I've been working for the last several months on a project called Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, and it's just (finally!) launched. Thrilling Tales is a series of (densely) illustrated and (lightly) interactive stories from the retro future that can be read in their entirety at the web site (for free!) or purchased as full color books (not for free!). There are also some free downloads like desktop wallpapers and screen savers and, for the moment, a single diversion in the site's Derange-O-Lab. That's the Pulp Sci-Fi Title-O-Tron, a random pulp science fiction title generator.
The first Thrilling Tale is Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves which is itself the first part of a longer story called The Toaster With TWO BRAINS. Yep. That's what it's called, all right. There's a trailer for the project: you can find it on the front page of the Thrilling Tales site. Please do!
In their web versions, the stories are enhanced with some gamelike features like an inventory - by clicking on an object's icon, you can view a scrolling window with an illustration of the object and some information about it - and large popup versions of the illustrations. You can save and restore your place in a story just as you would in a game.
As you explore the story you're able to choose which protaganist to follow and at most points you're able to direct that character's actions. I call these "lightly interactive" because they're not completely nonlinear. In fact I'm still experimenting with story branching - especially in a multi-part story, which complicates matters - and that makes the form an interesting one.
The books are full color paperback books that include all the interactivity of the web versions, including the inventory. Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves is a 128 page printed version of the interactive story at the web site. The printed illustrations are higher resolution images (300 pixels to the inch, or even a bit higher). My goal for the two versions of the stories is that each one should be the best possible version of the same thing - one optimised for the web, and the other optimized for print. I'm pretty pleased with the way they've each turned out.
The project is a lot like a web comic - with the content available for free on the web, or for purchase as printed books. The biggest difference is that because the stories aren't linear I can't post updates a couple of times a week. And going by Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves, those updates will be months apart.
For that reason I'm planning to add linear illustrated stories with updates once or twice a week. Although that will delay the big updates even more, it's about the only way the site can build up its readership.
And like a web comic site I'm hoping that people will like the free content enough to support it in some way - by buying books or other merchandise. I've already got Thrilling Tales T-Shirts online and there will soon be posters and archival prints, all showing up at my Retropolis web site. And of course there are the books. I've got some plans for getting the next installment rolling through a Kickstarter promotion (with fabulous prizes!). But the whole thing is an experiment. It remains to be seen whether the Thrilling Tales can spark enough interest to pay for themselves. I sure hope they do!
Anyhow... that's what I've been up to, and what I'll contiinue to be up to for the forseeable future (and I guess that's not exactly the sort of future I usually spend my days in). I hope you'll drop by the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual site and if you like it, tell a dozen other people who might like it too!