she invites us in and holds us back

Stephanie Burt (at Strange Horizons) on John Plotz on Ursula K Le Guin; my emphasis.

Leaving blank spaces for readers to see how well, and how often, we fill things in, Le Guin’s prose is (Plotz writes) “the antithesis of the well-rendered verisimilitude of a high-end video game” (p. 48). Those games show us everything, asking us to experience their worlds as temporarily real, as what Tolkien called subcreation. Le Guin instead invites us in and holds us back, reminds us that we are reading (or hearing) a story, making us co-creators, collaborators, listeners, as if to an oral tale. Le Guin’s parents were notable anthropologists; her background in anthropology, and her suspicion of writing as such, both matter in Earthsea, as Plotz notes. He might have made more of orality and literacy, of the suspicion of writing expressed by the Kargs of eastern Earthsea, and of the dangers—the false immortality—promised when speakers of the novels’ common tongue, Hardic, write things down.

Highlighting for its echoing of my recent writings on openness in worldbuilding, of that invitation to collaboration (which must start from a recognition of collaboration’s necessity) which I think distinguishes the better sort of futuring, whether it comes as a novel or as anything else.

On the matter of the “as anything else”, I’m tempted to Plotz on the basis of that little quote at the top of the paragraph; I am far from being an expert in that field, or even a well-informed amateur, but nonetheless I think there are ways of making video games that can accommodate the sort of worldbuilding we have in frame, here. (How closely it’s related to the potential for an ecofictional refusal of plot in the most recent Zelda installment is an open question, to be answered by someone with many more console hours under the belt than I have.)

John Plotz, though—what a wonderful bit of nominative determinism for a literary scholar, eh?



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