Tuesday, January 29, 2013

story paradigms

I read an interesting article about different paradigms in story-telling: "Thought Experiments: The View from the Other Side: Science Fiction and Non-Western/Non-Anglophone Countries" by Aliette De Bodard. You can read it on the web here: http://www.asimovs.com/2010_09/thoughtexperiments.shtml. De Bodard claims A common criticism leveled at science fiction is that it is dominated by the Western world, leaving little space for other countries. As she lays out, this is somewhat true, primarily because of marketing and other commerce issues.
What really caught my eye was the concept that different cultures have different story paradigms.

I've long been a fan of Robert Silverberg's theory of story. You can read about it on the web here: http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0404/ref.shtml. The gist is: there is indeed one story only: the story of a conflict–perhaps with some external force, perhaps entirely within the soul of the protagonist–that leads to a clear resolution and illumination. The story paradigm was handed down through Western culture from the ancient Greek tragic drama.

But apparently this isn't the only story paradigm. Not all Earth cultures descended from the Greeks, after all. As De Bodard outlines, The great novels of the Ming and Qing dynasty (fourteenth century to twentieth century) are not plot or character-centered, and do not have a neat, tidy resolution or a climax. Rather, they aim to present a variety of images, themes, and personalities, ... “infinite overlapping and alternation,” a feeling of endlessness that is not rooted in some underlying meaning of the world.


What do you think? Does this free your creative juices to flow in new and unexpected directions?
And kudos to Asimov's Science Fiction for making such interesting articles available.

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