“Storyland” is a digital narrative by Nanette Wylde that uses random combinations of characters and events to constantly reinvent a story. Published in Volume 1 of the Electronic Literature Collection in 2006, the work mocks socially accepted standards and behaviors, while simultaneously touching upon a variety of major themes. It achieves this dual effect through its structure, which provides different endings. Since this story is constructed by the random selection of characters and events from a pool of possibilities, it is unlikely that two readers will get the same story, making this experience unique to every visitor.
This computer-generated combinational story, is loaded by pressing the button begin, which loads a black screen and immediately starts playing the classical circus song "Entrance of the Gladiators," by Julius Fučík. The music captures the attention of the reader while flashing letters shine in different colors and spell the word “Storyland.”
Once the music ends the narrative begins to appear slowly, such that the reader can only see one event at a time. The story always begins with the introduction of a first character, which is sometimes a mystical being and other times a common individual. This character always has a great talent or gift, but his good-doing capabilities are constantly challenged by the introduction of the character’s great weakness. I will be providing examples of one random story to explain the composition of the narrative:
Then, time passes, sometimes it’s decades, sometimes centuries, a millennia, or even evolution in its entirety. Then the first character is introduced to a second character by association. This new character also shares the first character’s great weakness. However, the second character also has an extending weakness, which increases the destructive ability of the first weakness.
While the fist two characters are interacting with each other, a third character is introduced. This new character’s actions promote chaos and trigger the destructive behaviors of the first two character’s weaknesses; resulting in a variety of devastating, destructive, and humiliating circumstances.
In the end, the third character always has a strong connection towards the first character; this connection can be positive feeling, like desire or love, but most times it is a damaging affinity brought forward by the first character. In addition, the first character also has strong desires or abhorrence towards the second character.
This story could be said to have a never-ending circular progression, where the events occurring to the first character are advanced by the second character and then by a third character. This complete circle is also represented in the way this literary work is framed. The format of the story is structured to never have a proper end. With the “New Story” button at the bottom of the screen, another story starts all over again exemplifying that one event will always lead to another. Sometimes, the narrative, along with the circus themed presentation, evokes the uncanny because it depicts an environment that seems familiar, yet the it conceals the way in which the events occur, leaving the reader to wonder in darkness about the content and the contradictions composed in this strange story. In addition, this circular motion suggests that all things are connected to each other, and in relation all people are influenced by one another.
Daniela Ghiragossian was a student of Dr. Lisa Swanstrom for a course in Literary Theory taught at Florida Atlantic University in the Spring term of 2014.