Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Life in Transit

The first people to find Transit found it by mistake. They got lost in the fog and, literally, stumbled inside. For centuries the only way in and out – the only known way – was on foot. As time went by the feet doing the finding included mule train hoofs, camel hoofs and, allegedly, elephants. Once the existence of the place became more widely known, of course – it had been a dark and mysterious secret of the there-be-dragons variety – entrepreneurs drove through a road. Nowadays the main route in and out is by train. You can’t fly. No one’s sure why not.

Life in Transit is a new online project from David Mace, author of Shadow Hunters, Frankenstein’s Children and The Highest Ground. It’s an unfolding story in weekly parts published exclusively on his website. When last I looked – which was about five minutes ago – he was up to part four. They’re bite-sized chunks of narrative, full of wit and invention, in a form that well suits the medium.

David and I collaborated on an ambitious online project of a different kind, a few years ago. Life on Mars – no, not that one, this was in 2001 – was a 28-day ‘real time’ narrative about a Red planet landing that… well, obviously everything goes horribly wrong. It was made by Mark Gorton’s Multi Media Arts for E4, and was structured around a daily video feed from the lander backed up by a mass of explorable online content in the form of mission data and company communications that revealed all kinds of stuff that the crew weren’t being told.

Mark had the idea, I roughed out the main story developments and the character arcs, and then cunningly left the scene while David did all the actual work. The spacecraft stuff was shot inside a WWII submarine. Hey, Galactica, eat my shorts.

It was, frankly, too much ahead of its time. It relied on a version of the Flash player that almost no one had and called for a reasonably fast connection, which no one had either. The planned five-minute videos were cut down to one minute each, and it went online in May-June of that year without fuss, fanfare or promotion.

I’ve never even seen it. But I don’t feel too left out because nor has anyone else, as far as I can tell. I suppose the material must be stored somewhere, encoded in some form… I wonder if it could ever be revived and rerun? Or, even better, remade at its originally intended length.

Give Life in Transit a try, though. An altogether more accessible piece of online storytelling!