Lost in Translation

I have seen unsettling things in my time, but I don’t know if I have ever seen anything as bizarre as Emoji Dick, a version of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick written entirely in animated emoticons. Apparently, this started out as a Kickstarter project. I’m afraid to look for more information about it, because the title looks like a Japanese porn title.

But I don’t want to write a rant about why this is a bad idea. (Because it’s not.) Emoji Dick makes me think about the future of writing. Language changes over time, of course. But one could almost think about emoji as a return to earlier, more representative versions of writing, like hieroglyphics or pictographs. It’s not much of a stretch for me to think about novels in the future being written in emoji or something like it.

EBooks have opened up new possibilities for writing. I’ve already seen books turned into iPad apps (Alice in Wonderland) and Terry Pratchett recently released a map of Ankh-Morpork as an iPad app. I’m surprised that someone hasn’t successfully resurrected Choose Your Own Adventure as an app.

It would mean learning a slightly different language in order to understand. A few weeks ago, I saw emoji used to summarize Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It was meant as a joke, but I was intrigued to see the amount of information and even nuance in this:

So, even though the title sounds like Japanese porn and even though this book was probably meant more tongue-in-cheek than not, Emoji Dick sounds like a great experiment in the future of writing.

I wonder what they did about the whaling essay chapters, though.


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