Once upon a time, it seemed that nearly all stories began at the beginning (or even "In the beginning..."). They ended at The End. Then came the 20th century. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan stepped down the opening sentence of Ulysses, Gregor Samsa woke up a cockroach, and nothing was the same anymore. The dream logic of surrealism, the theater of the absurd, the shock edits of the French New Wave all followed. Soon you could have an ape-man throw a bone in the air and--blink--it's an orbiting spaceship.
That was in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Now it is 2001. The changes are in our nervous system now, reworking the pathways by which narratives find their way in. Surrealism? Shock edits? Every rock video uses that stuff. But the people we profile in this month's chapter of Innovators--the storytellers--are the ones bringing even further change. Once novels were things on paper. Now--blink--they're online. The "marginal" characters--blacks, Asians, gays, Latinos--have moved to center stage. Even reality has become another story. What is Survivor if not Cast Away with more people and no volleyball?
The impulse to hear stories and tell them will always be with us. It's as prehistoric as that ape-man. Life, after all, is a story. It provides us with an instinctive appetite for all the other stories we come upon or create, from the fairy tales at the beginning of our days to the obituary at the end. Children always plead, "Tell it to me again." Here are six people who do just that, in ways you never imagined.
--By Richard Lacayo