While online and tablet publications continue to proliferate at an almost infinite clip, very few of them have taken full advantage of the medium. However many bells and whistles that locate the design exclusively on the tablet, the overall experience still derives from a fixed, print model. The Silent History gleefully abandons this approach and, in the process, creates a whole new (and well-designed) reading experience.
Conceived by ex-McSweeney’s publisher Eli Horowitz and assisted by Russell Quinn (programming and design), Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett (text), History is a serialized novel for the mobile age. The story is about children who suddenly and inexplicably stop developing language. The novel’s structure is an archive of first-person accounts told by parents, doctors, teachers and neighbors, and they’re released, one at a time, from the beginning of the epidemic through to 2043. In addition to the main storyline are peripheral, site-specific stories (by guest contributors and reader-submitted) that can only be “unlocked” at actual locations all over the world. (There’s even one in Anarctica.)
The main storyline is rich and fascinating on its own, but by capitalizing on the iOS technology’s potential, History transforms the novel form—becoming more elastic with the potentially endless outside contributions that are exempt from describing their physical setting as the user is already there when reading them. Instead of diluting the content with superficial distractions, History is the rare storytelling app that deepens one’s relationship with the subject matter, creating an entirely new app paradigm in the process.