Life of Fly by Alan Bigelow was on the shortlist for the winner of the main prize for the 2014 New Media Writing Prize. It is an untraditional interactive fiction in that the reader does not have to enter in commands to continue, but instead uses the spacebar or arrow keys for navigation throughout the story. However, there are interactive elements to the story including clickable areas. In addition, Bigelow includes a lot of visual and audio stimulations to accompany the writing. The story is in the form of an interview between a radio host named Susan, and a housefly named FLY, and the reader can either pretend to be the housefly, or view the story from a third person perspective. Personally, I read the story from a third person perspective since Bigelow does include gestures that the housefly does in brackets.
Throughout the story, Bigelow plays on the word “fly” and so the first interview question Susan asks is not what it is like to be “a fly” but instead, what it’s like “to be FLY,” meaning what’s it like to be him. FLY responds with how it’s not so great because he is trapped inside, which is a problem specific to flies or other insects. What’s interesting about that first question is that the way in which FLY answers could have easily been a answer for the question of what is it like to be “a fly” in general, but it also works for what it’s like to be him. When Suans asks FLY to elaborate, he then goes into what it’s like to actually be a fly in general. FLY also makes a pun saying that there are the typical “fly-on-the-wall” advantages to being a fly. A fly on the wall is an idiom that refers to someone who observes their surrounds while not being directly involved, and FLY is doing that, but is also literally a housefly on a wall inside a human’s house.
Eventually FLY runs into an issue on his end, and has to leave the phone line for minute. While FLY is away, Susan promotes the FLY’s online artwork, which is where the visuals and audio come into play. FLYart is interactive and also has a deeper meaning to it. Looking at the digital art from FLY’s perspective, it seems to represents the massacre that is happening in the world of the flies (house human beings all over are swatting and killing flies) and informs the reader on facts about flies. We also learn that FLY is very active in the media. He tweets, has a Facebook, his fans post about him on Plurk (a micro-blogging social networking site), one of songs was even recorded, and he has even appeared on TV.
Much like other celebrities, FLY uses his fame to send messages to the public. During his interview he actually says several facts about flies like how houseflies originated 65 million years ago in the Cenozoic Era. In this answer Bigelow is not only developing FLY as a celebrity character but is using him as a scientific example of a species that has been on Earth much longer than human beings. In a way, FLY should be famous because he is part of a species that has withstanded the test of time and natural selection. FLY also represents all houseflies, or the “99%” with his song “A Song for the Working Fly” (which is played for readers). In the song, flies are personified to the extent where the lyrics reflect lyrics that could be in a song about average working human beings. However, when asked to comment on the idea of the 99% FLY responds with that houseflies are actually the 1% because that’s how much they count to humans. FLY is pointing out that humans do not see houseflies as anything but nuisances that don’t seem to serve any greater purpose, but that impression is wrong and that flies are important in the world.
Susan then asks FLY more personal questions and FLY’s answers are definitely personified but also have real facts about houseflies in them.
Further along in the interview, Susan cannot get a hold of FLY so we get to see some of his friends and learn about them, and we get to see more of his artwork. One piece is a parody of a scratcher and a religious text where you have to click around, or hold down the cursor and move on the blank screen to reveal the prayer underneath. In the prayer FLY is the god.
Susan begins to ask FLY political questions regarding world problems, religion, etc. Bigelow uses this plot point to insert what seems to be his own commentary on politics.
FLY and possibly Bigelow give a solution to how we (humanity or all creatures) can solve the problems in world, and that solution is love. FLY even wrote a song called “Love is everything” (which is played for the reader). So, both FLY and perhaps the author are calling upon the readers to respect the world we live in everything in it because we all have to live together anyways.
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