Sunday, 29 January 2012

Collective Collaborations

The recent introduction of e-versions of instalments is probably as good a time as any to refer to Shadow Unit here.  As someone who has caught the odd episode of Veronica Mars, X-Files, Supernatural and CSI (Vegas, not Miami – traditionalist here), it shouldn’t come as a massive surprise that I’ve found myself tuning into Shadow Unit on a virtual basis.

For the previously uninitiated, Shadow Unit is a TV series “aired” in website format.  In the words of the writing team themselves, it’s “a mystery/suspense show, a profiler shoe – but with a science-fictional problem at its heart.  An ensemble cast of smart, witty, capable people, each with a vulnerable place at his or her core.  A single, unified what-if…only a little outside the laws of physics as we know them”.
Essentially, the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit investigates those cases designated as outside the “norm”, the ones which are sent “down the hall”.  Those involving the “Anomaly”, which causes genetic mutation, a parasite/host relationship, injury, virus or infection, amongst the speculative theories.  Characters are categorised as either alpha (“normal”), beta or gamma; gammas being humans fully affected by the Anomaly and, thus, a threat to society.

The series is deliberately interactive, with some characters maintaining LiveJournal accounts and even having been known to respond to fans of the show on occasion.  There is also a detailed “wiki” and running order for episodes.
To date, three full seasons have been released, with the website reader (Paypal) funded and Season Four currently under way.  There also appear to be plans for previous seasons to be released in “dead tree” format via sources such as Amazon , following on from the current e-format versions (of which there are 10 capable of being downloaded).  Best of all, they can all be located easily here, with a clear running order set out.  Just be sure to avoid character synopsis/summaries, if you’re making your way through the episodes in chronological order, so as to avoid inadvertently stumbling across spoilers for “future” episodes!

I’d previously checked out episodes via the website but have now availed myself of the opportunity to download the e-versions, as it’s more comfortable to read them in a non-backlit format (personal preference only).  It’s been well worth the minimal effort and cash involved.  (Each “book” constituting of a couple of “episodes” each and various extra “cookies" and LiveJournal extras is less than £2.00 on the UK Amazon site, with US versions similarly reasonably priced.)
The writing is effortless and the characterisation sound; unsurprising, given a number of well-known authors form part of team responsible for formatted episodes (Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear and Holly Black, amongst others). 
I found myself easily hooked in and am enjoying the opportunity to revisit the characters.  If you find yourself intrigued by the premise, you could do worse than pay the website a visit, starting here and let the characters and plotlines speak for themselves.     

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