“At Nightfall, the Goldfish” by Melody Mou Peijing is a relaxing and thought-provoking interactive digital story, and an example of hypertext fiction. The piece begins with the story’s title in hypertext, which upon clicking brings the reader to a new screen with five character names. All five characters have lines that connect them. The reader unlocks a poem by clicking on each character's name. The poem is a collection of keywords from the character's story; the story is revealed in full by the reader moving their cursor over each keyword. Once a story is unlocked, its keywords appear back on the home screen with the character names. After unlocking all five stories, the short keyword poems now exist on the home page in the shape of a circle that connects all five characters (see screenshot below).
The five characters- The Goldfish, The Young Boy, The Flower Shop Owner, The Angler, and The Neighbor- are all connected through the same event: the death of The Young Boy’s goldfish. The story, in Mou’s words, is about life and reincarnation (Mou, 2021). The narrative is symbolic of life, highlighting how many lives exist all at once, but despite being separate entities, are all constantly interacting with one another and are ultimately sharing one mutual existence. The story’s non-linear structure also suggests that all five of these characters are actually the same soul, reincarnated several times. Mou mentions the inspiration that metempsychosis had on the story in their “About” page . The characters all share a similar feeling of grief, further suggesting that they are all the same character in different timelines. The reader has the choice to begin the story with whatever character they choose, as none of the individual storylines appear until their corresponding character’s name has been selected.
The interface uses a shader that creates a ripple in water wherever your cursor moves. The background of the website is also a calming blend of colours, which, in addition to the soft ripples in the water, makes for a very relaxing experience. Water connects all of the characters to each other, and is also a metaphor for the circle of life (Mou, 2021). The significance of Mou's design, and more on the poetry itself, is discussed in more detail here . You can access the narrative for free from this page as well, by clicking on the title’s hypertext link at the top of the page. Alternatively, the poem can be accessed for free from the online journal “The New River: A Journal of Digital Art and Literature” where it is featured on page 3 of their website.
This poem’s non-linear narrative takes it beyond typical literature, and travels even further beyond expectations by incorporating technology and the use of interactive hypertext. This story won Mou a New Media Writing Prize in 2021 for its creativity, interactivity, good storytelling, and “innovative use of new (digital) media” (One to One Development Trust, 2022).
This entry was composed as a part of Dani Spinosa’s course, ENGL 4309H: Digital Adventures in English, at Trent University in February 2022.
Mou, M. (2021). At Nightfall, the Goldfish. At Nightfall, the Goldfish. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from https://thenewriver.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/Spring%202021%20Full%20Pi...
One to One Development Trust. (2022, February 1). FAQs. New Media Writing Prize. Retrieved February 13, 2022, from https://newmediawritingprize.co.uk/faqs/