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Perfect Touchscreen Fiction at our Fingertips

Appreciate the technology but to get lost in the story

PRY, by Tender Claws

The concept of a digital story isn’t a new one to me as a child of the 21st century. I remember being younger and playing interactive games on our old desktop. At the time, I wasn’t able to be impressed by the creativeness behind the games and activities that went along with the story, nor was I able to grasp the concept of how literature was starting to evolve. However, after experiencing the novella-app hybrid PRY, I look back at those simple computer games fondly, acknowledging the history of interactive stories that PRY and all future interactive stories have.

PRY takes a different approach to the interactive stories than what we’ve covered in class. PRY isn’t like reading a story where you had the option to play a side game that illustrated a point or watch a short video that explained a scene or even like playing a video game where if you wanted you could take the time to read the journal in that one room that gives a bit of backstory to a character cough cough Gone Home. The creators of PRY utilize the touch screen of iPads and iPhones in order for readers to experience what the main character of the story is doing, whether it be prying open their eyes and seeing what James is seeing or delving deeper into his subconscious mind.

Not only does PRY bring a visually stunning world to the reader’s literal fingertips, it contributes an intriguing story as well. PRY is about a Gulf War vet, James. It explores James’ past with his friends Jessie and Luke while also giving glimpse of James’ childhood and family. It’s hard to describe what someone will learn about these characters. In order to learn the clear picture of what happened to James, the reader has to pry into the story. I found it particularly interesting playing the braille section of the story as it offered a brief glimpse of what it would be like to be blind, sliding my finger across the words in order to play them and the subsequent video montage.

It can be frustrating for some to not have the full story once they go through the app, but for others, like myself, the process of approaching the chapters a different way to gain new information is one that can be very appealing. Readers aren’t spoon fed information on what is going on or what happened in the past. They have to seek out answers and reread chapters to make sure they discovered everything available to them.

While that option doesn’t sound like the easiest way to go about reading a story, the creators of PRY highly recommend going through the chapters multiple times in order to find all the information available in them. The plot was intriguing enough for me to want to discover all of James’ secrets on my own, even without the encouragement of the creators.

When someone experiences a story like PRY, it’s easy to be swept away by the technological feat it is for literature.However, if a reader goes into PRY just looking for an app to play on, they’ll be highly disappointed. The key to enjoying PRY is to appreciate the technology but to get lost in its story.

I give PRY a B+

 

Reviewed by,

Nick Norton

 

Works Cited

PRY, [Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman], Tender Claws, 2015, Novella App

US Armed Forces. Desert Storm. 10 Aug. 2014. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia. Web. 26 Mar. 2017

Charlie Brown has nothing on these Blockheads

Something you’ll finish playing in less time than it took me to write this review.

Thirty Flights of Loving Review (audio + text)

I decided to put the review into an audio-format in order to resemble what other, big name video game reviewers are doing. Just in case you want to follow along with me, I have included the text of the review along with the audio in the linked word document.

Works Cited

Gravity Bone, [Brenden Chung], Blendo games, 2008. Video Game

Thirty Flights of Loving, [Brenden Chung], Blendo games, 2012. Video Game

Keirle, Nick. Cop chase scene. 21 Feb. 2013. Haruspex Games. WordPress. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Mapping Legends of Vancouver

A tourist in my own city

I decided to do a digital map of Legends of Vancouver stories “Siwash Rock“, “Deadman’s Island“, and “The Lure in Stanley Park” co-written by Pauline Johnson and Chief Joe Capilano.

Here is the link to the Digital Map.

I chose to do the digital map format because I believe it excels at emphasizing the importance of place, a topic touched upon briefly in lecture but one that had a profound impact on my thinking about the story. Never had I felt so privileged to live in Vancouver than after having read some of the passages out of Legends of Vancouver. The unknown yet fascinating stories of some of Stanley Park’s most popular monuments and attractions gripped me from the get-go and inspired me to visualize how Johnson and Chief Joe Capilano must have explored it all together.

In an attempt to recreate their exploits on foot I plotted out a course from the Cathedral Trees (A), to Siwash Rock (B), concluding at Deadman’s Island (C).

Within each stop on the map I included several descriptive quotes which outline both the historical legends as well as the physical appearances of the landmarks. Contrasting Chief Capilano’s culture-infused historical recollections and Johnson’s grounded analyses of each area provides a mental image that pays respect to First Nation legend as well as provides scope to the larger than life monuments scattered throughout Stanley Park.

I also included with each landmark two images, the first for each being a black and white still from the late 1890’s/early 1990’s and the second being a fully coloured picture from present day. I did this to demonstrate the dramatic change that took place over 100 years, with new scenery and the addition of tourist-friendly paths and shops, but also to illustrate that each landmark has been shown the respect it deserves. Each have been relatively untouched in the commercialization of Stanley Park with the seawall riding the boundary of Siwash Rock and Deadman’s Island, and with the construction of a hiking trail from the seawall to the Cathedral Trees.

I feel incredibly privileged to live in Vancouver not simply because of how hard it is to find a home here, but because our land is so rich in culture and history. Looking back at my first impressions of these landmarks compared to how I see them now, I am blown away by how I could have gone this long without knowing of their legends. Upon reading Pauline Johnson’s and (uncredited) Chief Joe Capilano’s book Legends of Vancouver it is safe to say I feel like a tourist in my own city.

Works Cited

Johnson, E. Pauline. Legends of Vancouver. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1913. Print.

Harvey, Al. Stanley Park Totem Poles. 2017. West Coast Sightseeing. Grayline. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Black Box Review

A time when twitter was used for more than presidential tantrums

By, Nick Norton

Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box” gives us a thrilling spy tale set in the near future, delivered from the perspective of an undercover citizen spy. Her mission is to infiltrate the home of a “powerful … violent and ruthless” terrorist and extract confidential information using seduction as well as various technological upgrades implanted in her body (Egan, 4).

When “Black Box” was released in 2012, it received critical acclaim as one of the first full-length short stories to be published and delivered entirely on Twitter. The utilization of this new medium was undoubtedly a ploy to attract new readers. Starting May 24th at 8 PM, Egan released one tweet per minute, for one hour, for ten days straight. At the time this must have been seen as a truly groundbreaking method of presentation and was probably quite engaging to take part in the viewing. How nifty, a story crafted through tweets that anyone can access for free. However, seven years later, the novelty of this method has more than worn off. I read the story entirely on twitter, and boy do I regret it. The tweet excerpts are incredibly jarring to read continuously and the occasional ad that popped up in-between posts did not exactly add to the experience. Egan’s method does not so much encourage the reader to fill in any plot holes, it practically forces them to. The story starts with the citizen spy already on her mission, skipping any backstory entirely, not to mention leaving out why she is on the mission in the first place. What I did enjoy about reading in the twitter format was that I could see which of the tweets other people had favorited and retweeted, as well as commented on. This added an unexpectedly modern touch to the reading, as with most paperback books the reader is scolded for ‘commenting’ on the pages of the story.

Aside from my gripes about the format and structure of the story, “Black Box” is actually pretty entertaining. The pacing is noticeably fast and action packed from the get-go, as Egan wastes no time introducing the reader to the thrilling mission of the ‘beauty.’ The action sequences are entertaining as well as engaging, as the reader gets it all through the calculated and robotic narration of this badass, volunteer spy. The plot itself wasn’t too hard to follow; its spy elements we’ve seen countless times before. Be it stylishly through James Bond or groovily through Austin Powers, infiltrating the bad guys base to steal information to prevent him from ruling the world is nothing groundbreaking. Where I found this story stood out was in what I believe to be one of its central themes: the objectification of women. Through its reference to the female citizen spies as “beauties,” and the routine usage of seduction in order to obtain information, it makes me wonder if Egan wants us to view the citizen spy as more human than robot, or perhaps more robot than human, the latter of which would lends itself to the idea of her being an ‘object.’

Overall I would give Jennifer Egan’s twitter fiction, “Black Box” a C+. The story itself is enthralling as well as emotional but it is bogged down by the jarring twitter format and overused spy tropes, ultimately preventing it from being a true masterpiece in modern storytelling.

 

Works Cited

Egan, Jennifer. “Black Box.” The New Yorker, Condé Nast Publications, 4 June 2012, newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/black-box-2. Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

Naste, Conde. Manarola. 2017. Traveler. Conde Naste. web. 26 Mar 2017

Critically Interpreted/Amateurly Reviewed

Ahh, young love

Your Place and Mine by Nicci Gerrard and Sean French (AKA Nicci French)

“Your Place and Mine” is an intriguing romance that provides a unique view of a budding relationship from the perspectives of the two involved. From the get go we are introduced to Laurence and Terry. Laurence is portrayed as a relatively normal guy who works a day job and has recently started seeing a new girl; Terry. She on the other hand, starts the story off as a fairly normal girl, kind of clingy yet still sane. However, over the course of 5 days Laurence has cheated-on and dumped Terry. Terry’s retaliation the day following the break-up Terry is a plot twist to say the least.

Some of the major themes explored in the story are all themes related to romance, such as love, lust and heartbreak. It also dips its toe into exploring gender stereotypes by portraying Terry as a clingy leech and upon heartbreak, a murderer. Whereas Laurence is portrayed as a remorseless cheater, whom only sees women as objects and has no real interest in long term commitment. These portrayals are nothing groundbreaking but they serve to provide a Hollywood-esque sequence of events.

The narrative structure of the story is a little difficult to comprehend, as it never establishes what forum the speakers are utilizing. My original thought was that they were writing passages into a diary or a blog, that was until Laurence said: “All right, all right, I can see the eager look in your eyes” which serves to break the ‘fourth wall’ in an attempt to speak to the reader directly (French, 2). The medium works well enough to portray the story, but leaves many questions unanswered, such as; why are the speakers acknowledging that there is a reader when they have no clear audience?

What I hope is intentional of the format is that the language and presentation of text feels very cold and almost emotionless as the story progresses. This compliments the theme of heartbreak quite well, as it is noticeable by the end of the story that the text excerpts are getting shorter and shorter, lacking the emotion they once had. This nicely mirrors the relationship as Laurence and Terry find themselves growing apart.

Overall, “Your Place and Mine” leaves much open to interpretation, as a lot of context is left out of its entries, and the forum to which the speakers are speaking into remains unknown. Nevertheless it forces you to use your own imagination to fill in the plot holes and it gives you an opportunity to watch a relationship unfold from two sides as opposed to most stories that only give you access to one.

I have no problem recommending this story to any active readers who enjoy a good romantic piece, just don’t expect to find anything too new plot-wise.

 

Works Cited

French, Nicci. “Your Place and Mine.” We Tell Stories. Penguin, 2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. <http://www.wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week4/archive/day2&gt;.

Finot, Christophe. Canal de Bourgogne. Apr. 2005. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canal_de_Bourgogne_08.jpg

Return to Sender

Pictures are worth a thousand words

The Reunion by John Cheever

Charlie’s Postcard

I chose to use a postcard format because I believe postcards excel at capturing a moment in time, are able to express emotion, and set a scene using only a picture and a brief dialogue. Another reason I chose to use a postcard was to illustrate the extreme shift in opinion that would have undoubtedly occurred before and after Charlie met up with his father.

The postcard expresses extreme optimism and a son who is truly eager to meet his father for the first time since his mom divorced him. “I wish that we could be photographed. I wanted some record of our having been together” Charlie said early on in the story (45). This is of course, before Charlie learns his father’s true nature. This exerpt clearly expresses the hopefulness and joy the reunion had brought Charlie in his first moments with his estranged father.

Whereas upon meeting up and crawling between restaurants, failing to actually eat any lunch but succeeding in making a lot of people’s days worse, Cheever expresses Charlie’s disappointment with the final line of the story: “‘Goodbye, Daddy,’ … and that was the last time I saw my father” (45). Leaving the story off on this bleak note solidifies the notion that Charlie is disappointed with the encounter with his father and goes as far to say that he never even bothers to see his father again, let alone write him another postcard.

Works Cited

Cheever, John. The Reunion. New York: New Yorker, 1962. PDF. The Reunion PDF

Webster, Ed. Patrick Subway Station. 3 Feb. 2012. Wikimedia Commons. Wikipedia. Web.     15 Feb. 2017 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Partick_subway_station_train_interior.jpg&gt;

Mary had a little Lamb

Some hair, some blood and some charm.

Lamb to the Slaughter – By, Roald Dahl

It was a quiet Thursday night at the police station, Noonan and I were getting rather bored sitting around twiddling our thumbs. The mood quickly changed with a phone call from Mrs. Maloney saying her husband, one of our senior detectives, Patrick Maloney, had been murdered. We rushed over to the residence immediately, eager to get to work.

Upon entering, my foodie senses were tingling as I detected the scent of lamb, one of my favourite meats. I couldn’t let the guys at our precinct know, but I’m secretly a big time food blogger with a passion for home-cooked meals.

We proceeded with our investigation but to no avail. We were unable to track down the murder weapon, not that I could focus anyways with the smell of lamb driving me crazy.

We were about to head back to the station when Mrs. Maloney made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, she proposed we eat the lamb she was cooking for Patrick. By far the highlight of my night.

She served us lamb leg with a side of Idaho potatoes and peas. Absolutely exquisite plate presentation and execution. The meal was paired with a dark whiskey, which I personally wasn’t a fan of (if it were my dinner I would have paired it with a fruitier red wine). For the lamb, it was very well done, slightly overcooked but still palatable. Mary encouraged us to eat it all and we effortlessly did. However, I found with some portions of my lamb it was extra bloody, which was quite odd, especially for an overcooked leg of lamb. Not to mention there were some fine dark hairs present on the skin of the leg, which was even more bizarre as I know nobody would cook lamb with fur still on the leg.

Aside from a poor drink pairing and some noticeable blemishes on the lamb, it was a lovely meal, and I would gladly eat here again.

3.5/5 Stars

On a side note, I hope we’re able to find the murder weapon that killed Detective Maloney. It would be a real shame to leave his murder unsolved.

Works Cited

Dahl, Roald. Lamb to the Slaughter. Vol. 207. New York: Harper’s Magazine, 1953. ProQuest. 2003. Web. 14 Feb. 2017. <http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/docview/1301547458/fulltext/D28F2AB2363541B0PQ/1?accountid=13800&gt;. 
Salted rosemary lamb with fennel and garlic boulangere pot. Apr. 2009Delicious Magazine. Audience Media. Web. 14 Feb. 2017