Robin Sloan is redefining the future of media. Or, maybe more accurately, he recognizes that media is redefining itself, and he’s along for the ride.
Sloan studied economics at Michigan State. While he was there, he and some classmates co-founded a literary magazine called Oats. It was, he says, a "not-even-concealed plan" to publish their own work. In the end running a magazine was more work than they had anticipated, and Sloan only published a short story. He was nonetheless intoxicated by the experience. Still, he never considered a career in literature. “I always got the sense that it was frivolous, and that maybe writing made-up stories wasn’t the best use of my time,” he says.
Today, with a decade of his life and a career in the tech world behind him (he’s worked at companies like Twitter
and Current TV
), he’s changed his tune. “I believe that stories told primarily (but not exclusively) with words are among the most durable things a person can produce, and I’m trying my best to write a few that might make it through to the year 2112,” he explains on the “About Me” page
of his website
. That parenthetical specification of non-exclusivity is the difference between most people who write novels–you might call them “authors”–and Robin Sloan, who calls himself a “writer and media inventor.”
If you’re wondering what a “media inventor” is, Sloan is happy to explain–although it’s clear that the job description is evolving as quickly as media itself. “I think it’s someone primarily interested in content–words, pictures, ideas–who also experiments with new formats, new tools, and new technology,” Sloan says, citing Allen Lane
(founder of Penguin Books) and early bloggers as some examples. He says that media inventors are dissatisfied with traditional forms of media and “feel compelled to make the content and the container.”
Sloan has done just that. All of his work has pushed the boundaries of how we use media and has embraced the marriage of old and new technology.
He wrote an essay called Fish
for the iPhone App Tapestry, in which a short essay is presented to the reader sentence-by-sentence at their command as they tap the screen. It’s absolutely lovely–if you have an iPhone and 5 minutes to read it, download it for free here
. Not only is the presentation groundbreaking, but the essay itself addresses an interesting topic: the difference between “liking” something on the internet and “loving” something on the internet (the fact that we wrote a whole paragraph about it means we loved