Well, last couple weekends I tried out the "Negropedia Brown" concept on Gawker.
On paper, the idea is this: there remain "ethnocultural mysteries", which is to say the issues of racial inequality still exist in this country (c.f. Barack's race speech). Particularly in certain institutions, media, for example.
And I've always been a big fan of the "Encyclopedia Brown" boy-detective mysteries. So wouldn't it be sorta cool to use that conceit to explore these "ethnocultural mysteries". It's a more creative and fun way to dig in on a touchy subject, perhaps wag your finger at The System. Harkening back to childhood storytelling can soften what often comes across as harsh sentiments.
So far I've done three cases:
Case of Will Leitch and the Burning Q-Tip
Case of Jay-Z and the Undead Auto-Tune
Case of Vanity Fair and the World White Web
Unfortunately, the execution hasn't lived up to the dream in my head. Primarily, as I see it, because the answers to Encyclopedia Brown mysteries were simple, succinct, and definitive. I haven't managed to recreate the same effect of suspenseful storytelling leading to a clear satisfying conclusion.
I'm posting this cause I'm going back to the lab with Negropedia Brown. I believe strongly in creative transparency and crowdsourcing, and want to get more of "The Process" on TAN; especially if I'm outsourcing the product anyway. So this a post/space for any thoughts, suggestions, and for referring people to the samples.
There are certainly other variables at play: Is referencing Encyclopedia Brown already making for a very niche group (do kids today or even young adults remember/revisit those stories; they seem classic to me, but maybe not)? Does the complicated nature of race totally short-circuit any attempt to have satisfying answers? i.e. when we solve the mystery of race at-large then you can broach this. How does "turn to the back of the book" storytelling work on blogs/the internet? And how much does timeliness and news relevancy play a part-- the first and third cases above were not timely at all. All this before even getting to the nuts-and-bolts of the actual writing.
I still think the seeds are there for something very very cool. It might play better as video or sketch where a character can better translate the mood/tone. Maybe it works better as a cartoon, a la Boondocks. Maybe it's just one of those ideas that doesn't get all the way *there*.
If you have thoughts on any of the above, feel free to share. You won't hurt my feelings. And if you have the notion that gets it right, you're totally in on any byline, $, etc. I just think there's upside, style and substance potential. And so many ideas get shelved and forgotten I wanted to give this one some special attention.
Illustrations by the illustrious Brandon.