Wrong Paths: A Short History of Choose-Your-Own Adventure
If you enjoyed the recent Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, you're sure to find this Late Summer Lecture of interest. George Cox takes us back through the history of adventure stories in which readers and viewers get to choose what happens next. Free and open to all, from members of the public to schools to academics.
About this Public Lecture
In late December 2018, Netflix debuted the new interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on their platform. Users could participate in young programmer Stefan’s descent into psychosis, and explore the parallel pathways that branched off at different narrative decision points. Despite the attention that this Netflix phenomenon received, the interactive narrative has a long history in both print and digital literature. It will be the goal of this lecture to identify some of the links between the form’s print incunabula and digital instantiations. Namely, across gamebooks (or "the interactive") the narrative is conceived as a space to be navigated and mapped by the reader, reflecting both external storyworlds and interior subjectivies.
The form’s affordances and conventions solidify with Bantam Books’, now Chooseco’s, trademarked ‘Choose-Your-Own-Adventure’ series. The Cave of Time (1979), by lawyer-turned-children’s author Edward Packard, gives intrepid readers the chance to explore the eponymous cavern, and warns that “one mistake can be your last… or it may lead to fame and fortune!” The frustration the reader feels at reaching a ‘bad’ ending encourages them to trace back their decisions and embark on another adventure, until they have satisfied themselves that they have experienced each of the narrative’s branches and diffuse storyworlds.
In digital interactive fiction these choices are used to represent internal subjectivity. Twine fiction enables those marginalised by the games industry (such as LGBTQ+ communities, women and racial minorities) to intimately portray personal experiences. Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest (2013) uses the constraints of the digital gamebook to portray the inaccessibility of mental spaces to a depressed person, whilst Anna Anthropy’s Queers in Love at the End of the World (2013) uses time constraints to reinforce the universality of love. These affordances of interactive narratives are subsequently incorporated into Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, to suggest that Stefan’s psychosis is leading him to a loss of agency.
About George Cox
George Cox is a Midlands3Cities-funded PhD candidate in the Department of American & Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, working on the intersection between print and digital literary cultures. His project examines how print works reach forward to instantiate digital interfaces on their pages, whilst contemporary authors and creatives use digital technologies to reach back and reconstitute pre-existing cultural forms and literary traditions.
Is the lecture suitable for me?
Late Summer Lectures is designed to be open to a wide audience, from university or sixth-form students to members of the public. It aims to convey the latest postgraduate and early career research, so lectures will be rooted in academic ideas and principles; however, lecturers should present these in a clear way. There will be an opportunity to ask questions afterwards or to chat further over refreshments. You can get a sense of what to expect by listening to some of our previous lectures (although most live lectures are accompanied by visuals which can help to convey ideas):
Is the venue and lecture accessible?
The Ritson Hall in Alington House is located at the end of a corridor, wide enough for wheelchair access. A lift is available at the end. The organisers or Alington House reception staff will be available to assist. Unfortunately we are not able to provide sign language interpreters for each lecture. If there are any ways in which we could help you to attend the event please contact the organisers at email@example.com
What are my transport/parking options for getting to and from the event?
Please visit the Alington House website for full details.
Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?
If the event reaches its limit, priority will be given to those who have reserved a ticket in advance via Eventbrite. We advise that you bring a copy on your phone just in case.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this event.
- 29th January 2021
- Title TBC
- Online (Zoom)
- Dr Hannah-Rose Murray (University of Edinburgh)