Individual Work
The Forever Club

Electronic literature is defined as a genre of literature in which the works are only created for digital devices. Electronic literature is created from computation and only exists in a digital space. In other words, electronic literature is literature that cannot be replicated onto print as it consists of digital elements. Digital literature requires the reader to engage with, experience, and make use of the text through a digital means such as touch and/or sound. Alan Bigelow and Earl Gray’s The Forever Club is an exquisite experience which cannot be compared to that of being a work of literature in print format. Bigelow’s précis of this work of electronic literature is that it is a text built with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. The Forever Club is a web-satire which consists of several interactive elements for the reader to engage with. The main component of the work are the interactive episodes that are created in order to tell the story. Bigelow tells us, “In addition to the characters’ narrative lines, as revealed through videos, audio clips, landscape backgrounds, visual dialog, and the characters’ constant interactions with their phones, the episodes offer further opportunities for interactivity from the audience. Clicking (or touching) pop-up elements on the page lead to hidden elements. Games, quizzes, questionnaires, polls, write-in functions for the audience, and interactive messages from the Director also appear within the episodes. In addition, fake ads, cut-away gags, and other elements provide layered nuances to the storyline and symbolic resonance for the work.”
Earl Gray, in his director notes, shares his experience about creating this satirical web-series. His work is influenced by an interaction he has with a man at a bar. He shares that the man’s friend had slept with his mistress and the both of them started to wrestle on the floor until the man punches his friend in the face then leaves him there. He then screams at his friend saying their friendship is over. The event left Gray to ponder upon the question “Should friends ever end like this? Shouldn’t there be a secret code, some forgiveness phrase (like “No problems” or “Have a nice day”) and suddenly everything is back to normal, we’re friends again, all hard feelings put aside?” He then thinks about a club named “The Forever Club” which is a safe space for friends. Regardless of what the friends do or what they go through, they will always forgive each other, stay friends forever, and always stay connected. Since the man gave him the idea for this project, he decides to treat him to several drinks. The rest of the directors notes shares the author’s planning and thoughts as he works through writing the story. The story can be connected to our current times, living in a day and age where there is a global pandemic and everything is being shifted online. Majority of the story has to do with the friends interacting with one another online through text. The story reminds us of the importance of physical interaction and what it means to stay connected to our close ones. This is especially portrayed in episode 4 when the friends decide that they will go off of their social media accounts for a week. One of the friends has a very hard time not being able to talk to any of the friends and so he spam texts them, emails them, and calls them in an effort to get their attention. The story also shares some connection with anti-bullying. The first two “laws” of the club are: (1) All club members are friends forever, and (2) A friend puts the needs of other friends above all other needs except where such needs conflict with the first law. The friends are seen to be always helping one another and sticking together. Should any conflict between them arise, all friends come together in solving the issue. This is shown in episode 1 when one of the friends goes missing and all friends come together in solving the case of where this friend was last seen. This is also shown in episode 2 where two friends are in a competition and a fight breaks out. All friends come together in breaking the fight, but make sure to give the one friend who started the fight some sort of light punishment, and the reader is given the choice of what punishment to give to this friend.
The Forever Club is the perfect example for being a work of ergodic literature and interactive fiction. Both are similar, however the definition of ergodic literature slightly varies. The definition of interactive fiction is limited to a form of literature that requires interaction, however ergodic literature is defined as literature that requires special effort to navigate. Damien Walter in his article titled I tell you, ergodic is the future of fiction states, “Ergodic literature is defined as requiring non-trivial effort to navigate. If a traditional novel requires trivial effort to navigate – simply reading the words in the order written – then an ergodic text is handled in ways that demand greater effort from the reader.” Gray’s work requires the reader to navigate through the story using the right arrow key to navigate through the pages of the story and also to make each text message between the friends to appear one by one on the screen. He also requires readers to use their mouse to click through certain buttons that appear on the page. Dragging the mouse was also required in one of the games within the story that was a word scramble. Audio is also the main component of this story as there are video and GIF pop ups. The videos are a huge part of the overall narrative as they narrate the story but also give the reader certain clues as to what may be coming up next in the narrative. Moreover, Gray’s work is also a hypertext narrative in that write-in functions are required of the reader too in order to make certain choices.
The Forever Club is a form of electronic literature that if wanted, could have been replicated in print, but it would strip the work away from its interactive elements that make the work all the more enriching, engaging, and which provides it with depth and limitless fun for the reader. This piece of electronic literature is an amazing piece for those who love choice stories as it not only has the reader make choices, but has even more interactive elements from that of a traditional choice or twine story. This work can also be used in computer science classrooms and digital humanities as it would better help students understand and appreciate the inner workings of the technology behind such works.