Experiential fiction is narrative, interactive fiction that is unbounded by the page. Experiential fiction knows your phone number, answers you by name, and dares you to intervene. Experiential fiction is born of abstract expressionism, Happenings, Situationism, Fluxus, alternate reality games, and fiction that bends and warps even from the flat borders of the book.
Experiential fiction, at its core, is more than a technique, or a blend of techniques, for delivering story. Rooted in community organizing, gaming, and psychological theory, experiential fiction presents an opportunity to push for social change. Experiential fiction challenges participants to develop new skills, particularly new analytical tools, to fully engage with the fiction -- skills that participants are then poised to turn on the real world. Suspicion about a company narrative within a fiction can grow into critical analysis of a dominant political narrative in the world. A deconstruction of artificial barriers between people or characters in a fiction can deepen into intelligent inquiry as to who controls the narrative of divisiveness in the world around us. Art and life must overlap -- this is how we stay awake.
Erin Kate's first experiential fiction, M_SS_NG G_RL (2013-4), comprised shifting and intermedia elements: a historical real life disappearance, a canceled speaking engagement, a published art book about a scholar's experience of staging her own disappearance, novel chapters from two separate authors, both writing about missing girls, textual criticism, sidewalk chalk drawings, hundreds of missing posters, postcards mailed to participants' homes months in advance, five foot tall paintings, jigsaw puzzles, health center brochures, interviews, Facebook profiles, blogs, Amazon reviews, handwritten journals, rumor, chance, human interaction, and a culminating in-person lecture and reading. The experiential fiction pushed participants (casual and fully immersed) to question the convention of the missing girl in literature and film, and to engage with the tension of fiction masquerading as life.
In May 2016, Erin Kate staged a Missing Girl Scavenger Hunt at the Minneapolis Central Library as an extension of this larger project. In mid-2019, she will stage a third experiential fiction, “The Helium Baron’s Son,” supported by an Artist’s Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. (To be added to the mailing list for invitations to this event, email ekr /at/ erinkateryan.com with “Helium Baron invite” in the subject line.)
Experiential fiction is by nature fleeting and ephemeral. The following artifacts of M_SS_NG G_RL are available online. The rest is a matter of memory.