Thursday, September 9, 2010
In the How New Technologies Bring New Narrative Techniques session, the panellists (Chris Lawson, Grant Watson, Peter Watts, Ben Chandler) pointed out that the biggest change ever in storytelling was the writing down of narrative. After all, widespread distribution of novels could not exist until the printing press was invented. The aim of prose is to get reader to imagine and respond and part of joy of reading is the personal imagining of the story (which visual narratives can’t do). The introduction of a new narrative medium doesn’t destroy the old, but the old medium may change its role. With technology Story is more accessible to everyone. (They really should have qualified this to: everyone who can afford it). I was surprised to learn that the Epic of Gilgamesh has foreshadowing in it – so it’s a technique as old as Story itself.
Of necessity the early video games had simple narratives. It is the demands of the users/players which improve story media. Most games are designed around the levels and the story retro-fitted. I know my son doesn’t think the World of Warcraft (an MMO game) story worth reading. (He’s now engrossed in For the Win which I brought back from WorldCon, by the way.)The story is the first thing cut if the money starts to run out. There is limited choice/control of narrative or outcomes for players in most games. Actors are now being hired to do the voices or narratives to sell games.
The panel talked about the World of Warcraft plague and how its development and effects were studied by academics: narrative as scientific exploration.
I was top of the reserve list for the second Kaffeeklatsch with George R R Martin and almost got to participate because someone was late. So close!! Outside the Kaffeeklatsch and signing hall some Star Wars characters were fundraising.
PRK, Luckers and myself comprised the Robert Jordan panel and we discussed the reason behind the Wheel of Time’s popularity and what makes it stand out from the fantasy crowd, and also how Sanderson’s volume/s compare to Jordan’s own novels, and whether we are seeing a fitting conclusion.
Our explanation of why WOT is great is that the books can be read on so many levels, from a rollicking story with riveting fight scene to a complex plot with layers of symbolism and myth adding depth. The magic system is really good. The major characters are appealing and arouse passionate reactions in readers and the minor characters are rounded, and live their own lives, often undergoing development (eg Teslyn). The theme of incomplete knowledge, not just for the characters, but the reader too, leads to mysteries and theories.
Most authors bury their sources deeply, but RJ’s premise of cycles, with history turning to myth and myth to legend, our world history forming their myth and their history our myth, means his sources are only partially buried and that there are a plethora of allusions and sources. RJ puts a twist on them though to keep them fresh. This appeals to the reader with an analytical, dissecting type mind (like me) and challenges them to dig them up.
The series is remarkable in that RJ tried to show the Light struggling and stymied for a few books as the Shadow gains the upper hand. Few authors would dare do this even if it is realistic or artistically correct. PRK thought that RJ was also trying to show everything in his world and played with it too much in the middle books. The audience was equally divided over whether they liked the very complex books or the first three books best.
Sanderson had a huge job to pick up someone else’s world and characters, especially one so complex. He has managed to marry his style to RJ’s and captured most characters – nearly all - very well. The character development is good and he thankfully kept the symbolism intact. Three large books (as in each over 300K words) in three years are, or will be, a phenomenal achievement. But then, RJ's creation of the world, the characters, and the story in the first place was even more so.
At the end of our panel we showed Jason Denzel’s Towers of Midnight trailer, which was well-received, earning spontaneous applause, and made the audience long for the book’s release.
That was the last session for me and one of the last at AussieCon4. I then sat and talked with Luckers for a while and left for the airport with more luggage than I arrived. World Con 2010 was a lot of fun and passed all too quickly.