Sarai is a free-lance literature enthusiast who current works as a sessional academic. An avid horror and fantasy reader she is an advocate for its cultural importance.

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics


Sound Tracks and Tone

How important is the soundtrack in a film? The selection or creation of soundtracks is big business in the movie industry, but how important really is it? Movie goers today are fairly savvy creatures and understand that particular scores match particular scenes. But what happens to a scene when a contrasting score is played to the expected tone of the scene? Does this change the entire "feeling" of the scene or can it offer a more complex examination of traditional representations of emotion in-situ? What happens when no music is used in an emotionally wrought scene? Or what happens to scenes when music is removed – are the scenes still able to portray the emotional depth of the moment?


    The revival of Dungeons and Dragons due to Geek & Sundry's 'Critical Role' series.

    Dungeons and Dragons has been a long established franchise that has experienced noticeable rise and falls of popularity structured around changing cultural interests. With the mainstream appeal of fantasy films and "soft fantasy" programming on television there has been a slow interest arising around the old RPG paper and pen games. However, it was not until the occurrence of the show ‘Critical Role’ by Geek & Sundry, as streamed by Twitch, that a noticeable and traceable resurgence has occurred. The popularity of a show about watching voice actors play DnD live has lead to a release of new manuals, gaming equipment and surge of fan material. Is this the start of the mainstreaming of DnD?

    • This would make a great article. It might also be good to talk about Felicia Day and her contributions to geek culture; both before and after the creation of geek and sundry. Also the show Community lured a few people into the game. – AGMacdonald 10 months ago
    • I've heard multiple sides to this. On the one hand, a fun hobby is regaining popularity. On the other hand, Critical Role and shows like it (Acquisitions Incorporated, for example) may give people the wrong idea, because not all games have a Game Master as skilled as Matthew Mercer, let alone a cast of that caliber (they're professional voice actors who have been doing this together for years). So a possible question is, should shows like Critical Role be the motivator for the mainstream resurgence of DnD? – noahspud 8 months ago
    • I am interested in how you might prove Critical Role as the source of this resurgence, as I think you might need to look at cultural trends that come before the first episode of critical role even airs. The 2011 new york-times best seller Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and, even, the wild success of Felicia Day's own "The Guild," seems to be a strong indication that this resurgence touches on a significantly wider interest in the production of the fantasy world. Rather than asking is DnD now mainstream, I think I am more inerested in why is DnD mainstream: why are we once again interested in the creating the fantasy world? What about the world we live in now encourages us to be interested in this kind of table top gaming? – Dethlefs 8 months ago

    The animals that inspired their work

    It is a fairly well accepted concept that many artists and authors have used the animals around them as inspiration. For some it comes from the animal beside the heath, the pet that enriches the household. Others, such as Beatrix Potter, are known for embracing the wildness and the animals that inhabit the land. In some cases the animals involved are even considered to be humanising influences – an animal connection that keeps them grounded.

    The suggestion for this article would be a look at the influence of animals on art and literature. This could be taken further to include the symbolic and allegorical role of animals, or it could focus on the anthropomorphic inclusions in their art. Or it could simply be a broader follow on from ‘The truth about cats and artists.’

    • I think an interesting way to go with this could be to broaden the argument to even encompass academia- for example, Derrida has several pieces that are inspired by, and even mention, his cat and "the gaze of the animal." Animal philosophy could be a particularly good place to start with an endeavor like this one. – ees 3 months ago
    • I don't see the use of animals in fiction as having any limitations at all. Animals can be sources of inspiration, allegorical, symbolic, or archetypal--and many other things beyond that. I still remember reading "Watership Down" and being enthralled by the heroic and daring exploits of... rabbits. – WILLIAMLAURANCE 3 months ago

    Importance of narratives in table top gaming

    A steady rise has begun in table top gaming, which can be linked to the increased awareness of gaming through online forums and social media. There has become a larger sense of community in being able to discuss a personal engagement with particular games. I would argue that part of this has been the increase in narrative style table top games, both those being released by large corporations such as the Arkham Horror and Betrayal at House on the Hill style games, but also smaller kickstarters and independent games, such as the beautiful Dreamwell, and smaller games like Stuff and Nonsense. Narratives do not need to be complete directed stories, but also the invitation to engage in story telling, such as in the Fiasco style games. Regardless of type part of their success is that there is a narrative in place, it takes it from being something very generic into becoming an immersive experience.

    It would be interesting to discuss what are some of the latest trends in narrative styles or content, what are the most popular types of narratives that have endured and where we think narratives in games is heading next.


      The rise of text-based gaming

      When one opens the usual source for their gaming apps there seems to be a plethora of text-based gaming role-playing-games, beyond what we once were seeing. Is this simply due to the ease of making such games versus a visual game? Or is there actually a rise in the market for such game play? Has this then replaced the popularity of the choose-your-own-adventure book? Many questions, does anyone have the answers?

      • The following article on The Artifice could be a great source of history on text-based gaming: – Misagh 3 months ago
      • I think this is actually a super interesting topic, that I haven't seen anywhere near enough people write about. I think you're absolutely right that the ease of making a "visual novel"/text-based video game is remarkably easy, compared to some AAA titles we see coming out with big money and big assets behind them. We can see this over-abundance in this genre by looking up the tag "visual novel" on Steam and seeing the complete nightmare that is the "newest releases" section of that tag... However, one doesn't need to look far to see that there is a demand in the market. One of the biggest best games of the last year on Steam was the visual novel/horror mix game "Doki Doki Literature Club." Now, this game may have gained infamy because of the fact that youtubers played it cause it had good jump-scares and whatnot, but this is through and through a game that is 90% scrolling text and reading. And people loved it. This game would not have been noticed or made anywhere near as much of an impact if it weren't for the fact that the text and writing in the game was PHENOMENAL. And people recognized this! Then there are other recent releases like Undertale and Persona, whom have heavy JRPG elements attached to them, but have hours of cut-scenes and text to delve into as a player. This market has always been around, with releases such as the Fate games, the Ace Attorney franchise, and Danganronpa to name a few, but the popularity is rising by the day. Especially as we begin mixing genres and incorporating large blocks of genuinely engaging text more and more into our "normal" games! It's a very exciting time to be engaging with visual novels and text-based games! :) Er... sorry this note got so long. I hope it was at least kind of helpful! Good luck working on this topic, I look forward to reading about it! :) PS: You should absolutely check out "Valhalla" on steam. It's a visual novel about working at a bar in a cyberpunk dystopian future. It's a MUST play! – BioLizard 3 months ago
      • What really helps with the rise of text based games, at least based on my casual research, is the amount of time people have to play games anymore. Even with few graphics, text-based gaming allows for more freedom with which to play a game. It is obviously usually pretty story driven, but gives the player something more to do than simply read something. Even the thought of ebooks helps lend to this. People enjoy interaction, and text-based gaming is a simple enough interaction that helps even the most casual gamer find the time to play a game throughout their busy schedules. – VideoGameProf 3 months ago

      The blank page and writer's block

      An issue I think all writers experience at one time or another, whether they are writing fiction or non-fiction. Firstly, however, is writer’s block a real thing? What does it actually mean? How can it present? What would be interesting to follow this is a discussion of a range of strategies that are often suggested, along with some anecdotes from published writers (from literature, to television, films or even journalists) on the ways they have overcome their own writer’s block.

      • Cool topic! I've got some thoughts that might help. I'm a published writer myself, and I've heard a lot about this. A lot of fellow writers say writer's block isn't real. They say when we claim to have it, we're just stonewalling ourselves and the process. But for me at least, there does come a time when you're just...dry. It happens for a lot of reasons - you're out of ideas, you just finished a project and don't know how to start on the next one, you name it. In my personal experience, writer's block happens because of my fear. That is, I sit down to write and my inner editor/critic/prospective agent will not shut up. She says things like, "You're telling, not showing! This has been done! No one will read this! You can't do it again!" And no matter how much I tell her to shut the you-know-what up, she keeps yakking. I'm thinking of naming her - after Delores Umbridge. :) Anyway, perfectionism is a huge culprit. There's also the fact that as writers, we think of any excuse not to write. As in, "I gotta work on my day job first/I haven't showered yet/there's something good on TV/maybe after I work out the juices will flow..." As for strategies, I'm a fan of "just suck it up and write," but sometimes that doesn't work. Getting out of the house can be extremely helpful, and I'm a big fan of music. I associate a lot of my favorite songs with characters I've created, so listening helps me think of where I want to take them. Hope this helps! – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
      • Journaling helps. I just read the book 'The War of Art' and essentially it chocks up creativity as more of a transcendent message that we as humans are just agents for. Even Tom Waits believes this. So, to combat these bursts of creativity, I keep a journal. Sometimes my thoughts are ten-fold, and sometimes it's as simple as "A man on the bus sitting with flowers." Well, imagine the possibilities in just that statement. Is it valentine's day? Is he apologizing? Why does he have flowers? It's these little nooks and crannies in life that can inspire so much. So journaling really helps in making sure my thoughts are worth something for the times when I don't think they are. I recommend actually getting a journal rather than notes in an iPhone, something tangible means more in the end. Another way I combat writer's block is to just go out and live. As writers there's a romanticism involved with the sequestered author hidden away critiquing the world. But I always try to engage with strangers I come across. This is where characters come from. Something as simple as the way a man's ears wiggle when he talks, is a character trait that will aid any story. Everything is borrowed, but it's only borrowed if we take the time to notice. So my two tips: 1) Journal and 2) Live! – ryhook 3 months ago
      • Writing daily helps--and it does not necessarily have to be well-developed complete pages. I think the advantage of a site such as this, The Artifice, is that by submitting Topics that you will not be writing about can actually help you to organize your thoughts about topics you want to write about. You look at how you put together a coherent idea and then there it is on the screen in front of you. The more you can do that, although other people will choose those Topics to write about, can help you see how you are organizing your thoughts regarding what you are writing. – Joseph Cernik 3 weeks ago

      What will our future bring?

      Many different TV series and films offer various visions of the future. Spanning from a dystopic universe where water is scarce and people scavenge, such as Tank Girl, or where the water levels have risen and earth is scarce, such as Waterworld, to futures where we have expanded into the stars, Star Trek, etc.

      There are many interpretations of what comes next for us, and I thought an interesting topic would be to map some of these and look at the origin concept at their core. The easiest example would be to use Waterworld: rising sea levels due to climate change lead to eventually all but the highest peaks become completely under water that is more salt than fresh. Humanity moves to living in floating communities and diving for materials from the world before.

      Many of these interpretations are not that far into our future and offer some interesting points of view on where the human race is heading. Can you think of other examples?

      • To see how different futures are envisioned from the period when that particular future was developed. The 1950s and atomic testing or the present and climate change. How the times affect future-vision. – Joseph Cernik 2 weeks ago

      The meaning of food

      Food, a staple of life, has often had significant meaning attached to particular types of food. For instance, the most commonly known are foods that are considered aphrodisiacs, or chocolate that is linked to lust and decadence. An interesting article could be the exploration of these meanings and how in literature these have also changed over time and across different cultures.

      A few examples to whet the appetites would be: the easiest would be the role of chocolate as lust, desire for worldly sensuality in Joanne Harris’ Chocolat; sandwiches eaten on a picnic rug in Wind in the Willows represent friendship and trust; wealth is often represented through food, such as cucumber sandwiches in The Importance of Being Earnest when cucumbers were imported from India; or food as taboo, as in A Doll’s House where the macaroons represent secrecy, concealment and rebellion.

      It could also be included in the discussion the rituals that surround eating: many novels will include a moment that captures the family eating together or even the break in this ritual, such as in Harry Potter where family meals with the Dursleys highlighted Harry cooking or serving but not often eating. Or even looking at subversions of food and rituals, as in Alice in Wonderland with the Mad Hatter’s tea party or the enlarge/reduce eat/drink items, all of which acted to challenge the over emphasis placed on Victorian rituals surrounding food in that period.

      • The revisions are useful here. Looks like it would be an interesting take on this topic. – Munjeera 1 month ago
      • Other than making me hungry, good topic! ;) I especially appreciate that you included Chocolat. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
      • I think a great addition to this article would be from the movie, A Hundred-Foot Journey, where they use the term "food is memories." How often do we smell a particular food, or a certain dish and it reminds us of a past romance or our mother's cooking from home? – noopface 1 month ago
      • The perfect novel for this is ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ by Laura Esquivel. It’s the tale of a woman whose repressed emotions come out in her cooking. The magical realism narrative is intertwined with recipes of the dishes she makes. – SarahPhilip 1 month ago

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      Latest Comments


      An interesting discussion. I have also noticed that I have particular preferences for audiobooks, and that it is the ones often centered on the storytelling style. Meaning that if the story is a true narrative, in the sense that it is written in a strongly oral form, in the light of original folktales and myth, it then translates well to audio book. Literary classics where word selection was a vital component of the act of writing, as mentioned Pride and Prejudice, tends to translate very dryly when read aloud. Finally, I have noticed that poor writing, as in high action, strong reliance on first person pov and little descriptive thought (popcorn literature) are terrible as audiobooks.
      Also I must say I agree with Eleni (above) that the narrator is very important. I have turned off books because of the narration, and I can get drawn in with not just great narration, but appropriate narration – for example I found a great Sookie Stackhouse novel with a southern narrator and this became very immersive for me.
      Thank you for sharing.

      Audiobooks: Do they Enhance or Diminish the Enjoyment of a Story?

      Wow, okay that was a really interesting read, thank you for sharing.

      Paper Mario's Vivian: Transgender Done Right

      A great discussion, and regardless of best or least it is indeed true that teachers have a massive influence on our lives. Even in traditional literature the interaction of the mentor is a fundamental rite of passage. In many ways this alludes back to our community lifestyles where the parents were important, but children were often raised by elders or leaders. The role of a teacher is one that we should place greater importance on in society, and Western society especially has lost track of this. Thank you for sharing a great thought (and memory) provoking article.

      Lessons from Our Favorite and Least Favorite Fictional Teachers

      A good discussion to have, although a little surface level, I think there is much psychology has to say about the way people engage with social media and it would have been good to see the examples of where it has had strongly detrimental effects to everyday people. However, as it becomes an increasingly “normalised” aspect of life it will continue to have both positive and negative effects. I think though the biggest issue, which has not been delved into here, is the huge impact it is having on self-esteem and depression in many women world-wide.

      The Power of Social Media; Does It Enhance or Swallow Up Relationships?

      An important discussion to be having about the attitudes within Hollywood. I think this is a topic that will require a series of discussions looking at different aspects before any really true picture can be formed. However, it is important to note that as Amyus above points out, this is not an issue confined only to Hollywood.

      Stop Rewarding Abusers In Hollywood

      It is good to see the development of interesting interpretations of the use of animation, and especially in the form of this type of hand-craft work that has such a unique feel to the visual result. Thanks for sharing a great and timely discussion.

      Isle of Dogs: Humanity in the Inhuman

      A great article that covers and interesting range of insights. It is a great show for considering these changing philosophies in the modern world. The concept of “what is human” is one that we are all aware must be faced one day, and shows such as this act as an interesting reminder of the ethical dilemmas that need to be considered.

      The Hosts of Westworld: Human or Synth?

      A great discussion and on a topic that without an understanding could be easily dismissed. I will admit that I have only seen a smattering of these over the years, but I understand the appeal and am more interested now in exploring these further.

      Is Sailor Moon a feminist icon?