“The O2 Tales” by Anna Pitt

Screen capture from “The O2 Tales” by Anna Pitt. A background of a drawing of a red train with only one white and blue door. A picture of a blonde woman is on the door that is white and blue, and another one in another window. Below the white door woman a text reads “The hedgefund Manager’s Wife’s Tale” and below the other woman is the text “The Lolipop Lady’s Tale”. There is a text between them reads “I used to go to a lot of concerts when I was in my twenties. I love the atmosphere, anything from a small pub gig to the huge stadiums.” There are a arrows below the windows and a strange picture in the middle of the screen shot of animals with only a bird’s head and legs.  Their feathers are black and their beaks are yellow.
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This charmingly handcrafted hypertext work is built upon the narrative framework of The Canterbury Tales, but in a completely contemporary fashion, using the Simon Cowell’s popular tv musical talent show The X Factor as the motivation for a pilgrimage to the O2 concert arena in London. The inviting hand-drawn train (reminiscent of Max Dalton’s art used in Wes Anderson’s films) uses its characters as an interface to learn about their motivations and interconnected stories. The background music consists of amateur performances of popular songs, of a quality that might give Simon Cowell abundant opportunity for a snide remark, but in this case fits the tone and aesthetics of the piece. The poem in the Prologue echoes Chaucer in its structure, but is cut from the same cloth as the music— offering lines that win readers over with enthusiasm and charm, as it does when it rhymes “telly” with “melée.”

For the most reading pleasure, leave any snarkiness at the door and be willing to sing along.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2010

Read more about this work at elmcip.

“Yes, really” by Katharine Norman

Open: “Yes, really” by Katharine Norman

This “fiction for three voices” is sent via e-mail to readers’ inboxes every five minutes until all seven mailings are delivered. This story is told using an epistolary style in which two characters (Josie and Doreen) are writing e-mail messages to a loved one and friend (respectively), and one character (Annie) whose stream-of-consciousness arrives as an e-mail. Annie cannot type or dictate because she is blind, deaf, mute, and mentally handicapped from birth— a “disabled resident” in the “C-block Special Care unit—” so as readers we need to be willing to accept these e-mails from her as a way to access her perspective. Her voice is the most poetic aspect of this work, presenting visually textured messages that contain both ASCii art and interspersed lines of highly metaphoric free verse.

Whether you read the e-mails as they arrive, or simply in order, the interconnected stories, situations, and perspective of each character will enrich the narrative, developing in directions full of irony, reversals of fortune, and changes in attitudes— including your own.

Yes, really.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2010

“Unravelled” by Spenser Wain, Zac Urness, and Kollin Branicki

Screen capture from "Unravelled" by Spenser Wain, Zac Urness, and Kollin Branicki. Background of two images of a man that is fragmented with words written in each fragment. Text: "LOVE" "HEALTH" "FINANCE" "RESIDENCE"
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This hypertext poem tells the story of a young man whose life unravels because of “one bad day.” The hypertext is structured to display four aspects of his life—love, health, finance, and residence— at different stages of deterioration. In the first stage, he seems to have it all: a relationship gone public via Facebook, a new house in a sunny tropical climate, an iPhone with whom he hears a message about needing further medical testing, and a $20,000 loan with a complete balance due at the end of the month. That financial situation is probably all that is needed to push anyone over the edge. I’m unsure what led to such a casual e-mail from a bank requesting full payment of what is probably a defaulted loan, but it’s hard to believe this situation happened in a single day. Perhaps losing his job should’ve been in the first node, so the narrative sequence is more logical. The casual, prosy diction of the “poem” nodes (identified as such in the title bars), along with their center-justified large fonts express the speaker’s voice in short units that evoke title headings more than stanzas.

Like “Chasing Pandora,” this work was included in the 2011 New Media Writing Prize student shortlist, and it shows a young generation’s worldview shaped by contemporary items and services, such as Facebook, banks, iPhones, and psychiatric medication, in which life moves at such an accelerated pace that a single bad day can throw everything into disarray.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2011

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“Hobo Lobo of Hamelin” by Stevan Živadinović

Screen capture from "Hobo Lobo of Hamelin" by Stevan Živadinović. Hobo Lobo and his dog walking through a wooded area of a village; two eyes stalk him from inside an old barrel. Text: "They had everything they could ever wish / for - with a healthy side-serving of strong moral / fibre - and yet their lives were not as fine and / dandy as they would've liked them to me."
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This comic strip narrative in prose and verse reinvents the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but with a character called “Hobo Lobo.” Reimagining the comic strip using Scott McCloud’s notion of the “infinite canvas” the comic goes beyond the traditional implementation of a two-dimensional strip. The innovative aspect is that he uses layers to produce a three dimensional parallax effect when the reader scrolls and rethinks the panel by centering layers on adjacent segments on the strip, as he explains in his Parallaxer tutorial. The effect of these layers and panel transitions enhances narrative continuity in panel transitions by replacing the comics gutter with the more cinematic mise-en-scène.

Enjoy this fun retelling of the folktale in all its layers: politics, images, social issues, technology, media, genre, and more, keeping in mind that you’ll notice different things depending on what angle you view it from.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2012

Read more about this work at ELMCIP.