Nanette Wylde’s Storyland (Version 2)

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Nanette Wylde’s Storyland (Version 2) is a computer-generated combinatorial story published in 2004. With a click of a button, the viewer is shown a blank, black screen. Multicolored letters appear individually at the top of the screen in a title arc. If the sound is on, the viewer hears a short section of shortened subsection of Louis-Philippe Laurendeau’s Thunder and Blazes (1910). The music, like the text, is repurposed. The original composition, composed by Julius Fučík, was intended to be a military march. Laurendeau’s version is most commonly recognized as circus music. The combination of the flashing letters and the circus music creates joyful atmosphere, which is quickly eliminated by the appearance of the text. As seen above, the story generated by the computer consists of two sentences, followed by a line break, one sentence, followed by another a line break, two sentences, followed by another line break, two sentences, another line break, one sentence, a line break, and two concluding sentences. The stories, which are randomly generated, are rather sad in comparison to the atmosphere set up by the introduction.

Each story is short and contains elements of popular culture. Each story also looks like a seventh grader wrote it. The first, third, and fourth paragraphs introduce the characters. An event occurs in the second and fifth paragraphs. The last paragraph involves all of the characters. Elements of popular culture are used repetitively. No two readers will read the same stories. The piece uses these elements to mirror how our literature consists of information that has been used and reused to create new work. Every story is different, despite the fact that the plot was made up of stereotypes.

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The program in itself is a basic form of digital writing. The story being told is simple. The combinatorial form has been done before. The thrill of the experience is in the performance of the piece. Storyland is a digital narrative that utilizes music to the reading experience. The stories are complete at the most basic of levels. Unlike some of the other electronic literature that we have read, the text in this piece is simple and complete. You can click New Story or stop right there. Starting a new story is starts with the music and the flashing letters every single time. The experience repeats itself again and again. It draws an interesting parallel to an actual circus performance. The outside package looks happy and fun. The actual content is morose. The stories don’t elicit the same emotions that the introduction does.

I was drawn to this piece because of its simplicity. What I found fascinating was how that simplicity could be as eyecatching as some of the more complex pieces that we have read in class. I didn’t have to click for every new line. The next paragraph would appear on the page. Unlike Stephanie Strickland’s Vniverse or Stuart Moulthrop’s Hegirascope, the words did not flash by before I finished reading. It was my choice to click New Story.

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2 Responses to Nanette Wylde’s Storyland (Version 2)

  1. epiratequeen says:

    I’m actually more drawn to the language used here than the piece’s construction. Lines like “a self-absorbed princess practiced positive thinking” are blunt enough to be ironic, and even though the stories are randomly generated, there is a clear, unique tone in the examples you give. I think the linguistic choices contribute to the piece’s commentary on storytelling, but they also make it fun to read.


  2. 1ady1azarus says:

    I checked this out too, actually, because… bright colors in the thumbnail with a contrasting dark background. And then I heard circus music and I was like, alright, I’m sold.
    But seriously, I liked the disconnect between the circus music and the sad stories. It kind of plays on that popular culture notion that people who work at a circus, while they must appear happy in the act, lead really sad lives behind doors, constantly being uprooted and forced to put on a freak show for the amusement of others.
    I was also struck by the format of the stories. While of course they are stories — the title insists — the line breaks made me think of them as poems.


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