one of the most fanatic followers of LOST on the planet. My friends and I hit a level of lameness never before seen by human eyes when during our senior year of college, we made Dharma station logos for the room doors of the house we lived in. Each Wednesday, we’d cram into my buddy’s room with a bunch of Yuengling and watch LOST with our own set of bizarre Jacob/Man-in-Black-esque rules. No lights. No talking. No complaining. We taped each episode, and as soon as one ended, we watched it again (usually making plentiful use of the slow-mo button) to see if there were any clues lurking in the background (there never were). Once, we famously threw out a friend for complaining mid-episode about the sudden appearance of Nikki and Paulo. And we made quite the habit of going to the local bar after every week and shouting our favorite quotes while getting drunk (shockingly, I don’t think any of us had much sex that year). 

In the intervening years, my enthusiasm for LOST has weaned. I don’t think it’s because the quality of the show declined (minus the dreadful and drawn out final season), but more because I don’t have that core base of friends who worship the show and want nothing more than to theorize about it and assign it personal meaning. Maybe it’s because of this quote from the immortal Poochie episode of The Simpsons: “The thing is, there’s not really anything wrong with the Itchy & Scratchy show, it’s as good as ever. But after so many years, the characters just can’t have the same impact they once had.” Regardless, LOST ended last night, and despite the fact that I really liked it (it reminded me a lot of a mash-up between Our Town and Neon Genesis Evangelion) the consensus around the interwebs seems to be that the finale of LOST was the worst 2.5 hours in the history of television. 

Neon Genesis, like LOST, set a thousand pseudo-science/religious mysteries into motion, then ended on this clip without addressing even one.

I keep wondering why that is exactly, why genre fiction tends to always have this problem and if it has anything to do with literary fiction. Take, for example, the holy lineup of genre TV: LOST, Battlestar Galactica, Twin Peaks and X-Files. Despite having vocal minorities who love the ends of each of these shows, the majority critical/fan opinion tends to be that they all blew it in their final episodes (or, in most of these cases, the final seasons). Why is that? I always have so much trouble ending my own fiction, and I’ve often thought that beginnings are so much easier. Look at the very compelling openings to the above four examples. A plane crashes on a mysterious island. All of humanity is wiped out by robots with the exception of a lone battleship and handful of civilian ships. The corpse of a teenage homecoming queen is found in a sleepy town. Two detectives focus on mysterious cases. 

Ok. Now look at their endings. In LOST’s case, the main character plugs up a magic hole with a magic rock and then hangs out in a church in purgatory with his father and buddies. One is simply more compelling on a base, human level. And honestly, I can’t think of any genre offerings that have endings that match their beginnings. Look at Star Wars or Indiana Jones: a teddy bear parade on one hand and Shia LeBeouf on the other. I wonder if the same holds true for literary fiction. I can think of so many wonderful openings (“In my younger and more vulnerable years…” or “In walks these three girls with nothing but bathing suits.”), but it’s harder to remember endings that don’t disappoint. Revolutionary Road comes to mind, for example. And of course, The World According to Garp. So does Martin Amis’ wonderful London Fields, a genre mashup that’s a trillion times more cynical than LOST but similar in that it also deals with end of the world scenarios. Why is this? Is it because nothing ever ends(the sentiment used to end Watchmen), so any need to impose finality on a work of fiction seems artificial and rings untrue? 

Heavy handed, but satisfying on the character level.

I think for me, that might be the case and could potentially explain my love of superhero comics. I forgot who said this, but a legendary comic creator (Stan Lee maybe?) once told Kevin Smith that comics are never-ending Act 2’s. They can’t end. They just go on forever. Batman was in his thirties in the 1930’s and he’s the same age today. The only change is the illusion of change. And if you peel away all the adolescent power fantasies and the inherent ridiculousness in costumed vigilantes, maybe this is the appeal of comic books: infinite seriality. In many ways infinite seriality can seem more realistic than works of fiction that close everything up with a neat little bow. Nothing ever ends. Few things change on any fundamental level. There only exist tiny alterations that hint at the illusion of change. 

Or maybe not. Maybe Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse just didn’t know why Claire had to raise Aaron or what the deal was with Walt’s mysterious powers.

The Changing Definition of Overflow in the Age of Broadband Internet: How Lost Changed the Way We Look at Media and Cultural Convergence

LOST is coming to an end in less than a month. And despite the fact that this final season has left much to be desired (oh, wow, Alternative Dimension Sayid’s a killer?! Holy shit! Because I didn’t figure that out in the first five seasons. And wow, you’re telling me Jack has to fix problems? CRAZY!), I thought I would still honor the end of the show with a repost of a paper I wrote on LOST a few years back. This might be of interest to one or two of you. And please forgive the academic language. I too find it oppressive and narrowing but was forced into writing this way. It’s certainly not my natural method of writing.

The Changing Definition of Overflow in the Age of Broadband Internet: How Lost Changed the Way We Look at Media and Cultural Convergence

Will Brooker’s essay “Living on Dawson’s Creek: Teen Viewers, Cultural Convergence, and Television Overflow” takes a critical look at the concepts of overflow, media convergence, and cultural convergence in television studies. Primarily concerned with the way viewers interact with “texts across various media platforms” (Brooker 570) and how certain programs have “deliberately ‘overflowed’ the bounds of television” (Brooker 569), Brooker conducts a study chronicling the youth market’s usage of Dawson’s Creek fanzines and producer sanctioned online content geared towards fans of the late 90s teen soap. Unfortunately, these results are incredibly misleading as only “5 out of 40” (Brooker 573) users in group one of Brooker’s study interacted with these websites while a mere “one-third of these respondents” (Brooker 574) from group two responded positively to interfacing with the official Dawson’s Creek website. These results may lead one to believe that overflow is simply a fringe novelty. However, I will argue that the reason for the reported low turnout of the Dawson’s Creek website is actually due to the fact that teen soaps do not directly lend themselves to the concept of overflow when compared with programs that match Matt Hills’ definition of cult television in his essay “Defining Cult TV: Texts, Inter-Texts and Fan Audiences.” More importantly, I will show how the very definition of overflow needs to be upgraded thanks to the rise of broadband internet technologies and the increasing willingness of producer/creators to embrace these technologies for creating primary texts. To prove this I will be using ABC’s Lost, a cult television program about a passenger jet that crashes on a mysterious island, as a test case.

First we must examine what exactly is meant by the terms overflow and media and cultural convergence. According to Will Brooker, overflow occurs when “the text of the TV show is no longer limited to the television medium” (Brooker 569). Basically, this accounts for any number of interactions with television programs, including everything from fanzines to visiting official websites where viewers are allowed to participate in their favorite programs. For example, in 2005 dedicated followers of the cult TV/medical dramadey program Nip/Tuck were able to track down the series’ longtime villain, the mysterious murderer known only as the Carver, through the fictional character’s producer sponsored MySpace profile, viewable at http://www.myspace.com/thecarver. According to Anthony Crupi of MediaWeek, “The Carver’s friends list has ballooned to 60,496 MySpace members, all registered users who have seen the site and elected to link to it on their own home pages” (Crupi). The users were then allowed to comment on the Carver’s profile page and receive messages from the character himself. In this way these viewers, which now total 69,445 unique users, were able to experience the program Nip/Tuck without ever using their televisions. This is overflow. Will Brooker further defines overflow by breaking the concept down into two groups: cultural convergence and media convergence. Cultural convergence involves “a participatory community” (Brooker 570) which can be exemplified best through fanzines or fanfiction rings, such as http://fluky.gossamer.org/ which specializes in fan generated X-Files fanfiction. Media convergence on the other hand is defined by Brooker as “structured interactivity” (Brooker 570). This means that media convergence is when the consumption of a television program does not directly involve a television but is still controlled by the show’s producers or some other corporate entity. The Nip/Tuck MySpace profile is an example of media convergence.

The reach of overflow has been dramatically impacted by the proliferation of the internet, especially broadband technology which allows website programmers to outfit their sites with features that users could only dream about as little as a few short years ago. In 1999 the largest share of internet users were signing on through 56k, a speed incapable of handling advanced multimedia exchanges (Connection Speed Survey). By 2005, the 19% of internet users that chose broadband over 56k to access the internet in ’99 had ballooned to an overwhelming 68%, and producer sponsored websites promoting television programs reacted accordingly by giving their fans a broader sense of interactivity (Internet World Stats). For example, take a look at the official Buffy the Vampire Slayer website for season one, which launched in 1997 during the zenith of 56k usage, and the website for the final season which launched in 2004, just a few short years before the widespread shift to broadband. The season one website is crude at best with limited interactivity or media overflow. Users could interact with one another on a message board and chat room, but beyond that there was little reason to navigate the 1997 version of the website except to peruse a small photo gallery or send electronic post cards featuring the show’s various stars (Internet Archive: Buffy Slayer). However, by the time the final season website was functioning in 2004, users could not only use all of the features established in 1997 website but also compete against one another in Buffy trivia contests, download “exclusive wallpapers,” vote on whether the final episode was a satisfying conclusion to the Buffy saga, play Buffy flash games, read bios and back stories on the various characters, or even access “making of” video files (Internet Archive: Buffy). Since Will Brooker’s examination of internet overflow was conducted before the explosion of broadband internet users it inherently arrives at faulty conclusions that do not reflect the internet tendencies of television fans today.

As mentioned earlier, Will Brooker’s essay “Living on Dawson’s Creek,” arrives at the conclusion that “fans, we have to remember, are an active minority. The response of keen but uncommitted viewers is less dramatic than we might have expected or hoped” (Brooker 579). Although it is surely true that hardcore fans that write fanfiction and attend conventions are surely not representative of any program’s viewer ship as a whole, it seems apparent that a teen soap does not lend itself to the type of fan culture that would generate very much cultural or media convergence. As a genre, the appeal of a teen soap is usually limited to the length of time it runs on television and then is promptly forgotten about by an overwhelming number of viewers. For example, look at programs such as 90210 or The Facts of Life. Despite being rating draws during their respective runs, neither show has managed to produce a long term cultural community in its fans. On the other hand, a dedicated fan base is one of the very defining characteristics of a cult television program such as The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, or most famously, the various incarnations of the Star Trek franchise. An examination of cultural convergence and overflow produced by fans of a cult television show such as Star Trek would obviously make for a better critical study simply due to the fact that so much content has been generated by fans. Compare that content with viewer created content from a program such as The Facts of Life and surely the discrepancy between volume of content will be massive and relatively problematic when conducting a study that is more than simply hearsay.

In arguing that a cult television program would make for a better test case in a study of television overflow, I must first prove that the aforementioned test case, in this instance ABC’s Lost, is in fact an undeniable example of cult television programming. In Matt Hills’ essay, “Defining Cult TV: Texts, Inter-Texts and Fan Audiences,” Hills provides readers with three definitions of what makes a cult program. Despite admitting that television shows only need to meet one of the definitions to qualify as a cult program, for clarity’s sake I will prove that Lost does in fact fit all three of Hills’ definitions. The first definition relies on the text as the defining characteristic of whether or not a television program qualifies as a cult program. Hills writes that “this argument implies that cult TV is best thought of as a group of… genres [such as] science fiction, fantasy, and horror” (Hills 509). He expands on this definition by listing three major criteria that goes beyond simple genre labeling. Hills writes “cult TV is identifiable as a set of texts which share qualities of fantastic hyperdiegesis, representations of close but non-sexualised character relationships and communities, and a form of endlessly deferred narrative based on narrative enigmas” (Hills 513). Lost employs fantastic hyperdiegesis “by virtue of defining and developing fantastic beings and worlds over a lengthy period of time and in great amounts of detail” (Hills 511). For example, in the very first episode of Lost we are introduced to “the monster,” a being which has the capacity to kill and even destroy the landscape of the island in one fell swoop. However, we don’t actually see the monster until the final episode of season one, 1.22 Exodus, in which the monster materializes as a black smoke cloud that travels beneath the island through an intricate series of underground tunnels. During seasons two and three, the monster is briefly shown in only three episodes, 2.10 The 23rd Psalm, 3.05 The Cost of Living, and 3.15 Left Behind, despite being one of the central mysteries of the show. However, each time the monster is shown it displays new powers which further develops its fantastic nature. For example, in 2.10 The 23rd Psalm” we as viewers realize that the monster has the ability to download island inhabitants’ memories and in 3.15 Left Behind we are shown that the monster cannot pass through an electro magnetic security fence. However, like Hills says, answers concerning the monster are “endlessly deferred” (Hills 513). The “non-sexualized character relationships” (Hills 513) come in the form of the interactions between Lost main characters Jack and Kate. Their relationship is very reminiscent of the one between Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, and like in that show, Jack and Kate repeatedly hint at their love for each other without acting on it in any meaningful way that would impact future episodes.

The second definition of cult television provided by Matt Hills is as follows: “Cult TV can be defined through an analysis of secondary texts” (Hills 509).  Hills goes onto say that television programs that generate a great deal of producer sanctioned overflow and fan created content should be labeled as cult television programs. As I explore Lost overflow at great length later in the paper, I will limit my examples here. On the producer side of things, Lost has generated a weekly podcast in which the executives producers take fan questions and hint at the plotlines of future episodes, two viral marketing campaigns which reward diligent players with exclusive clips promising to reveal the true nature of the show’s mysteries, a video game, Lost: Via Domus, which supposedly provides insight into the nature of the show’s usage of time travel, and its own monthly magazine appropriately titled “Lost Magazine.” On the fan end, viewers have spawned numerous online clubs, the most prominent being the fan sites promoting the skaters or the jaters. These groups have been formed in support of Kate, one of the show’s heroines, falling in love with either one of the two major male characters of the program, Sawyer and Jack. This love triangle has been one of the many dangling plot threads of the show, and people rooting for Sawyer and Kate to get together have dubbed themselves skaters while fans of Jack and Kate are the jaters (Buddy TV). These groups of fans have formed their own communities which constantly take swipes at each other. The sheer amount of secondary texts that are produced by the fans and producers of a program like Lost easily sync up with Hills’ second definition of cult television show.

Matt Hills’ third definition is that “Cult TV can be defined through an analysis of fan practices, and depends on fan activities” (Hills 510). This element of Lost fandom has been briefly touched on in the previous paragraph, however, I will discuss what Hills calls “fans… [producing] commentaries, fan fiction, episode guides and production histories that all work to sustain the distinctiveness of fandom as a community that reads the ‘intertextual network’ of cult TV” (Hills 519). Fan commentaries have become increasingly popular since Lost’s debut in the form of fan produced podcasts. Effectively labeled as downloadable internet radio broadcasts, podcasts allows any viewers with a broadband internet connection and microphone to host their own radio show at length. “The Transmission,” one of the most popular Lost podcasts, holds an hour long podcast after each new episode of Lost is aired. Recently, they even had a 25-hour marathon session in which they did nothing but discuss the mythology of Lost (The Transmission). Fan fiction has always been a marker of cult television status, specifically slash fan fiction in which fans compose stories of television characters partaking in homosexual pairings. Lost has a thriving slash fan community. On “The Lost Fan Fiction Archive,” the most prominent of the sites that attempt to catalog the wealth of Lost fan stories, the tally of slash Lost stories currently stands at 161 (The Lost Fan Fiction Archive). As for episode guides and production histories, one needs to look no further than “Lost-TV,” a website that has meticulously provided transcripts for all three seasons of Lost along with detailed examinations of the fundamental nuts and bolts necessary to producing the show week in and week out (Lost-TV).

If it is readily apparent that Lost does in fact serve as an example of a cult television program that gained in popularity following the widespread proliferation of broadband internet connections in America, then the next topic that must be explored in order to show that cult television programs work as better examples in a study of overflow is the media and cultural convergence produced by that show. First, I will examine the producer sponsored media convergence before discussing the fan generated cultural convergence. One of the most obvious examples of producer sponsored overflow occurred towards the end of Lost’s second season in May 2006. During the airing of the penultimate episode of season two, 2.22 Three Minutes, a commercial aired promoting a fictional company that exists within the Lost mythos: the Hanso Foundation. At the end of the commercial a phone number was given. Adamant viewers who called the number were eventually given access to a website, http://www.thehansofoundation.org/. Over the course of the ensuing summer hiatus, fans hunted down advertisements with clues to find the next website littered with background information pertaining to the show, culminating with a real world directive: to travel to the 2006 ComiCon, a massive convention promoting comic books and other cult interests, and attend the Lost panel conveniently moderated by the executive producers/writers of the show. When fans arrived they were treated to exclusive clips of the upcoming third season. However, what truly broke the fourth wall was that during a question and answer segment at the end of the panel, an actress who portrayed one of the characters in the viral marketing videos appeared in character and verbally accosted the producers for their supposed real life involvement with the fictional Hanso Foundation. Estimates put the number of players participating in the Lost viral marketing campaign at 50,000 people (Alternative Reality Game Stats).

An even more blatant attempt at cross media marketing occurred during episode 2.13 The Long Con. During the episode, Hurley, the program’s everyman character, finds a manuscript for a mystery novel, Bad Twin, in one of the wrecked plane’s unclaimed pieces of luggage. He begins reading it and claims how interesting it is before handing it off to the aforementioned Sawyer to read. In episode 2.20 Two For the Road, Sawyer is enraptured by the manuscript and can’t wait to find out the ending when Jack burns the manuscript, apparently erasing all hopes of Sawyer and the viewers learning the identity of the story within the story’s killer. However, on May 2, 2006, exactly one day before the airing of 2.20 Two For the Road, Hyperion Publishers released the novel, Bad Twin, as a fictional mystery written by Gary Troup, a man who apparently died on flight Oceanic 815, the same flight the Lost characters were on when they crashed onto their mysterious island. Despite being a fictional novel set outside of the Lost universe, Bad Twin included several direct references to various mysteries from the show including the previously referenced Hanso Foundation. In a bit of cross marketing with the Lost Experience viral marketing game, a fictional character introduced through the game took out a real life ad in various American newspapers on May 5th, 2006 claiming that the information in the book regarding the Hanso Foundation was fraudulent at best (Lostpedia).

During the nine month hiatus in 2007/2008 between the close of season three of Lost and the opening of season four, the executive producers and writers of the series teamed up to write a twelve part Lost miniseries, “Missing Pieces,” that would air only on Verizon cell phones enabled with broadband wireless support. Dubbed “mobisodes,” these two-minute episodes were not only written by the regular show writers and scored by the series composer, Michael Giacchio, but they also starred the show’s regular cast of actors. This is also one of the major examples of problems occurring with Will Brooker’s definition of overflow as being whenever “the text of the TV show is no longer limited to the television medium” (Brooker 569). Overflow is relegated to serving as a secondary text, however, shouldn’t the “Missing Pieces” miniseries actually serve as a primary text considering that it was created by all of the people responsible for the television show right down to the producers and actors? To answer that completely we must look at the next example and Lost’s producers’ reactions to it.

Another piece of producer sponsored overflow that questions the very definition of the term overflow can be seen in the 2008 video game, “Lost: Via Domus.” Players control a character that has never before been seen on the television program Lost, but according to the game, was on the flight that crashed onto the island. The viewer, while using this character as an avatar, interacts with the show’s characters and events from seasons one and two (Lostpedia). A small percentage of the game’s video segments and dialogue were written by the show’s executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, and since this game is experienced through a television, some would say that it falls into the category of a primary text according to Brooker’s definition of overflow. However, I would call this a secondary text, thus making it overflow and not a part of the actual show, due to two reasons. First off, even though the producers control the environments and situations of the video game to a certain extent, viewer/player interaction is tenfold to that of watching the regular show. Secondly, there is the question of canonicity, meaning whether or not events that take place in products tangential from the show, i.e. the mobisodes, video game and viral marketing games, actually factor into the timeline of the Lost television show. In the March 10th, 2008 episode of “The Official Lost Podcast,” a weekly internet program in which Cuse and Lindelof take fan questions, Cuse announced that “It’s only canon if it’s in the show. We try hard to make the other things very much a real part of the world of the show and frankly it just depends on how much time and influence we have as to whether we can officially designate other things as canon… We wrote the mobisodes, our writers wrote them, we put a lot of time into them. We produced them. Our directors directed them. We feel that those are canon… The video game does not count.” Even if the video game is experienced through a television, which is one of Brooker’s primary definitions for a piece of producer sponsored programming becoming a primary text instead of a piece of overflow, because of the fact that the executive producers do not view the video game as canon makes “Via Domus” a secondary text and an example of overflow. On the flip side, the “Missing Pieces” mobisodes which are clearly consumed through cell phones and not televisions, do have canonicity, which transforms them from pieces of overflow into primary texts. This causes a huge, nearly irrevocable, problem for Brooker’s definition of overflow.

Considering the time that it was written and the fact that executive producers of television programs and their parent companies were still unsure of how to utilize the internet as an effective tool in promoting their shows, Will Brooker’s essay “Living on Dawson’s Creek: Teen Viewers, Cultural Convergence, and Television Overflow” predicts many developments correctly. As he predicted, viral marketing and cultural convergence did not sweep the globe or ever truly reach a mass audience, however, this calculation was founded on faulty logic that used a test case, Dawson’s Creek, which was predisposed to reveal this type of answer. A teen soap does not generate the amount of cultural convergence or media convergence that a cult television program such as Lost does, and if a similar study is conducted in the future, its writer should choose a post-broadband subject that is more appropriate such as Lost or Jericho or Heroes for examples. However, what Brooker gets completely wrong is his limiting definition of overflow which pigeonholes all overflow as secondary texts that do not operate within the realm of the television. As Lost’s “Missing Pieces” has shown, a primary text can exist outside the boundaries of television. On the other hand, the video game adaptation, “Lost: Via Domus,” has proved that a secondary text can exist within the boundaries of television. Due to the inconsistencies of Brooker’s definition of overflow and the ever evolving nature of technology and its effects on what producer/writers can employ in their creation of overflow, a new definition is needed which can define overflow by plainly saying what it is instead of relying on a definition that says what it isn’t, i.e. experiencing a television program outside of the sphere of television.

Works Cited:

1) Brooker, William. “Living on Dawson’s Creek: Teen Viewers, Cultural Convergence, and Television Overflow.” The Television Studies Reader. Eds. Robert Allen and Annette Hill. New York: Routledge. 2004. 569-580.

2) Crupi, Anthony. “Nip/Tuck Goes Viral on Myspace.com” Media Week. December 12 2005. <http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/recent_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001658741/&gt;

3) Cuse, Carlton. Lindeloff, Damon. “The Official Lost Podcast: March 10th, 2008.” The Official Lost Podcast.10 March 2008.

4) Dena, Christina. “Alternative Reality Game Stats.” November 17 2007. <http://www.christydena.com/online-essays/arg-stats&gt;

5) Hills, Matt. “Defining Cult TV: Texts, Inter-Texts and Fan Audiences.” The Television Studies Reader. Eds. Robert Allen and Annette Hill. New York: Routledge. 2004. 509-523.

6) Williams, Don. “Lost: Who Should Kate End Up With?” Buddy TV. January 12 2008. <http://www.buddytv.com/articles/lost/lost-who-should-kate-end-up-wi-15600.aspx&gt;

7) “Bad Twin.” Lostpedia.com. 2008. <http://www.lostpedia.com/wiki/Bad_Twin&gt;

8 ) “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1 Official Website.” The Way Back Machine. 1997. <http://web.archive.org/web/19980202153530/www.buffyslayer.com/main.html&gt;

9) “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Official Website.” The Way Back Machine. 2004. <http://web.archive.org/web/20040806045901/www.upn.com/shows/buffy/&gt;

10) “The Carver.” Myspace.com. 2005. <http://www.myspace.com/thecarver&gt;

11) “Connection Speed.” Georgia Institute of Technology. October 1998. <http://www.cc.gatech.edu/user_surveys/survey-1998-10/graphs/technology/q01.htm&gt;

12) “Dawson’s Creek: The Official Website.” Dawsonscreek.com. 2008. <http://dawsonscreek.com/

13) “Lost-TV.” Lost-tv.com. 2008. <http://www.lost-tv.com/&gt;

14) “Lost: Missing Pieces.” Abc.com. 2007. <http://abc.go.com/primetime/lost/missingpieces/index&gt;

15) “Lost: The Video Game.” Lostpedia.com. 2008. <http://www.lostpedia.com/wiki/Lost:_The_Video_Game&gt;

16) “The Lost Experience.” Lostpedia.com. 2008. <http://www.lostpedia.com/wiki/The_Lost_Experience&gt;

17) “The Transmission.” Hawaiiup.com. 2008. < http://www.hawaiiup.com/lost/&gt;

18) “United States of America: Internet Usage and Broadband Usage Report.” Internet World Stats. 2007. <http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm&gt;

19) “The X-Files Fan Fiction Archive.” Fluky.gossamer.org. 2008. <http://fluky.gossamer.org/&gt;

Media Survival Guide: Flying to AWP

I am not a good flier. I don’t get extremely nervous (except that one time from Denver to Oklahoma City when I could see lightning bolts outside my window), but I do get anxious being in such a cramped area for prolonged periods of time. My body is lanky and unruly. I do not fit comfortably practically anywhere. My knees bang up against the seat in front of me. I never knew all this until recently, because I never flew much before moving to Pittsburgh. Before last spring, the only place I’d flown to was Disney World for my twelfth birthday (I prayed before and after each flight because the trip messed up my confirmation schedule and I was positive God would blow up the plane in retribution).  Since then I’ve flown a lot. Atlanta. Chicago. Vegas. Baltimore. And what I realized flying from Atlanta to Vegas while reading Jane Smiley’s Moo is that one book will never be enough for restless flier Sal Pane. Especially when the in-flight movie is Confessions of a Shopaholic and the woman besides me keeps telling me about Twilight.

I’m leaving for AWP early on Wednesday. It’s a long flight with a long layover. I’m going to need a serious amount of entertainment (and booze) to do this comfortably. Below you will find my list of all the crap I’m taking with me just for the flight. If you have any suggestions please let me know.

Prose

1. Mattaponi Queen by Belle Boggs

I’m reviewing this collection of short stories for BOMB and need to get the review done in the next few weeks. I’m hoping to make some headway during the flights, but I’ve already read three stories and they’re not really my aesthetic cup of tea. But as a reviewer, I have to be objective about my personal feelings on sub-genres and take the book on its own merits. In that regard, it kind of reminds me of a mix of Sherman Alexie, Russel Banks and Jean Thompson.

2. Last Mountain Dancer by Chuck Kinder

This meta-memoir by Pitt fictioneer head honcho Chuck Kinder is a rollicking good time spent in the honky tonky bars of West Virginia. I started it a month or two back but keep taking breaks. I think it’s better that way, otherwise you become overwhelmed by the power of Chuck’s voice. I prefer it in doses.

3. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

I tried to read Roth in college and failed miserably. I read American Pastoral and enjoyed it but didn’t think it was for me. Since then, I’ve realized the error of my ways. I went back to Goodbye, Columbus and was absolutely floored. This one was recommended to me by Irina Reyn after she read the latest draft of my novel, so I’ll be looking at this one extremely closely.

4. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

This is another Irina recommendation, and yes, I know it’s astonishing I haven’t read this considering I’ve attended Chabon’s alma mater these last three years. I read Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The Final Solution but never his early work. Hopefully I can rectify that over the next week.

5. Three Delays by Charlie Smith

I don’t know much about Charlie Smith, but I received this book in the mail from the same editor who hooked me up with a copy of Justin Taylor’s Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever. This is the first novel I haven’t had to request to review. I got this one with no strings attached and I’d like to review it if I can.

Audiobooks

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized Biography by John Ortved

I’ve never been a fan of audiobooks, but I recently listened to Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation during a nine-hour drive and really enjoyed the experience. This is one I’ve been looking forward to for awhile, and if you’ve met me in real life, you already know my penchant for quoting Milhouse at (seemingly) random moments.

Graphic Novels

1. Daredevil: Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli

I just finished Miller and Claremont’s Wolverine a few weeks back and desperately wanted another Miller take on a classic Marvel character. Really looking forward to tearing into this. I splurged and got the copy with the original scripts. Hoping they’ll help inform the way I think about comic scripting.

2. The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

When this was originally coming out in monthly format I refused to jump on because the writer is also the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. In the few years since he launched Umbrella Academy, he’s transformed from a crappy emo singer to one of the most revered writers in comics. People love this book. People who would never even dream of listening to MCR. Plus, Gabriel Ba is a god. Ok. Fine. I’ll give it a shot.

3. Justice League of America: New World Order by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter

I love Grant Morrison. I don’t know a ton about the JLA, but if I’m going to read a book about them, I want the Big 7, not the crap DC’s currently peddling. And the inclusion of Kyle Rayner as the group’s token Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan? That’s a major plus in my book.

TV Shows on my iBook

Episodes 8-20 of Battlestar Galactica Season 2

I know this is starting to get insane, but man, I’m really loving BSG so far and completely regretting my decision to avoid it in favor of LOST.

Video Games

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimore of the Rift

A week ago I posted about video games and mentioned how I was once very addicted to Japanese role-playing games but broke the habit about four years back. On Friday I drove to my local gamestop and purchased a Japanese role-playing game for my Nintendo DS. There’s lots of math and swords and mages. I planned on starting it on the plane and have already logged six hours. I am frightened that I will read nothing and return from Denver with level 99 summoners casting Ultima like it’s their job. I really hope that isn’t the case.