First of all, the Narrative Construct idea fascinates me. While I don’t necessarily think it was the best name for them (for some reason they sound too explanatory for their actions, like naming a character who’s evil “bad guy.”) But, at the same time, I do not have a better name for them myself, so I cannot judge (maybe Architects? Wait…that’s been done before.) Regardless, it is interesting that in a fiction book we are constantly pointed to being reminded we are experiencing a fictional world, which is the exact thing professors tell you not to do in your own writing. I mean, it’s writing 101, “the suspension of disbelief,” was relayed to me over and over again in all of my writing classes. Yet here, MZD has drawn our attention to it time and again, the most powerful of which being set in the Narcon section. The Narcon is something that I think we can all conceptualize with decent aptitude. Their section has no page numbers, so they do not exist within the same realm as the story. They are written weirdly, like a play, taking them out of this genre (whatever this genre is.) They are formatted nothing like any other character, so they (if I’m reading the book correctly) don’t even share a similar universe or don’t occupy the same dimension as the other characters. They define their own rules, however, they date them back before their existence (whatever that means,) point being, regular fiction characters do not ever define their rules in a story. The author defines the rules for fictional characters to follow. It is interesting to keep in mind that, at least for me, the Narcons felt like they had more agency than the characters in the story. They felt like that because of the reasons I just mentioned.
But it’s not true! They have equitable if not less free will than the regular characters in the story. The Narcons must follow rules set by MZD and MZD has to make them follow the rules that they (Mark) has set for them, so their free will is really constricted to a few sentences (by comparison) to other characters. Narcons must be controlled, and if there is anything I know about characters being controlled, they tend to rebel.
I’ll flat out say it, I think the Narcons will turn out to be villains or something similar as the 27 volume series plays out. I would like to be proven wrong about this almost as much as I would like to be proven right. To me, it just seems like the natural order of things. In our class, it was mentioned by a classmate that Xanther is the only character that can hear the Narcons or at least the only character that we know can hear the Narcons. It was also mentioned that when Xanther hears the cat outside, it may be something more than just right-place-at-the-right-time action movie garbage. It could mean a little bit more.
After I heard the classmate (I believe it was you, Chelsea) my mind started to reel into analytic, speculation mode where I wanted to make connection upon connection (so, bear with me.) I think Narcon characters (overly oppressed characters, as mentioned above) want to enter to the fictional world like a reverse The Matrix situation. I think that cat may be Narcon incarnate as mentioned above. There’s also a little something something that cat does to Xanther that feels a little wacky and out of the realm of possibility for any other character in the story (soul stuff.) And, and! We don’t know (unless I missed it) what the cat’s name is. But what we do know is that TF-Narcon 3 has the font “Manticore.” Stay with me, I’m telling you, it’s worth it. Manticore is another name for “Man-Eater.” Trust me, I wish in my research that I had found there was some myth written thousands of years ago where the Manticore ate the kings ugly daughter named “Xanther,” but it didn’t exist, so I needed to speculate a bit more. In figurative terms, the cat may have eaten part of Xanther, it’s hard to say exactly but I’m going with it for the sake of my theory. The last thing we know is that no two characters share the same font in the story…except TF-Narcon 3 and some other thing called “G.C.” which is not, to my knowledge, defined or mentioned in Volume 1 at all. But it’s mentioned in the font? Pourquoi, monsieur?! To me, G.C. could be “good cat,” or “General Cathington,” or maybe it’s another one of Xanther’s misunderstood words.
Sometimes, when reading this book, I feel like I’m wearing a tinfoil hat. Anyway, thanks for following me down my rabbit hole. I really hope to see why that font is shared and, who knows? Maybe I am right.
Xanther’s narrative seems to be mainly concerned with interiority: the suppression of impulses, storming thoughts, epilepsy, etc. As to be expected by such a level of suppression, her narrative, thus far, seems to be the most uneventful: a simple daughter-and-father walk on a rainy day. Even the subtitle of the volume, A Rainy Day in May, suggests tranquil, almost pastoral themes. This is highly contrasted the narratives of Jingjing, Luther, Ozgur, etc., which are splattered with violence, particularly Luther and its crude aggression and lewdness, and Jinjing’s, which while not violent in the conventional sense of the word, presents violence in its written form, by use of a plethora of dialects, slangs and different languages which make the narrative confusing and at times even borderline unintelligible.
Going back to Xanther, her discussion of the Horrorsphere seems to mirror the state of being of the other characters’ worlds: first and foremost, it’s free of taboo, an “anything goes” ordeal (as seen in social media sites like the infamous 4chan or certain corners of reddit, Tumblr, etc.), and given its name, it is a place of horror (the online OED returns an interesting definition of horror in its first result: that of “roughness” or “ruggedness,” both words that could easily go along with the view of life “out on the streets,” as the general public would call it). So what is the significance of suppression vs. release in the context of the world as a whole?
I’ll shift my focus now into a short account to further drive my point home (hopefully). There existed a Japanese horror flash animation in the 90s called “The Red Room,” known for breaking the fourth wall in a chilling fashion. In a brief summary, the story of the animation concerns a high school student who finds a pop up on his computer that reads “Do you like the red room?” As he closes it, he feels a presence behind him, and the next day news arrives that the same student has committed suicide and painted the walls of his room with his blood. The animation then breaks the fourth wall upon ending, actually sending the same pop-up of the story into the viewer’s computer. This animation gained notoriety when a young elementary school girl in Japan, who was a proclaimed fan of the story, committed a homicide in what became known as the Sasebo slashing. The relevance of this lies in where the horror is truly situated. The flash animation only truly becomes terrifying when it infiltrates the real world – when the pop up appears on your own (real) computer screen. Concern is not in regards to what the young elementary school student watched, but in what she did after watching it.
I feel Danielewski might be making the point that virtual or imaginary spaces subdue our definition of horror and violence. Xanther’s brief encounter with the Horrorsphere affects her because she cannot recognize the difference between this and reality because her entire narrative focuses on the interior – which is where the biggest horrors lie. Likewise, in our own real world, reading of Luther is not the same as witnessing it. The horrorsphere exists as a deposit for all horror – and only when it leaks out into real life does it truly damage us. But having a character like Xanther really lets the reader see how equally violent both realms of horror can be. Although it is but a Rainy Day in May, Xanther’s narrative can be disturbing and unsettling, because the imaginative is depicted with vast realism. In this sense, is the horrorsphere really contained, or can it affect us now, beyond the computer screen (think of Jingjing, whose narrative is violent in language)?