Thursday, April 2, 2015

Review: Metalalia - "A Multimedia Fairy Tale Experience" by Stace Dumoski


"Metalalia - A Multimedia Fairy Tale Experience"

Review by Stace Dumoski


Editor's Note: Stace was brave enough to take on an unusual request - not just an ebook but a multimedia ebook at that, and it's clear she was just the right person for the job. (I'm also very much looking forward to her future reviews.) And in case you're wondering, what Metalalia means: "Metalalia comes from the Ancient Greek words meta, meaning ‘after’, and lalia, meaning ‘stories told’. It accurately describes the stories we are telling: original stories influenced by the thousands of fairytales, folktales and myths that have gone before, and re-imaginings of those bygone tales adapted to serve the needs of our time." (Note: image above is from Metalalia's "The River Girl".)

Description:
Metalalia: Mixed Media Fairytales for Phones and Tablets Metalalia is a unique multimedia e­reader, an immersive storytelling experience featuring - - High­ definition art, narration and music - Launched in December 2014 - Free to download, includes one free story - Additional stories available for in­app purchase with new content to be released monthly An ever growing library of stories, Metalalia contains bold retellings of classic tales in dynamic new settings. The app offers an experience unlike any other and the ability to customise how you enjoy your story.
Founded by LA­based musician Pam Shaffer, Metalalia combines Pam's signature haunting melodies with stories by the NESTA award­winning British writer Alex Nicholson alongside art from a team of accomplished visual artists and app developer Adam Schwem, known for his work on Shazam and Music ID.
I have been fascinated with the possibilities of digitally-assisted narrative ever since Captain Picard first walked onto the holodeck, so I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review Metalalia, an app designed for Apple's iPhone and iPad that presents original fairy tales as a multimedia experience. The app is the creative project of writer Alex Nicholson and musician Pam Shaffer, who collaborated with various composers, artists and programmers to create this digital storybook, which they envision as "an illuminated manuscript, but for the iPad."


It's important to point out Metalalia is not a single story, but an engine for presenting various tales produced by the authors. The free download includes one story, and there are currently three additional titles available for purchase at $2.99 each.


The app itself is very clean and intuitive to use. It opens with the image of a rustic bookcase from which you select the story you wish to read. Once the story begins, readers swipe the screen to turn the page, and can toggle text, music, and narration on or off, giving them complete control over the storytelling experience. On a technical level, the experience was flawless, and I'd like to see more storytelling experiments in this format.


The "fairy tale" that accompanies the download of Metalalia is a Rapunzel-inspired story called "The Hair-Woven Rope." I didn't think to time it, but the story lasts about 15 minutes, if you play the narration. It starts off well, with a fortress on a floating island and an unnamed protagonist locked away in a tower by her father. It features seven illustrations by artist Amy Faigin, and a lovely piano score by Shaffer. It's a fine, feminist adventure tale in which the heroine manages to escape her unhappy situation by her own devices (I'm sure you can guess how from the title of the story). It's a story I'd be happy to share with my own kids, but I'd say more "fairy tale inspired" than an actual fairy tale itself.


"The Wind-Up Boy" is a steampunk version of Pinocchio, in which the title character is created not to fulfill his father's desire for a child, but as an automated soldier for an ongoing war with a neighboring country. While the original Pinocchio is a moral tale that promises rewards for good behavior, Metalalia's version feels like it was intended to be a parable about the dehumanizing effects of war. Jiminy Cricket envisioned as a propaganda-spouting electronic "locust" is a particularly intriguing idea. (Editor: That IS intriguing! What a great concept.) I wanted this story to be longer, and for the author to spend less time echoing the events and characters of the original novel, and more time exploring the heart of the Wind-Up Boy. The adventure ends abruptly without him ever being tested, or having a chance to come to terms with his place in the world, and I found myself swiping my screen to look for more.

Shaffer and Nicholson promise more stories "featuring music and visual art set to original and reimagined fairytales and myths featuring LGBTQ characters, POC and disabled people." From the descriptions available about the other stories available for purchase, it seems like the fairy tale elements might be a little stronger than the story I read. Anyone who is looking for more stories like these should visit the Metalalia website for more information, or go HERE to the iTunes store for the app.

Note: You can see a video HERE of Metalalia in preview mode.
Disclosure: Complimentary copies of some of the stories were provided by Metalalia in exchange for an honest review.


Stace Dumoski is a professional content writer, aspiring fantasy novelist, and lover of all things magical and fantastical.  She has an undergraduate degree in Medieval Studies and has undertaken formal study in Folklore and Mythology and helmed the website "Phantastes: The Online Journal of Fantasy Criticism" which was listed three years running in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror anthology. In joining the OUABlog review posse, she brings her extensive skills to report on some of her favorite subjects. You can find her magic filled blog HERE.

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