Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light’s Kat Rosenfield, Luke Lieberman and Ryan Silbert talk cyberkinetic superpowers and technology’s affect on human relationships.
Narrated by Yara Shahidi, Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light is one of Lee’s final collaborations, a story explores the complex relationship between humankind, science and technology. We sat down with co-writer Kat Rosenfield, and co-creators Luke Lieberman and Ryan Silbert to learn more about the Audible Original, what it means to have cyberkinetic powers, and how we might think differently about technology’s affect on human relationships after listening.
Co-writer Kat Rosenfield opened up about what makes this narrative truly a classic Stan Lee story. While it’s a project that is so in tune to Lee’s sensibility, sense of humor, and optimism, at the same time, it addresses modern fears and day-to-day experiences we have living in a digital age. “What does it do to our relationships when we’re spending so much time connecting through screens rather than face to face?” Rosenfield asked. “It was really cool to kind of bring Stan’s sensibility into that.”
Co-creator Luke Lieberman shared that he first met Stan Lee while in film school at NYU. “At that point, [Lee] was just really excited about the potential of the internet as a communication tool, and he saw it as a way for ideas to be shared, for people to come together,” Lieberman shared.
“And you cut to about a decade and a half later, when we start ideating around the story, and he was much more keenly aware of how this tool was being used in the way that it was dividing us and kind of creating probable realities. And then, just sort of how the anonymity of the internet was dehumanizing us and how we weren’t connecting as people. So ultimately, we wanted to tell a story about finding human connection.”
Story elements and themes aside, co-creator Ryan Silbert shared that it was Stan Lee himself that attracted him to the project. “I was a massive fan, as we all were growing up,” he said. “You don’t think you’re going to sit across the table from the guy ever in a professional capacity, but no matter what led you to that table, you turn right back to a fangirl or fanboy right away. And then you realize, oh man, he’s a fan of like this stuff too. And not just comics, but mythology… and the music and poetry.”
Silbert went on to explain that Lee asked the question, “What is more real: the world we’re born into or the one we create for ourselves?”, a question Silbert said was the foundation to develop the story.
One of the central concepts in Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick Of Light is to combine digital technology with virtual reality, and augmented reality. “With what we’re getting from our phones every day, that’s not real,” Lieberman said. “That’s a trick of light, and in some ways we have this ability. As Kat was talking about identity, we’re creating these kind of virtual identities that aren’t necessarily who we really are. Then our avatars are interacting with other people’s virtual identities, and they’re having this virtual relationship with each other. And does that come at the expense of a real relationship?”
In Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light, Cameron’s gained superpower — cyberkinetic abilities — is something we’ve never seen in a superhero narrative before, and Rosenfield assured us that it’s the “nerdiest” superpower you’ve ever heard of. “At face, it’s about being able to interface with software, You know, using your mind,” she said.
“If I were Cameron, I know every email you wrote, I know when you started posting on your social media, and if I wanted to, I could just take over your Facebook feed and make it nothing but pictures of llamas in tu-tus,” Lieberman added. “A lot of what these characters in A Trick of Light are figuring out is who they are. A lot of it is issues of identity. Nia, in particular, is figuring that out, but so is Cameron. Cameron starts the story thinking he wants one thing, and then he gets it and realizes that it’s meaningless to him.”
Silbert reminded us that the superpower is only just a piece of what is driving the story for Cameron and the other characters. “It’s power plus character plus the blend the other characters, and then how that interacts,” he said.
“You could look at super strength as something that is ubiquitous, you know, in pop culture, but it’s the way that superpower being interacts with other superpower beings. That’s how great stories are told, is that blend and that kind of combination. I think it’s also what Stan was so good at, was blending multiple characters. That’s part of it.”
Even though the level of technology included within the story is so advanced, Lieberman and Rosenfield shared their opinions on why Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light was the perfect book to be released as an Audible Original. “What Stan really liked about the idea of doing it as an audio book was that he liked creating a report with his audience, and he felt like it was an opportunity for the audience to sort of collaborate and create their own,” Lieberman said.
“They would be the one visualizing the story that’s being told instead of in comics where it’s all being express for them.” When you’re listening to the audiobook, you might notice that the characters are never really given detailed physical descriptions, and Lieberman assured us that was done on purpose so that the listener could create his or her own version of each character.
Rosenfield explained the significance in utilizing aural storytelling in particular to communicate this narrative. “I think that because this is such as the digital age, it was really amazing to have the opportunity to do it in audio, to do it in this elemental way, the oldest form of storytelling,” she said. “Your hero’s using wildly advanced technology, but the story is being told to you in a human voice. It really transforms the narrative. It’s captivating, and it’s immersive, like sitting around a campfire and someone is telling you something spooky.”
Whether you’re obsessed with your smartphone, have your own VR set, or avoid social media at all costs, Rosenfield, Lieberman and Silbert all agreed that they hope listening to Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light will encourage you to focus on the significance of human relationships in an effort to unite you with others and improve modern society.