Combinatorial Storyland

With it’s multi-colored, fun font title “Storyland” by Nanette Wylde instantly peaked my curiosity while browsing through the electronic literature collection. It is an electronic “combinatorial” story, “one of the oldest forms of digital writing.” Storyland provides randomly created stories that implement pop culture and stereotypes. There are endless possibilities to each story, providing various users with their own unique experiences. Upon pressing the “New Story” button, a narrative is created. According to Wylde, it is unlikely that two users will ever read an identical story.

Upon beginning the story, the user is introduced with a black screen, topped with randomly appearing, flashing, colorful letters that spell “Storyland.” This is accompanied with Circus music – well paired with a story based on randomization, since at a Circus you never know what you are going to see.

When the music stops, the users unique story begins. Plain white text in only a couple of lines at a time begins to tell a story. Whereas in some pieces of elit some mouse clicking is necessary to keep things rolling, the user does not have to click for the lines to continue, they just come on screen gradually until the story is complete. The stories are very simple and short. Each time you finish a story and click the “New Story” button, the circus music and flashing letters begin again. Once the new story is created, it follows the same pattern and appears gradually on screen. Each time, the lines follow the same routine: 2 sentences, a line break, 1 sentence, a line break, 2 sentences, line break, 2 sentences, line break, 1 sentence, line break, 2 concluding sentences. Many of the randomly created narratives can be a bit confusing to read because the lines are extremely vague. This uncertainty and lack of detail is probably what provides the possibility of story randomization, so almost any word or line would be able to somehow find a place in a completely different story.

In contrast to the Circus music that proceeds each story creation, what most may consider a happy sound, the created stories were usually sad. The created stories themselves are somewhat similar to circus sideshows- always full of featured strangeness and abnormalities. Storyland is a very intriguing piece of electronic literature. The strange, short narratives and constant availability of brand new stories at the simple click of one button, the only way to navigate, make it very interesting to spend time clicking through.

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