In Defense of the Unreliable Narrator

As NaNoWriMo speeds along, I thought I’d write a few words about one of the most interesting tools in the fiction writer’s toolbox – the unreliable narrator. My current fictional reading of choice, Twig, features this front and center in the main character and the primary point of view from which the story is told.

Without spoiling too much, the main character, Sylvester, is used as an experiment to test the limits of a powerful mind enhancing drug. The main benefit of the drug is that it allows the user to prioritize cognitive abilities. In the same way that a video game might allow you to customize a character’s abilities (eg. SPECIAL in the Fallout series), this allows the user to ‘adjust’ their abilities in one direction or the other. The drug was invented and used by scientists to further their experiments and related academic cognitive abilities. Sylvester sacrificed much of his long term memory in favor of superior skills in social manipulation and other skills.

With exception of a few interludes, most of the story is told from his perspective. Chapter after chapter, we’re drawn into his point of view and get to know how he thinks. Even the characters that surround him and that he normally interacts with have their own oddities and abilities (to say the least without spoiling anything…), so it is rare that we get a true outside or ‘normal’ perspective. In the comments over on a recent chapter, more than a few people remind us about just exactly how unreliable our narrator is.

Sy was hilarious in this chapter, I do love it when I get to see how strange and scary he is to normal people.

wb protagonists are always awesome when we see what terrifying freaks they really are.

That moment when you mug a very, very dangerous monster, but have great trouble realizing just how monstrous the entire game is.

By spending so much time in the point of view of our charismatic unreliable narrator, the author is able to use the occasional ‘normal’ side character to bring us readers back to reality. Our main character is not a hero. He uses all the means and resources to accomplish his goals and the large wake of collateral damage is often not just inevitable consequence, but also part of the desired result. We’re reminded that as much as we like to cheer for the scrappy underdog fighting the evil and corrupt organizations that control his world, he is not even close to being a ‘lawful good’ aligned character.

Which Skywalker would you be cheering for if the core Star Wars trilogy (E4,E5,E6) was told from the point of view of Anakin rather than Luke?

Comments Enabled Starting January 2017

As a short administrative note, comments will be enabled for posts on a go-forward basis starting January 1, 2017. As a matter of policy, all comments will be moderated.

Coloring Poster Design

Shamelessly remixed from a smattering of quick image searches, this is my ongoing poster project. I spent the evening doing the colors and listening to the Empire Strikes Back symphony soundtrack:


Monday Links, Wednesday Edition 1

Riikka Auvinen, illustrator and graphic designer from Finland, is still blogging her awesome watercolor-esq illustrations.

M (1931) Fritz Lang film.

HOUSE PIBO in Maldegem, Belgium (2014) – Project by OYO Architects in Gent, Belgium.

ilovebees… both a real-world experience and viral marketing campaign for the release of developer Bungie’s 2004 video game Halo 2.

Some regular conversations with Colin Devroe where I probably make excuses for not blogging as much:

Beatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande blogs less but has more recent posts on instagram of her delicious food and tweets a bit.

Adjustable Height Kitchen Island

Illustrated by Evan Dahm

Evan Dahm made an illustrated edition of Moby Dick and is now kickstarting a print edition.

Moby-Dick is the second public-domain book I’ve illustrated and self-published, and it’s one that I am uniquely obsessed with. Even 160 years after its publication, it’s a strange, fascinating, impossible book. It’s nothing like everything you’ve heard about it. It’s an adventure story and an encyclopedia of an enormous, grotesque industry on the threshold of the modern world. It’s a unique and passionate articulation of the self-destructive extremism that has always been a driving force for the United States.

Since early 2015 I’ve made a series of 53 full-page ink illustrations for Moby-Dick. I’ve tried to represent the enormity of the book and its diversity in tone and format—some images are portraits, some are dramatic moments, some are diagrams, and some are icons. I’ve posted all of them online as I’ve finished them.

For this book I’m working with Make That Thing again: they’re coordinating with the printer and they’ll do the order fulfillment when the books are received. These are both things they are very good at and have done many times!

As noted, he’s using Make That Thing, which is part of the Topatoco Empire.

Make That Thing is a production agency for crowdfunded projects. We help artists and creators design, print, store, and ship the things they make — so you can focus on the art. We know that once your crowdfunding campaign is over, the real work has just begun. And we want to help make sure that your backers get what they pledged for in a reliable, professional, and timely manner.

From the Topatoco site:

We also publish books! Some of your favorite internet artists have been approached by publishers who said, “Your work is so amazing that we would like to publish it for you, and pay you pennies on the dollar for the privilege of selling to your existing audience.” The artists, being clever, said “No thanks I’d rather make a living.” TopatoCo Books are just as nice as any book you can find anywhere, except the person who made it — not Amazon, not Barnes & Noble, not Diamond Distributors, not anyone else who did not make the book — actually earns money from the sale. We know! What a concept.

All of the TopatoCo member artists are directly supported by your purchases. As a company, we keep the lowest commissions in the industry, which means that the largest portion possible of your money goes directly to the creators of the products you buy. We’re pleased to report that quite a few of our artists are now able to concentrate full-time on their creative work, thanks to you and us working together to support them.

TopatoCo is exclusively for established, original, independent internet creators with a proven record of solid updates and a considerable existing audience.