Narrative Perspective in Remediated Stories

In class we talked about the interesting choice Peter Jackson made to show Gandalf’s story as it happened in scene instead of allowing him to retell it as exposition, like in the book. This allowed for the movie to have a faster pace using scenes and action, which works for this format because cinema does not have the time or much interest for slow-paced exposition dumps like books do. This is just one example of how the narrative perspective of a story changes between different medias; in looking at other remediations, we can look at how writers and directors either keep or change the narrative perspective and what this can tell us about the remediated stories and the media itself.

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This scene of Gandalf fighting Saruman is visually interesting and fits with fast-paced and visual media of film
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A scene of Gandalf narrating his fight to Frodo would just not work in a film for too long

In  keeping with the Lord of the Rings saga, the next remediation of interest to this class is The Lord of the Rings Online MMO, which changes both the actual story being told and puts it all in the perspective of one character. The Epic Quest line allows your character to help the Fellowship of the Ring without actually joining it, thus allowing for the story to fit in with the book’s canon without changing it. One interesting aspect about the MMO genre is that although the quests and plot is already set, each person has the option to choose whether they want to join a party and interact with other players, allowing all of them to be their character and make choices within the framework of the games’ quests. For example, they can do side quests, join a party, or make their own, thus crafting their own story.

One remediation that is close to my heart is Tom Tywker’s and the Wachowski siblings’ film Cloud Atlas, based on David Mitchell’s novel with the same title. Both works tell the story of six different characters living in different areas and time periods in a different fashion and rely heavily on remediation. Starting with the novel, six stories are told through different story-telling means (a journal, letters and a musical sextet, a crime-fiction, a postmodern autobiography, an interview that became canonical in post-apocalyptic era’s civilization, and a first-person narration), with every protagonist finding the previous protagonist’s first half of writing in their respective stories; finally, the book ends by completing the second half of the stories in reverse chronological order (such that the 6th story finishes 1st, and the 1st last). As such, although the various individual modes of writing are extremely transparent and very focused on the subjective experience of each protagonist, the work as a whole is abstract and really focuses on the themes common to each story.

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The journal entry section is composed of several entries from different days. The narrator’s confusion, remarks, and attitude come from the character himself.
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The story breaks color coded

It’s interesting that David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is called a novel, since none of the individual stories are presented in that form; instead, they are presented as autobiographical forms of literature (except the final story, which is oral story-telling). The book as a whole could have just been a narration of each character, but instead the story is presented as if the characters were telling you their own story; in this way, the novel can serve as a comment on the literature that it remediates- although a comprehensive analysis of this is beyond the scope of this blog post, I do have a feeling of what it may be: there is a stark contrast between feeling the subjective experiences of the characters from their intimate story of their life that I get from each story and the feeling of similarity between the immediacy and intensity with which each character describes their own story. Furthermore, since the protagonists follow a hero’s journey, the remediation of many different forms of literature may be a tool to show their underlying similarities.

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The movie poster shows the different characters and their respective environments together, almost as one, under an arc or light,

As if the novel did not have enough remediation, the film adds another layer by remediating that novel. Instead of showing half of each story then going back in reverse order, the directors stated that they cut the stories into segments, then combined the thematically similar segments together between each story; as such, the movie may go from the 3rd story portraying corruption and cut to the 1st story dealing with the same theme, then the 5th. The directors explained their choice to tell all the stories at once in terms of a restriction that their medium gave to them, since they believe that the audience would not want to see the first half of six stories then have those stories finished later, as it is in the novel. Furthermore, since each story has a similar Hero’s Journey arc for the protagonist, they would often scramble the various similar sections between stories together, such that we may see multiple characters from different stories crossing their relative thresholds and have the chance to appreciate their differences and similarities at each section of their journey. Finally, the film casts the same actor in multiple different stories, which adds a totally new layer to the theme of inter-connectedness that is unique to the medium but still captures the essence of the novel; since many of the same archetypes of characters appear in the different stories (from the slave or repressed victim fighting against the system oppressing them, the person helping them fight the system who is not oppressed by it, to the powerful agent representing that system), the use of casting actors in the same or different archetypes allows the whole film to have a meaning that is greater than its individual parts.

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Look at how many roles these 6 actors played! This is a great example of remediation using the features of a new medium to flesh out the theme of the story in a new way. By the way, Hugo Weaving (Elrond) plays a slave-ship trader, an assassin working for a corporation, an abusive nurse, an (evil) government officer, and a cannibal from a warring tribe- all the same archetype of the agent of a corrupted powerful organizations.

Although the film had no way to directly frame the whole story as a collection of letters or notes in a diary, the characters are often portrayed writing their story in their respective genre and some events are narrated from that mode. For example, the film showed a character writing a letter and narrating an event that happened off-screen and allowed the auto-biographer to narrate a short prologue to his story, as there is in his book. There is also one final change the film made: it included a 7th time period, consisting of the post-apocalyptic story’s protgonist and his love interest retelling the story of what happened to his grandkids over the campfire, thus making the remediated medium of his actually shown in scene, instead of implied by the books. I love this decision, since it makes the final story a retelling of his life, just as the other five stories are portrayed as a retelling of their lives in different personal modes. In all, the film is a remediation of a novel that remediates the autobiographical writing or narration of six different forms.

The last mode I want to talk about is the musical, which I believe has a special ability to portray what I call the simultaneous multiple 1st-person subjective narration. That was a lot, so lets parse it: 1-st person is telling the story as the focal character understands it, such as Nick in The Great Gastby or Frodo in the Ring trilogy; I use the term subjective to highlight how the narration is focused on what the character feels, rather than what they perceive; multiple means that the story switches between different perspective; and simultaneous means that characters are singing about their subjective experiences at the same time, often over, between, or with others.

A good example in a remediated show is “Now/Later/Soon” from A Little Night Music, which is a remediation of Ingmar Birman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night. In this song, three different characters sequentially sing about what how they feel and what they desire as the other two continue acting out the scene; finally, when the characters get so warped in their own internal experience, they start singing over each other such that it gets almost impossible to hear what each character is saying (despite the fact that it is mostly just repeating the words or sentiment of their previous individual singing); at any rate, just looking at the script from 8:19-9:22 is illegible if read as just the sequential order of the words:

I promise. When is later? As the sweet imbecilities
Soon, All you ever hear is Trip on my trouser leg,
I won’t shy away, “Yes, we know, Henrik, Stendhal elimanates A…
Oh, Henrik,
Dear old– Everyone agrees,
Henrik, please,
Henrik…”
Soon, As I’ve
I want to. Often stated,
Soon,
Whatever you say. When? But when?
Even now, Maybe Maybe

When you’re close Soon, soon, Later,
And we touch, I’ll be ninety When I’m kissing your brow
And you’re kissing And dead.
My brow And I’m stroking your head,
I don’t mind it I don’t mind it
Too much. Too much. You’ll come into my bed.

This technique puts equal weight on each character, thus emphasizing that they are all primary characters and that the scene unfolding on stage between them is important to each of their lives individually; furthermore, it gives the feeling that while each person’s desire when isolated seems rational, when combined in relation to what the other people want, it all becomes an incoherent mess. In framing the song to have the actors sing over each other with their own internal narration, Sondheim uses the technique of song and theatre to change the film’s script but keep its emotional essence.

Into the Woods: Journey, Remediation, & Hypermediacy

One of Stephen Sondheim’s most recognizable musicals is Into the Woods, which you may recognize from the movie version Disney made in 2014. The story involves various fairy tale characters, in addition to two modern ones in the Baker and the Baker’s Wife, who go into the woods in a quest to get what they want and come out happily ever after (or at least singing a song implying so); the second half has them going back into the woods and reexamining their old desires. So just from this synopsis, I can expand on how the show uses the theme of journeying, how it is a remediation of other tales, and how it plays with Hypermediacy in its production.

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The first act is a relatively simple tale of the characters’ journeys: it is plot friendly, about overcoming obstacles, poses only a slight moral dilemma, ends with all the characters, including the narrator, singing about how they have a happy ending (really, look at how joyful they all seem), and moralizes some simple tales that everyone has learned: “And we reached the right conclusions/ And we got what we deserved!”

Behind the happy-go-lucky surface, the philosophies of the protagonists are manically explained “To be happy, and forever,/ You must see your wish come true./ Don’t be careful, don’t be clever./ When you see your wish, pursue”  The underlying belief of these characters is the exact same as what it was in the beginning: to be happy, pursue your wish, explained as “Into the woods/ To get the thing/ That makes it worth/ The journeying.” Although the characters have taken a physical journey, and killed the wolf, slain the giant, avoided making the decision to commit to a prince, and completed the witch’s task, they have not grown as characters since they have not changed, only their circumstances have. While this may be fine for a children’s show (as shown by the success of “Into the Woods jr” which is just the first act of Into the Woods) Act II is here to change that.

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“Ever After” The Act I Finale song. PICTURED HERE, from left to right: Florinda & Lucinda (Cinderella’s sisters), Cinderella’s step-mom, Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandmother, The Other Prince, Milky White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Jack (The Giant Killer), The Baker (not from any fairy tales), Little Red, The Witch, Jack’s mother, Cinderella’s Father, Rapunzel, Cinderella’s Father, Prince Charming’s Servant, and The Old Man. NOT PICTURED: The Baker’s Wife (I’m not sure why!), The Narrator (also played by The Old Man in the Forest), and the Wolf (also played by Prince Charming), with the two double roles serving as stylistic metaphors for the characters.

In the second half, the characters are forced to deal with their reckless desire to get what their wish. They go back into the woods because a giant is invading their realm, due to the various things that the characters have done – from Little Red taunting Jack to steal her harp, Cinderella carelessly throwing a magic bean away, and various other careless actions – and they eventually gather together and admit their blame in the present situation. Perhaps what makes act II about the journey and not the destination is the choices that the characters’ make: this is best exemplified symbolically when they sacrifice the narrator to the giant, signifying an end both to simple morals and having your decisions made for you.

10899216_835981286479889_77545087_nLikewise, a good exemplar for how the characters grow as a result of their journey is Cinderella’s ability to finally make a decision. Whereas in Act I her happy ending came as a result of deciding that she would rather be the object of desire rather then follow her own volition, as shown by her realization “I know what my decision is/ Which is not to decide,” when leaving her shoe on the steps of the palace, in Act II she finally makes her own decision by leaving her prince and following her own desires, not his. Only after being forced to reflect in the woods, rather than follow one plot point to the next until they reach their prize, do the characters finally change and sing “Careful the wish you make,/ Wishes are children./ Careful the path they take-/ Wishes come true,/ Not free.” As such, the second act reflects on the danger in rushing recklessly through your journey to achieve your ends.

As previously mentioned, Into the Woods is a remediation, in which the classic fairy tale structure, themes, characters (remember that first image?), narrator, and morals, are put into a medium of a musical. This is significant because whereas a fairy tale is short, plot-based, and is told to tell a simple moral, this musical is almost the exact opposite: it is long, the second half is character-focused, and gives a more complex moral message. As such, it is able to both really reflect on and criticize the motivation behind the characters, both in the songs that illuminate their character and the whole second half that extends their story. Since the characters are humanized, and their stories interact in new ways, it forces us to really examine these tropes as characters, and to question just how reckless the message of fairy tales are.

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The format of musicals allows for a character’s interior monologue to be their lyrics and expand the depth of their character, as shown from Cinderella’s pondering morality itself during beginning of her story.
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This also shows an expansion of his character, as it lets him reflect on his mistakes and his lifestyle in a way that a plot-oriented fairy tale does not. And really, who can blame Chris Pine- I mean this character?

 

It raises questions like “Does Cinderella actually like this prince and want to stay married to someone she knew for three nights, especially considering how desperate she was to go out of her old situation, how likely is it that she genuinely liked him instead of just accepted literally anything she could get?” and “Why should Jack not face any consequences for stealing from the giant,” and “How much can the prince actually love Cinderella after only dancing with her for three nights?” The answers that the musical raises are: She does not like him, Jack should feel guilt and lose someone important, and the prince just moved on to Sleeping Beauty when he got bored anyways.” As such, its remediation into a more contemplative art form allowed the show to critique the fairy tales it is based on.

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In addition, many of the aspects of the musical directly mirror aspects of a fairy tale. There is the infamous first song, a 13 minute piece with several characters singing “I Wish” multiple times throughout, as well as a laundry list of things they wish for; this phrase is common in fairy tales, since the characters are literally only defined by what they think they want (Cinderella = wish to escape, Little Red = Go to Grandmother’s house, Rapunzel = explore the world). Furthermore, the title of the show, which is also the most repeated words in the cast album, is a reference to Fairy Tales, as the woods often represent a place of adventure. Finally, characters like the narrator and the witch are both remediation of the style of how fairy tales are told (simplistically) and the main villain in multiple tales.

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These are the reasons why they go into the woods the second time, notice how after their first wish there was still trouble in their lives
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Obviously, by the beginning of Act II, they have not learned or grown in their story arks very much.

Finally, the show plays on Hyper-mediacy: in the first half, the characters are almost caricatures, thus drawing attention to the fact that the audience is watching a play. And this works because it is supposed to be like a fairy tale, reflected by the simple, but unrealistic, world the characters live in and the set of the show. In the second they are presented as more real and having more complex motivations, thus making the show appear more transparent. Likewise, there are constant ironic references to Fairy Tale motifs, such as the three willow trees that bring them to the right path: the motif of three is common in fairy tales and allows Cinderella to find her way pack to her story; simultaneously, it reminds the audience that they are watching characters from a fairy tale, and so it makes the play more hyper-mediated in the same moment that Cinderella is able to find her story again. And finally, there is the infamous line “What am I doing here/ I’m in the wrong story!” sung by the baker’s wife in the middle of her climatic scene with the prince, thus drawing the audience out of the story while also illuminating the Baker’s Wife’s intelligence and her awareness of the social politics at play.

 

Game Design Britomart’s Bedroom: Faerie Queen, Book 3, Canto 1, Stanzas 60-66

Britomart’s Bedroom Scene Game Design Remediation:

Overview:

Our character goes into the Castle Joyeous and then see’s the Redcrosse Knight and the 6 Malecasta Knights guarding Britomart’s bedroom. Our PC then hears a scream from inside of Britomart’s Bedroom. Our PC and the Knights run into Britomart’s Bedroom where they find Britomart welding sword with her smock on and Malecasta on the ground wounded. Our PC and the Redcross Knight run to Britomart and the Knights run to Malecasta.

After conversation with Britomart, the six Knights attack our PC, Britomart, and Redcrosse Knight. During the fight Malecasta is no where to be found. Our PC and Redcrosse Knight talk about where Malecasta went. PC asks Britomart and she tells the PC about her secret entrance to her room. Britomart, Malecasta, and PC go through the secret entrance and find Malecasta in Malecasta’s Bedroom where upon entrance she attacks the PC. The PC wins and completes the Mini Quest.

Dialogue:

Britomart’s Bedroom Entrance:

PC: “What is this room that you are guarding?”

Redcrosse Knight: I am guarding Faire Britomart’s Bed Chamber making sure these “Knights” don’t try anything.

PC: Why would they?

Redcrosse Knight: They are Malecasta’s knights you can’t trust them.

Malecasta screams (Sound Effect)

PC: What was that?

Redcrosse Knight: I don’t know. Let’s go!

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Inside Britomart’s Bedroom:

PC: What happened in here?

Britomart: I was sleeping soundly when I heard someone in my room! It was Malecasta and I quickly welded my sword and took care of her.

PC: Oh dear! Are you ok?

Britomart: Of course, I am! But it looks like you and Redcrosse might not be.

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Fight with 6 Knights of Malecasta (Britomart and Redcrosse help)

*After success*

Redcrosse: Well we handled them but where did Malecasta go off to?

PC: I don’t know. Seems like she ran away but no one went through the door we came in.

Redcrosse: I don’t know ask Britomart

Britomart: She must have gained access to my secret passage door.

Go through Secret Door, Down the Hall to Malecasta’s Bed Chamber,

Malecasta Attacks, She is defeated. If not the player can respawn and try again.

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NPCs:

Redcrosse Knight

Britomart

Malecasta

Malecasta’s Six Knights

Quests:

Main Quest- Enter Britomart’s Bedroom/Defeat Malecasta’s Knights:

  • Obtain access to Britomart’s Bedroom
  • Defeat Malecasta’s Knights inside of Britomart’s Bedroom

Objective- Defeat Malecasta’s Knights

 Rewards:

  • Experience Points
  • Collect Loot
  • Access to Britomart’s Secret Passage

 Side Quest- Find Malecasta:

  • Obtain access to Secret Passage Door in Britomart’s Bedroom through conversation with Britomart
  • Go to Malecasta’s Bedroom

 Objective- Defeat Malecasta after finding her in her bedroom

Rewards:

  • Experience Points

Youtube Video of NWN2 Britomart Bedroom Game Module:

 

Amanda T., Nathanial E., and Emily G.

Video Games? I Thought This Class Was Digital Media…

Those were my exact thoughts the first time I read the syllabus. About three months later, I have never been happier to have taken this class. When my friends and family found out that I indeed was taking this class they were all perplexed. I had never been interested in video games, but I discovered this class was about way more than that. 

I have learned considerably more in this class than I could ever imagine. Because of this class I pushed the limit of what I thought constituted school work. Playing a video game for homework? Some of my friends were jealous, but for me it was just as rigorous as some of the work I am assigned in my other more traditional classes. I had to learn video game jargon, how to move my fingers swiftly, and the method of thinking that develops over time after playing video games. I love to be challenged and this class has challenged me academically.

Never before had I contemplated the stories of video games. The main theme of our class has been remediation. I realized that every mode of media was intertwined and often drew upon each other for story lines and inspiration. The majority of our class focused on The Lord of the Rings. I was exposed to a whole culture based on a work of literature that I had never experienced. From the die hard fans who have learned the elfish language to the father and son that play LOTRO on the weekends I discovered that there is more to Lord of the Rings than funny character names and weird looking creatures, but rather it has the power to bring people from all over the world together over a common ground. It only makes sense in our globalized and technological world that literature should adopt to new forms. 

So what have I learned this semester, Dad? More than you could ever imagine – watch me kill this wolf. Just wait until you see the video game I helped create.

 

Molly S.

That is soooo 489 years ago.

Ah, the digital age. I have almost every conceivable medium of entertainment available from the comfort of my laptop. I could download a 70-hour long RPG, if I choose. A movie, maybe? Weeks worth of music might suit my mood, instead. And, of course, I could also read a book online, provided that it’s been uploaded. An IT professional like Prof. Hall is, of course, familiar with this flexibility of engaging media. So, then, what value could the most antiquated of all these experiences possibly hold? In a time when we are greeted by immediacy in the form of audiovisual engagement, can a poem over 450 years old still enrapture us as it did audiences of the Renaissance period? Spenser’s The Faerie Queene provides a strong case for the affirmative.

The Faerie Queene is a tough read, make no mistake. However, this primarily arises from the nonstandardized spelling of Spenser’s time which can easily throw off modern readers. But, if a reader delves deep enough into the work, they will find that it contains infinitely more meaning and significance than even the most complex games and movies. Allegories abound, and the poem overflows with symbolism. Whereas a movie or video game can be breezed through without interruption, a reader quickly glancing over a stanza of The Faerie Queene could easily lose every bit of meaning jam-packed in that passage. References to the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, and other classic works would be marred by a patience-desensitized mindset.

Of course, this last bit more or less summarizes the underlying cause behind the relative unpopularity of literature in modern culture. While the newer forms of media require less effort to fully understand, classic literature still remains open to interpretation. Simply put, many people (IT professionals included) have been, in a sense, pampered by the relative “easiness” of movies, video games, and music. Of course, Professor Hall is on the more intelligent end of this spectrum; he is not a good case study for the average IT professional. I personally have known many IT workers (as I have, in fact, almost worked in an IT department myself as a part-time job), and I can tell you that many of them far prefer a great game to The Great Gatsby. This obviously does not mean that tech-savvy people are not as intelligent as literature junkies; it merely comes down to a learned preference.

In The Faerie Queene, Professor Hall will find a much less immediately accessible experience than that of, say, Lord of the Rings Online. However, coming from someone with the same basic preference of media, I believe that there is just as much, if not more, value in this excellent work of classic literature. While it may require more effort to properly interpret than modern culture has taught us to use on almost anything (we live in an age of convenience and instant gratification, directly brought about by technology), there is easily much more to be gained from it than most other forms of media. The journey is arduous, but the destination is a treasure trove of depth and meaning.

-Billy Bunce

The Faerie Queene For Techies

So….you’re about to read The Faerie Queene. You’ve got your book (or more likely Kindle) ready to go, and then you look at the file size, the terrible, terrible  spelling, and the tiny print, and you shut that book, and decide to ask SparkNotes instead. Well, Professor Clayton knows about SparkNotes, and the stuff you get there won’t be on the test. That being said, here’s a better guide to getting you through the longest poem ever written in the English language.

  1. Reading the Farie Queene is an interesting experience, for one. The language is not quite Shakespeare, not quite Chaucer, and to say that it is not quite spell checked  would be an understatement. However, there is a meter to the words, and once you get the hang of it, the road to understanding what Spenser is trying to tell you is only marginally bumpy. Reading aloud works; it slows you down so you have time to understand one line before reading the next. The footnotes and word replacements help too, even if they mess up your reading rhythm.
  2. Now that you can read the words, it’s time to figure out what you’re reading, and trust me, it’s about as far away from C++ as you can get. The Faerie Queene is, on the surface, a poem and a story, but a heavily allegorical one that uses characters, places, and events (sometimes not so subtly, either) to impart messages. Spenser’s messages are mostly concerned with the nature and different facets of virtue, along with praising Elizabeth I far too much for her own good. He’ll often link events in his stories back to classical mythology, but doesn’t always make the connection obvious. For example, the impregnation of Chrysogene, mother of Belphoebe and Amoret, takes place via a ray of sunshine, which connects her to both the Virgin Mary and Danae, a figure from Greek mythology who experienced the same thing. Or, take this allegorical chain of symbols for Elizabeth: Belpheobe’s name comes from Diana, the chaste warrior maiden, who is goddess of the moon, another name for which is Cynthia, which is a name Sir Walter Raleigh sometimes used for Elizabeth–so really, Belphoebe = Elizabeth I! Does this seem convoluted to you? Well, too bad. Spenser’s audience, the Renaissance-educated nobility of England, expected stuff like this in everything they read: deeper meanings, double, triple and quadruple connections, and thin or complex metaphors were searched for in nearly every word an author wrote. Spenser did not disappoint on this expectation, and as a result there are still books and dissertations and whatnot being published on him today.
  3. Feeling a bit overwhelmed? Go on, open up SparkNotes. It’s ok, I won’t tell Professor Clayton. Now, read the canto summary. Doesn’t that feel just great? You’re reading modern, spellchecked English words written by someone who is still alive. AND you know what’s going on in the canto, which means it’s time to close that lovely Mozilla window and return to the Kindle. Getting a summary before you do the reading can be useful; when a new character appears out of the blue or something new happens, you’re not totally thrown by trying to process all of the story events, allegories, and language at the same time. Since you are pre-informed, you can focus on the language itself and the more nuanced bits in the plotline.  Just be sure to keep an eye peeled! There’s way more to the poem than can be covered by a single page summary, even if it is on SparkNotes.
  4. Lastly, enjoy yourself. If you sit there and make the reading a drudgery, it will be one. Instead, picture the forest, or Britomart saving the Redcrosse Knight, like a movie, or even think about how awesome  different scenes might look when remediated to the Faerie Queene Online game. If you can engage yourself and take an interest in what’s happening, then you don’t need any other advice.

Dacia

No “Best Remediation of Bad Ass Real Life Combat” Oscar for Snow Crash or LOTRO This Year

Tyler Gilcrest

Clink! .. Clank! .. Parry, sidestep, dodge! … Do much for you? Yea, me neither.  For some reason reading about a sword fight isn’t that exciting.  Well, at least not as exciting as sword fights are can be.  There’s something about hand to hand combat with someone else, something about a duel to the death with swords.  And I feel that that something is lost as it’s described in writing.  Sword fighting should cause an adrenaline rush; it should get your blood up, because you might just lose some if you’re not careful.  The sword fights in Snow Crash are lackluster though, as far as sword fights go.  Maybe it’s because you have to read about each action taken by the character.  At each moment Stephenson describes each action taken by each combatant.  This narration, while necessary to describe the progression of the combat, loses the intensity that a sword fight should have.  So I don’t blame Neal Stephenson at all; he writes a very enjoyable and action-packed story.  The characters are pretty unique and Stephenson develops a connection between them and the reader very well, which causes engagement in the fights, not the action of the sword fight.  The suspense of whether Hiro will come out on top invokes reader interest, but only because you want him to survive.  He could be playing a to-the-death game of backgammon and I would still care for the outcome. 

Another strike the sword fights in the book have against them is the, I guess, “contrived” nature of them.  The book has a set outcome, no matter what.  There is no room for any variance in the story, no matter how many times you read it.  Hiro will always win the sword fights Stephenson has written that he wins.  There is no relation to the readers skills or abilities.  The whole excitement of a duel comes from testing your own ability.  In the novel, there’s only the testing of Hiro’s ability.  And when you think about it, it’s not really a test, due to the fact that it’s all contrived anyway.

LOTRO does do better, but only marginally so.  LOTRO does add some multimedia elements like visuals and sounds.  Being able to see the opponent and your character are wonderful additions.  And I’ve unexpectedly added another improvement in that last sentence: it’s your character.  The level of personal involvement is much higher than that of the novel.  This character represents you and through its triumphs, you triumph.  But the combat in LOTRO can also get boring and repetitive.  Killing Non-Player Characters (NPCs) over and over again, who always act the same way, over and over again, starts to lose its appeal after the first few levels.  Sure, you can try killing them in new and creative ways, like taking off all your armor or making the fight twelve to one, but all in all NPCs get pretty boring pretty quick.  This is probably because they don’t represent anyone.  At the end of the day you’re just killing lines of code.  Luckily, games came up with a way to deal with this.  They invented PVP, or Player Versus Player for all you n00bs.  This aspect really adds to the competition in games.  You know you’re playing against someone and through combat you can prove yourself.  I haven’t tried the PVP in LOTRO, so I have no idea how well it performs, but the major part of the game I’ve experienced so far, the Player Versus Environment side, brings only a moderately greater amount of excitement than reading about combat in the book.