Beyond the Wall(s) of Sleep

Below I’m taking a look at how one story went through several iterations across media. The text of Lovecraft’s story is in the public domain and available online. Here is an audio version:

Translating stories across media is risky business. The line “Slater, or Slaader,” makes sense when we read it, but not so much when we hear it. The voice adds something to the experience. That can be both positive and negative. It heightens the poetic aspects by adding emphasis to the sound and rhythm of the language. But the vocal characterization of the alien voice comes not from the text, but the narrator’s imagination. That hissing whisper seems heavy-handed to me. The act of narrating the story takes away something – it impedes the listener’s imagination as the narrator defines the sound and rhythm. The background music likewise adds to the experience – it’s eerie and mostly subtle, although it gets melodramatic sometimes:

The background music operates on an emotional level rather than a literal one, so it draws us in and captures our attention without really limiting our imagination. All these things that are added in translation become part of the story. Lovecraft told the tale through words (or word choice), and the video enhanced those words with narrator’s voice and the background sounds, and made a new story out of it.

The people at Visual Test took a somewhat different approach to transforming the work into the digital realm with Lovecraft: Beyond the wall of sleep. It has been called an enhanced ebook and an interactive novel, because it takes the text and adds illustration and sound, and brings interactivity to it by allowing readers to click through at their own pace. I think the format has potential, but would work better with something developed specifically for it, rather than an adaptation. As it is, the sound and visuals feel tacked on, and the interactivity especially feels forced. Still, it is an interesting experiment. Gonzo Entertainment made a noir inspired movie out of the story, available on Youtube, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

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