A former coworker once confessed to me that she never got over losing her summers (just one of the things that happens when you're no longer school-age. The way the heart dies ... the end of childhood.)
This is not a post about childhood's end but getting my free time back (my work commute lasts 2 hours each way, and coupled with other after work activities, I would be lucky to get home by 8 pm on any given day), which allowed me to catch up on those shows that had been piling on my watchlist, chiefly, Star Trek, and even other franchises like Westworld.
Something featured in both Trek and Westworld jumped out at me. For this post I will call it the future of novels.
For those not into Trek, there is a technology called the Holodeck (holo-suites) that was introduced in season 1, espisode 1 of TNG: Encounter at Farpoint. The holodeck is the main source of entertainment for people working on Star ships and space stations in the Trekverse.
The suites are used for G- and PG-rated entertainment. Horse back riding, rock climbing, visiting locales you've never been, and professional training, et cetera (Though Reginald Barclay had his privileges suspended for using the suites for too much, um, fun).
For this post, I am focusing on the holo-novel (and I'll loop back Westworld). The holo-novel is as it sounds. A work of fiction programmed/coded into the holosuite computer. While movies still exist in the Trekverse, most people seem to prefer programming their own stories into the computer, where they get to live-play as the heroes, or whatever role they choose (DS9: Our Man Bashir, VOY: Author, Author, VOY: Worse Case Scenario).
One of the most prolific Holo-novelists is Lt. Tom Paris (Voyager). He's very good at worldbuilding and character development. Captain Proton, anyone?
Holo-novels allow the user to role play or be an observer in the world of the story--not unlike LARPing (live action role play).
In the Voyager episode, Fair Haven Captain Janeway visits the Holodeck town created by Tom Paris and falls for a local bartender, Michael Sullivan, a hologram (The Doctor approves of Janeway's relationship by pointing out that as captain she is forbidden from dating anyone on the ship, since they're all ranked below her and it would be an abuse of power).
Similarly in Westworld, humans live/play in the world of the hosts (androids). In that series, instead of holo-novelists, you have narrative directors and programmers.
The Narrative Director of the Westworld parks is the person who develops the characters/ writes the stories that are acted out in the park by hosts. Lee Sizemore programmed the same storyline into the "Shogun" section of the park, leading to a predictable pattern that the host Maeve was able to exploit in season 2, contributing to the collapse of the park.
“It’s not plagiarism; it’s supply and demand.”–Lee Sizemore, in "Akane No Mai" about copying Westworld's narratives into Shōgunworld.
Sizemore futher defends his "plagiarism" by insisting he had "3 weeks to write 300 narratives for this park, which led to recycling several characters, settings and loops from Westworld, adapting them to Japanese culture."
Different kinds of novels already exist (graphic, visual, and choose your own adventure/digital/interactive/web novels, for example). The holo-novel is a whole different level as it allows authors to bring their work to life, effectively eliminating the need for film adaptations. It's essentially a stage play with actors created from computer coding. No need for an author to be annoyed with the actors hired to portray her characters when she can program the features of the characters herself.
But such technology adds the element of creative director, since ideally, you'll be programming all the minute details, everything from setting to clothes.
What's more, there's a growing concern that the "physical" novel is dying out. Reading a novel competes with other forms of entertainment, such as videogames, and increasingly, virtual and augmented reality.
The Holodeck and futurist theme parks like Westworld merge the storytelling of novels with new technology and other forms of entertainment.
So the Narrative Director of Westworld couldn't come up with 300 narratives in time--though it's strongly implied he's not a writer but a business man--it seems there is a role for writers to play in different media, even if that's not a physical book.
Writers who become screenwriters are not new. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King have dabbled in screenwriting and adaptations, and various other authors have written comic books and graphic novels. A couple years ago I was invited to help with character development and writing for a short-lived videogame.
Increasingly, the term "creator" is replacing specific job titles like writer/author. Many don't like this, since a creator can be anyone from a vlogger to a curator of social media, and the fear goes that the role of writer will be buried and weeded out.
While I'm sure many will snobbishly cling to stale debate about who is and isn't a writer, and what is and isn't a novel, because they understand writer-author and novels as intrinsically linked concepts, it need not be the case.
A fictional story is a story and need not be tied to a physical medium to be authentic.The job of writer/author may navigate to difrferent media but not die out.
When Tom Paris creates a holo-novel/program, it's his--he's the copyright owner, the author of that piece of fiction.
Further reading: Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet H. Murray.
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