Winner of the if-Book New Media Writing Prize

James was one of three writers, along with the novelist Kate Pullinger and the digital artist Duncan Speakman, to be commissioned to create apps for the Ambient Literature Project. James’s  The Cartographer’s Confession, a digital fiction set in London, was produced by Emma Whittaker. It won the New Media Writing Prize in 2017.

The term Ambient Literature refers to writing that knows where its reader is through the use of the technology of the smartphone and which has a visceral connection with a sense of place.

The Cartographer’s Confession is a geo-located app that unfolds as users move between three different London locations. It combines voice, video, prose, original 1940’s photographs , commissioned illustrations, 3D soundscapes and a bespoke musical score to create a rich literary experience.

As Alphr magazine put it on Twitter: If you want to read ‘s new book, you’ll need to get your walking shoes on

The app is no longer available to download as the cost of updating it every year became too great to sustain, but it has been preserved at the British Library, where visitors can experience the ‘armchair version’ of the app on phones.

I’ve read many, many novels in my time and there are some I’ll pick up and put down pretty quickly, but for me this was up there with a really good novel. It has texture, it’s beautifully crafted, it wasn’t overly laboured; the actor doing Thomas’s voice really carried it off. There’s a lot of skill involved in understanding the way people will be interfacing with this. It’s an auditory experience, and people who have a background in radio broadcasting and documentary making and arguably some of the top podcasts really get this. But the canvas here for storytelling is vaster and more sophisticated – it carries the potential for a much richer more immersive storytelling experience than anything I have seen before and I’m really excited about that…. It brings us back to the fact that places are rich with stories and stories are timing, stories are voices, stories are breath, delivery, they are rich sonorous experiences that are here to draw us in, to make us think, to engage with and experience the world around us. Hamish Sewell, of Storiedland, Australia


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