[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: The game with a thousand faces

Bloo bloo at kriegergames.com
Sat Apr 2 22:43:07 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Mike Rozak wrote:

> Interesting idea... to use an analogy starting over a thousand
> years ago: When the "fictional book" was first invented, the only
> people that could read were clergy and nobles, so the genres of
> fiction were religious, historic, and heroic. (Aka: Le Morte de
> Arthur) As more people could read, more genres were added,
> including romance (middle-class England in the 1700's), mystery
> (1800's), horror (1900's), and science fiction (1900's).

A couple of points on this.

First, I think that is a huge oversimplification.  The genres of
fiction printed and sold is only a fraction of the fiction consumed.
Plays, oral history, and other methods of communication took place
alongside the printed word.

Indeed, arguably, the printed word has *never* been the primary
method of fiction distribution/consumption.  From the oral
traditions (story telling, songs, poetry, plays, and later radio) to
the visual traditions (paintings, sculpture, later movies and
television), these are all passive forms and require little to no
'literacy' of sorts.

My point is that we don't have records of most of the material from
the oral traditions, so we can't say definitively what genre's
didn't exist.  Particularly, the horror genre you mention.  The
boogey man is a horror genre story whether it is Jason Vorhees, Jack
the Ripper, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the Jersey Devil, Jack
Ketch, Old Scratch, nearly everything by Poe, etc., these begin to
push back your estimatation of the 1900s for horror back and back.

There are uncountable stories lost to time, some of which might
represent all of the genres you mention.

Second, genre definiton is, I think, a relatively recent invention
of publishers to categorize product for consumers who want to read
what they already know.  Not solely their creation, but they
certainly chose to capitalize and push those categories.  Would
Verne or Poe categorize some of their popular works along side
Asimov, Bear, Banks, Vinge, etc.? I don't think so.

What genre is Oedipus Rex? The Clouds? The Oresteia? Hamlet (a story
that can be traced back to Horus without too much trouble)?

Still, the largest genre of fiction shelved in modern booksstores is
No Genre.  The "Fiction" section is for those works that cannot be
conveniently cubby-holed into Speculative Fiction/Fantasy, Horror,
Action, Military, Westerns, Mystery, or Romance, and it is as large
or larger than all those categories combined.  It isn't just a
convenience thing for the large bookstores.

In short, as more people could read, more publishers wanted to make
money on them.

Third, while literacy rate may well be one important factor, another
significant one is the means of publication and distribution (and
there come the impact of publishers again).  The creation of the
daily newspaper, the weekly magazine, the bound novel, the mass
market novel, etc., all have an impact on what can be consumed and
thus, what can be produced (or is desired to be produced in that
format).  I'm thinking here of the serial-format cliff-hangers, a
format which made the leap to early film (and even there technology
was a major factor - the size of reels and the length of film you
could place on one were limited).

An interesting discussion on this was broadcast on c-span, the
series was hosted by the Library of Congress and called "Digital
Future", though I confess I only caught part of it, and haven't
watched the rest online yet.


Part 5 of the Digital Future series from the Library of Congress


Professor Levy was discussing the impact of publication methods and
types of media created.

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