The only journey is the one within. – Rainer Maria Rilke

People often say that the journey is more important than the destination, and I generally agree. I’m not one to flip to the back of the book to see how it all turns out, or pay no attention to the drive out of a simple desire to ‘be where I’m going, already!’

However, how much of the journey of a story lies in taking the time to get to know the story as it progresses? What if we could simply KNOW the story, immediately, without having sat and read the book over a dozen sunny afternoons? How much would that change our experience of the story itself?

Our experience of the story itself has changed miraculously over the past century. The ready availability of books and the education of the world’s young to a common point of literacy changed stories from an oral pursuit shared by large groups, to one of the solitary reader and their book. We then switched back with the advent of radio drama, with families sitting around the radio to find what happened to The Shadow or Fibber McGee and Molly. From there, we moved to the silver screen, and then the small screen, and have wavered between the two ever since.

How much does how we are told the story matter in the long run? I don’t mean in the sense that things are often removed from the story to transpose it to another medium. This is often done for movie adaptations, and is the reason many prefer the book, even if they saw the movie first. Movies (and to a much lesser extent, radio) shape concepts of the story for us in our minds, rather than allowing us the freedom to imagine it ourselves. Does this truly detract from the story itself?

Alan Moore certainly feels that the changes made to his work to move it to another medium is a horrid thing. Although I’ve enjoyed most of the adaptations of his work for what they are, I feel they never quite live up to the original source. Something about the layout of a comic book, and the way your eye tracks across the images and dialog, simply cannot be recaptured, no matter what medium it is moved to.

So, what will this mean when new mediums are made available for the telling of stories? We already know from the reaction of traditional media outlets that they become incredibly afraid whenever a new medium for telling stories becomes available. Publishers are still claiming they will be ruined by Ebooks, despite the fact that people with Ebook readers buy almost ten times as many books as those without. More importantly, what will this mean for those of us who consume the stories? How will changing the journey affect the audience?

Science has slowly come to know more and more about the functioning of the human brain as time passes. At some point in the future, I can only imagine that nanomachines of some type will be able to change things in our brain so that we simply know things. Direct manipulation of human physiology will alow stories to be downloaded directly into your consciousness. No interaction with the medium will be required. At that point in time, the journey of consuming the story will itself be gone. Only the story will remain.

Will that be a good thing, or a bad one, in the overall telling of our tales?

I’d love to find out.

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~ by Benjamin Kenneally on December 21, 2009.

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