Nick Montfort. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2003.
I picked up Nick Montfort’s Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2003) on a complete whim from the McGill university library when I found myself between terms and wandering around looking for some light non-history-oriented reading. So of course I picked up a work that attempts to apply literary criticism and high-level narrative theory to early text-based adventure games.[*] Truth be told, I was quite sceptical to begin with. I mean, a scholarly monograph about text adventures? Yet Montfort won me over. Even subject matter that seems inherently silly can yield thoughtful and well-considered analysis. Insofar as Montfort’s goal is for scholars to take interactive fiction (IF)—that is, narratives mediated through a computer requiring direct interaction from a reader to take part in, and even construct, a story—seriously as an interesting and unprecedented development that requires thought and not automatic dismissal, then he’s succeeded admirably.
Benedykt Chmielowski’s Nowe Ateny (The New Athens) is one of the stranger books I’ve stumbled across in my research. Printed in four volumes between 1745 and 1746 in Lwów, Poland, it resembles medieval bestiaries and other compendia of natural philosophy from the likes of Isidore of Seville than it does any of the vernacular encyclopaedias coming out of England and France at around the same time. Organized in scattershot fashion, more of a compilation of various anecdotes rather than a cohesive set of descriptions, The New Athens freely mixed together current scientific knowledge with folklore and the occult, offering us a fascinating glimpse into the intellectual atmosphere in the Polish popular audience before the dawn of the Enlightenment. If it reads like a work three centuries too late for Europe’s elite, who were busy applying a systematically more rational approach to the world, it also speaks to a continuing desire for marvels among readers and a keen curiosity on the part of the author, who seemed reluctant to rule out anything. The same human-like creatures who populate The Travels of Sir John Mandeville get their own entries here, and medieval fascination with the cynocephali, the dog-headed humans, remained alive and well in at least one encyclopaedist from the eighteenth century.
The Lizzie Bennet Diariesconcluded this past Thursday, so naturally, Marie & I decided to babble about it. How can two people who care not a whit for Jane Austen come to enjoy an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice so much? Listen to find out!
Today marks the third anniversary of One Last Sketch.* This blog started out as an online archive for old comics I drew as an undergrad and the odd sketch or two, hence the title. It was only when I finished up my BA and spent a few months out in the real world that I started writing articles here, simultaneously making my blog’s name almost entirely irrelevant.
I hadn’t realized how attached I’d grown to doing this until a random WordPress error not too long ago indicated that my blog was suspended for a Terms of Service violation, and I couldn’t access my content. I haven’t even been posting that much lately due to other concerns, most of them having to do with being a Masters’s student and pumping out a hundred twenty-some pages of academic drivel over the past couple of months, but I felt a real moment of panic thinking that all my articles, and more importantly, all your comments and conversations had just spun out of existence. Needless to say, I was immensely relieved when it turned out to all be a big mistake.
It’s been a great three years, folks. I feel this blog has greatly improved since it began, and I hope to keep on improving and branching out with diverse media, art and writing projects here in the year to come. I never would’ve imagined how personally rewarding blogging would be when I started out, and I’m really glad I hit that “start a new blog” button oh so long ago.
*Customarily called a “blogiversary”, but that’s an immensely silly word.
I was having one of my periodic crises, the kind faced by any graduate student in the arts, where I pause and scream, “Why am I doing this to myself?” Fortunately, during my latest crisis I finally got around to reading Caroline Walker Bynum’s 1997 presidential address to the American Historical Association, simply titled “Wonder.” It’s worth posting here, too, since I see some relevance to fantasy literature tucked away in Bynum’s discussion of medieval theories of wonder and their relationship to the present task of the historian.
i.e. academia is consuming my life once more after a relatively relaxing January. Between my research on witchcraft trials, books of illicit magic in the libraries of central Europe during the 15th century, and the impact of Silk Road trade on cities under Tang dynasty rule in Central Asia, I’ve found little time (or desire, really) to commit myself elsewhere.
Nevertheless, fear not! I shall return to my usual chatty self come April. Expect a podcast or two in the meantime, as well as the occasional post should the mood strike me.