Gasp in terror! This is no usual Midway attraction! Gaze upon… THE READ SHELF!
You may be familiar with its relatively common cousin, the To Be Read Shelf. This never-satisfied beast holds worlds and guilts you into visiting them. It stares at you, longing to disgorge its contents upon your imagination. And though it always tempts that maybe, maybe you can catch up and empty it, instead it grows! Look, it started with one book. And then there were three. And somehow there were ten. And now you have an entire room dedicated to books you intend to read someday, someday, and why are you coming home with more books?!
Back again, kid? My freakshow is the best in all the land. It’s worth a second look, and you of discerning taste already now that! Again I will show you a woman who writes stories with the back of her head! A snake who only eats the tails of other snakes, and never its own! A blanket made of the souls of righteous men!
…but you liked them so much last time you visited!
…you want something more of the same, but different?
Look, kid, this ain’t a sequel. You either get the same world, down to the last syllable, or you can pick a different tent on the Midway to explore.
Sheesh. These kids, so demanding these days! They’ll rip through the world you give, and demand another world. They want to know what happens next! But you better watch out! They want different, but not too different!
The world painted by words ends in one final image. The characters are put in their places. The landscapes pause. There is no more.
You can attempt to imagine what comes next. Perhaps the author will return at some later date to continue the journey of one or more character, extending the existence of that world. But eventually, every story, every world, ends.
No, no, I’m sure you have a fine excuse. This is not the Midway. You are not a customer in a worldstore. This is a lecture hall and your late arrival has disrupted a lecture on the patterns of world formation when looked at through the lens of storytelling. In other words, seeing patterns in literature.
As I was saying, class, as we look at the worlds that authors create, we discover many curious consistencies. For instance, the boat.
Come one, come all! Come see the freaks of nature survive in a world they didn’t create! See the man who can communicate only through his taste buds attempt to navigate a world of sound! Laugh as the human camel frolics among the clover! Shock as a child no older than the sun burns you with ice the color of joy!
Thank you, ma’am, thank you! Two bits, sir, and yes, thank you! Step this way, and step lively! Into the tent!
I hope you all have iron-clad stomachs, for tonight, I shall show you wonders!
…I said, wonders!
Mel. Psst, Mel! You’re supposed to let the freaks out!