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Silent History, The

Entry updated 20 June 2020. Tagged: Game, Publication.

App (2012) and novel (2014). Written by Eli Horowitz, Kevin Moffett, Matthew Derby. App development: Russell Quinn.

In a recognizable near-present (identified in both formats as commencing in 2011), a generation of Children are born lacking any facility for speech or, by extension, Communication of any kind. Initially sporadic accounts of their intrusion into society gradually give way to an increasingly Dystopian portrait of a subculture comprising the Silent "phasic-resistant" children as they grow to maturity. Identified as victims of a curable condition, they attract a growing cult of parents, doctors, politicians and experimental researchers whose successive interventions shape the arc of the narrative, as the Silents' emerging societal bonds develop in response to humanity's attempts to force them into underclass Zoos. Over time, it becomes evident that the Silents have developed their own, non-verbal, language, and once a minority of Silents reject an enforced, Technology-driven "cure" for their condition the book emerges as a fable of exclusion and eventual unstitching of the dystopic experience of the Silent population in language that evokes, though it does not attempt to emulate, the gestalt achieved in Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human (1953), the intimate tactile communication of the blind/deaf/mute community in John Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" (March 1978 F&SF), or the heavily action-oriented non-verbal communication matrix that empowers the cast of Sense8 (2015-2018). The conclusion of the story perhaps more closely echoes the foundation of Ben Marcus's The Flame Alphabet (2012).

Conceived as a digital-first publication, The Silent History was published in daily instalments from October 2012 to April 2013, comprising a series of first person "testimonials" narrated (at the outset) by non-silent humanity, each of which consisted of world and character building that nevertheless moved the plot forward in the manner of an interconnected serial fiction. Each chapter of the digital novel contained 20 testimonials, each chapter successively spanning nine, seven, six, seven, one and finally two years of The Silent History's future, signalling to the reader that this digital work was bound by a beginning, middle and end.

The cast of characters interleave throughout the work, each being revisited a dozen or more times, crossing into each other's stories and establishing a complex network of consequence and counter-motivation. Toward the conclusion of the App's release schedule, an option to navigate each character's journey was added to the interface.

The central narrative was extended by means of an invitation to readers to submit "Field Reports" in response to the emerging story. These short, location-specific texts reflect on the world of the novel, fixing the presence of Silent children within real world locations, allowing specific geographies and locative history to add texture to the fiction. In that over 300 Field Reports have been added to the App to date, this enterprise identifies The Silent History as a transmedia work; wherein integral elements of a fiction are dispersed across multiple media to create a coordinated experience.

Structurally, The Silent History operates as transmedia; however, it is mistaken to identify it wholly as such. Since the Field Reports are only accessible in the specific location they embody – typically a radius of several metres around a GPS co-ordinate – the range of Field Reports, and thus transmedial additions to the narrative, are not fully accessible without considerable effort on the part of the reader. In this manner, they operate as extensions to the central story rather than interdependent contributions to a cohesive whole, and are denied the facility to impact the story in a meaningful fashion. Rather they offer a promise to the reader that the world is out there to be discovered, that the act of travelling to new places will continue to unlock content that extends their relation to this fiction: an ambient literature. [TAb]

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