Why Magic Stories?

Why indeed. Here are five reasons:

  1. As a reader, you can squeeze a lot of entertainment out of a single story, reading it over and over and over and still not knowing what's going to happen. Also, the different versions over time may establish a kind of iterative intertextuality, where you as a reader may have knowledge not explicitly provided in a given instance, creating an interesting variation on dramatic irony.
  2. As a writer, it multiplies your narrative options -- you aren't limited to just one linear path, you can explore several potential plotlines, dependent upon various contingencies that you can build in. You might explore different arcs for one character, or the same arc for different characters, or examine a situation from various points of view, or combinations of the above. You can really give your imagination muscles a good workout.
  3. As a researcher -- and you're all researchers -- it's an interesting way both to explore the way stories work and to exploit certain advantages of inhabiting a digital medium. This is, as far as I know, kind of a new art form -- at least I don't know of any other projects quite like it, let me know if you do -- and many questions remain: how complicated can these stories get before they're just too unwieldy? Are there limits on how long magic stories should be, especially since they're necessarily read on a screen? Are there particular strategies for writing them that work especially well or poorly? Also, there will be bugs to fix and enhancements to make, and you can help me identify them so I can keep improving this environment.
  4. As a philosopher -- and you're all philosophers -- it is a way to subvert notions ranging from narrative to destiny, privileging the idea of actualities not as inevitabilities but as singular expressions plucked from among many potentials, of universes not as all that there is, but as one contingent set of possibilities. This approach to text highlights how every narrative is not only itself, but has a shadow comprising everything it could have been and everything it chose not to be; how every news story, every history tells not only of what happened, but of what happened that was not told, subtexting omission as well as viewpoint; indeed how every life is a tale not only of what was but what might have been. Experience, like a magic story, is revealed as an exhilarating collision of the random and the intentional, with the effect of promoting both acceptance of the former and a greater sense of agency regarding the latter.
  5. It's fun. Sue me.