Original Content podcast: Malka Older on reviving the clones of ‘Orphan Black’ for Serial Box

“Orphan Black” ended its five-season run back in 2017, but Serial Box is currently continuing the story with “Orphan Black: The Next Chapter,” a weekly series of e-books and audiobooks.

While spinoff novels and licensed fiction are nothing new, I was particularly interested in this revival because Serial Box is a venture-backed startup bringing back the tradition of serialized fiction. Plus, ‘The Next Chapter” feels particularly official because the audio version is narrated by Tatiana Maslany, whose starring turn as the show’s various clones was so central to its appeal.

So for a bonus episode of the Original Content podcast, I spoke to Malka Older, the head writer of “Orphan Black: The Next Chapter.”

Older was a fan of the series, and she explained that by jumping several years ahead in the “Orphan Black” timeline, the writing team could “give the original series space to breathe” and find a new approach to its big themes.

While Older noted that she has no problem depicting large corporations as villains — something she’s done in her own novels — she wanted to do something new here:

We started thinking more about governments. And particularly when you come to these questions of biotechnology and genetics, governments are increasingly getting involved and trying to figure out what their role is in regulating them —or facilitating them for economic reasons. And then we’re also seeing security questions and things like biometric security become much more pervasive. So to start thinking about how that would effect the lives of these clones was just a really rich seam to open up.

We also cover some topics that should be interesting to non-“Orphan Black” fans, like the appeal of serialized fiction versus binge-watching. Older noted that if you wait for all the weekly installments to come out, you can still binge “The Next Chapter,” but she also said, “Not all of us have the opportunity to really binge everything. And it’s not always bad to have structural constraints on how much you can consume at one time.”

You can listen to the interview in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

Digital publisher Serial Box raises $4.5M

Serial Box, a startup bringing back the tradition of serialized fiction, has raised $4.5 million in seed funding.

The company actually disclosed the funding last week, when announcing a partnership to produce stories about Marvel characters, but it’s sharing more details about the round — namely, the fact that it was led by Boat Rocker Media, with participation from Forerunner Ventures, 2929 Entertainment co-founder Todd Wagner and Japanese business intelligence and media firm Uzabase.

“We carefully chose trusted partners for this round of investment,” said co-founder and CEO Molly Barton in a statement. “They see the big opportunity that we do to retool reading for the smartphone age, to take the best elements of traditional book publishing and innovate with influences from the audio, podcast, gaming and TV industries.”

Serial Box publishes stories in text and audio format, broken up into weekly episodes. The first episode of each story is free — then if you’re hooked, you can pay $1.99 for additional episodes or sign up for a season pass.

The idea of making readers and listeners wait for the next chapter of the story may seem strange. Hasn’t Netflix trained us to want to binge the full season, as soon as possible? Maybe, but anyone who’s watched “Game of Thrones” week-to-week knows that there’s still immense pleasure in waiting for smaller chunks of the larger story.

Behind the scenes, the company is borrowing from the TV production model, with a showrunner leading each writing time creating the stories. Serial Box writer include popular YA/science fiction/fantasy authors Gwenda Bond, Yoon Ha Lee, Max Gladstone and Becky Chambers. And as mentioned, the company will also be publishing stories based on Marvel characters, starting with Thor.

The company says it will launch its Android app next week, with plans for more product upgrades and content partnerships in the coming months.