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Uru as Magical Realism

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#1 Zardoz

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 12:08 AM

For the past couple of months, I've been struggling with a "story" I'm writing about Uru. A long, long time ago, in a previous life (or so it seems), I wrote articles that fell into a category one could call Narrative Non-fiction: Articles that tell a true story, constructed by the author from facts gleaned from research, interviews, and direct experiences, not as a simple, linear narrative but crafted in a way that reveals a deeper truth (or something high-falutin' like that). That's the style I'm trying to bring to this story, but I'm finding the 'reality" of Uru awfully hard to swallow. I am taking on the role of a journalist, interviewing different members of the DRC (not really - this is an imaginary story), and the fantastic nature of Uru and the D'ni keeps getting in the way. Not because I can't make myself believe in it, but because once I've put myself in that role, I am inexorably drawn to the belief that the discovery of D'ni is the most revolutionary event in the history of the world. And so that becomes the story: The Incredible, Unbelievable, Earth-Shattering Existence of D'ni. That dissonance gets in the way of writing a story about Michael Engberg and Cate Alexander and Victor Laxman; instead, I'm wondering when the governments of the worlds will start bugging my phone.

So how does one make D'ni ordinary? The only way I can see to get there is through Magical Realism. For me, Magical Realism makes the fantastic ordinary. It is a style that introduces an element that breaks the rules but is routinely accepted by the inhabitants of the world. We don't ask how that element got there, nor are we allowed to question its reality (unless the characters do). Instead, the unreal element is real, and characters simply interact with it, are affected by it, and affect it. It has always been there, and it always will. Uru as Magical Realism is problematic, of course, in that D'ni has not always been there. We have a Discovery Story, which creates an almost impossible problem of hiding things from the government, etc. But I'm just extending my "magic" to include a government that doesn't care. I don't see any other way around it, at least by the rules I've set for myself (journalist telling a "story" about Uru).

Any thoughts?

#2 Alahmnat


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Posted 19 August 2008 - 11:22 AM

Sarcastically (and perhaps cynically) speaking, I don't think it's that big of a stretch to assume that the government would either not care about, or be too ineffective to properly take control of the discovery of D'ni wink.gif.

More seriously, I think that if anything, the fantastical nature of D'ni may very well put it on the fringes of scientific and social acceptability... it's just too impossible to even possibly be true, and that may work to the advantage of the story, but I don't think it's an indefinite solution. For a while your journalistic reports might be relegated to Weekly World News (next to "Bat-boy Spotted in New York Sewer Main"), but inevitably someone's going to use a Relto Book in a crowded mall, and then all hell will break loose wink.gif. In the meantime, though, I think all of the characters in Uru approach it in a manner similar to Magical Realism... to them, D'ni really isn't all that big of a deal, despite its enormous personal importance, while the rest of the world just looks at them (and the rest of the explorers, by extension) like they're crazy.

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#3 BladeLakem

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 09:51 PM

The paradox of D'ni in the real world is always going to be there. There's no reason why, if the government knew about D'ni, that they wouldn't exploit it like crazy. And I mean exploit it in all senses of the word - using resources, experimenting on linking books to make discoveries in physics, etc. The fact that the greater world does not know about D'ni seems baked into the universe. RAWA's comments seem to indicate it's just a direction Cyan doesn't want to go. So, yes, magical realism by your definition fits right in.

People get used to things, no matter how fantastic, unless they are extremely traumatic. As an example, I ran a Weird Happenings role-playing game once. Pretty much I inserted whatever weird stuff I could think of and throew it at the characters. For the first year, there was a ton of 'Oh my god! Is that what I think it is?!?'. However, when I started the second year and added new players, the old players walked around like the fact that someone had figured out how to disassemble a person into component parts that looked like waxy white Koosh balls was perfectly normal while the new people gaped and stuttered a lot. So, I guess I'm saying that people adapt over repeated exposure.

In fact, you can see examples of that 'accepting the fantastic as mundane' all over Uru. People use Relto books like a personal safety system. People link in and out like it's just riding the bus. People talk about Relto being theirs (This whole universe is theirs, and we only ever see a 1000 square meters of it). Etc.

Though, the fact that the certain things that should happen (like the government finding out about D'ni) don't seem to happen could be a plot element. What if, somehow, the government never finds out, even when people try to tell them? Something seems to stop it. But no one knows why. Could be an interesting element.

#4 Marten

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 01:20 AM

Interesting thoughts.

In the movie Beetlejuice, there was a line about "People ignore the strange and unusual."

At the beginning of the movie Stargate, scientists skeptically walk out on Daniel Jackson's presentation where he suggests that the timeline of Egyptian artifacts and civilization do not seem to fit together.

These seem to fit in well with idea of a government that conveniently ignores D'ni. Still, I'm a little disappointed that this didn't become part of the story. I tried to guide some conversation in that direction many months ago ( http://forums.drcsit...topic.php?t=719 ) but yeah... it didn't really go anywhere.

#5 BladeLakem

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 07:57 PM

I think that players ask the question, but generally poitnedly look the other way on it. Mostly because Cyan hand-waves that part of it as well, and seems content with it.

#6 Zardoz

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 12:01 AM

Well, I've given it a try over at the MOUL forums: The Fall of a Sparrow (excerpt). This is one part of what will be 8-10K word "article", telling the story of the DRC and the Scars episode. I'm blatantly violating RAWA's Rules of Order, but I'm not holding out any hope for Cyan ever filling in the blanks, so I let my own imagination run wild. (I've actually met James Reddell, crawled in caves near Austin, visited the Irvine Ranch, and interviewed an Irvine Company Vice President, so it's not all imaginary - hehe.) The Cate section was the easiest in some ways, as it is the least D'ni centric. There will be Victor Laxman and Dr. Watson sections - those will test my magical realism theories. I suspect it will overtax the attention span of the average MOUL forum member, however - oops, that was snarky.

Edited by Zardoz, 30 October 2008 - 12:03 AM.

#7 zander

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Posted 02 March 2010 - 06:37 AM

I've never been overly fond of magical realism (I prefer fantasy). I agree that the problem of D'ni remaining a secret in the IC real world is something that ought to have been addressed. In my experience people don't ignore the strange and unusual--this is a narrative device much used by Terry Pratchett and others to get round problems that would otherwise snarl up the story, while also providing a smug little chortle about how much smarter the readers are than "people." Again, not overly keen.

The only thing I can think of to explain it is that somewhere in the vicinity of the American government (but not tied to any one administration) there are powerful people who make it their business to discredit any reports that might come in of people vanishing into books and so on. They would of course need to be much more efficient at covering up than any government in the history of the world has ever been...

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