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DTC FINAL

http://dtc-wsuv.org/ssims18/final/

My story “The Empty Shell” tells the story of Richard Trentarion, part of a once proud family in the Holandus Republic, a family wiped off the map after The Great Betrayal, which saw the destruction of Richard’s entire family.

The story starts in the aftermath of the harrowing event, where Richard is confronted with Eric Riveris, the military officer who ordered the attack on his home. The reader is presented with three choices. Either he can kill the man outright with a gun found on the ground, he can spare Eric and head east, or he can drag Eric to where he used to live, where Richard tortures the officer. The idea I’m trying to get across is that choices do matter. Should you choose to torture or kill Eric, Richard will see multiple ghosts of his past. These were originally supposed to be completely random but I could not get random text to work in SugarCube.

The choice becomes more complex in the ending, in which there are three. The three endings admittedly end cliffhangers, especially the torture ending, which is because I plan on continuing this narrative beyond the class.

My goal with this story is to tell a character story, with elements of world building. Stories that take their time in developing and fleshing out their worlds are the stories I enjoy the most. Ideas of family and their importance in this narrative is inspired from Game of Thrones, where family is central part of the books and television show.

The realm of politics is also explored, where Richard is placed in a situation where he must choose to either side with a long time ally, or back stab them for the chance of better prospects. In this complicated decision is Richard’s friend Andrew, who is trying to sway Richard to support the Ispaden claim to the throne of Typhos. Depending on the choice you make early on will determine whether or not you find out what drives Andrew to support the Ispaden family.

There was some inspiration from PRY. Throughout the early chapters, where Richard was at his lowest point, there are many words that you can click on, which give brief snippets into Richard’s subconscious mind, and what he is thinking or feeling in that specific moment in the story. These texts are made bold, italicized, and occasionally colored red depending on context. Depending on the path you choose, will determine the prophecy you receive from the faceless ghost. The mystery I leave the reader to think about is whether or not what Richard is seeing is real, or if it is merely paranoid delusions.

I chose Twine because I love multilinear narratives, they have always been an interesting medium to explore and over the course of the semester, my fascination with them only grew stronger.

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Final Project

http://dtc-wsuv.org/ssims18/final/

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Pry Part 2

The final three chapters in Pry really stood out to me because these three chapters really took the effects work and psychological aspect up to 11. The work done in the first 4 chapters did a good job of building up James’ character, and from chapter 5 onwards you start to see his psyche grow more and more chaotic and confusing.

One of my favorite parts of Chapter 5 was the fact that there is actually a bit of multilinearity involved. Chapter 5 opens up where Chapter 4 left off. James gets up to go to a new job, Luke was fired from the last one. During the drive to the new job, he continues to have self-hating thoughts that he isn’t good enough, that Luke doesn’t trust James, etc. When he arrives on site he walks across a railroad. At this point two things can happen. Either you keep James’ eyes open to the point where his vision blurs and he falls off the railway track, or you open and close periodically and make it all the way to the end, only to transition into his thoughts. In both instances, his subconscious is brought to the forefront, while reality is placed where the subconscious has been since the start of the story. I think it represents his continual descent into his own mind, and how he is starting to lose his grasp on what is real and what isn’t. Chapter 7 really brings this home with the constant back and forth between different moments in time, blurring the line between reality and memory.

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Pry

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I found the use of text sound and visuals incredibly interesting. The scenes I found the most interesting, were the stabbing scenes. There were two scenes like this in chapters 1-4. One scene contains what I believe to be the main character’s love interest, and the other what I believe to be his brother. I found it incredibly interesting how these scenes were used almost as a climax, and a breaking point that led into the next chapter. I’m not sure what the symbolism and meaning behind these scenes are, but I think that the violence and rushing of images, is a wonderfully striking end to these chapters.

I also found the use of braille interesting in this piece. I think that eyesight will become a very important theme in this piece. I also think the use of braille really pairs well with the mechanic that drives the piece. Sliding your fingers on the screen to “open your eyes” or “close your eyes”, drives the story.

 

I also found the use of dark imagery interesting in this piece. The dark tones really project the darker themes in the piece, and portray the mystery behind the piece.

I can’t wait to continue to delve into the piece, and really unlock the mystery of it.

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PRY Post

PRY tells the story of a Gulf War veteran who took a job as a demolition consultant, which he got from Luke who was his squad leader. In the first chapter, James is lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, thinking about the job and the stain up on the ceiling. It becomes apparent that James has vision problems as exhibited by what I assume is intended to be eye floaters. When you peer into his mind, you see flashes of Luke and Jessie, and then when you open his eyes you see a hallucination of Jessie stab him. What follows is an explosion of different parts of the same moment.

The use of different effects, the text, the visuals, really come together. The quick succession of shots in the first chapter tells so much information, especially when you go through the story for a second time; showing how much affection he had for her and how all of it was blown away in an instant. He feels as though it was his fault for what happened as he reported to his superior officer what was going on between Luke and Jessie. In Chapter 4 there was a point where he made reference to Jesus and Judas.

The story shows how war can have lasting effects on an individual. There are moments like in Chapter 2 where as the Hartman Plant was being demolished, if you go into his mind you see images of people being killed from the perspective of an AC-130 Gunship; and how sound of those explosions can trigger those memories.

Chapter 4 also shows the blurring of reality and fiction. Luke is sitting at the table in the hotel room shuffling cards. Chapter 7 explores this more so, with conversations that are clearly happening outside of the war zone being portrayed as if they were happening in that setting. Chapter 7 really shows how James seems to have lost ability to percieve what is real and what isn’t real, at the start it was less extreme but by Chapter 7 what is happening in the present versus what happened in the past becomes muddied

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Divergent Streams

Locative narratives were what I found most interesting. Locative narratives utilize GPS, IP addresses, location tracking, etc. For a few months now, I’ve had an idea, its an ambitious idea but one that would really be unique and interesting. Family history is incredibly important to me and I think it would incredibly cool to utilize locative narrative in order to tell it. The narrative would be my families movements across different parts of the world.

At some point in my life when I save up the money, the idea would be to travel to areas where my family either lives or once lived and I would plant QR codes in these locations. These QR codes would contain descriptions of my families history, what my family did there or does there if they still live there. Lines would connect each point, essentially creating a web. Again, its ambitious, but not out of the realm of possibility.

In regards to VR and AR the possibilities for storytelling are really limitless in possibility. Stories set in a space environment or some horror scenario are the first to come to mind. Kinetic poetry can also really be taken advantage of. The 3D space that VR provides really takes kinetic poetry to a whole other level. Just imagining what “Cruising” could look like in a VR space is incredibly exciting because in cruising there is a huge amount of motion but it is all in a 2D space. VR would allow this to transition into the 3D.

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Random Poetry

Greasy fly natural hoax apple

Silk songs google pardon shock

Decay saw clutch lumpy snotty

Winter shade suggestion tie yam

Judge recognize thumb minor servant

Cork attractive protest cloistered free

Hum interesting tawdry halting chivalrous

Sudden mow fall awful quick

Dapper measure request depend butter

Dime deafening water damaged sanctify

Separate seize night frequent yell

Tread boundless windy create useless

Collar torpid cherries haircut hop

I created this poem using a random word generator. None of the work is my own, and the words are in no logical order. Before settling on the final poem, I looked at these words and contemplated rearranging them. I looked at the words given to me, and tried to come up with some sort of story that resulted from them. In the same way that I went through this process in the creation of it, I thought it would be interesting if the reader also went through this process. This is why I didn’t touch the poem and kept all of the words in the same order that they were generated. I think it would be interesting for the reader to try to come up with some sort of storyline, for meaningless words in a meaningless order.

 

Here is the website used: https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

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Dreamscape and Reality: An Exploration of Network Writing

“Degenerative and regenerative” by Tiselli, was a longer term project, that was entirely dependent on the interactions. The webpage featured text that would “degenerate” with every visit. Within days, the text became unreadable. I took this piece as a commentary on value and importance. Although degenerated and unreadable, the piece still had conveyed something. It seemed to comment on the idea of network writing in itself. Was there importance in the net language, or was all importance and meaning degenerated?

“The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, by Rob wittig, and “MEZZANGELLE”, by Mez Breeze, seem to further this point of importance. Although a bit more legible than “degenerative and regenerative”, these pieces still highlight the importance and meaning that can be held by net language.

“The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, tells a story of a fallen woman to “angels”, and even contains an affair storyline. How can such an advanced story be portrayed by so little text?

“Blue Company”, also by Robb Wittig, tells a story with more text. While this story line contains more text details than that of “The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, they are both similar in the level of story given. This goes to show, that the amount or straightforwardness of text, is not always needed to portray a complicated story line. Although both of these pieces leave holes for the interactor to fill in, I found more interest in the storyline of, “The Fall of Marsha”. It left much more to be desired, which really reeled me in.

“heyharryheymatilda”, by Rachel Hulin, was also very text and image heavy. I found it very interesting how this piece used Instagram to portray the story. I still though, found much more interest in the more abstract pieces, then these filled out novels.

I was also very interested in, “The Listeners”, by John Cayley. I found it interesting how this piece strayed a bit farther away from net language, and focused on another aspect of human engagement with the net. This piece was a critique on human interaction with the net, and was portrayed through an audio conversation of a man with an “Amazon Alexa”. As someone who uses an “Amazon Alexa” daily, I found it incredibly interesting how this piece played out. I also found the commentary on our reliance with the sociability through these networks incredibly interesting.

“I love Alaska” seemed to have a similar commentary, as it follows the search history of a middle aged woman in a sexually dissatisfying relationship. The story progresses to her finding lovers in chat rooms, and eventually cheating on her husband with one of these chat room members. It seems to be a commentary on our dissatisfaction with our real world circumstances, and how our online networks can provide us with exploration and a sense of satisfaction in what isn’t real.

All of these pieces seem to provide almost a dreamscape, and highlight the other reality that is our online networks. I fully enjoyed all of these pieces.

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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.

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Loss of Grasp on FilmText

For this blog post I explored, “Loss of Grasp”, by Serge Bouchardon, and “FilmText”, by Mark Amerika. Both of these pieces told a story, but with a fair amount of abstraction. “Loss of Grasp”, seems to explore the progression of the main character through a downward spiral. The story begins with the character having things put together, but then quickly falling apart. As colorful glowing orbs start following the mouse movements, and exploding on screen, the reader is able to experience the “out of control” feeling of the main character. The reader is then given a choice to follow the character ten or so years down the line, a few days later, or in the present. When I read through this piece, I chose the ten-year option. After choosing this, I was brought to a picture of a woman that was revealed with the scrolling over of my mouse. The story then progresses, to the woman leaving the main character. The story continues to fall apart, as the main character is dealing with disappointment through the eyes of their son.

“FilmText” had quite a bit more abstraction, and I struggled to understand the meaning behind this piece. Most of the piece took place over an image of a sandy, barren and crater filled landscape. There were many futuristic technology images that overlaid this landscape. These futuristic technology pieces could be interacted with by the reader. I believe that this piece could be a commentary on the future of civilization, and the clash of organic and inorganic. The piece employed quite a few interactions for the reader. With the movement and clicking of the mouse, images, audio, and text could be displayed.  I was impressed with the use of different forms of media in both of these pieces, and I really enjoyed exploring them and their meanings. I was able to really experience the emotions of the piece, and the images, audio, and interactivity, really drove the story.

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“Rain on the Sea” and “Cruising”

“Rain on the Sea” by YHCI and “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar  show how motion through text and the utilization of audio can be as an effective form of communication.

“Rain on the Sea” is poem about a man who became a stick. When I was reading it, it reminds of a scene in a film that I unfortunately can’t remember the title to, where it opens with a bullet being created and traveling through the world, eventually being put into a gun and fired into a person. The speed at which it moves is incredibly rapid, as is custom with most YHCI productions. The rapid pace and the jazz soundtrack which is used, creates a sense of urgency, and forces you to be fully engaged. It was actually quite a challenge trying to follow the piece but after a few runs, it became much easier. I was reminded of the section Moving letters in film in Rettberg’s book. YHCI doesn’t use filtering effects or collaged imagery like Len Lye, but YHCI does utilize motion, sound and words extensively. (Rettberg 130)

“Cruising” is an interactive work which engages the reader by giving them control over the speed at which the text moves. It is meant to represent driving a vehicle as explained in the author’s description. When reading this, I was reminded of what Dick Higgins said in 1980, “Dick Higgins (1980) writes that sound poetry is “inherently concerned with communication and its means, linguistic and/or phatic.” (Rettberg 129) The use of motion, sound, as well as visuals also remind me of work by Len Lye, the difference of course being that “Cruising” is not a film.

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Interactive Poetry

I explored, “SOFTIEs”, by David Jhave Johnson, “Dreamlife of Letters”, by Brian Kim Stefans, and “Shy Boy”, by Tom Swiss. Each of these interactive poetry works, incorporated text movement to express the message. “SOFTIEs”, used a variety of text movement to express emotion and meaning. For example, the first piece of the poem is the repeating word, “understanding”. The word is shown as being stepped on and pushed down. The word fights back, and as the clip progresses, more of the word is presented. In “Shy Boy”, the text animation is relatively simple, with fade ins, fade outs, and fading downward. The words are accompanied though by blocks of gray and black that follow the text. I believe that this does a fantastic job of conveying the uncomfortable and dark feelings of the shy boy. No matter what is said, there is a follow up of gray or black. This is almost as if the gray and darkness is following the boy. Lastly, in “Dreamlife of Letters”, text animation is used quite heavily, as it moves along the alphabet. Each word and sequence has a different type of animation. Some are busy and dizzying, and some are as simple as the text fading in and out on the screen.

“Shy Boy” and “SOFTIEs” also used audio. “Shy Boy” used an almost haunting and soft instrumental, while “SOFTIEs” used something that made the listener even more uncomfortable. Throughout the animations, there was a single low note played constantly. This portrayed a feeling of foreboding and mystery. Overall, I really enjoyed each of these three pieces, and what they all provided. I loved their differences, and their creativity.

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The Narrative World of Porpentine

I explored “With Those We Love Alive”, by Porpentine, and “Howling Dogs”, also by Porpentine. I didn’t intentionally explore two works by the same author/creator, but after doing so, I believed I got a far better understanding of the author’s methods. Both of the works seem to center in on a dark, twisted society and the daily mundane tasks of members of that society. In “With Those We Love Alive”, we follow our protagonist, a creator hired on by the empress. The world is dark and filled with muck, and the occasional dead person who is staring at you. The empress is described almost in a monstrous way, with horns, oozing ichor, and rotting flesh. The empress hunts humans, and human body fluids are drunken. The city is falling apart, ridden with monsters, stains, and rot. The protagonist also has to refuel on hormones, and imagery is used to describe the glow of veins pulsing with hormone. “Howling Dogs”, although not as visually interesting, carries a similar theme. The protagonist wakes up in a cold, sterile almost hospital-like room. The protagonist then has to do daily tasks such as drinking, eating, throwing out garbage, before heading into what is called the activity room. This room is described to have almost a virtual reality visor, that continues the main storyline for the protagonist. Both pieces are very mysterious and poetic. The game is progressed through a series of link choices. “With Those We Love Alive” is a bit different than “Howling Dogs”, as it possesses links that can be alternated by the player. Both of these pieces involve the interactor or player, by forcing them to make decisions to advance the story line. While playing both of these pieces, I would often find myself stuck in the storyline, if I didn’t find the correct link that would advance it. The links also changed how the storyline played out, and the circumstances that would be faced by the protagonist. These two works seem to follow more of a hypertext layout, then that of a game. While they both provide options for the player, these two games seem to be more of framework for a literature piece, rather than a game. The works are both incredibly mysterious, and engage the player’s imagination in a multitude of ways. The wording is poetic and ambiguous in nature, and each new prompt, brings up more questions and plot holes to fill. In my exploration of, “With Those We Love Alive”, I had stumbled on a friendship/romance storyline that seemed to hint at a big turning point for the two characters. They never explicitly stated what had happened but seemed to hint at it. I really loved these two pieces, and would love to get to a point where some of the plot holes are filled.

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Blog 6

When looking at both “Galatea” is the level of choice the user has in deciding what to talk about. To me it comes across as a perfect example of multi-linearity. If you want the story to have some semblance of linearity, there are defined paths that a user can take.

What path the user chooses is ultimately up to them. What I noticed quickly as Rettberg did is that the artwork is not necessarily a puzzle intensive experience, it isn’t an incredibly challenging piece. What Emily Short does that I love is really focus in on the writing of the story. Quality of writing is an incredibly important element and Emily Short really does a fantastic job on this front. Galatea has wit and a unique character as she is carved from stone. There is clear inspiration and reference to Greek mythology which I must confess, makes me like the work even more. Who the sculptor was and why he hated everyone, the idea of love, etc. all create a beautiful tapestry. With all of that said though there were some problems. One in particular was the text options. At times I would feel limited in my options despite it being a relatively open experience. However it wasn’t a big enough problem that it brought the entire experience down with it. Rettberg discusses how Short doesn’t create games to be won or lost, but rather stories designed to create an experience. In this way Short differentiated herself from the rest of the crowd during the time, using the framework of interactive fiction to explore different narrative paths. (Rettberg 100)

A less enjoyable story that I explored was Jason Nelson’s “Game Game Game and Game Again.” It wasn’t necessarily a bad IF, there was a clear point and statement. For example, while there is an “objective” which is the door, you don’t really feel like you win much of anything. Nelson is exploring as he described it, “artists changing worldview lens.” In this way it, like Short’s Galatea, utilizes the IF framework as a method to explore different ideas and forms. The problem derives primarily from the visuals. As a person who is obsessed with visuals, the design of this piece is just ugly. Now its pretty obvious that this was intentional on Jason’s part, as he explained that it was an anti-design statement; but it doesn’t make it any less easy to engage with.

It didn’t help that the writing was not the best, and often times I was left more confused than satisfied. Perhaps I ought to take a few more looks at the work to see if I can decipher any more meaning out of the piece.

I will say though his line, “Come on and meet your maker,” is now stuck in my head.

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My Boyfriend Came Back From The War

What I really liked about the story “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” is the story. From what I can gather of the story it appears that the story is that the boyfriend comes back from the Gulf War, and him and his girlfriend are sitting next to each other, with their backs turned. Neither are looking at one another which is a powerful image that really sets the tone for what is to come. The use of visuals in general is incredibly important and well done. I like how on the right is the girlfriend and on the left is her boyfriend who returned from deployment. Between them is a frame, which (I may be reading into this) I argue signifies the rift that has been created, as displayed by the fact that there is a picture of a helicopter off in the distance; representing how war has ultimately created a rift between them. Her cheating on him also creates that rift.

One of the things I noticed was that as the dialogue progressed, the frames continually grew smaller and smaller, this was pointed out in Net Art Anthology’s piece about this hypertext story. Like what was discussed above, this fragmentation serves as a way to further represent the breaking down of the relationship between the two of them.

What is nice is that unlike earlier hypertext stories like Victory Garden is that it isn’t huge walls of text. Olia really utilizes the visuals to tell the story, the dialogue is more an addition to it all. Olia could’ve just used visuals alone and I argue that the general story would’ve been just as easy to follow.

The only issue I took was with the ending, because it doesn’t show who is talking I had a hard time figuring out who was talking and who was not.

 

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Hypertext 2

Hypertext storytelling is an interesting approach to telling stories. The idea of multi-linearity and non-linearity present incredible potential for great stories, and there have been many stories that are compelling and interesting. “Patchwork Girl” by Shelly Jackson for example which was inspired by the classic “Frankenstein” represent how effective hypertext storytelling can be. With all of this potential though, hypertext storytelling wasn’t as revolutionary as some had thought. This happened for different reasons, one being the fact that nonlinear reading, as explained by Steven Johnson, is incredibly hard to write.

“When you tried to make an argument or tell a journalistic story in which any individual section could be a starting or ending point, it wound up creating a whole host of technical problems, the main one being that you had to reintroduce characters or concepts in every section.”

This issue is just one example but it is representative of some of the problems with hypertext. Another example can be seen in “afternoon, a story.” The story is well written and it has interesting characters, but it is incredibly hard to follow with jumping perspectives and just its nonlinear nature. I understand the idea is to explore the story and figure out what happened but because of its format and structure, it is more frustrating than engaging. Of course this isn’t to say that it is a bad hypertext story, it was one of the earlier stories told through hypertext so of course it wasn’t going to be perfect.

Hypertext also has the problem of hardware as pointed out by Robert Coover discussed. Hardware limitations and introduction of new technology have caused some hypertext stories to become unavailable, only accessible through old technology which use old technologies like floppy discs.

Hypertext is certainly not a dead form of storytelling or a bad one, there are still communities that exist like Twine for example, which give users the ability to create incredible multi-linear and non-linear hypertext stories. I think that hypertext has shown the power of nonlinear and multilinear stories and its influence can be felt in many different modern methods of storytelling. It certainly didn’t bring the death of books as Robert Coover suggested in his article, an idea which has not aged well. Traditional storytelling that comes from books will never go away, nor should it.

 

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The Future of Hypertext Fiction

I believe that there is a growing interest in the complexities of human interaction and society. I also think that there is a growing interest in our future. I think that hypertext fiction perfectly encompasses these interests. Before even becoming aware and versed with hypertext fiction, I was a fan of the Netflix series, “Black Mirror”. This series explores human consequences, and especially the consequences of modern day technology. The Netflix show has quite the fan base, and has even inspired other works. I believe this show highlights the emerging interest in human consequences and technology. I find it especially entertaining to delve and explore those consequences when they aren’t personally affecting me. It’s interesting to talk about the “what if?”. I have also seen an emergence in this theme in video gaming. The widely popular game, “Red Dead Redemption 2”, follows the storyline of an outlaw. The player, although following a set storyline, can make decisions for the character to determine their morality, and the way that the story plays out. Hypertext fiction is a very exploratory genre that I believe follows these trends. It allows the reader to make decisions, explore consequences as an outsider, explore technology, and explore the complexities of human nature and thinking. The Netflix show “Black Mirror”, in particular, recently came out with a film. This film called, “Bandersnatch”, is a branching, but mostly linear story, that the audience can control through prompts and their television remote. In the article, “Why No One Clicked on the Great Hypertext Story”, by Steven Johnson, Johnson explores the evolving of Hypertext fiction. He says that our internet tendencies, like reading a blog, or following links in a news article, follows a hypertext format.

Although following along a similar thread, true hypertext fiction of nonlinear, branching and linking story-telling, have become more obsolete. Even in the instances of “Black Mirror”, and “Red Dead Redemption 2”, these narratives follow a general linear path and generally move forward in the narrative with each decision. In “Afternoon, a Story” by Michael Joyce, the narrative although having a base linear story, often take spindling directions that can land you in the beginning, middle, or end of the story. “Afternoon, a Story”, also incorporates the challenge of multiple character’s viewpoints that further complicates the story.

Johnson states in his piece that, “It turned out that nonlinear reading spaces had a problem: They were incredibly difficult to write.” This statement seems to predict the way that Johnson believes hypertext fiction will continue to evolve. Although Hypertext fiction certainly follows developments in current trends, I believe that linear fiction will certainly win out. The evolved version of hypertext fiction that follows a primarily linear path, such as the “Black Mirror” movie, “Bandersnatch”, is what I believe will remain popular. The link-structure, nonlinearity and fragmentation of hypertext can certainly express more of human nature, human thought processes, and human consequence, although I believe it’s cousin of linearity, will continue to remain more popular.

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Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

As explained in Scott Rettberg’s, “Electronic Literature”, hypertext literature, being the predecessor to electronic literature, developed in turn from interest in both literary experimentation and cultural shifts toward computing. Hypertext fiction are stories written in fragments of text that interconnect, and can be navigated by the reader through a series of links and or, “choices” that guide the story.

Robert Coover’s, ‘The Babysitter”, is a puzzling and dissociated work of fiction detailing the events of a few hours. A young girl is hired to babysit Bitsy and Jimmy Tucker, while Mr.  and Mrs. Tucker go to a party. The seemingly mundane tale of a night of babysitting, is wrought with twists and turns brought upon by varying character viewpoints, and even “imagined” events. Each paragraph of the work, is broken up in time, character perspective, and actual and imagined events, to weave a fragmented tale. This piece not only contains haunting details such as rape and murder, but discusses them in a seemingly simple and matter of fact matter. One paragraph will explain a rape scene in gory detail, while the next explains a mundane task such as answering the phone. I believe that the writing style of, “The Babysitter”, pairs well with the haunting and mysterious nature of the story. The change in perspective perfectly highlights lust and fear, while the changing, and sometimes even imagined plot points, leave the reader stumbling through the story, much like the characters did. This work is certainly a model for later works of Hypertext, and perfectly models the pairing of plot and writing style.

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“Fiction of Possibilities”

Initially when I read the first couple of paragraphs in “The Babysitter” I didn’t expect the story to take the disturbing turns that it did.

The story appears to be about a babysitter who is watching Mr. and Mrs. Tucker’s little ones while they are off at a party. The babysitter at first appears to have a pretty typical night, she takes care of the young kids who are being as rowdy as could be expected from children their age.

In this story, there are a few characters outside of the babysitter who are important. Mr. Tucker is the father of the children, and is incredibly attracted to the babysitter, in certain paths, he ends up putting himself on her. Mrs. Tucker, is the mother of the children, and appears to be somewhat suspicious of Mr. Tucker and also incredibly unhappy as indicated on page 4.

Then there is Mark and Jack, who have plans to rape the babysitter. The easiest way to describe the story is that the babysitter has the worst night imaginable.

Also, while the story is called “The Babysitter” it does not solely focus on the babysitter, but rather it gives incredible attention to all of the characters, which appears to be influenced from modernist writing. (Rettberg 56)

The story is a bit hard to follow on the PDF but the strong writing helps, “Although chronological progression takes place in the story, as we move from 7:40 p.m. into the late hours of the night, the distinction between objective reality and fantasy falls away as we read the fragments, and every possibility has equal opportunity to be visited.” (Rettberg 58)

Coover’s approach through fragmentation may at first seem to be an annoyance as the reader has to pay incredible attention to what is happening, but I view it as a strength of the story. The fragmentation encourages the reader to fully involve themselves by looking at each fragment and looking at which match together and which don’t. It felt like I was piecing together the story, and just when I thought I had it pieced together, there are additional fragments that lead to other paths in the story as certain fragments have fragments that can go into different directions.

While reading the story, I made highlights as a way to indicate fragments that I was piecing together. I only wish that the story wasn’t on a PDF file so I could actually move the fragments around.

This “fiction of possibilities” allows for a level of engagement that cannot be achieved in traditional storytelling. In a way, it allows the reader in a limited capacity, to be the author of their own narrative.

Coover’s influence can be seen clearly in hypertext fiction, which have experimented and explored the idea of multilinearity for many years. An example can be seen with the story of Uncle Roger by Judy Malloy which contained seventy-five lexia, which was in a database structure. (Rettberg 69)

Sources:

Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

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Combinatory Poetics Blog

Combinatory poetics is a form of writing that I’ve come across before but I never knew the name of. The foundation upon which it was built has a colorful cast, ranging from the seemingly paradoxical Dada group with the cut up technique, the surrealist with automatism, the Fluxus artists, etc. all helped shape combinatory writing.

Taroko Gorge serves as a representation of combinatory poetics. Taroko Gorge is a poetry generator created by Nick Montfort, as Retterberg explains in Electronic Literature, “It is a relatively simple script that produces an endlessly scrolling poem, cascading ceaselessly in the web browser until the reader closes the window in which it manifests.” (Retterberg 47)

Looking at the code, in the script section of Fred and George, by Flourish Klink, in the script section there are nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Now words aren’t completely chosen at random, there is a structure as shown in the actual poem. In the main sections of the poem, it starts with a noun, then it follows up with a verb, and then another noun. Now the words that are actually selected within the set variables are mostly random.

The picture below shows an example of certain parameters set within the poem generated to give a sense of coherence and structure.

These similar parameters can be seen the other variations as well, like in “The Dark Side of the Wall” by Bob Bonsall. The main difference lies in the fact that rather than the variables contain single words, Bonsall’s put entire sentences and questions within them. Outside of that main difference, the code is virtually the same as the other variations.

There is a basic meaning that can be taken from these poems, like for example “Fred and George” is incredibly sexual and this was intentional on the part of Flourish Klink. There are wizards and wands involved, I think it goes without saying that Flourish Klink really likes Harry Potter.

There is one point in the book that I believe is worth discussing as it relates to combinatory poetics within the digital sphere. On page 43, Rettberg discusses how combinatory work isn’t made to produce the greatest pieces of writing, but rather as a way to represent a “range of possibilites in interesting ways”.

“If a generative system only operates to demonstrate a concept while producing texts that can only be appreciated as output of a computer program but not as compelling language, in my view it fails as a work of electronic literature.” (Rettberg 43)”

When I looked at the various examples of Taroko Gorge I never viewed any of the poems as compelling in any way, I simply viewed them as demonstrations of a concept. Now maybe I’m simply blind to the beauty of combinatory poetics through the use of story and poetry generators but I don’t take any real meaning in the actual text. I certainly appreciate the technology, as it is incredibly impressive, but outside of that, theres nothing.

When I listen to a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana it isn’t just the words and the music alone that are compelling, it is the fact that the Kurt Cobain actually experienced those emotions. With each note and lyric you can feel the passion and emotion behind it all. When you’re a teenager or even an adult, you can relate with those emotions and connect with not just the song, but the artist behind it.

Lets say that a song generator creates a song that is just as powerful if not better than “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Even if it was an objectively better song, I would still like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” more, and I would view the product created by the generator as a lesser product. I say this because a generator does not know what it is like to experience emotion, it doesn’t know what it is like to struggle, it doesn’t understand the frustrations of being a teenager and how that affects someone. Anything that it creates rings hollow because it can’t actually experience anything it describes.

Sources:

Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“Taroko Gorge” by Nick Montfort

“Fred and George” by Flourish Klink

“The Dark Side of the Wall” by Bob Bonsall

 

 

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Hello

Hi,

My name is Sydney Standish, and I am a junior DTC student at WSUV! I love all things creative, and I am excited for the blog posts to come.

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