The past few days I’ve been reading fandom wikis for works I haven’t even watched. Maybe it’s an unusual trait, but I often would rather read the summary of a story rather than see the entire work. I love seeing where the premise goes, and when I find unfamilar terms I can click the hyperlink? (Who is “Cypher” on the Metal Gear Solid wiki? Ah, he was Big Boss’s archenemy and friend.) The die-hard fans have distilled story-telling for story-tellers.
I never watched more than one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I’ve sunk many hours into reading its encycopledias. Same goes for Firefly, Superman, Toaru no Railgun, Star Trek Voyager/DS9/TNG, Spiderman, X-men.
Shakugan no Shana, Zero no Tsukaima, and Haruhi meet the same criteria. Basically I often find the premise of a story interesting, but can’t be assed to actually read it. My quirk is that I get addicted to the encyclopedia, and end up completely reading a digested version of the whole story there. And yet, sometimes I come back 5 years later and unknowing read it all a second time, because almost nothing sticks when you don’t read the stories the slow way. So why do I still do it?
Well, I think I just find stories more interesting when the interesting parts are condensed and you can quickly draw connections over the seasons. There’s no dialog, misdirection or wasted details in an encylopedia. It’s like a script in that you can imagine parts for yourself. At first I lied to myself and said I was learning about world building, but I have to admit I usually turn my brain off and fast-forward to the fun bits, uncritically enjoying each universe for what it is.
For example, I really like it when the wiki for a series gets convoluted as heck like for “Metal Gear.” It probably should have stopped after MGS3 or MGS4, because now with all of the prequels set in the 1960’s-1980’s, the author is struggling to remember his own canon, and has had to retcon more and more. More and more he is struggling to stuff his stories into the shrinking gaps between old dates.
I kind of liked it better was also better when there were fewer characters and large blanks – untold stories that were merely alluded to. Writing new games about Big Boss has only cheapened his unique mystique and made him seem less of a bad-ass predecessor. Sometimes it’s better when heroes mention their heroes, but you leave it at that without telling their birth, adventure, and legacy too.
As a series runs longer, it becomes fatter. Eventually so many unbelievable cliches weigh it down that any thinking person will say say “I can’t buy into that anymore” which is when the series collapses under its own weight. You can’t sustain drama without taking liberties with probability, and those liberties do add up. Why has Stargate SG1 managed to save the galaxy so many times without a single bungling member dying to an unforeseen alien trap? Why has Misaka from Railgun managed to live so damn long without electrocuting herself or dying in a fight? And with all of the running from collapsing concrete ceilings, or jumping off of buildings that her ilk of superheroes does, you’d expect them go splat far more than once in a few thousand times?
In real life we remember heroes for doing rare deeds. Key word is rare.Heroes who recklessly disregard their own safety aren’t favored in real life by fortune! They might beat the odds for a moment or become martyrs, both cases make them memorable “heroes.” But certainly no one in real life has ever became a super hero who could fight incredible odds every day for decades or even centuries. That’s why the super heroes in fiction aren’t really anything like our heroes, but rather unchanging “icons.”
Series conspiracies run by elites are the most unbelievable in the long run too. You can only have so many battles and coverups, and failures by those elites before you seriously wonder how they maintain power. I think conspiracies work the best when you know little about them – the more you try to explain the “dark forces” the more you fail to make a case for their existence. It strains your willing suspension of disbelief. I guess fans want to know about conspiracies, but if they ever got all the answers it would be toxic to the viewership…apart from the diehards who want Toaru no Index to continue forever I guess.
Anyway, it’s so easy to fall in love with a simulacrum, to the point that I like keeping up with digital gossip of their private lives via wikipedia. It doesn’t matter that they’re fictional. As long as the author lives on, fans must take comfort in knowing their hero/waifu lives on and anyone can peep into their private world by buying the latest installment of a series for only 500 yen.
Our love of fiction is the height of simulacrum. I wouldn’t be surprised if a love for biographies and history were hardwired into us so we would learn to avoid others’ mistakes. Love for fiction must piggy-back off of evolutionary drives, just like our love for theology.