Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen

4B Transcoding Storytelling/1
Session 4 – July 2, 15:30 – 17:30

Epistolary Paratexts as Transcodifications of Media Franchises

As a form of transcodification, “epistolary paratexts” can be defined as ancillary reference material accompanying narrative ur-texts and/or transmedia corpuses and claiming to originate from the same imaginary worlds these texts are set in. Like epistolary novels or fictional films of the found footage genre,
they claim to be authentic documents originating from fictional worlds and form an intra-diegetic threshold around narrative texts to mediate their world to audiences. Usually in the form of notebooks, scientific reports, engineering manuals, technical drawings, and similar reference documents, epistolary
paratexts aim to systematically organize the data on the inner workings of a fictional world originally communicated through other narrative texts. They not only transcodify narratives of media franchises, but also curate and reorganize their content.
Epistolary paratexts are not specifically written to form fictional narratives. Any narrative they form is derived from their mimicry of factual narration. While they tend to retell or reorganize information provided by narrative texts, they may also introduce additional data to establish coherence. Masquerading as if they were written by characters inhabiting fictional worlds, they may also provide personal or institutional perspectives. Most contemporary epistolary paratexts are products of the evolution of crossmedia and transmedia practices blurring the line between reality and fiction. Targeting mainly reference and design-oriented fans, such publications combine the object-oriented materiality of extra-diegetic reference sources, i.e. making-of and art-of books, with the make-believe of fictional narratives. This paper will introduce the concept of epistolary paratexts and discuss through examples how these texts organize and transcodify narratives originating in multiple media to add verisimilitude to fictional worlds for audiences who want to take a step back from the events of the narratives and wonder how the world they are set in works.


Tonguc Ibrahim Sezen is a lecturer in transmedia production at Teesside University. He holds a PhD in Communications from Istanbul. He has been a Fulbright scholar at Georgia Institute of Technology, School of Literature, Media, and Communication. Between 2013 and 2017 he has been an assistant professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, Game Design Department. Between 2017 and 2020 he was a research fellow for the EU funded RheijnLand.Xperiences innovation project. His academic interests include interactive narratives, video games, toys, and transmedia narratives