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Are small towns uhoric or utopic?: 07/05/18
The past month has been filled with fictional visits to small towns that are both out of time and out of place. These places I've visited are the Emerald City (Paradox in Oz), Night Vale and Kings City (Welcome to Night Vale, Sanders and Hourglass (Paradox Bound, and now Moshimo (Fireworks 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか? 横から見るか?). All of these stories involve people trapped in their towns by time and by remoteness. Some characters are more capable at traveling between towns than others.
Now, while my project aims to focus on North American road narratives (with emphasis on stories from the United States and Canada, though I am open to reading ones from Mexico), sometimes a story falls into my lap that can be read using the road narrative spectrum. As Fireworks fits so well thematically with the books I've read this month, I am including it in this essay. My essay tittle is a wee nod to the full title of the film which involves a question of should fireworks been seen from beneath or the side (to determine if they are round or they are flat).
In my first exploration of how time and space function at the fantasy end of the road narrative, Traveling between utopia and uhoria: an introduction to the use of space and time in Oz and Night Vale I outlined the three types of time: personal time (Ozma), shared time (Oz), and backwards time (Zoey). In this essay I will look at the mechanics of moving between places and between times as a function of the road while using examples from Welcome to Night Vale, Paradox Bound, and Fireworks.
When Jackie, the pawnshop owner, is introduced in Welcome to Night Vale, we are given conflicting pieces of information: she's nineteen years old and has recently taken over the shop from her mother, but she's been running the shop for as long as anyone can remember. She has apparently been nineteen for a very long time and her once nineteen year old friends are all grown up, married, and now parents. Jackie seems to be stuck in her own personal time which is further exasperated by Night Vale's own mixture of odd public time and lack of connectivity with the rest of the world, even though town members are aware of real world places (such as King City).
Time in Sanders (Paradox Bound) appears to go slowly, in that it seems to be dragging its heels, holding onto the features of the 1980s while being excessively reluctant to embrace newer things like cellphones and the internet. These things exist but they are hard to access / hard to use in Sanders, while things like VHS rental stores and video game arcades still do regular business (and not in a retro- nostalgic fashion).
Finally there is Moshimo, a small seaside town in Japan. The main characters are Oikawa Nazuna and Shimada Norimichi who spend a weird day together. Nazuna wants to runaway to Tokyo. Norimichi wants to spend the day with her. with the help of a lenticular sphere, whose shape mirrors the lighthouse that features so prominently, wishes are able to rewind the time and rework the world — at least within the bounds of the town. While the two teens are a couple for the course of the day, the ending implies that Nazuna by accepting her fate (of having to move and having to have a new step father at the end of summer) is able to escape the wish created uhoria, while Norimichi is too drawn into the power of his wishes to escape, and thus is also absent at the next roll call (but in an unexplained way from the point of view of everyone else).
Jackie, Eli, and Norimichi do their initial escapes as a pair with another traveler. None of these couplings are especially romantic, with only Eli and Harry's coupling ends up romantic at the end (or with implied romance at the end).
All of these narratives involve a dialog between unreachable space and unreachable time. Uhorias often slide into utopias, which is why I put the utopia — the no place — at the far end of the spectrum for possible road narrative destinations. The narratives I've discussed here, though, I believe are uhorias as their central twist is their interplay with unreliable time and how the unwinding / rewinding of time affects the narrative space.