“Cyberqueen” by Porpentine Heartscape was created in Twine and explores the relationship between human and machine through a series of dialogue, description, and hyperlinked choices made by the reader. This is a text-based narrative which consists of green and white text on a black screen and uses different font styles to indicate thoughts, dialogue, and available hyperlinks. While much of the forward movement relies on the interaction between the reader and the hyperlinked words, there are parts of the story where one click from the reader results in the population of multiple lines or screens of text at varying paces that are beyond the reader’s control. Through the creative use of punctuation and paragraphing, there are elements of both poetry and prose visible throughout the story.
This piece successfully creates a sense that the machine is in control rather than the reader through the pacing of the text population. In addition, through vivid descriptions that suggest drowning or suffocation, such as “Nostrils clogged, you gag, hack up nutrifluid clots,” the piece also creates a visceral reaction in the reader who is being directly addressed here. In fact, the final screen of the story contains a list of influences on the piece, one of which is Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” and this is felt throughout the piece as the machines surrounding the narrative are constantly invading and manipulating the body of the protagonist which is directly aligned with the reader both through interactivity as well as the narrative itself. The story begins with a single word – “wet” – which must be clicked to advance the story. From here, the story places the reader into the narrative by using direct addresses “You thrash drunkenly about...” and descriptions “Everything tastes...” This continues throughout the story as the reader is moved from one scenario to another and directly addressed by the cyberqueen who admonishes and directs the actions of the reader.
While many aspects of the piece may feel restrictive to the reader, it also offers opportunities for defiance and expressions of sexuality through the choices that are provided to the reader. There are images of sexual taboos, including incestuous connections through references to “mommy” as well as references to BDSM practices. Filled with images of bodily fluid, the manipulation of various body parts, and the integration of wiring and metal into the organic material of the body, this piece offers connections to images of the alien, the insect, and the cyborg. Through the use of vivid imagery, varied text population speeds, and mixed text styles, this piece creates a grotesque narrative that continues the science fiction quest to understand what the integration of technology into the human body might mean as well as the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.