'Inanimate Alice' newly animated: Kate Pullinger's digital novel is still young

From "Inanimate Alice," Episode Five.
From “Inanimate Alice,” Episode Five.

May we all age at the rate Kate Pullinger’s Alice does

When last we saw Alice — of Pullinger’s transmedial tale Inanimate Alice — she was 14. That was six years ago.

Now, she has reappeared. But she’s not 20. She’s 16, as stated in the opening of Episode Five.

This enviably slow maturation, it turns out, wasn’t intentional.

“A long hiatus,” Pullinger agrees with me, occasioned “as the producer, Ian Harper, did two things: One, he built on the audience base, and, two, searched for ways to fund or finance the rest of the episodes.”

top titleIn an interview with Yvette Chin at Digital Book World, in 2011, Harper described what tends to get lost when a collaborative project is rolled out in episodic increments over many years: the story. It’s a yarn that might make you feel that Alice is anything but inanimate. He told Chin:

Alice is a 21st century girl, growing up with aspirations of becoming a computer game designer one day. She has had a lonely, unsettled, childhood travelling the world with her itinerant parents. Homeschooled by her mother in a yurt in Northern China…and in a Soviet era tenement in Moscow, she goes to school for the first time at the age of 14.

This is Alice’s story, told by her when she is in her mid-twenties looking back over her life and reflecting on the circumstances…Over a series of increasingly interactive and complex episodes, Alice demonstrates her improving skills in writing, art and design. The words selected, the typefaces, music and imagery changing from episode to episode, are all age appropriate.

So what does the title mean, I ask Pullinger? How is Alice inanimate?

Kate Pullinger
Kate Pullinger


“It’s how she feels about herself,” Pullinger says, “compared to the world of games and animations and stories she inhabits online.”

Pullinger and Ian Harper’s new release: Episode Five of Inanimate Alice

In the previous four episodes, Alice was 8, 10, 13, and 14.

The new Episode Five, in which she is 16, is made in Unity 2D with added 3D effects, Pullinger says.

Separately, there are Gap Year travel journals made in HTML5 byAndy Campbell and Lorri Hopping. In those, Alice is already 18.

Episode Six, to be released in the summer, will be made in full Unity 3D, Pullinger says. In it, Alice will be 19.

“One of the most interesting things about the project now,” Pullinger says, “is its longevity and that, despite the fact that the first four episodes were built using the now-outmoded Flash, it has remained current.”

As it turns out, the work may be allowing its earliest followers to pace Alice pretty well as she ages toward the mid-twenties from which she’s supposedly looking back at all this. The audience, Pullinger says, “remains a broad mix of kids and adults.”

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By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

The FutureBook: ‘Inanimate Alice’ newly animated: Kate Pullinger’s digital novel is still young

Read the full post at: TheBookseller.com/futurebook


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