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Predictions Bolognese

A Guest Blogspot by Jeff Norton
[Jeff Norton is the founder of Awesome, a London-based creative incubator and author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, which publishes in August from Orchard Books. Twitter:@thejeffnorton]

Every March, the global children's book industry makes its annual pilgrimage to the city of pasta and prosecco. To get myself in the zone for this year's fair, I decided to enjoy a practice lunch of penne and prosecco in this past weekend's unexpected London sunshine. As I thought ahead to the fair, I wondered what big trends would emerge. I didn't have a crystal ball, but since the bubbles in my aperitif did possess a surprisingly clairvoyant quality; I could read them like tea leaves and forecast the trends of Bologna2012:

Dystopia is just getting started. This year's Bologna coincides with the launch of the first Hunger Games film from Lionsgate. This global coming out party for dystopian fiction will prove that March 23rd, 2012 will be for dystopia what November 21st, 2008 was for paranormal romance; the legitimising of a book-born multi-media genre. In today's punishing economic climate, tall tales of young people overcoming tyrannical or unforgiving futures make for optimistic reading. If Katniss Everdeen can defeat the Capitol, maybe I can afford uni or even get a job after graduation. I believe that clever "what if" scenarios will continue to capture our imagination and populate our bookshelves for several years to come. They make the state of current affairs seem positively peachy!

Transmedia Takes Off. Egmont's new Electric Monkey title "BZRK" has just hit bookshelves after a year-long transmedia incubation, beActive Media's new "Beat Girl" project is taking a transmedia approach to building a franchise, and Fremantle's fish-out-of-fashion-water "Threads" is shaping up to be a cross-continent winner. With conferences and consultancies like Alison Norrington's Story World, Liz Rosenthal's Power to the Pixel, and Sophie Rochester's The Literary Platform all exploring this burgeoning space, there are simply too many clever and creative people playing in this sandbox for something not to break out. As a storytelling paradigm, transmedia is still in its infancy, but with practitioners and godfathers such as Starlight Runner's Jeff Gomez and ARTE's Michel Reilhac exploring the rules of this new road, transmedia is starting to find its feet as a credible approach to spinning a yarn.

The Rise of Digital Brands. I'll never forget when I first met Mind Candy's Michael Acton Smith in 2007 at the Virtual Worlds Forum. He shared his belief that the big children's brands of the 21st century will not be forged on television, but on the web. His proclamation is becoming true as web-based, digital brands move from bits to atoms, invading the world's toy aisles and bookshelves. Children can have a deep, meaningful, and infinitely refreshable relationship with a digital brand in a way that a static, 11 minute episode of television can never offer. The sweet spot for brand owners will be to offer both the "pull" engagement of digital with the "push" power of broadcast television. Even with Moshi launching MoshiTV via YouTube, I believe traditional broadcast will continue to be an important launching pad for new stories and characters, but will be part of a larger media-mix, and no longer the sole launch platform. The challenge for the publishing industry, however, will be whether it can create new digital brands (its own intellectual property, perhaps originated via apps), or will it rely on others (e.g. games developers) to invent the IP and only come into the picture once the brand is bedded down. For creative and commercial reasons, I hope publishers can launch their own digital brands to become licensors and not just licensees.

Search for the New Wizards. Now that the wizards of Hogwarts have retired from active publishing, the industry is looking for contestants to generate the next middle grade mega-hit and with the recent focus on YA, paranormal romance, and now dystopian fiction, the queue for auditions is surprisingly thin. Among the eager contenders, however, I've spotted aliens (today's middle graders grew up with "Aliens Love Underpants"!), zombies (there's just something hilarious about decomposing flesh), and ghosts/ghouls (a camp fire standby). Only time will tell who gets the part, but using the 2012 Superbowl advertising line-up as a leading indicator, my money's on aliens. There's something unique about otherworldly characters that allows us to investigate the human condition. And with no less than five big alien-themed films out this summer, I think aliens are ready for their close-up.

Wishing everyone a fantastic Bologna2012!

Alla salute!

Jeff Norton is the founder of Awesome, a London-based creative incubator and author of METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, which publishes in August from Orchard Books. @thejeffnorton

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on March 12, 2012 6:55 PM.

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