Dimensional Imager

, , on February 12, 2012

Today I read Anya’s Ghost. The graphic novel isn’t particularly amazing, but it was fun and quick to read. After finishing it, I went to Vera Brosgol’s website (the author), her fashion drawings tumblr, and eventually hopped all over the place. Along the way I stopped by The Artfuls, a great illustration showcase blog, along with a bunch of other illustrators’ personal websites, a sampling of which follows.

The Fault in Our Stars

, on February 5, 2012

Great and serious and intelligent book that deserves rereading! Complaints! Sometimes it beats you over the head and tries too hard when presenting ideas. Kind of takes one of those books (like The Bell Jar) where the character is meandering around sharing their thoughts and experiences, but injecting it with more plot and more directed and purposeful narration. I really enjoy these types of books, particularly when they involve daily life and a dallop of existentialism, but I’m still looking for the “perfect” one. There are the kiddie type books, this one included, which include more coherence and obviousness, and then there are the classic type books which are usually too rambling, less coherent, and more limited in scope (realistic).
My other gripe about the book is it seems like Green really could write this perfect story that I mentioned above (he kind of teases this with the book/author within the book, but there he parodies the idea and takes it to an extreme for other purposes), but he likes to place himself in the young adult genre, and enjoys playing that up and trying to connect with the age group, which is at times cheesy and feels forced. Maybe Green lacks the actual life experience to make this “perfect story” happen; in such a story the author and their book are especially closely related. Anyway, he does a great job!
I mention The Fault in Our Stars deserves rereading because there is quite a lot going on, much more than Green’s other books, and there are plenty of good ideas to sit and think about. There are several metaphors within the story to explore, particularly that of Van Houten. The book takes a while to get into, past the typical love story type stuff, but once there it does well. The treatment of the ideas is good, although I disagree with Green’s stance on a lot of them. The characters in this book are not extremely realistic, and the plot is mildly contrived, but that is more than okay.

A Clockwork Orange Resucked

, on January 3, 2012

Unfortunately my little squib of a book was found attractive to many because it was as odorous as a crateful of bad eggs with the miasma of original sin.

Much better than the book itself; the introduction is clear, honest, and insightful (You are free). Following it is a lovely rebuttal by the publisher (It is so done).

The Symbolism Survey

on December 7, 2011

In 1963 a high school student mailed out a survey to 150 popular authors of the time (no easy feat getting the addresses and making copies). The central question was if the authors consciously created symbols in their literary works; apparently he was trying to settle a bet with his English teacher. The article claims 65 responses still exist, although it only displays eight in full and some snippets from others. The answers vary substantially and give insight into the writers’ personalities, many of which are, humorously, exactly as you would expect.
[via reddit]

Games and Books

, , , on October 27, 2011

Something I wrote during the Summer:
I recently finished Bioshock: Rapture.
My short review is that the book did a good job rehashing what was scatteringly told across the two games. Being able to picture Rapture while reading was a treat because it is a real, immersive, detailed place– which I think is what made the games so renowned (not the shooting, gameplay, main story, or faux morality features). While the plot is like a dystopian novel on steroids (ADAM), the ideological and genetic themes make it unique, and interesting to read how they shape Rapture’s rise and fall. I was particularly struck by the sad, sad nature of Rapture, seeing how everyone within it is doomed to die, to have their free will stripped away, to turn on one another, to watch their utopia and ideals fail, to see their children and friends turned into monsters, to feel hopelessly trapped.
I was left wondering why I felt an emotional connection to the book but not the game. When playing Bioshock for the first time, I hardly noticed how gruesome and disturbing it was, but while reading the book I was cringing and really feeling for the people stuck in the city. For example: The founders of an underwater utopia stroll with their children through a dimly lit hydroponic garden, flanked by armed bodyguards, everyone looking on when a mutated, bloody, naked woman is split in half by a moaning cyborg to protect a brainwashed little girl as she happily cheers while stabbing a syringe into a corpse to drink its blood.
WTF? Putting aside my run on sentence, this is only a shock value, superficial vignette, void of the emotional response of the characters and of the history that led up to the event. Try narrating what happens and why it happens when playing a game; it’ll sound pretty screwed up. When we play we don’t seem to notice, even though we see all of this happening first hand, even though we participate in it. These ideas are not new, and they are exactly the ones people use when proclaiming videogames promote undesirable behavior. I don’t really want to address that though, and anyway its validity revolves around carryover from games to reality, whose proof or disproof is less dependent on rambling and more on experimentation.
So why was the book more moving than the game? By design, games do not allow the player to think normally; this is both a conscious decision and a product of how we interact with them. In terms of media, videogames are unique in that they present the consumer with not just an informational one-way world to explore, but a dynamic, interactive experience in which the player learns. The player is integrated into a new world with new rules, which they learn and eventually master. If these rules demand inconsequentially killing others to keep yourself alive, you can bet the player will do that. The immersion is made all the more potent because games physically bond the player to their character, and the morality of the “real world” is lost in all the action. It wasn’t until I read the book, in terms of my own reality, that I realized the severity of the situation.
Unlike videogames, which bring players to new worlds, books bring new worlds to the reader. This is because the story takes place within the reader’s mind, and the two are inseparable. This also means that the reader will constantly compare their own reality to that of the book, making descriptions like the one above more shocking.  A more general storytelling element is that books have a much higher tendency of fleshing out characters and creating a layered plot, increasing the reader’s investment in the story than videogames, which increase the player’s investment in the physical world via coherent gameplay.

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