Monday, October 27, 2003

Getting Back

Is anyone still there? Let's put on a show!

Other than taking care of Sawyer, what have I been up to? I've been reading Alan Turing: The Enigma, Andrew Hodges' excellent biography of Alan Turing. My brain was full of things to blog about but then I had to wake up at three in the morning to change Sawyer, and now I've forgotten most of them. Here's a good one, though: When Alan was a child, his parents (who were living in India) sent him and his older brother to live with a Col. and Mrs. Ward in England. It happened that living across the street was H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon's Mines. Once, Alan found a diamond-and-sapphire ring that belonged to Lady Haggard; she rewarded him with two shillings. Does this not sound like the start of a Tim Powers novel?

Also, I just finished Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. It loses points in my book for using the irritating word "cyberspace," and then loses more for not really being about narrative. She seems to equate any kind of interactivity to narrative, a point of view that I think dilutes the importance of structure to narrative. She also seems to ignore the whole realm of enhanced narratives - can software make us better readers of traditional literature? Since I've got a bunch of reactions, I'll start writing up what I think she ought to have said. This is a little unfair, I suppose: one of the reasons I found the book so frustrating is that she clearly has thought about it and has some interesting points to make. But somehow the book never quite delivers the insight or structure it keeps promising.

Here's my favorite part of the book. The "winning" ending of Myst, in which you free Atrus, is really the most boring and unrewarding ending. Worse, it doesn't match the arc of the rest of the game, as you slowly discover just how terrible Sirrus and Achenar really are. The "losing" ending, in which you free one of the brothers only to be imprisoned in the book, is a perfect endcap to the arc, matching the symmetry of how you saw them before. She's exactly right.