‘Never to Return’ – Airship Communities and Ritualised Travel

Dodd, Kerry (2018) ‘Never to Return’ – Airship Communities and Ritualised Travel. In: Current Research in Speculative Fiction 2018, 2018-06-292018-06-29, University of Liverpool.

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Travelling communities have the freedom to visit a myriad of locations, freed from the chains of a static existence. Grand-sweeping fantastical narratives frequently involve the central party gaining access to such a resource; whether this is train (Railsea), spaceship (The Expanse), or airship (Final Fantasy), these vehicles provide a roving shelter to those who are forced to constantly travel. The repeated return to certain locations or inability to escape a routine pattern – such as the tracks of Snowpiercer – however interrogates how ritualised movement shapes communal ontology. While these narratives challenge previous schemas of mobility, eventually the cycle must be broken and movement suspended. Supergiant Games’ Pyre (2017) incorporates travel and ritual as fundamental aspects of the narrative and ludic elements of the game. Cast into an exclusionary purgatory, called the Downside, the player takes the role of ‘the Reader’ who must guide their fellow Nightwings in a quest for freedom. To achieve this, the group follows seven stars to sacred sites and perform ‘the rites’ – a contest between two opposing triumvirates. As each astrological cycle draws to a close, the prevailing triumvirate may choose one of their members to be freed from exile and return to the Commonwealth, but in so doing is excluded from the party. From this point onward, the Nightwing’s vehicle (Blackwagon) gains the ability to fly, complicating and re-routing previously etched networks of mobility as the cycles quicken, whittling down the community. In this paper I explore the prominence of fantastical travelling communities and how these vehicles, particularly airships, interface with topographical paradigms. Through cyclical narratives, these become not only heterotopian gateways but equally challenge how mobility itself is conceptualised – particularly when such freedom is challenged. Exploring the two-fold exclusion within Pyre, I argue that it is through the instantiation and subsequent deconstruction of ritualised travel that new paradigms of spatial living can be conceived.

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Current Research in Speculative Fiction 2018
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12 Nov 2018 09:56
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22 Nov 2022 14:31