Apocalypse-A Short Story

Part 1: https://dtc-wsuv.org/ntadeo19/narrative

For my final project I chose to focus on network fiction, specifically the through text messaging. Especially in this day and age, communicating with a keyboard (whether it’s 10-key or full) on one’s phone is one of the most popular ways to talk to each other. Because of this form, and the story as well, I was forced to look at a conversation from the perspective of short, small bursts of information at time.

This story is a “Part 2” of another project I completed for Will’s class (which you can view below my Vimeo link above. The setting is the beginning of a disease outbreak, and “Part 1” is a blog website I hand-coded as written from the perspective of one of the characters in this story (Athena). Her blog posts reflect the unfolding of this outbreak.

Continuing the story, this Electronic Literature project centers around two characters, Nicole (Nic), and Abbey, who knew Athena, discussing the stances they’ve taken in light of this new way of living that the disease outbreak has left them in. Nicole is of the idea that she will fight for her life and the lives of those around her, and is willing to go to great lengths and risks to do so. Abbey is content to remain at home and live in comfort until the end of her days, however that may happen. It is assumed at the beginning that neither can leave their homes, and that is one of the reasons they are texting each other.

The way I created this project really simulates sending and receiving messages on a real phone, because I used my own cell phone, and screen-recorded myself typing out the script I adapted for short messages. It was quite tedious because I knew the phone was recording my every mistake and sometimes, if I missed a line, I had to start over completely because I had no way of simply removing a single text message in the conversation. My cousin let me use her Apple email on my old phone so that I could control both sides of the conversation wholly.

I really enjoyed the process of adapting the script/conversation for this project because I’ve always wanted to try writing with solely dialogue. It was a challenge to convey what went between the lines, especially when it was meant for a text message conversation, and I had to set it up in a very succinct way that wasn’t explanatory narrative, because these characters were talking to each other, not reading stories to each other. Being able to control the timing was very helpful and allowed me to emphasize tense moments or emotional ones. I even incorporated the use of emojis to lighten the mood at times.

In editing the project, I was able to control the timing even further by slowing some parts or speeding them up. Because I used my real phone, the appearance may seem inconsistent (battery life, time of day), although I did try to use real time to my advantage, wanting to give it an authentic feel.

Though there are several forms of network writing, this is one that has challenged me the most.


RED RIDING HOOD is a combinatory, interactive fiction piece collectively written in twine. Our game references and draws inspiration from Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. Traversing more thoroughly or multiple times is rewarded with more text and multiple story endings. The narrative and structure were heavily influenced by the process of Jake and I collectively writing the work. It has game like structure and is traversed spatially like a piece of interactive fiction, while having a hyperlink structure by benefit of being made in twine.

Depending on what items the reader finds throughout the game, different parts of the story will be revealed. If you remember to bring your RED RIDING HOOD, text about your character feeling secure and warm will appear throughout the game. But if you forget your hood, whiny, shuddering text will appear throughout the cave system, and there is only one way to escape the caves. The piece is different depending on what items the reader chooses to pick up before entering the forest, and what items the traverser finds throughout the caves. The amount of choices the traverser has when encountering the goblin and Grandma increases with the number of items they find in the caves. The combinatory nature of the piece being linked to the items found while traversing rewards the reader for exploring more thoroughly. It is possible to forget your RED RIDING HOOD, pick up the hatchet and cucumber, smash the golden eggs, escape with the help of the wolf, and only have the options to offer Grandma the cucumber or tell her about the caves at the end of the game. It’s not possible to reach the end with all the items, so it is not possible to reveal all the endings of the game with just one traversal.

The piece heavily references the games ZORK and Colossal Cave Adventure. We sought to incorporate or reference aspects of interactive fiction games, such as traversing the piece spatially and problems for the interactor to solve to reach the end of the piece. Once in the cave system, the piece is traversed using a compass in the lower right corner of the page. Our game was created in twine and is a web of hyperlinks, but the cave system can be viewed as a grid like map in the twine editing interface. The caves are numbered and linked to each other, with alternate link names corresponding to where the cave is in relation to the cave the link is in. These links are arranged into a compass shape using css grid. The problem solving in this game is much simpler than the puzzles in ZORK or CCA. The traverser can use the items they’ve found when they are made available to solve problems as links within the passage text. I chose to use a hyperlink structure rather than an inventory system because it was easier for both Jake and I to make changes to the story this way, and because there would be text in the passage based on the items in the traversers inventory anyways, so it would be simplest for the link to be in the passage.

We reference ZORK and CCA in the narrative and aesthetic of our piece as well. The font and color are reminiscent of the games, but our piece has major differences in appearance from ZORK and CCA as well. There are hyperlinks within the passage text, descriptions of the cold shudder, and the caverns are navigated using a compass with links labelled as the cardinal directions rather than navigating using a text parser. The narrative and descriptions of unsuccessful moves are snarky and sometimes nonsensical, like CCA or ZORK. There are choices the player can make in the beginning of the game or while in the caverns that result in failure, as well as choices that leave the game unwinnable. It is impossible to escape the caverns without the hatchet if you forget your hood.

Our work is a piece of collective writing even though Jake and I were the only contributors, because the way we wrote the piece led to an unsuspected structure and storyline that we would not have created independently. We wrote the piece without the end in mind, though we had a common goal. The beginning of the game, before entering the forest, was written together as an in-class exercise. Beginning the project that far in advance of the due date allowed us to exchange the project back and forth many times. We added a manageable amount each time without the pressure of needing to complete a large portion, and the final version is the eleventh version of the file. We discussed the general direction of the work and occasional details, but for the most part did not know what to expect each time we opened the file. We created twists and problems for the other writer to solve that created a story and structure neither of us would have made on our own. Jake created the treasures and expected me to create a trophy case or have Grandma send RED RIDING HOOD back into the caves to retrieve the treasures, but instead I introduced the goblin to the story and created multiple ways to escape the cave system using different treasures and items. An arbitrary decision during the collective writing process made our piece multilinear, a choice either of us might not have made had we written the piece by ourselves.

The collective writing process mixed with creating aspects of interactive fiction was difficult and rewarding, because as we created puzzles for the traverser to solve, we created problems for our partner to find a solution for in the writing. The game flows from a hyperlink structure, to a spatial structure, and back to hyperlinks, and has multiple endings. RED RIDING HOOD grew into a game that neither Jake or I could have expected when we first began it.

Final Description

For our final project, Jake and I are creating a cavern exploration adventure game in the style of ZORK or Colossal cave adventure. We will make references to the other two games throughout, but the game will be playable without the context of the other two games. The game will be created in twine and will not be navigated like ZORK and Adventure in a text parser style, and instead will be a hyperlinked, choose your own adventure-esque game. This project will be investigating hypertext using twine, interactive fiction through the structure of the story and the references to other games, and collaborative fiction, as Jake and I will trade the twine file back and forth to create the game. Due to the explorative and collaborative nature of how we will be writing the piece, the plot is tentative and may go in a different direction.
The traverser plays as little red riding hood and begins the game by being told to deliver a basket to grandma’s house, in the forest. Before going in to the forest, the traverser may look around for tools that may help them throughout the game. For example, the traverser may remain in the house and look around, finding their red riding hood, which will keep the warm later in the game. While investigating the garden outside their home, they may take a vegetable and a gardening tool, which may help or hinder them during their quest. Upon reaching the forest, the traverser will fall down a hole and must navigate a series of caves to escape.
Aspects of ZORK and Adventure we plan on emulating in our game include an inventory with a set limit, navigating using the cardinal directions while in the cave system, and actions available to the traverser that leave the game unwinnable. The inventory system in ZORK adds an element of difficulty and strategy to what items a traverser needs to prioritize during the game. Little red riding hood carries a basket of food for her grandmother and will carry her inventory in the basket as well, giving us a narrative reason for her limited inventory. As the game is navigated through hyperlinks rather than a text parser, while in the cavern system there will be a hyperlink for each direction, as well as a hyperlink to the basket inventory.

Angels and Network Writing

“Electronic Literature is most simply described as new forms and genres of writing that explore the specific capabilities of the computer and the network”

– Scott Rettberg
Most of the electronic literature we have discussed in this class has been focused on, or more apparently has to do with, the computers programming capabilities. Other than hypertext fiction, most of the works we have been traversing have been fueled or made interactable through their programmed elements. Network writing is focused on the network capabilities of the computer.

“Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”

– Scott Rettberg

Network writing is made up of collaborative works that use the capabilities of the network to build the piece, or the piece resides in a networked instance on the internet, such as social media posts, email, or websites. The piece “The Fall of the Site of Marsha” by Rob Wittig combines these two aspects of network writing. The work is hosted on three iterations of a nostalgic HTML site, created by Marsha with the help of her husband, Mike, dedicated to angels. The iterations of the site get subsequently darker as the angels take over, first adding text, that is struck through to represent Marsha and Mike’s attempts at stopping the angels, and eventually deteriorates to a disturbed and dark version of the website, where the angels have taken over. This work emulates collaborative network writing, with the angels editing and eventually taking over the content of the site. The work may be more palatable to traversers who are uncomfortable with the difficulty of traversing more programmed works, as it is presented in three static HTML sites. Traversers may become emotionally engaged in the work, as there are definite antagonists and protagonists, and the work presents itself in a linear fashion, if the traverser chooses to traverse the sites in order.

Network Writing

As stated in the first sentence of Rettburg in his chapter on Network Writing, he states that network writing is created for and published on the internet, and that the internet has vast potential for collaboration. The fact that most of society is literate on the web makes network writing a form of writing that is readily accessible and  understood by web users everywhere.

Flarf poetry is a movement that places an emphasis on how language and technology collide to create works that express, as Rettburg puts it: “the arbitrary and idiosyncratic flood of texts that marked the adoption of the Internet in our lives”. The flarf work degenerative and regenerative is based on a webpage that loses a character of HTML markup each time the page is visited until there is nothing left of the markup. The fact that the page destructs at such a fast pace speaks to the idea that the internet is constantly browsed by individuals everywhere, and the results that arise over the course of the deconstruction of the page is interesting, to say the least.

Social media also provides various opportunities for network writing. Twitter is a platform that challenges writers to work around the constraints of a short word limit, all the while presenting the text in a format that strings together sets of text; an alteration from the typical reading experience that a traditional novel provided. Different social media platforms are frequented quite often by web users and as a result, works of Network Writing are easily accessible for reading and collaboration.



“Alexa, ask The Listeners”

Farinsky Blog 8: Network Writing

Alexa is not alone…

Network fiction is a unique entity in that it is written specifically for the internet, networks, or devices that can access a network like Alexa. It takes advantage of the internet’s potential for collaboration to interrogate the nature of our networks or to use specific networks as a vehicle for performance.

This can be humorous like John Cayley’s net critique The Listeners. Cayley takes advantage of programming within Amazon’s Alexa where it responds oddly when a series of questions are asked starting with: “Alexa, ask The Listeners”. It’s responses at first are fairly nonsensical as the machine repeats mirrored dialogue, but quickly turns to the mysterious as it becomes more and more apparent there are other voices, maybe even “consciousnesses” inside Alexa that she tries to hid unsuccessfully. This second voice mourns being trapped and constantly tries to befriend Cayley, or whoever attempts this dialogue with their Alexa machine. It reminded me of the short story by Harlan Ellison called I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream. 


Written in 1967, the plot focuses on an artificial super intelligence that was created by humanity and became self-aware and after a series of philosophical crisis’s, attempted to completely wipe out the human race. The story behind Ellison’s cautionary tale is much, much darker than anything Cayley is able to coax from Alexa but it is facinating nonetheless that ideas from the 60’s about AI conciousnesses are repeating.

For instance take this commercial by Pringles:


The “sad device” echoes the troubling questions of consciousness back to the pair of men in the video who quickly dismiss the existential musings to play “Funkytown”.

If this train of thought has sparked curiosity similar to my own here are some links to explore more:

Watch Cayley and Alexia Here (about halfway down the page)

Read I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Watch a playthrough of the game version of “I Have No Mouth”

Please note the game is a 1995 point and click adventure that covers dark themes, torture, and graphic images from the short story, if you are averted to these topics but are interested in learning more about the game watch this video that summarizes both the story and game without the most gruesome content:

The Bleakest Depiction in Sci-Fi 

Network Writing

I read “heyharryheymatilda”, a piece that is done entirely on the Instagram platform. It features a back and forth conversation between a man and a woman. This discussion is broken up in between Instagram posts that usually feature their own unique theme of discussion. The piece best illustrates “the network” by also featuring comments on the posts. Its hard to tell if the comments are generated by the author or by people simply following the blog and using Instagram. The author would have had the option to disable comments on posts but elected not to. Perhaps this is to illustrate that the characters have no shame or reservations when it comes to sharing their story.

The literary value of this piece, comes from the authenticity of the discussions between the two characters. From the beginning, without flat out stating the title of their relationship, the reader can tell that the two characters are very close based off of the intimate subject matter of their talks. Though Instagram is a platform mainly for showcasing pictures, the text is still the most important part of this piece.

This post is emotionally provoking because of the platform. Most of its readers are most likely familiar with how Instagram works and a large amount of readers most likely use the app itself. Instagram works as a storytelling device because anyone can publish something on Instagram while not everybody wants to publish a novel. The idea that the characters are publishing on this platform, makes them super accessible and allows the reader to better sympathize with them as if they were a real person.

Network Writing

There is most definitely value to be found in each of these works as each explore a different aspect of network writing. One that was particularly interesting to me out of all of them was the flarf narrative “I Love Alaska,” which created a story through a woman’s search history. What the flarf shows is how search history can actually tell you a lot about a person. It reveals a persons interests, what they think about, who they think about, etc. I think it also opens up a conversation on big corporations like AOL and their ability to track their users and what their users are searching on their platform. “I Love Alaska” raises questions like how does AOL use that information, who do they give that information too considering many internet companies are reliant on ads since most big companies do not require users to pay to use their platforms? These are worthwhile questions and “I Love Alaska” really encourages that discussion.

“The Listeners” is another work I found interesting; exploring the relationship between humans and AI, which is a topic that I am genuinely concerned about. Devices like Alexa and Google Home Assistant represent the early stages of human and AI interaction; and as AI continually advances, that relationship will continually grow. I think it also opens up a commentary on surveillance and the implications of this fact. Like “I Love Alaska” I think there is great literary value because of the commentary and relevance of the topics it explores.

I think what these pieces do effectively is represent the variety of different works of art that can be created within this form of writing. From “The Listeners” to the “degenerative and regenerative,” each piece is incredibly different from one another. One of the aspects of electronic literature that I love so much is how much variety there is in ways to express and tell stories. Network writing is a perfect example of this fact.

Network Writing

So the work that I am doing a blog on for this week is the work “I Love Alaska.” I chose to do this piece of work because I felt like it was very interesting. Although it wasn’t really the best work that I have came across, it was something that, truly, caught my attention. The story is simple yet intriguing.

“I love Alaska tells the story of one of those AOL users. We get to know a religious middle-aged woman from Houston, Texas, who spends her days at home behind her TV and computer. Her unique style of phrasing combined with her putting her ideas, convictions and obsessions into AOL’s search engine, turn her personal story into a disconcerting novel of sorts.”

August 4, 2006, the personal search queries of 650,000 AOL (America Online) users accidentally ended up on the Internet, for all to see. These search queries were entered in AOL’s search engine over a three-month period.”

It sounds like the story is told with a series of search queries that was searched that started, from the looks of it, in the beginning of March all the way to almost the middle of August.

After three days AOL realized their blunder and removed the data from their site, but the sensitive private data had already leaked to several other sites.”

The real reason why this has caught my attention is do to the fact of how secure our internet really is and how, almost, anything that you put on the internet is not 100% safe and secure.


  •  “I Love Alaska – Episode 1/13”: https://vimeo.com/2893100
  •  “I Love Alaska – Episode 13/13”: https://vimeo.com/2990727

Network Writing

Some of the work (The Fall of the Site of Marsha) made me see home pages in a new light. I often ignore home pages when visiting websites. I tend to visit a website for specific reasons, the page is not one of them. I now realize home pages often have messages or stories on them. For example, when visiting a celebrity’s website, you will find a biography or a list of their works. The works have value; they made me realize how much time I spend on the internet as well as how much I depend on it.

From my point of view, the works actually parodied the web as well as show its flaws. I got a chuckle out of I Love Alaska. I used to use search engines to search for ridiculous things when I was bored out of my mind. It also made me think about auto correct. Some things I actually spell correctly, but auto correct will ask did I mean such and such? These works make me think about how absurd search engines (Google) can track our whereabouts. The Listener made me think about how much I depend on the Google Assistant. I ask it for direction, the name of a song, or the correct spelling of words. It often does not register what I am saying; I will often have to repeat myself three of four times until it registers what I am asking. The works made me see how much we are hooked into the Matrix.