July 24, 2009:

Literary history follows Physics.

Literary Modernism derives from Relativity. Its focus is on epistemology: "What do I know; how do I know it; how do I communicate it." The technical practices are subjective: interior monologue, unreliable narration. Joyce's cloud; The Alexandria Quartet.

Literary Postmodernism derives from the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. It's focus is ontology: "What worlds are there; what are the rules of this world; how do I move between worlds?" Gravity's Rainbow; MUDs.

However, the influence of 20th Century physics on Literary Postmodernism is incomplete. Absent is any systematic exploration of non-deterministic causality.

More, contemporary emphasis on "story" and "story telling" looks backward to the 19th Century, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The technical means exist for fictional practices based on non-deterministic causalities. In MUDs and other "virtual worlds" traditional linear narratives founded on deterministic logics is all but impossible. Yet the focus in these milieux is often on "story lines" and other retrograde notions, as though these authors were embarrassed over exactly the features of these systems which allow them to be forward looking. Why are so many looking in the rear-view mirror?

Outline for an essay:

1. The notion of "story" is naive, by which I mean, unexamined and therefore ideological.

2. Historically, linear narratives grounded in deterministic causalities were artifacts of the forms of distribution available to authors, e.g. the codex.

3. Contemporary emphasis on "story" is both retrograde and incunabular.

4. Authors in new media, particularly commercial virtual worlds, are looking backward to pre 21st century narrative forms in large part from fear of market failure.

5. Authors in non commercial or semi-commercial contexts such as text-based virtual worlds are more free to experiment. Freeing themselves from the constraints of linear ideologies is precondition for forward motion.

6. These milieux have their own unique constraints to explore, e.g., the structural tension between narrative and game.