There’s such an insidious breakdown in the quality of a story after you write it down. It’s not even the writing, it’s that people read it and they just accept. Like they’re listening to old-time mystics, like these things happen because they were meant to happen, no matter how terrible the fight or touching the makeup. In reality, they’re so much more emotional. You lose that in writing because you can’t express to the reader the uncertainty. To them, we make up because it says, on page thirty-three, ‘They make up’.
But there are forms of storytelling that have been able to avoid that.
There was this old computer game, Zork. You run around solving puzzles and fighting, but you could mix something up, do the wrong thing at the wrong time, and it didn’t let you know. You keep playing, oblivious to the fact that you can’t win.
It’s simple, really. You run around collecting treasure—platinum and jewels and… stuff. Well, one of the treasures is this Faberge egg, all covered with jewels and gilt. But the egg isn’t the treasure, it’s what’s inside: this little bird, made of gold. No matter what you do to open it, the bird always gets broken and ruined. Like in life, there’s no warning and, just like in life, there’s nothing you could do to fix it. Video games nowadays, they’re determinist, derivative or just plain porn. But those old games, they were like life.
Life, not random but not determinist, not like a book. Why does every linear work need conflict, suffering and pain, why can’t it just be a happy story about love? Because it follows a pattern, it has to: because linear narratives can only do so much.
In Zork, there’s this thief, he prowls around while you’re playing, and if you’ve got something valuable he takes it, that’s why when you find the treasure, you have to lock it up. If you let him have the egg, he’ll open it. Turns out you can get the egg back, later, and next to it is this beautiful clockwork canary.
But I don’t know if it sang, because I always broke it.