You’re in the second person. It’s quite a startling situation for you- as a reader, you’re not used to it. It’s a little intrusive. You’re accustomed to doing the intruding.
1) Try to explore your surroundings. (TURN TO PAGE 17.)
2) Assume you’re in a cheap rip-off of an Italo Calvino novel. March outside to confront the author of this article in a fit of pique. (TURN TO PAGE 6.)
3) Try to remember back to the days of choose-your-own-adventure books. (TURN TO PAGE 8.)
4) Dismiss the use of second-person narrative as a cheap affectation, without real value to fiction. (TURN TO PAGE 243.)
Yes, they were good, weren’t they? You think back to Give Yourself Goosebumps.
1) Consider the matter of interactive fiction. Wonder a little sadly at its loss of popularity due to the rise of a more straightforwardly immersive form, in the video game. Imagine the largely untapped, terrifying possibilities of a novel told like a puzzle, in which the reader is trapped inside the head of a protagonist, forced to act out the events of the story, rather than being allowed to remain an untouchable observer. (TURN TO PAGE 81.)
2) Worry about the problems of ‘personas’, and the dangers of a second-person reader/protagonist becoming immersed in the fantastic world around him, to the detriment of ‘reality’. (TURN TO PAGE 34.)
You find yourself imagining yourself as part of the threesome. For a short time you find yourself animal, mindless, invincible- inhabiting the sleaziest, most deviant acts without the slightest concern.
Then you wake, and you feel bad about it. But not too bad- the person who did those things already feels far away, like someone with no connection to you whatsoever. You call your mother, and you’re a good son, a good daughter once again; a good person, you tell yourself.
No wonder, you think, that the form has largely died out, when it was hiding something genuinely revolutionary beneath stock situations and standard genre worlds. Alternating between giving the reader a potentially empowering control over their actions, and telling them what they think? It’s a genuinely disturbing experience, you tell yourself. Then you scratch your nose, which is feeling extremely itchy. Next you yawn, and consider the importance of empathy- or impressionability- in the reader’s reactions to such stories.
You go on your way, a little enlightened, vowing to tell all of your friends about the literary site called Silkworms Ink.
The article doesn’t trouble to inform of you of the surprisingly large number of respected, experimental authors who’ve utilised the second-person, Faulkner and Gunter Grass. Instead, it asks you gently whether there isn’t some interesting game possible using this ‘affectation’- the creation of a multiplicity of narratives, echoing and complementing one another, as if across parallel timelines, often turning in on themselves, for instance. Like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, only not a cop-out.
But you aren’t listening. You tear down the article from the four walls surrounding you, and storm away to read something else. This artificial reality collapses, apologetically.
You head outside. Unfortunately, it’s pitch black, and you’re eaten by a meta-narrative.
Streams of words. Opinion masquerading as authority. You’re inside an article, all right- and judging from the threesome outside the window, it’s an Internet article.
1) Assume you’re in an Italo Calvino novel. March outside to confront the author of this article in a fit of pique. (TURN TO PAGE 6.)
2) Try to remember back to the days of choose-your-own-adventure books. (TURN TO PAGE 8.)
3) Dismiss the use of second-person narrative as a cheap affectation, without real value to fiction. (TURN TO PAGE 243.)
4) Watch the threesome. (TURN TO PAGE 69.)
This one is a genuine worry, you think. Readers are only the most indirect sort of participators- and it may be that level of detachment that gives us room to make up our own minds about the themes, argument, characters of a book. It’s entirely possible that you’ll spend the length of the entire fiction playing the author’s game, rather than hunting him like the Minotaur through the maze he’s constructed.
Or is that an insult towards the reader’s intelligence and independence of mind? Is it, in fact, perfectly possible to immerse yourself fully and utterly, then rise again, refreshed and stimulated?
You think about it, and you make your mind up, one way or another.
By the time you’ve decided, however, someone’s switched off your computer, and you’re forced to spend all eternity in a nearly-state, trapped inside the article; a single, virtual incarnation, lost beneath a billion reproducing brothers and sisters.