Thursday, 22 September 2016

New Fictions, By Dan Metcalf

The novel, the art form in which a lot of us writers on ABBA create our art, has been around for about 300 years. Before that, you had to settle for plays, poems and pamphlets, or be content with staring at a field or embroidering a sample for your entertainment. I have always found it mind-boggling that there was once a world without novels, but of course there was; before 1895 there was no such thing as a film, and before the printing press, there was precious little to read at all (if you could read, that is).
Which lead me to presume that other forms of art have yet to be invented too; the virtual reality experience is really in its infancy at the moment but experts believe that it will take off very soon following the launch of the Oculus Rift and the photo-real graphics of the games played on it. Web-series and transmedia projects are an interesting space to watch, but at the moment are not breaking through to the mainstream.
I've been keen to find an art form that is non-digital and tells a story of sorts, and came across the book 'A New Oklahoma Masterplan' by Sean Bonner & Allen Morgenstern. The book reads like a tongue-in-cheek proposal to a council meeting, like a spoof TED talk put down on paper. With chapter titles such as 'America is like Britney Spears' and 'Can America Even Get Any Better?' you can tell this is not a serious venture, but as the book goes along you find that the central proposal, to turn Oklahoma into a giant waterpark, is not only tenable, but they've done the maths. It would actually work. Now all they need is a crazy billionaire to fund it (and there are plenty of those about).
Another example is the non-linear book 'S', created by JJ Abrams (Lost, MI2, Star Trek & Wars). The book, complete with footnotes, scribbled on pages, unusual bookmarks that convey part of the story and hidden clues throughout, is an experiment in non-traditional storytelling, and it bends my brain to think how they even began writing it.
And a while ago I came across this article from Gizmodo, the story of Gille Trehin.
"Spending a decade (or two) on a project isn’t uncommon amongst urban planners. Gilles Trehin is one of them. Except in Trehin’s case, the project is entirely fictional, and the scale is monumental.
Trehin has devoted the past twenty years to designing Urville, a city of twelve million on an imaginary European island. He started drawing when he was five and began working on Urville when he was fifteen. Since then, he’s produced hundreds of architectural drawings of the city."
Trehin is autistic, allowing him to concentrate in great detail when creating his imaginary city. Twenty years on the same project? I'm lucky if I can train my brain to settle on something for twenty minutes.

His book on the city is available on Amazon. Interestingly, this is filed under 'fiction'. Which is undoubtedly is, of course, but this work of fiction is one which has no narrative, as such, apart from the history of the city which Trehin has made up. It's not a novel. It's not a poem. It's not even an architectural book, really. Is this a fiction all of its very own?

How often is it you come across a completely new type of fiction? This is something which is genuinely original, and which probably could not be copied. A rare feat.
Dan Metcalf is the author of The Lottie Lipton Adventures. Find him at

No comments: