George Lewkowicz graduated from the Birkbeck MA Creative Writing in 2010, during which his passion for multimedia storytelling grew and developed into his pseudonym, Superbard. Since then George has performed as Superbard at the Edinburgh Festival three times—last year's show was titled Superbard Starts to Save the World. George is the Creative Director of Tea Fuelled, a London-based arts company that has had several short films and plays produced, and he has appeared on Radio 4, Newsnight and The Jeremy Vine Show.
A few weeks ago we reviewed Beside Myself by Jeff Gomez - an interactive novel designed for the iPad that explores the conceptual possibilities of narrative in the digital form. Superbard’s latest project The Flood is another example of the possibilities of the digital form—in this case translating the live storytelling experience to a portable and interactive format. The Flood was released on iBooks last week. It is a work in progress and currently comprises three short stories, beautifully illustrated by Maria Forrester. The first two have been recorded with accompanying music and the recording of the third will be added shortly. (And will be automatically updated on already purchased editions.)
We had a sneak preview of the first piece ‘Dr Who and the Water’ at Hubbub last year – the flood begins just as the students are gathered together in Al’s Basement lounge for ‘Dr Who’ night. The second piece ‘Brixton’s Afloat’ is my favourite though, and I’ve been singing the refrain all weekend—a man analyses rainfall data and predicts the flood but no one, not even his wife, believes him. With my limited musical vocabulary I would describe the aural experience as an Irish sea-shanty crossed with Blur’s ‘Park Life’—quite a surreal combination. The text itself is very funny but the narrator’s voice—energetic, indignant and yet matter-of-fact about the impending apocalypse—adds to the humour, while the music adds drama and builds the momentum. The result is very entertaining.
I asked Superbard a few questions:
Where did the Superbard persona come from? He’s a great nerd-hero.
Superbard started as a pseudonum because I was fed up of people mispronouncing Lewkowicz (my surname) when they introduced me on stage! Since then he's evolved into a character in his own right, telling stories from thousands of perspectives, and I'm afraid the nerd-ness is just me. He will feature as a character in The Flood, but I can't reveal how just yet...
Has it been a difficult process to translate the live storytelling experience to interactive book-form?
I've been waiting for technology to catch up with me. In 2007 I started Tea Fuelled which used to be short stories told to music with illustration but in an online format. However the iPad's more tactile; not only do the stories force you to touch to read, you also hold it like a book. It feels much more natural than reading on a computer screen. Whether it manages yet to convey the live experience is something I'm still working on—I'm more thinking of the eBook sitting alongside the live performances, both adding a different function the other can't, but both complementing the other. I'm going to push that further as well, there'll be stories in the eBook I won't perform live, and live stories that won't be in the book.
The music adds such an interesting dimension—do you write the music too?
I do. I hole myself up in my bedroom and play with pianos, synths and guitars. I try and think of the music as I write so the two feed into each other.
Will every piece be set to music eventually? (Or at least have audio-narration? After the experience of the first two ‘The Ark’ seemed a bit lost without a soundtrack—I kept looking for the button.)
Absolutely, the next update will see music for 'The Ark' and a new story.
How do you want people to get involved in the project?
Well, The Flood is an odd release, in that it's not finished. That's because The Flood will become a truly interactive novel, in that stories and plot progression will be suggested by readers. I want people to message me with questions they want answered, characters they want to see more of and ideas for stories they want to see. Also characters are named after readers in the real world who will control their progress. It's all linked to the idea of people coming together in the face of disaster and I'm massively excited to see how it'll all work!
Would you sink or swim in The Flood? (Or have you got a boat stashed away somewhere?)
Definitely sink. I'm an awful swimmer. But I would kick and flail and doggy paddle for as long as I could.
Do you think you would survive The Flood? Let Superbard know if you’d like to be a character, check out the Superbard website for more details. You can download The Flood from the iBook store or iTunes for £1.99.