Monday, January 27, 2014

In A Snow Crash World . . .

This is apparently a thing.

But is it anything more than gimmickry?

I can’t ever recall reading a book and thinking, “You know, this is a very intense part of the story. I need some kind of real-world stimulus to accentuate the fact that the characters’ predicament is making me happy, anxious, or in any other way emotionally stimulated.”

First of all, it’s because I don’t talk like that.

Second of all, it’s because the author’s words and my own brain’s creations envisioning the world thus created bear with them the physical stimulus I need to keep reading.

I can’t read of Aslan’s sacrifice, and his subsequent resurrection, without going into tears or feeling my heart pound with joy.

I can’t read of Sam’s despair when he realizes Frodo is going to keep the ring as he stands at the precipice of Mount Doom, to fail after having come so far, and not feel it with him.

I don’t need flashing LED lights or a sensory stimulation vest to do that kind of thing for me. The books I read are (mostly) capable of doing that with my own body and mind.

So it’s gimmickry.

We can’t be that out of touch with books or with stories that we need an external stimulus to make them real. If we do, we’re definitely reading the wrong kinds of books.

And I’m always very suspicious of people who use the word “protagonist.” I know it’s essential vocabulary. But most often I hear it used by people who are trying awfully hard.

Additionally, I hope the creators of this thing see the irony in using the novella “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” as the prototype story for their product. The story focuses on P. Burke, a deformed woman whose brain is used to control a genetically perfect individual named Delphi to shill products for the shadowy corporation that runs things in James Tiptree Jr’s story.

If this catches on – and that’s such a big if it’s visible from space – I can see where the quality of writing that’s attracted to this technology will be low. Good authors don’t need cheap lights or vibrations or a remote-controlled corset to help their readers connect with their characters. Things like this come and go. I remember back in college when the rage among the booky types was to package a compact disc of mood music along with their books, with notations of when to play certain tracks to go along with the story.

I know. Sounds as quaint as Tinkerbell waving her magic wand letting you know when to turn the page. Remember those records? Do they even make them any more?

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