IDG Connect claims Tolkein would be new media maestro if alive today

Would J.R. have made You tube videos, Wikis, Tweets, Video Games and PDF only Roleplaying games based off his most loved work?

My comment repsonse to an intriguing article by IDG on the infulence of Tolkien on the digital age.

In summary, the article talks about how Tolkien was one of the first to create a truly interactive, multimedia experience, with Lord of the Rings. He did not just write a book, say article's authors, he wrote songs, drew maps, and created a language for people to immerse themselves into. They say that with communication technology at the level that it is, we should expect to see similar multi-layer works coming to your local Kindle.

Here's my two cents:

"As a child, my mother taught me how to read using the Lord of the Rings books. As I got older, I would fall asleep listening to the audio books (on tape no less). So I see your point about the value of a multimedia experience with a good book. Whether Tolkien himself would like the idea is not necessarily relevant. After all, George Lucas did not write ever Star Wars book, video game, cartoon, roleplaying game etc.

I also agree that in the future, we the public could expect to see more multilayered content with some of the more successful fiction projects. I believe that we will, most likely, see this coming out of the same kind of fiction that has already produced these kinds of seven layer cakes of content: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel comics and DC comics.

Commercial potential, however, will be a big factor in the creation of these multi-layered media empires. The common threads between all those above worlds seems to be 1) a setting that has strong structure that cannot the less be expanded upon and altered and 2) characters that are robust and draw the attention of a large audience that includes other creative, and finally, most importantly 3) awesome commercial potential. With all the extra work required to create these 3 or 4 dimensional opus’ , I very much doubt that if a particular fiction project doesn't draw a significant profit, that anyone will be willing or able to produce more content past the central books. No movie studio would have touched the Lord of the Rings project until they were at least confident in getting their money back on it (and their investment certainly paid off).

Therefore, the “future Tolkien” that we hope to see may benefit from following Tolkien's model of world building. Assuming their project has a large, shapable world and potent characters, it will then take investors, most likely working through Kickstarter and other media-funding venues, to help pay for the creation of the other layers of content, especially big impact tie-ins like movies, video games, roleplaying games, and those companion books I'm so addicted too. This will take either extra work from the original creator, collaboration between the original creator and other creators, or both.

All of this will be up to the grand consumer public to decide which project is worthy of multi-layer status or not, for if the public is not all in, then the work will not be appreciated, and no new content will exist past the first wave of extra content. Star Wars’ success has allowed the world to thrive 30-40 years after it was first envisioned.

Though, as food for thought, the Greek legends of Hercules, Peresus etc. have persisted for thousands of years, and I very much doubt that the origonal creators made very much money off their myths. Perhaps, then, since commercial success only comes from a fan base that has opportunities to pay for content, all you really need to have this multilayer experience are fans willing to experience it and creators will to make it.

I smell government art grants!"

What do you think? Would Tolkien have an I-Phone, or is that blasphemy?


  1. Thanks for the response to the article…

    I’m not sure money, or mass-marketing appeal needs to have too much of a part to play in the grass-roots shaping of multi-platform content. After all, the advances we are enjoying right now, give content producers, writers, app-builders, developers (the list goes on and on) the ability to pump out a variety of cross-platform content that take may take plenty of time, but only requires the minimum of financial investment.

    Tolkien himself created his own multi-faceted universe using just time and ingenuity, and whilst today is very different, it is the quest for ideas that we are interested in. Plenty of people may be concerned with the commercial potential of multi-platform, with multi-film deals, the double soundtrack, T-shirt and lunchbox deal. However, new content of this nature simply needs to be well done, with a great message, and be something that the author (or producer) can be proud of. Anything else doesn’t matter. Producing something good is good enough.

    And with regards to Tolkien and technology, many forget that it was (an already incredibly rich) Tolkien himself who paved the way for adaptations of his work on the leading technological platforms of his day by selling the rights to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to United Artists in the late 60s.

    I also like to think he’d be an Android man.

  2. Thanks for posting the article in the first place guys.

    "However, new content of this nature simply needs to be well done, with a great message, and be something that the author (or producer) can be proud of"

    I agree entirely. I think its vitally important that an IP get good representation across the board. I am ashamed to admit that some of my favorite novels have been the tie-in material that J. Robert King wrote for the Magic the Gathering card game (Paticularly the invasion cycle), and you could tell that he really made a story out of what used to be a bunch of cards. On the other hand, I tried to read the Vampire Wars trilogy by Steven Saville: a tie-in to the Warhammer franchise of wargames and roleplaying games. I couldn't even finish the second book before I sent it off to the adoption center (Half Price Books). Quality multi-platform content just seems to be so key in not just adding to a franchise, but also adding quality works to a genre or even to literature itself.

    I also know that regardless of any knee-jerk recation I may have to tie-in material, novels that are involved in another IP can be of an award winning quality. I never expect a Star Wars or Mass Effect novel to win the Booker prize, but maybe one of those two works could win a Hugo. Come to think of it, on this day in 1926, George Bernard Shaw refused his Nobel Prize for Pygmalion, and 8 years later Pygmalion would go to win an Oscar. He won just about the biggest prizes you could for a literary work and a film adaptation. That would be like Ender's Game winning the Hugo and the Oscar (which based on recent reviews, it seems unlikely that ender's game is getting that honor).

    That being said, I wonder if Tolkiens version of the LoTR movies would win any awards?