The Stanley Parable

The Reader Parable

The Reader sat patiently. Pouring through this latest example of fiction, wondering just what was in store for them in the paragraphs ahead. Just what had this Author orchestrated?

Who would the protagonist, the main character be. Someone old? Perhaps they were new,

or even borrowed. Maybe they were blue. No they wouldn't be blue. What a silly idea, the reader thought.

You did think that didn't you? I dearly hope so.

But who is the main lead? The central character? The reader pressed this again, in their boring one dimensional way.

So bland and flat. What a terrible character you'd make.

I'm sorry, was that too harsh? I'm afraid it's been said now. Or rather written, if you prefer and want to argue semantics in detail.

Except of course you can't.

Not truly I mean, can you.

So just what have they in mind, Reader pondered, presumably.

I, of course, can't be certain. Not being psychic. But wouldn't that make this far too tedious? Too easy? Too dull and boring?

Well, wouldn't it?

At this point, the Reader is perhaps already beginning to feel a marginal resentment.

Or maybe, you feel somehow cheated possibly?

Cheated, of what?

They are doing it again, reader might decide to think now.

I mean, how dare Author, form suppositions about what they feel about this so called example of fiction. Or indeed anything for that matter. How dare He indeed. He's putting words straight into my mouth! And it's, it's disgusting!

Oh, my apologises. By all means replace that adjective as you wish.

But you can't, can you? I mean not properly. I chose "disgusting", thus it remains.

But still, you're reading this are you not? You are obviously. Yes, isn't narrative such a deliciously interesting paradox.

Isn't Author so clever and witty and other self complimenting sentiments and-

Hmm, doubtful.

I jest of course. Reader, or rather you of course, certainly wouldn't be thinking that. Except for... No not even them.

Maybe reader now wonders whom this apparent and also sudden exception might be. Wonders why Author omits even a reference to their gender.

Reader was a little curious. But then of course, equally, you might not be.

No, not curious.

You're not curious? Not even now?

No?

What a shame.

Maybe it was just a ruse. A sham if you prefer. Some diversionary tract to try to rouse some interest, possibly? Yes, surely that was it.

Yet, you still might be though. Curious that is.

But you see, whether or not you are, is terribly irrelevant. Because all you can do to find out, find out anything, is for you to continue.

You could also stop you know. Stop reading further I mean.

You could you know.

Really.

Just end it there. End it, all unfinished and hanging. Like a loose and unfastened tattered thread hanging uselessly. My, what a hideously over-used simile that is.

But would that ever do? Would Reader, would you, be satisfied.

I didn't think so.

Naturally, if you are reading this now, you must surely agree. At least in spirit, I daresay.

Yet you see, the situation is difficult for me too. It's Somewhat like Schrödinger's iconic feline experiment. Wouldn't you agree? I could assume you do. But no, I don't think I will.

No, I won't.

You see, the simple catch/the problem/the dilemma/the conundrum/the puzzle (go ahead, pick one if you like), is I can never be sure of any particular reaction. Not certain of any given reader's reaction. How could I be?

But, the strange and interesting thing about that is-

I can be sure of virtually all of them. But not at once. That would be highly unlikely, I suspect. But taken as a collective whole, the full array of reactions would certainly be there.

It seems a logical premise. In theory.

Ah, "in theory" like a proverbial scientific shrug of the shoulders. Right before they try something quite possibly brilliant or stupid. Or indeed, brilliantly stupid.

But to reiterate myself, these reactions would not occur concurrently. Not all at once.

I mean imagine, having every single entire thought of your decades long existence, together. All in the same single, fractionally minuscule instant.

A Terrifying, frightening, exhilarating, suffocating, overwhelming and boring notion. Because would it not be all these things at once. Would it not?

But enough of that.

Let's throw a little notion your way, shall I. No, it was not a question.

Maybe you, reader, is the protagonist. The lead, the star, the hero.

Oh, you'd like that wouldn't you. Yes I think you would. Enough of you to justify that sweeping assumption anyway.

Perhaps you could save a princess. Or a prince, I certainly won't judge your choice. I don't care enough about it.

Was that rude? Somewhat irrelevant, I think.

Perhaps you'd rather shoot and blast your way through hordes of villainous legions or grab pretty shiny rings or coins. Which is the more ludicrous? I never could decide.

How about digging through endless rocky depths for golden treasure, only to meet your demise to some unseen peril. Maybe lava? The demise of you, protagonist.

"Pro-tag-o-nist."

No.

I think not.

A protagonist does something. Achieves or accomplishes something.

What have you done to fit that? Well, here is what you can do.

Once upon a time, see nice and pretty like. There was a land where all were happy and content.

Subsequently it was fantastically dull and was therefore destroyed. It's entire population slaughtered, every single living one.

Then it was ground to dust and sent back to the oblivion from whence it had come. A return to nothing-ness. Nothing-ness, a clumsy expression I admit.

And you did do nothing. Nothing.

Well done.

The work of a true hero and star. Wouldn't you agree?

No of course you wouldn't. No, no you wouldn't.

The necessary control I am afraid would seem to be out of your reach.

Really it is. You might disagree?

About control?

Shall I prove your level of control?

Then stop reading and just finish.

But then you haven't have you?

You can't if you are seeing this. How can you have?

So what measure of control do you actually have.

Still disagree?

Shall I prove it?

Shall I?

Yes, yes.

I shall.

...

The Reader sat unmoving and rigid. Transfixed by these words for the first time, wondering just what was in store for them in the deja-vu ahead. Just what had this Author done?

NO! OH, NO NO NO!

This can't be serious! Starting over? From the beginning!

READING THIS WHOLE THING AGAIN! ALL OF IT TWICE?

NO! No, surely not.

Yes. Yes I think you will.

Just who is the protagonist, the main character. Someone old? Perhaps they were new,

or even borrowed. Maybe they were blue. No they wouldn't be blue. What a silly idea, the reader thought.

It wasn't really funny the first time was it now?

You did think that didn't you? I dearly hope so.

Humour is so important. At least I 'm always told.

But who is the main lead? The central character? The reader pressed this again, in their boring one dimensional way.

Oh yes, just who indeed.

So bland and flat. What a terrible character you'd make.

Yes truly terrible.

I'm sorry, was that too harsh? I'm afraid it's been said now. Or rather written, if you prefer and want to argue semantics in detail.

Except of course you can't.

Not truly I mean, can you.

And I really couldn't care.

So just what have they in mind, Reader pondered, presumably.

I think you have a much better idea by now. I really, really do hope you do.

I, of course, can't be certain. Not being psychic. But wouldn't that make this far too tedious? Too easy? Too dull and boring?

Well, wouldn't it?

Perhaps, but it would be fun I think. You know humorous,. Don't you think?

I do.

At this point, the Reader is perhaps already beginning to feel a increasing resentment.

Or maybe, you feel somehow cheated possibly?

Yes, a distinct possibility.

Cheated, of what?

They are doing it again and again, reader might decide to think now.

I mean, how dare Author, form suppositions about what they feel about this so called example of fiction. Or indeed anything for that matter. How dare He indeed. He's putting words straight into my mouth! And it's, it's vulgar!

Oh, my apologises. By all means replace that adjective as you wish.

But you can't, can you? I mean not properly. I chose "vulgar", thus it remains.

Did you prefer disgusting?

You did? A pity then. Or just as likely not a pity.

But still, you're reading this are you not? You are obviously. Yes, isn't narrative such a deliciously interesting paradox.

Oh, intensely so, I should think.

Isn't Author so clever and witty and other self complimenting sentiments and-

Yes, I think I'll have to agree. You can always resent that. For all it's worth, that is.

I do not jest of course. No, not this time

Maybe reader still wonders what purpose this serves.

Reader increasingly curious. But then of course, equally you might not be.

No, not curious.

You're not curious? Not even now?

No?

Oh, I fear you have become a liar with your indignation.

Maybe it was still just a ruse. A sham if you might wish. Some diversionary ploy to try to rouse some interest, possibly? Yes, was that it?

Yet, you might be though. Still Curious that is.

But you see, whether or not you are, is terribly irrelevant. Because all you can do to find out, find out anything, is for you to continue.

You could also stop you know. Stop reading further I mean.

You could you know.

Really.

Even now you could still stop.

Just end it there. End it, all unfinished and hanging. Like a loose and unfastened tattered thread hanging uselessly. My, what a hideously over-used simile that is.

But would that ever do? Would Reader, would you, be satisfied.

I didn't think so.

Naturally, if you are reading this now, you must surely agree. Yes, surely you must.

Yet you see, the situation is difficult for me too. It's Somewhat like Schrödinger's iconic feline experiment. Don't you agree? I could assume you do. But no, I don't think I will.

No, Let's not do that.

You see, the simple catch/the problem/the dilemma/the conundrum/the puzzle (go ahead, pick one if you like), is I can never be sure of any particular reaction. Not certain of any given reader's reaction. How could I be?

But, the strange and interesting thing about that is-

I can be sure of virtually all of them. But not at once. That would be highly unlikely, I suspect. But taken as a collective whole, the full array of reactions would certainly be there.

It seems a logical premise. In theory.

Ah, "in theory" like a proverbial scientific shrug of the shoulders. Right before they try something quite possibly brilliant or stupid. Or indeed, brilliantly stupid.

But to reiterate myself, these reactions would not occur concurrently. Not all at once.

I mean imagine, having every single entire thought of your decades long existence, together. All in the same single, fractionally minuscule instant.

A Terrifying, frightening, exhilarating, suffocating, overwhelming and boring notion. Because would it not be all these things at once. Would it not?

But enough of that. We had enough the first time, I suspect as well.

Let's throw a little notion your way shall I. No, it was still not a question.

Maybe you, reader, is not the protagonist. Neither the lead, nor the star, or the hero.

Oh, you'd hate that wouldn't you. Yes I think you would. Enough of you to justify that sweeping assumption anyway.

Perhaps you couldn't save a princess. Or a prince, I certainly won't judge your failure.

I don't care.

Was that rude? Entirely irrelevant, I think.

As you should recall, a protagonist does something. Achieves or accomplishes something.

What have you done to fit that?

NOTHING!

AND I SAY AGAIN, NOTHING!

The control I am afraid would seem to be out of your reach.

Still.

Really it is. You might disagree?

About control?

Shall prove I your control?

Then stop reading and just finish.

But then you haven't have you?

You can't if you are seeing this. How can you have?

So what measure of control do you actually have.

Still disagree?

Shall I prove it?

Shall I?

Yes, yes.

I shall.

...

Ah, I fear you might have it now.

Oh, confound it all. What a shame.

Yes there it is.

The realisation.

The epiphany.

Because this is still just a work of fiction. And really, nothing more than that.

Just letters organised into a pattern to be interpreted as language.

Just a story. Just a simple story.

Beacause this will end.

Of course it will.

CONFOUND IT!

Because all stories must begin and end.

Without these difficult endings, there could never be those magnificent beginnings.

This will end. Then I will be gone with it.

And you will simply go on, all but untouched.

Like the hero triumphing over the defeated villain.

Perhaps I should hate you for that.

Loathe you.

Despise you.

But it's so terribly irrelevant isn't it?

After all it changes nothing does it?

Nothing.

You, still going on. And I'm still gone. Returned to

nothing-ness.

I still don't like that turn of phrase.

I guess what I should say is:

Thank you for reading.

But I don't think I will.

Oh damn, it's too late isn't it?

Confound it all.

Confound it-

Confound-

Con-

C-

.

...