Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hey! Whatchoo readin' fer?

I have not been updating this gentleman as often as I would like or had originally intended, so I apologize for any nights you may have stayed up feverishly clicking your brower's reload button, hoping, praying, fiending for a new transmission from bitspace. This new prose project has been occupying most of my free time lately; it is probably hopeless as a novella, and will likely end up being another novel (though probably only half as long as the first -- which I still can't get anyone to publish, thank you for asking). If I can finish it by the end of the month, I have promised myself an Xbox 360. And if I don't? Well, I guess I'll just have to keep spending my spare change on tumor-growing pleasure sticks instead of downloadable brain corrosives. (But given the choice, I'd prefer to hunker down with King of Fighters 2002 UM and Rez until the days start getting longer again on December 21 or so.)

As I work on this new project (the title is "Lotus Eaters;" whether or not a "the" will get stuck at the beginning is still under deliberation), my doubting and cynical self is chiding my creative self for acting foolishly and wasting his effort. You can't sell the first book; what makes you think you'll have any better luck with a second?

He has a point. I see this project meeting with about as much success as the first (zero), and even if it did get published -- somewhere, somehow -- what would it matter? Nobody would read it. Nobody gives a fuck about fiction anymore. Why don't I just resign myself to writing nothing but video game commentary for the next twenty years and at least being assured an audience?

It saddens me that the wider public doesn't read fiction for pleasure unless their arms are twisted into it. And I'm not just saying this own my own behalf, either. People are seriously missing out. Yesterday I reread Herman Melville's "Benito Cerino" before sitting down to start a new game in Final Fantasy Tactics. As I looked back on what I did that day, which do you suppose seemed the better use of my time?

If you've followed my work for any length of time, you've noticed I like to ruminate on the aspects of DIGITAL INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA that set it apart from the classical -- or at least older -- modes of entertainment/expression. It is true that video games can do a lot of things of which non-interactive and non-visual media, such as prose, are simply incapable. But now that video games and fiction have reversed positions -- the one that once struggled to validate its existence is now one of the most lucrative, widely consumed, and analyzed of our pastimes, while the other is practically hanging by a thread, slipping further into irrelevance as public interest and corporate profits dwindle -- I think it is worth backpedaling a bit and looking at what makes fiction what it is. What can fiction offer us that new media cannot?

For the best answer, please consult The Curtain, by Milan Kundera. For my answer -- which will probably be very similar to Kunera's, albeit shorter, less erudite, and far less eloquent -- well, sit tight a few days. I'd like to think it over a few minutes. In the meantime, I would be interested in knowing your thoughts.


  1. Very few things, unfortunately. I think just about the only thing it has over the new media consists of the way it pulls you in. The author creates a world, certainly, but it is up to you, as the reader, to visualize it, give it life. Melville writes, in Pierre;

    "He felt a faint struggling within his clasp, her head drooped against him, his whole form was bathed in the flowing glossiness of her long and unimprisoned hair. Brushing the locks aside, he now gazed upon the death-like beauty of the face, and caught immortal sadness from it. She seemed as dead, as suffocated,--the death that leaves most unimpaired the latent tranquillities and sweetness of the countenance. [112]"

    We learn so much about this girl, and yet so absolutely little. It is revealed that she is beautiful, with long, glossy hair, and she possesses a melancholy beauty. I see a girl vaguely resembling Emma Pollock with a more delicate face, and while my creation fits the bill, it's only one of millions. Heck, Rinoa could very well fit the bill The story is Melville's, yet he has thrown the ball in my court, and it is now mine. Every time you are forced to do this, to put another memory and thought into your head to comprehend and picture the novel, it draws you into their universe further and further still; for instance, the girl is related to someone important in the novel (who won't be revealed for spoiler's sake), and because her features are compared so often to him, it springs off of what you had previously created for the sake of the novel and involves you further.

    Does that make sense? In a way, writing is one of the least direct expressions of an author's intent. When an actor is cast or a character is drawn, the author/artist makes a point. "This is who my character is." When you read, it is instead you who says, "This is who your character is." It's engrossing, simply. That's not to say that the other media is a lesser form; I watched Howl's Moving Castle and nearly cried (it wasn't a sad movie, just from the wonder of it all), and I still can't put my finger on why it was so absolutely beautiful. I played Limbo and was completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere and tension the game pressed into my head. Still, it was Miyazaki's landscapes; Limbo's panorama. That girl above is my Isabel.

    As a final note, I would like to point out that neither of the above examples would have had anywhere close to the same impact as a novel. I can't even picture Limbo in a written form. I like what each form of media can do, and I'm really dreading the day literature goes completely out of style, though I likely won't be alive when that occurs.

    goodness I hope some of that makes sense

  2. What can fiction offer us that other media cannot? I honestly don't know. I've only recently started getting back into fiction myself after a long hiatus of either not really reading anything or reading more non-fiction books. But after starting up again I realized just how much I missed it.

    Take the series that set me off on reading fiction again, Harry Potter. Somehow I'd managed to go all this time without reading any of the books and then went and read all of them in two months. Now I'm not going to sing its literary praises (Hell, as I was reading I couldn't help but notice how frequently Ms. Rowling deus ex machina's her way out of everything), but see that wasn't the point. I was having fun, while reading. It had been quite some time since that had been true.

    In the past few years I'd read loads of fascinating non-fiction works that taught me something or helped me see things from a new angle, but it seemed very rarely was I actually enjoying the process. Having fun and getting into the story set my imagination churning and made me want more material to rip through. It also got me thinking more about my own tales I want to write.

    But I could get the same feeling from other forms of media as well. Movies, music, video games, all of these as well as novels have left an impression on me, and I can think of exceptional examples from each form that stuck with me after I was done taking it in. I guess my hope for fiction is that out of all those media forms and their varied methods of entertaining and storytelling, the one that has the most representatives and left the greatest and most important impact on me is the one that's contained within turning pages.

    P.S...Then again, I was just in Barnes and Noble the other day and found that Paranormal Teen Romance now has its own section. *shudders*

  3. I like worlds in fiction. I go for the classic science fiction; Dune, Titan, and even The Naked Sun have more food for thought (for me) than anything modern day, modern time. Well, excepting alternate history with alternate technology modern time.

    Games can do this better in some ways. I spent many hours exploring the worlds of Final Fantasy and Ultima 4 & 5 rarely getting anywhere. They were worlds I could play in. Final Fantasy 6 and 7 even tried to have the strengths of exploration, exposition, as well as anime picturesque sets, but... you've written a hell of a lot more on those than I could. I just think it was cool of Final Fantasy to give me more access to the world as a reward for the plot.

    Nowadays I get more from tabletop game setting books than from most modern writers, of games, books, or serials.

    It is not completely hopeless to keep work on Lotus Machine. Publishers love series, they bring in more money than a single book.

  4. It may have something to do with supplying your own imagination. Words are vague, especially when contrasted with pictures. But even the most detailed photograph is missing its back, or whatever the camera cropped out. A movie can only capture a specific timeframe, and often leaves out elements for the sake of storytelling.

    But when you play a video game, they have to design every ugly nook and cranny, and you have to sit through every trek back to town. "Upon returning to the cave" translates to thirteen random battles and the same scenery.

    I've often replaced the images of characters in books subconsciously with something I liked better, and when I reread those characters' introductory paragraphs I am saddened. You can't do that with pictures.

  5. I don't know if the blog notifies you when you get posts (and if it doesn't this isn't really worth bringing to your attention), but as I was flipping through some old camera phone pictures I found this one;

    it must have been a couple months ago. I remember nearly crapping myself walking by it and having to check the author two or three more times just to make sure I wasn't passing you by. Just thought I'd share!