i. back into the fray

Alright. First post. I’m bad at starting things. I think too long and never get to the actual starting bit. Sooooo I’m just gonna go!

Hullo hullo, I’m Masooch. Grad student and writer/editor and serial complainer. This is my second blog on WordPress (this time, with less owl puns) for as many classes and I look forward to ranting to you about Electronic Literature (henceforth e-lit) and anything else that just kinda… comes out of my head.

Chances are, I’ll be connecting the topics and works we cover in class to games or other media I’m familiar with from my Pre-Grad era. I’ll link to anything and everything (plus extra) in case anyone wants to do a deep dive and get lost like I did in the article we had to read this past week.

Ayyyy see that? Segues still strong.

So we were instructed to read through Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Gonna be real with you, I read it two days ago and don’t remember much because of the striking detour I took (which I will get to later on) so pardon as I skim through the reading once again.

Feel free to throw on some chill jams in the meantime.

(For those who are new to reading my posts: I have a fondness for the Korean music scene. Expect links and asides and blatant plugs. Also: feel free to ignore! I won’t be mad, promise.)

Okie, I’m back!

I feel like I’ve always had a fondness for literature that doesn’t follow the set textual, linear structure we all know and love. Fun fact: I wrote my undergrad senior thesis on the narrative of videogames and why/how games (choice-determinant story-based games in particular) should be considered literature. Interactive literature (a nod to the Interactive Fiction we talked about in class), but literature nonetheless.

Now, I’m not proud of the end product of that thesis, so catch me Not Linking That Here. I’ll definitely refer to it at some point in the semester. Maybe post excerpts that were, idk, decent, but! This is not the time! This ain’t the Masooch show, it’s Jessica Pressman’s.

 

“Navigating Electronic Literature”

I love the idea that readers/users/players of e-lit are navigating through a work, affecting it, rather than just absorbing it. Well, in certain works, of course. It’s all so different. You have a piece on the one hand where you’re walking around on a screen and discovering bits of a story in your own way… then you have another where random letters are being thrown around and you have no other choice that to just… sit there and take it.

I mean, or close the window. There’s always that option, too. -shrug-

Anyway, that’s the big beautiful part of e-lit, though, ain’t it? That it’s all so different. Each genre that we brought up in class or that Ms. Pressman brought up in her article, I could think of some work I’d read/watched/experienced at some capacity at some point.

As I read through the article, I thought it’d be best to try out the e-lit pieces that were being mentioned and used as examples. The first that I looked at was “Blue Hyacinth,” a “stir fry text” that solidified in my mind the decision that I’m not fond of “stir fry texts.” No offense to Jim Andrews or Pauline Masurel or even William Burrough, but the frantic, visual shuffling between the phrases that I hovered over and the choppiness of the randomized lines thereafter couldn’t hold my attention long. Gave me a headache. Not really but like. An annoyance headache. (That’s not a thing..)

Don’t get me wrong, I see the merit and beauty of that type of work. It’s just not my cup of tea. I like the interactive aspect of it, the simplicity of it that can produce a complex mass of stories or poems (of varying intelligibility, but what have you). In the end, it’s a very interesting type of e-lit. Very user-dependent. Very cool.

Now, Pressman got to IF pieces a bit later in her article. One of such pieces was Andrew Plotkin’s “Shade.” Ooooooookayyyyyyy. How do I start talking about this. Know how I mentioned earlier that I deep dove and detoured? Here’s the sucker that caused it.

Here I was, at my rinkydink lil laptop, minding my own business, getting work done, when a curious little text game/user-input narrative decides to suck me in for two hours. I spent more time on this than I did on the actual readings/the e-lit piece we were supposed to read. Grumbling aside, I’m familiar with this type of game/narrative, but I’ve never actually played one myself, so I was like, “Aiight, I can’t pass this up. Plus, it says it’s short, so.”

-looks to sky- The game lied to me.

Anyway, “Shade” started off chill and relatively melancholic. It progressively got… weird. Like, a good weird. Eerie weird. Time seemed to go, for me, slowly but quickly at the same time? Considering I spent two hours on it and it felt like nothing? And that ending. Wow. Wild stuff. I don’t wanna spoil anything, because you definitely have to play it for yourself, experience it on your own. Go forth, friends. (I linked it again. Just to save you the slight exertion of scrolling up. You’re very welcome.) And keep checking the to-do list.

{It’s funny, though. At one point, I think I got caught in some kind of inescapable loop and couldn’t progress in the game, so I caved and looked up a walkthrough. No shame in getting a little help!)

I’d love to go more into the other game mentioned in the article, Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern’s Façadeand how I know it, but I think that’s a topic for another post. Maybe my presentation? Probably my presentation. We’ll see.

 

“Twelve Blue”

Alright, hold on, I have notes for this. I’m already doing better than I did for the article. Probably because I knew the second I finished the required hour of reading, I would forget everything. Ç’est la vie. Ç’est mon mémoire terrible.

I can’t speak French.

Twelve Blue” is a series of hypertext stories broken into parts that all link to and interweave with each other. Clicking on this handy dandy lil Help link at the bottom of the main page reveals the existence of “two hundred and sixty nine links … among ninety six spaces.” Interesting. Slightly similar to the concept of the “stir fry text” in its randomization, but it’s more directed by the user and on a larger scale. Rather than a rapid intermixing of phrases and sentences that could really not make sense, you’re presented with chunks of a story that you have to piece together. If you’re patient enough, that is. I’m sure one day, given the right motivation, I’ll come back to it and try figuring it all out.

The visual aspects of it were intriguing. The first you see is this little friend:

Borrowed respectfully from here.

On the actual site, you can click on little sections of the image to take you to all the different parts of the story/stories. I’m wondering if the threads in the picture are actually reminiscent of how the stories flow and connect to each other. If so, then there are a lot of storylines that don’t meet… Reading it, it didn’t seem like that, so I’m gonna go with a resounding nah.

Anyway, as you maneuver through the links, a slice of the picture shows up on the side of the screen for you to click on if there are no hyperlinks on the actual page you’re reading.

Jumping back to the visuals, as I was reading I took note of something:

it’s like there’s a story, then a visual (often with a link) but then it jumps back into the story – the visual gives kind of a feeling, and maybe it’s what the story is supposed to be giving off? so it’s correcting your thought? or altering it ?

I probably won’t be able to find the exact page, but I remember there was a bit of story on one page, then a hyperlinked line depicting a girl holding a pearl or something, then it hopped back to the story. The story parts didn’t seem too descriptive, more thoughtful and about abstract concepts, but the hyperlinked line gave a clear picture that kinda made me stop and see it. Very interesting. Not sure what it means. But interesting.

I made some other notes as I read:

invisible links? how many have i missed? no, stupid, they’re links you’ve already clicked and just blend into the background.

interesting color choice then. symbolic?

i keep coming back to the same ones jdkflsj the pic slice on the side is my new best friend now ig

tab title changes with each new page !!! cool

i wonder if i can follow the actual story more easily if i alter the links

woAH OKAY TONE SHIFT WE WENT FROM POETIC TO SAILOR (aka me)

now i’ve got two picture slices on the side ?

Honestly, I could probably wax poetic for ages about this e-lit piece. Both storywise and coding-wise. Probably would have kept reading and exploring for far longer than the required hour and would have a lot more notes.

One note I do wanna touch on before I bring this lengthy post to a close is this: it’s interesting how the story comes together more like a scattered puzzle being filled in and not linearly as usual.

Now that, I like. I said earlier that I’ve always been a fan of non-linear storytelling, and this is what I mean. Sometimes you have authors who write specifically in a non-linear way, which I can appreciate. But with this, you have the option. If you’re careful, you could piece the story together linearly (at least I think so, if you figure out the patterns of the URLs or meticulously click along the threads in the picture, assuming that they represent the linear storylines……………..). Or, y’know, maybe you’ll be lost in this mess of a puzzle of a story. Which… could be the point of it, in a sense?

Ç’est la vie, I guess.

Welp! I think that’ll be enough for this post. It’s… pretty big already, haha, nearly 2k words? Heck, wish I could churn out fic chapters this easily.

Alrighty, last little thing: If you’re reading this on a dark brown/maroon-looking blog, I apologize. As I write this, I haven’t prettied-up my blog yet, so it looks kinda terrible. If it’s not gross-looking, though, great! Good on me for getting around to doing something productive.

See you in class, everyone!

–Masooch

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