“The 21 Steps”

4:46 pm PHT

 Screenshot of the interface of “The 21 Steps”.

“I was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time…” so starts the intriguing short story set in the United Kingdom and told via the Google Maps API. “The 21 Steps” by Charles Cummings is the first story of Penguin Books’ We Tell Stories, a collection of six stories by six authors and released in six weeks (hmmm, 666?). We Tell Stories aims to do storytelling using the various tools, interactive or not, Web 2.0 has to offer; looking at the two stories so far released, the first uses Google Maps API, while the second uses blogs and Twitter. Interesting, isn’t it?

I haven’t read the second story “Slice” yet, but having “experienced” “The 21 Steps,” I’m quite impressed! Google Maps and Google Earth have been used to tell stories before (e.g., family vacations), but I have never seen storytelling presented in a compelling manner as “The 21 Steps.” You have got to try it to believe it. I like the way the story leads you via an animated blue line laid on top of satellite imagery to the next location, whether it is London’s St. Pancras Underground Station or Scotland’s Edinburgh Castle. From the story, I also got to “see” the ultra-busy Heathrow Airport in ways that reading plain prose alone cannot impart. Kudos to Six to Start for developing the technology behind this short story!  :)

That said, the story itself kinda sucked. I mean, if you strip away the dazzling novelty of using Google Maps API as a tool for storytelling, you’ll probably be disappointed with how the story resolves itself. And there are some weird plot holes; for instance, despite the protagonist professing having never been to Edinburgh, he seems to manage quite well going around the city, Scotland’s second largest.

Nevertheless, the short story is still quite amazing. I can certainly imagine a new batch of storytellers using Google Maps API in the same way to tell their own stories. Wouldn’t you want, say, to experience the story of a guy from the province finding fulfillment in Metro Manila through Google Maps? I know I do.  :D

(Hat tip to Google Maps Mania.)

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