Around 12:10 a.m. on January 1st, just after 2019 began, I made what I hope will prove to be my worst choice of the entire year: I started watching the latest “Black Mirror” project on Netflix, alone, in the dark.
“Black Mirror” is eerie at best and often genuinely disturbing, and probably should not be watched alone in the dark in any case. In particular it should not be watched under those conditions when it’s not just a regular episode, but a stand-alone interactive movie that is asking you questions and presenting long stretches of new narrative based on your decisions. Because then? So much for sleep.
The name of the “Black Mirror” movie is “Bandersnatch,” and its choose-your-own-adventure format has given rise to the shorthand “bandersnatching,” which can either mean 1) watching the movie (not as interesting for our purposes today) or 2) making a series of irrevocable choices from behind the scenes.
So though you’ve probably never thought of it this way, you are, in short, bandersnatching your whole life. In the “Black Mirror” episode/movie, you’re bandersnatching Stefan — will he choose Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast? take what he’s offered or refuse? go into a certain building or off down the street? — but of course, that’s not how life works. We may not be fully in charge, but no one else is, either, so it’s our choices, our decisions, that make the difference.
And sometimes it can feel like someone else is bandersnatching your writing career. Early in a traditional publishing career, someone else, an agent, is making the decision on whether or not to ask for your full manuscript when you send them a query letter or pitch them at a conference, and then makes the decision on whether to represent you; and in any author’s career regardless of publishing format, someone else, a reader, is making the individual decision of whether or not to buy the book. There are editors and sales teams and Costco decision makers and cover designers and book clubs and event organizers and festival committees and awards judges: sometimes it feels like everyone gets to make decisions about your book/s but you.
But it’s you, deep down. You’re bandersnatching. You’re making the most important choices. [Read more…]