The BitTorrent Interview: H8 Society

The creators of the digital novel, out today on Bundle, talk about music, memory, and new modes of storytelling.

H8 Society
is the story of two rival gangs hellbent on taking over the world. It’s about the power of love to overtake hate. And it’s about finding the answer to a forever old question. Can music save our mortal (and moral) souls?

There’s a catch, though. Because it’s a story unlike any other: an interactive graphic novel project that plays out across text, music, and art. H8 Society, created by 2Dans, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, and soundtracked by a collective of 26 independent musicians from around the world, is a revolutionary post-digital adventure.

We caught up with H8 Society creators 2Dans, and talked about love, hate, and the making of a new kind of digital novel.

What inspired H8 Society? What themes were you interested in exploring?

The 2Dans are part of the first generation that spent their youth terrified by the prospect of kiss-your-ass-goodbye nuclear annihilation, only then to be pulverized by a never-ending media barrage exploiting the whack-a-mole “global war on terror.”

We’ve chosen to create a contemporary fantasy using the broad-brush of social satire to examine, as writers, the effects of these always present fears on the emotional state of youth culture.

The second theme of our story is how people use music to modify their own emotional state, which many times involves trying to restrain their inner demons.

What can readers expect from the download?

The Standard Bundle will contain the full book which is a 373 page digital novel that is embedded with 26 songs and 20 of Bill’s graphics.

The Premium bundle will contain three files: the full book book, plus all the H8 Songs, plus a third file with versions of Bill Sienkiewicz’s eye candy that include: 3 early generation graphic art panels, several pages of character roughs, and early character sketches, which are a peek under the hood, graphically, for what lies ahead in Book 2 of our H8 Society Series – yes, you heard it first!

What was the experience (or the world) that you were looking to build with this new storytelling format? What were you hoping to challenge?

We’re not hoping to challenge anything really. Because the story and its characters are our primary focus, we were very curious about the impact of music and graphics to help us create a great storytelling experience for our readers. And, we believe in the power of music to impact human emotions. We are, after all, living in a digital age where mobile devices make it possible, for the first time ever, to seamlessly integrate literature, music and graphics into a new kind of book. One that you can carry in your pocket. We also thought is was important that the user controls the way they want to consume the music while reading and therefore, they can choose to play any of the 26 songs, for as much time as they like

Tell us about working with Bill Sienkiewicz. What was the process that went into developing the visual component of this story? What’s the role of art in H8 Society?

With any great graphic artist, which Bill truly is, the challenge is to paint the outline of pictures with words that inspire their imagination. And then, get the hell out of the way. Genius works on its own terms. Our only goal with Bill was to help channel his talent by sharing our narrative, on a grand scale and in specific ways, so that he might feel inspired to create and collaborate with us. When Bill expressed an interest, fueled by the chance to create a smart, witty, powerful and obese heroine that carries a big stink in her trunk, we were ecstatic and humbled.

Let’s remember that art, as a storyform, is as old as the human experience: primitive people conveyed stories by painting in caves; more sophisticated storytellers employed hieroglyphics; in the Middle Ages, master artists filled places of worship with story art; and many classic novels have utilized wonderful drawings to enhance the reader’s experience.

Do you remember the first time you read a book like Treasure Island or Robinson Crusoe and discovered the full-page color illustrations inside? As kids, that made a big impact on both of us.

Art combined with storytelling stimulates the brain to further immerse the reader into an experience that captures their imagination. That’s the role of art. Its exciting and empowering that technology and distribution platforms have enormously evolved, but the role of art in great storytelling really hasn’t changed over. It just works.

H8 Society isn’t so much soundtracked or scored as it is felt: the everyday and extraordinary experience of having music built into our lives. What’s the role of music in H8 Society, and how did you build it in?

People who know about our journey (the 2Dans) are amazed that we personally curated 4,000 songs from all over the globe, through the biggest indie community, ReverbNation. Throughout the selection process, we established a very real and direct connection between ourselves and the artists, without any commercial or corporate agenda – we were just on the hunt for amazing songs and compelling artist performances that felt right to us because they were adding another dimension to a character or story event. It was a real challenge given the enormous response to our invitation. The music spans many different musical genres from artists that we’d never heard before, and curating their songs into the story at just the right moments was exhilarating!

We all have inner screams, things that keep us up at night, that interrupt our attention, break our hearts, enrage us and set our emotions on fire. The role of music in our book is to further dimensionalize those very moments when you’re trying to imagine what the characters might be listening to just before, just after or during the events in their lives that are, as for most of us, usually completely out of our control.

Music is also the most consumed content on the planet and for various different reasons: it’s a powerful memory trigger, a calming influence, a motivational force to workout or train before a big athletic event.

We wanted to use different kinds of music: hip hop, EDM, alt rock and heavy metal to sharpen the blade of our character’s emotions – and to explore the role music can play in managing the inner screams in all of us.

How do you see the landscape of digital storytelling changing? How do you hope it evolves?

We’re not hoping to change anything. We are tremendously excited by the opportunity to express ourselves in a new digital way that delivers engaging storytelling content across borders and economic barriers through mobile devices. Digital natives and multimedia powered mobile devices are burning down the long held-to beliefs about how music, games, books, movies and motion comics can be created, distributed and used.

We hope the power of this still emerging technology will unleash creatives to produce even more challenging and interesting material for everyone to put on their smartphones, delivered to any part of the globe, and then grab a great pair of headphones to enjoy the experience. How exciting is that for us all?!

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