Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Flying with the Seagull

January 21st, 2011 · 2 Comments


I wasn’t going to start plugging my next major project ’til next week, as it won’t be going live ’til Wednesday the 26th. But this piece sort of blew our cover, plus a pending guest shot over at Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ blog threatens to complicate matters, so I’ve decided to end the week with a not-so-hard sell.

What I’ve got cooking is difficult to describe: a multimedia non-fiction story about a child coal miner who became the most famous jazz musician in Asia during the ’30s and ’40s. It will initially be available in one of two ways—for iPads and iPhones through The Atavist‘s app, or as a Kindle single. If you have the hardware, I highly recommend the tablet version, which I’ve been carefully vetting these past few days. It really is a whole new form of storytelling, enriched by images, music, and hypertext that dead-tree publications can’t possibly hope to provide. This is about as close as us writers can get to cinematic without actually employing a 35mm camera.

I’ll have plenty more details to share around the 26th, including the backstory of how the piece came together, plus thoughts about what this all means for the future of my chosen trade. For the moment, though, let me just leave you with two snippets from the tale, starting with a note from the chapter simply entitled “Chicago”:

The era’s most outlandish anti-jazz screed appeared in the normally tame Ladies Home Journal, which lambasted the music as outright barbaric: “Jazz originally was the accompaniment of the voodoo dancer, stimulating the half-crazed barbarian to the vilest deeds. The weird chant, accompanied by a syncopated rhythm of the voodoo invokers, has also been employed by other barbaric people to stimulate brutality and sensuality. That is had a demoralizing effect upon the brain has been demonstrated by many scientists.”

And secondly, a somewhat context-free line culled from a chapter describing the decadence of prewar Shanghai:

Their sexual abandon had predictible consequences: Band members paid frequent visits to one Dr. Borovika, a former German fighter pilot turned physician who was a master of treating venereal diseases.

More next week, for sure. But don’t worry, I’ll also be feeding y’all posts about chess hustlers, dumb criminals, and North Korean card stunts. Microkhan always aims to please.

Update And just in case you’re most interested in the turn-of-the-century coal-mining angle, well, here you go.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    Looks like the potential of the tablet for more than reading is finally being exploited. Congratulations on breaking new ground!

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Many thanks. Really excited about this one–it does, indeed, feel like I’m involved in a pioneering effort (albeit as a humble writer, rather than an entrepreneur). If you can get your hands on an iPad next week, I can honestly say the story is well worth the puny price tag–as is the other piece that’s coming out, about a doomed Swedish bank heist.

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