Seaworthy

Back in January when I sent out my book manuscript, I had the weird sense of waving goodbye to a cruise ship I built myself, standing at the pier while this giant, white, overstuffed artifact bellied out to sea.

It was not the first time this particular ship had been launched. In August 2006 I printed out the whole thing, some 350 pages. This was after my dissertation defense but before I dropped off the text at the print shop in Bloomington where Indiana University dissertations are bound. Lots of other stuff was going on at the time—I was in the midst of packing for the move to Pennsylvania, my thoughts mostly focused on coming up with syllabi for the two courses I was contracted to teach at Swarthmore starting in the fall. But I took a moment, amid the mess of cardboard boxes and sorting stacks for the yard sale, to balance the fat block of pages in my hands, marveling that I had managed to produce such a thing.

About a year later I sent it out again, this time as a book proposal. I got polite notes back from two academic presses—saying, essentially, thanks but no thanks—and shelved the project until 2011 or so. It went out again at that point, and this time was met with a yes, just in time for my tenure case.

Then came the reader reports. Mostly positive, with a handful of suggestions for changes, they stopped me in my tracks; it would be almost four more years before I got around to patching holes, updating case studies, and clarifying ambiguities needed to clear the final hurdle.

I should explain, if it isn’t clear from the outline, that I am not a good writer. Process-wise, I mean. Faced with a task, I put it off; encouraged, I dig in my feet and work even more grudgingly. This goes deep with me, all the way back to childhood. Though I have, for the most part, achieved the level of wisdom that involves accepting myself as I am, procrastination is one of the traits I most want to change in myself. As soon as I get around to it.

Anyway, it turns out that publishing a book, at least a scholarly one, involves more than one goodbye; it’s less like Ilsa and Rick lingering heartlost in the fog than like dropping off a child at school, morning after morning. That’s probably the wrong metaphor here, because I adore my children, but have come to detest the book. Still, the other images that spring to mind—repeated skin biopsies, for instance—might express in a Cronenbergian way the connection between writing and excrescence, a putrefaction of words shed like skin dust, but they don’t capture the idea of an object consciously built. A model kit, seams puttied and sanded, paint sprayed and retouched, decals and weathering conscientiously applied. Doomed to show only flaws and mistakes in the eyes of its maker; to everyone else it’s probably, y’know, okay.

My book is looking more okay these days thanks to the copyeditors at NYU Press. I got the manuscript back for review, have been going through the chapters, reviewing changes. There are a few on every page, and I see the wisdom of every single one. That’s generally my response to being edited—gratitude. Harlan Ellison and a mob of similarly perpetually disgruntled writers would kick me out of the Tough Kids Club for saying so. You can find me over by the janitor’s closet, eating lunch with Strunk and White.

Jason Mittell’s Complex TV

Passing along this word from my friend Jason Mittell, Associate Professor of American Studies and Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College, whose exciting new publication project is now available for open access and “peer-to-peer review.” He is inviting feedback on the pre-published chapters of Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling at http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/complextelevision/. He shares this outline of the plan:

The book’s introduction and first chapter are posted now (as of Saturday evening, in conjunction with an SCMS workshop on digital publishing I Skyped in for from Germany). I plan on posting chapters every week or two over the next few months, serializing the release to allow time for people to read and comment (and me to finish writing). I hope that momentum will build and the conversation will flourish through this process, but this is obviously an experiment. I hope you can stop in and read the work in progress and offer feedback, and also help spread the word to others who might be interested in the topic. I would also love to hear any feedback about this unorthodox mode of publication and review.

Jason blogs at Just TV.

CFP: Materiality and Object-Oriented Fandom (March 2014)

I’m excited to be guest-editing a special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures on objects and artifacts in media fandom! The CfP follows.

Alongside its consumption and transformation of texts, media fandom has always been marked by its consumption and transformation of objects. From superhero figures, model kits, and wargaming miniatures for sale at hobby shops, to costumes and props worn at Comic-Con, material objects and body decoration have functioned as displays of textual affiliation, crafting skills, or collecting prowess, reflecting a long history of fan-created and -circulated artifacts around popular media fictions. While “mimetic” and “affirmational” practices seek to replicate the objects of fantastic media as faithfully as possible, other fan creations result in material mash-ups, expressing transformative impulses in artifact form. Regardless of orientation, object-oriented fandom represents a distinct strand within old and new activities and cultures, one whose intimate and often friendly relationship with corporate branding and ancillary market exploitation make it of central interest to an emerging body of scholarship on transmedia, convergence, and the franchise.

This special issue seeks historically and theoretically informed essays that explore the role of objects and their associated practices in fandom, as instances of creativity and consumerism, transformation and affirmation, private archive and public display. We are particularly interested in work that complicates or transcends the binaries of social vs. solitary, artwork vs. commodity, and gift vs. monetary economies to engage with object-oriented fandom as self-aware and playful in its own right.

We welcome submissions dealing with, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • creating and collecting, buying and selling fan artifacts (production artifacts, memorabilia, reference materials, models, material fan art, and fan crafts…)
  • cosplay (creating costumes and other artifacts, performing cosplay, competitions…)
  • fan enactments, events, and embodiment (Renaissance Fairs, Quidditch competitions, re-enactments, fannish tattoos…)
  • fan objects as paratext and transmedia extension
  • dissemination of skills and abilities (workshops, online blogs, fan meetings…)
  • object marketplaces (con, comic-book store, ebay, etsy…)
  • evaluation and valuation of artifacts across the various economies of fandom
  • impact of digital technologies (including social networking and 3D printing) on object creation, collecting, and cataloging
  • new debates over authorship, ownership, and control

Submission guidelines

TWC accommodates academic articles of varying scope as well as other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. Contributors are encouraged to include embedded links, images, and videos in their articles, or to propose submissions in alternative formats that might comprise interviews, collaborations, or video/multimedia works. We are also seeking reviews of relevant books, events, courses, platforms, or projects.

Theory: Often interdisciplinary essays with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offer expansive interventions in the field. Blind peer review. Length: 5,000–8,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Praxis: Analyses of particular cases that may apply a specific theory or framework to an artifact; explicate fan practice or formations; or perform a detailed reading of a text. Blind peer review. Length: 4,000–7,000 words plus a 100–250-word abstract.

Symposium: Short pieces that provide insight into current developments and debates. Non-blind editorial review. Length: 1,500–2,500 words.

Submissions are accepted online only. Please visit TWC’s Web site (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/) for complete submission guidelines, or e-mail the TWC Editor (editor AT transformativeworks.org).

Contact

We encourage potential contributors to contact the guest editors with inquiries or proposals: Bob Rehak (rehak.twc AT gmail.com)

Due dates

Contributions for blind peer review (Theory and Praxis essays) are due by March 1, 2013.

Contributions that undergo editorial review (Symposium, Interview, Review) are due by April 1, 2013.

In Media Res: Special Effects

Somewhere around the introduction of Google+, I developed an allergy to self-promotion, and withdrew my parasocial feelers from Facebook as well as the nascent G+. I mean to cast no aspersions on the active users of those sites; my going dark, or at least dimmed, on the social-networking front stems not from disapproval but from simple overload. I’m returning to teaching from a year of sabbatical, and I’m a new father to boot, making for happy but exhausting times. I could be better about taking the raw material of my life (and the slightly more refined material of my professional activities) and plugging it into a live data feed, but my curmudgeonly suspicion that the public affordances of new media, so often presented to us as opportunities for self-expression and collective knowledge-building, are simply labor under the sexy sign of the digital — the conscripted misrecognized as the voluntary — stays my hand.

All that said, though, I do have news: this week I am co-organizing a set of pieces on special effects at In Media Res, the MediaCommons project devoted to showcasing short audiovisual “exhibits” accompanied by learned commentary. This week’s posts, by Kimberly Ramirez, Drew Ayers, Chuck Tryon, and Dan North, come out of a larger project, an anthology entitled Special Effects: New Histories, Theories, Contexts, co-edited by me, Dan North, and Michael S. Duffy.

You can read more about that project and the week’s curations in our introductory essay, located here.

 

New Works in Fan Studies

It’s always nice to see friends doing well, and in the case of Kristina Busse, there’s an added reward — seeing her name in print always means that something new and interesting is being said in the world of fan studies. In this case, it’s a double-header: the latest issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, the online journal Nina edits with Karen Hellekson, is up; and there’s a special section of the new Cinema Journal entitled “Fandom and Feminism: Gender and the Politics of Fan Production.” Both are well worth checking out, but I’m particularly excited about the CJ piece, which collects a number of writers I count myself lucky to know — among them Julie Levin Russo, Louisa Stein, and Alexis Lothian — and focuses a critical lens on exciting areas of creative practice in new media. Tables of contents are quoted below. Well done, Nina, and keep up the great work!

Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 3 (2009)

Editorial

Extending transformation HTML
TWC Editor

Theory

The labor of creativity: Women’s work, quilting, and the uncommodified life ABSTRACT HTML
Debora J Halbert
Sex detectives: “Law & Order: SVU”‘s fans, critics, and characters investigate lesbian desire ABSTRACT HTML
Julie Levin Russo
On productivity and game fandom ABSTRACT HTML
Hanna Wirman

Praxis

Sites of participation: Wiki fandom and the case of Lostpedia ABSTRACT HTML
Jason Mittell
Identity and authenticity in the filk community ABSTRACT HTML
Melissa L. Tatum
The Web planet: How the changing Internet divided “Doctor Who” fan fiction writers ABSTRACT HTML
Leora Hadas

Symposium

The magic of television: Thinking through magical realism in recent TV HTML
Lynne Joyrich
The future of academic writing? HTML
Avi Santo
Repackaging fan culture: The regifting economy of ancillary content models HTML
Suzanne Scott
Snogs of innocence, snogs of experience HTML
Dana Shilling
Playing [with] multiple roles: Readers, authors, and characters in
Who Is Blaise Zabini?”
HTML
Anne Collins Smith
“A Jedi like my father before me”: Social identity and the New York Comic Con HTML
Jen Gunnels
The Hunt for Gollum: Tracking issues of fandom cultures HTML
Robin Anne Reid
Pattern recognition: A dialogue on racism in fan communities HTML
TWC Editor

Interview

Interview with Verb Noire HTML
K. Tempest Bradford
Interview with Mark Smith and Denise Paolucci HTML
zvi LikesTV
Interview with Chris Bouchard HTML
Emma Dollard

Review

“Camgirls: Celebrity and community in the age of social networks,” by Theresa M. Senft HTML
Adriano Barone
“Introduction to Japanese horror film,” by Colette Balmain HTML
Alessia Alfieroni
“Pride and prejudice and zombies: The classic Regency romance?Now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem!,” by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith HTML
Craig B. Jacobsen

Cinema Journal 48.4 (Summer 2009)

A Fannish Taxonomy of Hotness – Francesca Coppa

A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture – Karen Hellekson

Should Fan Fiction Be Free? – Abigail De Kosnik

User-Penetrated Content: Fan Video in the Age of Convergence – Julie Levin Russo

Living in a Den of Thieves: Fan Video and Digital Challenges to Ownership – Alexis Lothian

Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol 2

The second issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, an online peer-reviewed journal devoted to popular media and fan communities, is now out — another splendid and substantial package of theory, praxis, and reviews. The theme for Volume 2, which was guest-edited by Rebecca Carlson, is Games as Transformative Works.

My favorite piece of the bunch is probably an essay by Will Brooker, “Maps of Many Worlds,” on computer-game fandom in the 1980s. It’s smartly written and full of insights, as one would expect from Brooker (whose work on Star Wars fandom has been enormously productive for me), but it’s also unexpectedly — and rewardingly — personal, recollecting his own imaginative engagement with the graphical realms of games played on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. My own U.S.-based cognate for this was the Commodore 64, but Brooker’s observations hold true across the cultural and commercial borders of computer culture. I’m currently working on an essay about retrogames for an upcoming MIT Press collection on “Spreadable Media” (if you’re reading this, Henry and Sam, don’t lose faith! the piece is on its way), and so found Brooker’s discussion of, and evident reverence for, 8-bit graphics not only entertaining but useful. I highly recommend it, along with the rest of the issue.

Regarding upcoming volumes of TWC, I quote below the words of co-editors Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson:

We are soliciting and reviewing for our general issue No. 3 (Fall 2009) at the moment, as well as two forthcoming special issues, one on the CW show _Supernatural_ (“Saving People, Hunting Things,” edited by Catherine Tosenberger; see CfP http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/announcement/view/5) and one on history and fandom (“Fan Works and Fan Communities in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” edited by Nancy Reagin and Anne Rubenstein; see CfP http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/announcement/view/6). If you have any questions, please contact us or the special editors directly.

TWC 1 Arrives (with Gaming CFP)

The first issue of Transformative Works and Cultures is now available. Table of contents below, along with a call for submissions for Issue 2, on Games.

Editorial

TWC Editor: Transforming academic and fan cultures

Theory

Abigail De Kosnik: Participatory democracy and Hillary Clinton’s marginalized fandom

Louisa Ellen Stein: “Emotions-Only” versus “Special People”: Genre in fan discourse

Anne Kustritz: Painful pleasures: Sacrifice, consent, and the resignification of BDSM symbolism in “The Story of O” and “The Story of Obi”

Francesca Coppa: Women, “Star Trek,” and the early development of fannish vidding

Praxis

Catherine Tosenberger: “The epic love story of Sam and Dean”: “Supernatural,” queer readings, and the romance of incestuous fan fiction

Madeline Ashby: Ownership, authority, and the body: Does antifanfic sentiment reflect posthuman anxiety?

Michael A. Arnzen: The unlearning: Horror and transformative theory

Sam Ford: Soap operas and the history of fan discussion

Symposium

Dana L. Bode: And now, a word from the amateurs

Rebecca Lucy Busker: On symposia: LiveJournal and the shape of fannish discourse

Cathy Cupitt: Nothing but Net: When cultures collide

Bob Rehak: Fan labor audio feature introduction

Interview

TWC Editor: Interview with Henry Jenkins

Veruska Sabucco: Interview with Wu Ming

TWC Editor: Interview with the Audre Lorde of the Rings

Review

Mary Dalton: “Teen television: Essays on programming and fandom,” edited by Sharon Marie Ross and Louisa Ellen Stein

Eva Marie Taggart: “Fans: The mirror of consumption,” by Cornel Sandvoss

Katarina Maria Hjarpe: “Cyberspaces of their own,” by Rhiannon Bury

Barna William Donovan: “The new influencers,” by Paul Gillin

And here is the CFP for Issue 2:

Special Issue: Games as Transformative Works

Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol. 2 (Spring 2009)
Deadline: November 15, 2008
Guest Editor: Rebecca Carlson

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) invites essays on gaming and gaming culture as transformative work. We are interested in game studies in all its theoretical and practical breadth, but even more so in the way fan culture shapes itself around and through gaming interfaces. Potential topics include but are not limited to game audiences as fan cultures; anthropological approaches to game design and game engagement; on- and off-line game experiences; textual and cultural analysis of games; fan appropriations and manipulations of games; and intersections between games and other fan artifacts.
TWC is a new Open Access, international peer-reviewed online journal published by the Organization for Transformative Works. TWC aims to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics and to promote dialogue between the academic community and the fan community. The first issue of TWC (September 2008) is available at http://journal.transformativeworks.org/. TWC accepts rolling electronic submissions of full essays through its Web site, where full guidelines are provided. The final deadline for inclusion in the special games issue is November 15, 2008.
TWC encourages innovative works that situate popular media, fan communities, and transformative works within contemporary culture via a variety of critical approaches, including but not limited to feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, political economy, ethnography, reception theory, literary criticism, film studies, and media studies. Submissions should fit into one of three categories of varying scope:

Theory: These often interdisciplinary essays with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame offer expansive interventions in the field of fan studies. Peer review. Length, 5,000-8,000 words plus a 100-250-word abstract.
Praxis: These essays may apply a specific theory to a formation or artifact; explicate fan practice; perform a detailed reading of a specific text; or otherwise relate transformative phenomena to social, literary, technological, and/or historical frameworks. Peer review. Length, 4,000-7,000 words plus a 100-250-word abstract.
Symposium: Symposium is a section of concise, thematically contained essays. These short pieces provide insight into current developments and debates surrounding any topic related to fandom or transformative media and cultures. Editorial review. Length, 1,500-2,500 words.
Submission information: http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/about/submissions

CFP: Transformative Works and Cultures

I’m happy to announce a new journal on creative fan and media culture. The editors, Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson, have kindly invited me to participate on the editorial review board; I accepted with pleasure. Over the last year, I’ve strongly reconnected to my early academic interest in fandom. My first real “read” as an academic was Henry Jenkins’s Textual Poachers, which I devoured during long afternoons in the air-conditioned sanctuary of the Chapel Hill Public Library, the summer before my first year of graduate school at the University of North Carolina in 1998. Now, ten years later, I’ve made a number of good new friends in the fan studies community and am pleased to be launching a course on Fan Culture at Swarthmore. I’m very eager to see where this exciting and innovative new publication will take us. Please pass the word along!

Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) is a Gold Open Access international peer-reviewed journal published by the Organization for Transformative Works edited by Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson.

TWC publishes articles about popular media, fan communities, and transformative works, broadly conceived. We invite papers on all related topics, including but not limited to fan fiction, fan vids, mashups, machinima, film, TV, anime, comic books, video games, and any and all aspects of the communities of practice that surround them. TWC’s aim is twofold: to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics, and to promote dialogue between the academic community and the fan community.

We encourage innovative works that situate these topics within contemporary culture via a variety of critical approaches, including but not limited to feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, political economy, ethnography, reception theory, literary criticism, film studies, and media studies. We also encourage authors to consider writing personal essays integrated with scholarship, hypertext articles, or other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing. TWC copyrights under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Theory accepts blind peer-reviewed essays that are often interdisciplinary, with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offers expansive interventions in the field of fan studies (5,000-8,000 words).

Praxis analyzes the particular, in contrast to Theory’s broader vantage. Essays are blind peer reviewed and may apply a specific theory to a formation or artifact; explicate fan practice; perform a detailed reading of a specific text; or otherwise relate transformative phenomena to social, literary, technological, and/or historical frameworks (4,000-7,000 words).

Symposium is a section of editorially reviewed concise, thematically contained short essays that provide insight into current developments and debates surrounding any topic related to fandom or transformative media and cultures (1,500-2,500 words).

Reviews offer critical summaries of items of interest in the fields of fan and media studies, including books, new journals, and Web sites. Reviews incorporate a description of the item’s content, an assessment of its likely audience, and an evaluation of its importance in a larger context (1,500–2,500 words). Review submissions undergo editorial review; submit inquiries first to review@transformativeworks.org.

TWC has rolling submissions. Contributors should submit online through the Web site (http://journal.transformativeworks.org). Inquiries may be sent to the editors (editor@transformativeworks.org).

The call for papers is available as a .pdf download sized for U.S. Letter (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/docs/twc-flyer-US-letter.pdf) or European A4 (http://journal.transformativeworks.org/docs/twc-flyer-A4.pdf). Please feel free to link, download, print, distribute, or post.

Going with the Flow

batttlestar-logo.jpg

FlowTV’s new issue is out (or, given its online nature, up): a special edition on Battlestar Galactica, guest-edited by Lynne Joyrich and Julie Levin Russo with the help of FlowTV’s editorial liaison Jean Anne Lauer. My own contribution, Downloads, Copies, and Reboots: Battlestar Galactica and the Changing Terms of TV Genre, uses Galactica’s storied evolution — its many iterations and reinventions — as a springboard for thinking about how industrial replication structures TV as well as ways of talking about TV: in particular, the emergence of terms like reboot and showrunner, which seem to me laden with implications about how TV is being reconfigured in the popular (and industrial) imaginary.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica is, of course, a remake or — his preferred term — “reimagining” of Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica, which ran from 1978-1979. Even in that first, Carter-era incarnation, the show occupied an undecidable space between copy and original; it was judged by many, including George Lucas and 20th Century Fox, to be a bald steal of Star Wars (1977). (Evidence of thievery was not merely textual; two of Lucas’s key behind-the-scenes talents, conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie and visual-effects guru John Dykstra, defected to the Galactica team.) And following its first cancellation by ABC, the series was followed by the much-loathed “relaunch,” Galactica 1980, which ran just ten episodes before dying on the Nielsen vine.

The irony is not just that the 1978-1980 versions of Battlestar Galactica have now come to be seen as canonical by a subset of fans who reject Moore’s version as being GINO (“Galactica In Name Only”). Popular culture, especially from the 1950s onward, is marked by an alchemical process of nostalgia by which even the most derivative texts (Star Wars being the chief example) grow a callus of originality simply through continual shoulder-bumping with the ripoffs, sequels, and series that follow. Such is the nature of the successful media franchise, doomed to plow forward under the ever-increasing inertia of its own fecund replication.

No, what’s striking about the many iterations of Galactica is how cleanly the coordinates of its fantasy lure have flipped over time, illustrating the ability of genre myths to reconfigure themselves around new cultural priorities. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica, even in its heyday, was pure cheese, a disco-hued mélange of droning chrome robots, scrappy space cowboys, a cute mechanical dog, and endless space battles (whose repetitive nature can be attributed to the exigencies of weekly production; as with the first Star Trek, pricey optical effects were recycled to amortize their cost). Back then, it was fun to fantasize planetary diaspora as effervescent escape; the prospect of being chased from our homeworld by cyclopean robots with a mirror finish seemed, by the late seventies, as giddily implausible as Ronald Reagan moving into the White House.

But nowadays, the dream embodied in Battlestar Galactica has inverted frictionlessly into nightmare. The shift in tone is reflected in a new design scheme of drably militaristic grays and browns, brutal drumbeats on the soundtrack, and jittery camerawork on both actors and spaceships — thanks to the digital-effects house Zoic, whose signature visuals lend zoomy, handheld verisimilitude to the combat scenes. It all comes inescapably together to suggest a very different mindset: hunted, paranoid, and starkly conscious of the possibility of spiritual, if not physical, annihilation.

What I do see Battlestar Galactica bringing to the table with fresh force is the useful concept of the reboot as a strategy for dealing with franchise fatigue. A liberating alternative to the depressingly commercial and linear “sequel,” the reboot signals a profound shift in how we perceive and receive serial media. We are coming to see serial dramas as generative systems, more about ground rules and conditions of possibility than events or outcomes. (And I would argue that the only sane serial aesthetic is one that allows for occasional misfires; one bad episode does not a series invalidate.) Like the terms canon and retcon, the reboot borrows from brethren like comic books and print lit. Like the term game-changer, it characterizes TV production in computational terms, as ludic algorithm. And like the term show-runner, it signals our growing comfort with the notion of series as industrial product, indeed, as series: a potentially unending churn of a diegetic engine rather than a standalone text.

Other articles include Anne Kustritz on fans and producers; Melanie E. S. Kohnen on history and technology; Sarah Toton on fan-generated databases; and a conversation with Galactica star Mary McDonnell.

The Video Game Explosion

vg-explosion.jpg

A quick plug for a new book edited by my friend and colleague Mark J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to PlayStation and Beyond (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008). I’ve worked with Mark before, on a collection he edited with Bernard Perron, The Video Game Theory Reader (New York: Routledge, 2003). Mark is a remarkable historian and scholar, with an exhaustive mind for detail, who’s been in on game studies from the start (here’s an interview with him at The Brainy Gamer). His goal with this volume is nothing less than a comprehensive reference work on the history of videogames. From his introduction:

This book differs from its predecessors in several ways. It is intended both for the general reader interested in video game history as well as for students with chapters thematically organized around various topics, which are generally arranged in chronological order and tell the story of video games from their earliest inception to the present day. Other features of the book include sidebars and profiles that highlight various aspects of video game history and a glossary of terminology relating to video games and their technology. Some of the best people writing on video games today have contributed their scholarship to form this comprehensive history. While other books on video games have been written from a journalistic, sociological, psychological, or nostalgic point of view, here the video games themselves occupy a central position. Other aspects of history, such as the companies, game designers, technology, merchandising, and so forth, provide a necessary background, but games always remain in the forefront.

The Video Game Explosion is divided into five sections, “Looking at Video Games,” “The Early Days (Before 1985),” “The Industry Rebounds (1985-1994),” “Advancing to the Next Level (1995-present),” and “A Closer Look at Video Games.” There are entries on almost every imaginable subtopic within videogame history, including system profiles of the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and the PlayStation line; company profiles of Electronic Arts and Sega; genre profiles of adventure games, RPGs, and interactive movies; and a series of short essays examining videogame production in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

I particularly recommend the entries on “Rise of the Home Computer,” “Genre Profile: First-Person Shooting Games,” and the sidebar on “Retrogaming,” all written by yours truly.

Amazon link here; publisher’s page here.