Episode 42: Serials on the Holodeck: Part 1

In my attepmts to take my reading labor more seriously, I am attempting to turn my analytical responsibilities and to an etent my blogging capacities into my full time job so to speak. I need to get a lot more hours done a day but I’m working my way up. I have already gone through some of the more fun books in my list and need to balance it out with some critical theories. Now most of the books on the theoretical side of my readings were already read for my MA thesis, and by read I mean looked at the one chapter that made the most sense to my writing and quoted it extensivelly. To get me on the right track, I’m starting out with Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck, one of the books that paved he way for electronic literature, digital humanities, and just about anything having to do with technology completely changing the way the printed word can be perceived.

The first thing that you will notice upon reading this book is that it is really obvious that this book was written in the mid 90s.I get this really cool feeling of nostalgia when they start saying that this new show called Wings uses a website, or that SimCity is a really realistic simulation city. It does however get really weird when you see that VIrtual Reality and super 3D was the hope for the future. It gets kind of odd once it gets to the parts where the most realistic version of a videogmae with interactive storytelling is an MUD or a full scale LARP game. So yeah the book does not age well but I think it goes to show just how crazy the advancements of technology have taken place in less than 20 years. Then again, had Murray been able to predict the craziness that is Google, Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (even if it just a marketing term), not to mention the gamechanger that is Minecraft, to see how much the Internet has changed between the ages of AOL 600 hours of free Internet and our present. Oh man the next generation is going to look at the Super Nes graphics the same way that I look at the Atari 2600. The good news about this is that it’s constantly changing so my research may actually be relevant towards the everchanging landscape of of narratives in cyberspace.

Here’s some context for those with minimal nerd cred out there. Let me explain what exactly is a Holodeck. You see, my generation’s perception of Star Trek brings to mind The Next Generation series rather than the original. As someone wrote in something else which I can’t remember but the quote itself was pretty awesome: Star Trek reminds me of a bald British guy trying to act French. Also, if anyone says that Picard is a heartless captain, they are technically right because he has artificial pump that looks like Tony Stark would want to upgrade to for better cardiac output. So, ST:TNG had many geektastic elements but the holodeck was certainly something that made imaginations suddenly rethink what was possible in the realm of reading, and more importantly for storytelling. It is a slightly big room that has nothing in it, you go inside and tell the computer what you want, and then the magic happens. Ok, not magic so let me go into some technobabble to explain the process. The holodeck uses hard light technology to project holograms that actually have mass and are thus perceptible by all senses. Thus, objects that are presented have an actual texture and weight, something that is pretty impossible your standard CNN/Tupac hologram. The cool thing about the holodeck is that any variable can indeed be changed by just asking the computer to make necessary alterations. All of these things are pretty awesome when you consider how you can custom tailor a virtual vacation to incredible specifications.

As cool as a holoprogram sounds, it pales in comparison to a holonovel. Imagine that you were seeing a movie but were no subjected to the camera’s gaze as your only vantage point. You see, there’s an observation mode that allows you to walk around the entirety of the setting without effecting the story. You are Emerson’s invisible eye, wandering around with complete freedom. Remember, how I said that any variable can change, well that includes the personalities of the actual characters. That means that the computer can alter any aspect of the story from the original text and will continue going without even so much as a hint of lag. To be fair, the computer on the Starship Enterprise and Holodeck is Siri to the power of Jarvis.

That’s not even the coolest part about the holonovel system. You can take the place of any character, or even ask the computer to make a new character for you. Now you are a leaving and breathing part of the narrative. It gets pretty funky when you think just how much adlibbing you can get away with, or when you act completely out of character. Every other character will act accordingly but may easily dismiss you if you start talking craziness or think that you are a witch depending on the temporal setting. It gets even cooler once you see that you can use the holodeck to playback historical archives. There’s a weird episode of one of the most recent version of Star Trek Enterprise, technically a prequel with Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame being captain. The cool part was that the entire episode was the now Admiral William T. Reiker of ST:TNG was going to give an important address to Starfleet and used the holodeck to see  and live through a harrowing moment  that those members of the Enterprise went through. He was even the cook so that he could talk to several people in the crew and get their thoughts on the matter. Pretty awesome stuff that the 25th century might have eventually.

Anyways, tomorrows post will go into more detail as to the book itself. Provided of course that my arms will be in working order. If you haven’t seen it yet, I posted on my FB a photo that for every like in a 24 hour period I have to 5 pushups. Last I chacked I’m up to the 150 mark, if you want to add to that, feel free. One last thought on serial fiction that has little to do with this book but it came in a dream and I figure I should write it down and share it.

Serial fiction is ultimately a revisionist exercise in writing. Issues of narrative continuity and consistency in overall tone are just a few of the elements that must be in constant balance with the publishing of each new installment. The story will inevitably change as time goes on but one now needs to edit previous events without being able to go back and alter the original text. Here we see the power of retcons, how the most recent installment contains the closest thing to an available truth, and even that what was originally written in stone can easily be erased. Future editions beyond the original searilization can make necessary changes to previous moments in the narrative so that they fit with the most current interpretation. Don’t believe me? Ask your nerdiest friend why it’s such a big deal that Han shot first or how putting CGI Hayden Christenson next to original Obi Wan and Yoda is a travesty.

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