Archive for the ‘Liminal States’ Category


ds106 – Liminal States story shape

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

This week at Camp Magic MacGuffin we took a look at Kurt Vonnegut explaining the shapes of popular stories:

Our counselors asked us to blog, likewise, about the shapes of stories we know. I first thought of Alastair Reynold’s House of Suns, which I adore. However, I doubted that I could figure out a way to represent the nested narratives in a way that satisfied me, so I wound up working on a graph of Liminal States. As Cormac McCarthy’s The Road terrified me viscerally page-by-page, Zack Parson’s Liminal States terrified me intellectually and spiritually page-by-page (with a few chapters of visceral terror thrown in for good measure, especially late in the novel).

Liminal States is a “from bad to worse” story that gave me the same feeling I felt reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven for the first time. Parsons’s novel is a western, noir, WWII, military-Industrial, utterly sinister xenomorphic mash-up. It reads like this:

Liminal States Story Shape

Liminal States Story Shape

I am glad I finished it before going to the beach. I drew another layer of imagery over this one, but it creeped me out too much to include. (Then I made an animated .gif of the two – abhorrent!) Prime material for a tweet-up, no doubt.

If you’re up for a heart-of-darkness kind of existential genre flick consequences-of-exceeding-your-grasp kind of yarn (and you are, you know, old) give this one a read.

As I commented on a fellow-camper’s blog, my students and I used to draw roller-coasters themed after the novels we read with decoration, loops, tunnels, and turns representing devices and plot points. We gotta get back to that.