Jun 10 2009

Mr Middleton’s Teleporter: How do you do?

Last week, I introduced you to Mr Middleton.  I have provided an excerpt for you below, from my interview journals with Mr Middleton, from when I first came across him. It was on a meandering walk I took, through Paddington, not long after I had moved to Sydney.  Not knowing my way around, and with thoughts of what documentary I might try my hand at next (at the time, I fancied myself a documentary maker, having made a couple of TV-length attempts, none of which had been broadcast), I had decided to try and find the next subject for a documentary simply by roaming the streets.

 The first few attempts were dismal; I interviewed some perfectly pleasant, utterly boring Sydney-siders, one a cafe owner, one a cosmetics shop proprietor.  Then I came across Mr Middleton exiting his house on his way to the grocery store.  

Journal excerpt

…His plainness, the total anonymity of his suit, made me think, oddly, of Einstein and his wardrobe full of the same suits, one for each day of the week, to avoid wasting his mental energy on menial tasks such as deciding what to wear each day.  Mr Middleton was either going to be the most interesting person I had met so far, or the least.  Either way, it was worth the attempt.

As I got close, I am sure I heard him mutter under his breath something about a “teleporter.”  Better and better.  I cornered him for a couple of questions, as he stood outside his gate, nervously fidgeting with his coat the while.  I did manage to get from him that he was a scientist of some kind, and I thought I would slip the teleporter into conversation as if I knew about it already, a technique which I had used in interviews in the past and which generally seemed to achieve greater disclosure.

Q: Where were you born?

MM: Sydney.

Q: What made you want to get into science?

MM:  I don’t know what you mean.  Science is everything.  How can one get into it when one is never out of it?  

Q:  What first prompted you to try to invent a teleporter?

MM: You know about that?  No one is supposed to know about that yet.  It’s not ready for other people to know about it.  Have you told “Physics Today?”  I beg of y0u, don’t breathe a word to the toadies at that magazine.  Not yet.  They wouldn’t know true science if it poked them in the eye.

Q: How will your teleporter work, once it is ready?

MM: I can’t say.  There’s a combination of expectation energy…but no, I can’t say.  Not before it’s ready.  They’ll just think I am mad again.  This will show them, my theories are not mad at all!

Q: What do you do for a living?

MM:  I work at a television factory, doing quality control.  But my real work is in my laboratory.  No one has ever understood, but I’m sure, if I could only work out how matter can be transformed and reconfigured rather than transported…we could save so much time…there could be instantaneous travel.  But no, that’s enough.  What was I saying?  Nothing, nothing.  Very well.  Get on now.

Q: Do you have any family?

MM:  That’s enough.  I’m very busy.  Please don’t come back, as I won’t have time.  Good-bye.

I’m afraid that’s all Mr Middleton had time for.  He did not tell me when he expects the teleporter will be ready; in fact, he seemed to want to not speak of it.  He did not let me into his laboratory, but I am hopeful for next time.  I will definitely be back.  Mr Middleton, this funny little man, is on to something.  Mad man or genius; either way, good talent….

To be continued.


Apr 19 2009

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 6

A jump forward in time to the present.  Today I spent a rainy Sunday in, helping to write an application for a funding grant to develop an alternate reality game (ARG) based on Mr Middleton, which takes the teleporter metaphor and makes it into real life.  Without the atomic disintegration, but with the mental leap intact.  This is all very cryptic, isn’t it?  It’s because I am trying not to do my own spoiler!   

I really hope that the team gets the money to do the ARG.  It would be a lot of fun, as well as helping to promote the story, as well as giving people a chance to experience what it would be like to be inside the story-world of Mr M, and effectively teleported (but like I said, without the atomic disintegration)…  basically the game idea is…

hang on.  To explain the game, I’ll need to explain a bit about the story.  I don’t think I have done that yet!

“Mr Middleton’s Teleporter” is the tale of Mr Middleton, an ageing alcoholic who, having spent his life wishing he were a real scientist, finally cracks the secret to building a teleporter.  He creates a network of teleporters all around the World which can transport a person in an instant to the other side of the globe. 

How the teleporter works: Say you need to get to Baghdad for a meeting.  A colleague you have met once before is waiting for you there.  She is expecting you.  You step into the teleporter and, hey presto!  You are in Baghdad, in the meeting room.  How does it work?  The teleporter uses the “expectation energy” of the person waiting for you.  The only problem is, that you become the person they expected – you become their idea of you.

The ARG team (a group of enthusiastic youngsters, along with me and the illustrator and some help from my betrothed) want to develop an ARG which focuses on the idea of “who you really are” and what your friends really think of you.

So the game would go something like this:

  1. I write questions for my friend, “Tim.”
  2. My questions for Tim are about him.  Eg “Where did you first see X-Men?”  “Do you prefer jocks or boxers?” “What is your dream job?”
  3. Tim has to answer the questions.  But to get them right, he has to guess what I think the answers are.  Tim has to essentially guess what I think of him.
  4. The game will thus reveal a) how well I know Tim, and b) how well Tim knows what my perception of him is.
  5. The game can then be passed on from friend to friend, or from friend to a group of friends and so on.

The ARG team want to make this game for the online world of Facebook and email and so on, as well as holding it in real life.  

In real life, it would run something like this:

All available participants would come together at a central location in Sydney. At the central location, each participant receives the first of five questions, written for them by their friend (as per the online ARG).  Once they give the “correct” answer, they will receive a riddle leading them to the next location.  Again, at the next location, they will receive their next question, and so on until the final location, they meet the friend who designed the game for them.  There will be prizes for the first three to complete the game unaided, and booby prizes for those who had to seek assistance (eg by breaking into an emergency “answers” envelope) to get to the final destination. 

The idea is that you will feel like you are sort of being “teleported;” as in, you “change” each time you answer a clue correctly, according to what you friend thinks of you rather than perhaps what you think the truth is.  You are being, effectively “teleported” from location to location, by being transformed, at every step of the way, by your friend’s perceptions of you. 

To make things fun, at each location clues will be handed out by actors dressed up as characters from the story of Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, and the riddles which lead to the next location will refer to Mr Middleton themes.  I reckon it would also be fun to throw in a few curve balls from Mr Middleton too – disrupt the game occasionally, bending the rules.

Anyhow.  I am very curious to hear what people think about this idea.  Whaddya reckon?  Is it rubbish?  Or maybe you have heard of other good ARGs or other cool ways to bring stories to life or ways to reach the masses with a humble little self-published fairy-tale…Or maybe you have a cool idea?