Author Topic: Calypsis  (Read 7539 times)

Setherick

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Calypsis
« on: July 01, 2011, 09:20:39 PM »
I'm linking a hypertext novel that one of my colleagues at UWM is working on: http://calypsis.wikispaces.com/

Even though I know Trent, I would still recommend this if I ran across it on the open web. But I won't go on, I'll just see what you guys think.

(Related: Trent recently taught a CW class in game narrative where his students had to play an RPG set in the world he's designing for his novel and write stories based on their characters. The link to his class site is linked in the above link. Also, he read through all the world building materials that the RPPR crew has done to get ideas.)

"Something smart so that I can impress people I don't know." - Some Author I've Not Read

thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 04:02:48 PM »
Hey folks,

My name is Trent Hergenrader, the guy writing this online novel "Calypsis." Patrick kindly introduced me to these boards and pimped my work, all without a kickback. I'm a PhD candidate in creative writing and typically write stuff that's classified as science fiction, fantasy, and horror. If you're interested in my more traditional print fiction check out my work in the anthologies Federations and Best Horror of the Year #1.

It might interest you to know that this fictional world (a post-apocalyptic version of Milwaukee) was created entirely by a class of undergraduate students for a creative writing course entitled "Gaming, World Building, and Narrative." In the first third of the course we studied post-apocalyptic narratives across media, in the second part they populated a wiki with characters, items, and locations, and in the final third they created characters and explored the world via tabletop RPG sessions and wrote vignettes (1K words or less) describing a moment in their campaign. We used Vampire: The Masquerade as the system.

I was so impressed with their work that I wanted to write my own series of stories set in this world. I'm about 85% sure that Calypsis will wind up being my creative dissertation. This is an experiment in non-traditional publishing, intending to show how a self-published work can be of professional quality and generate interest via social media and word-of-mouth. Also all of the images on the site have been taken from Creative Commons-licensed works found on the Internet and altered via Photoshop filters.

Right now the novel is at about 16K words. I don't have any specific questions about it yet as I'm still focused on production. Once I hit 20K words (hopefully in the next week or so) I plan on doing a more comprehensive edit before I start on the next 20K. At this stage I would love to get some general impressions about the format, and you're invited (and strongly encouraged!) to leave feedback on the Discussion tabs for each page on the site. I'm also happy to get feedback or answer any questions here or via email at trent.hergenrader@gmail.com.

Patrick already linked the site below but I'll do so again: http://calypsis.wikispaces.com

My students' wiki (the source for a lot my writing) is here: http://rivertown.wikispaces.com

Thanks in advance!

Shallazar

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 04:21:49 PM »
As I begin my masters courses in CW at EMU this fall, I'll definitely be checking this out. Exciting work!

Whoo! And thanks to Patrick for bringing this to our attention!
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Setherick

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2011, 06:14:00 PM »
Trent - Can you post the link to the Prezi you made for your 223 class? I don't have it anymore.
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thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2011, 06:24:49 PM »
This is a link to the Prezi I used when I presented at the Games+Learning+Society 7.0 conference in Madison last month.

http://prezi.com/ql3jpv3g4r0r/gls-70-gaming-world-building-and-narrative/

(the class number is 236, by the way - introductory topics in cw)

Shallazar

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2011, 09:49:40 AM »
Doubly excited. Thanks for the infodump Patrick and Trent.
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thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2011, 12:11:42 PM »
Okay, the novel is now up to 20K words, or about 1/4th done, which seems about right to me in terms of plotting. I'm taking a short break from producing new material and will revise what's already up. At this stage I have some specific questions pertaining to navigation I'd like input on, for whoever is willing.

How do you feel about navigating the stories? Unlike earlier hypertexts that played up the fragmented nature of knowledge-building, I'm doing something a little different where each page functions as a discrete, self-contained unit. Do you have problems or troubles of understanding where to go next? The concept is that you could literally jump in at any page and have a satisfying reading experience, but we're culturally hardwired to prefer linear narratives.

Also, how do you feel about the links to the other wiki? I'm trying to link back there as much as possible to suggest the depth of the content on that site but I'm not sure if having some obvious things (like canned food or boxes of matches) helps or hinders. I could easily scale it back so only essential items linked back.

Again, *any* comments are appreciated. I'm working in the dark here and haven't gotten any feedback despite having between 50-90 unique visitors daily.  :-\

Setherick

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2011, 12:18:41 PM »
Story Comment: I like the self-contained stories because they are episodic enough to read as story arcs, but can stand alone.

Functional Comment: I think you should scale back the items hyperlinks and concentrate your hyperlinks on important places and people only. The items are interesting, but, unless they are a future item or drug like Jack, they are not really important to following the world.

Apocalyptic Comment: (I posted this on your FB, but I'm posting it here too.) One thing you might consider, particularly after the wake of the Japanese tsunami and Daichi meltdown, is what happens to all the American nuclear plants in the aftermath of the apocalyptic event. If not properly staffed to handle a shutdown and cooldown, the rods at a nuclear plant will boil off the water of the cooling ponds releasing immense amounts of radiation into the air. The reason I suggest this is that there are several nuclear plants within a few hundred miles of Milwaukee. Five in Illinois just south of the border (including three just outside of Chicago) and two in Wisconsin near Green Bay.

----


EDIT: You should research the improvised weapons that people are using in Iraq and Libya. There should be some linked articles to them in the Game Fodder thread on the RPPR forums, but Google will turn up more, faster.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2011, 02:51:33 PM by Setherick »
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Shallazar

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2011, 04:13:09 PM »
As far as reading goes, it'd be helpful if at the bottom of the page, there were links to the next part of the different paths.

In the style of wiki "references" you could even include the different color links. Having to go back to the pathways is not a huge problem, just a minor inconvenience.

Maybe short abstracts, or the what, when, where, who of the story could be included as well in the top part. If I'm setting out and just going to start reading, it helps if I have some idea of where a thing fits in with the rest of the stories.

And pairing down the items to "unique to the setting" items sounds great. Just as there are tons of "burned books" and other trash in fallout it is chore checking the significance of mundane junk. 
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Setherick

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2011, 07:07:42 PM »
In the style of wiki "references" you could even include the different color links. Having to go back to the pathways is not a huge problem, just a minor inconvenience.

Maybe short abstracts, or the what, when, where, who of the story could be included as well in the top part. If I'm setting out and just going to start reading, it helps if I have some idea of where a thing fits in with the rest of the stories.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I think you need to come with character and place "category tags" that redirect to pages that collect the various stories in chronological or character arc order.
"Something smart so that I can impress people I don't know." - Some Author I've Not Read

Setherick

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2011, 11:35:47 PM »
Also, here's a link to the Life After People wiki that talks about the nuclear power issue: http://lifeafterpeople.wikia.com/wiki/Nuclear_power_plants

The episode is a good one to watch in general if you can find it.
"Something smart so that I can impress people I don't know." - Some Author I've Not Read

thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2011, 01:42:09 AM »
Awesome. Great feedback and a huge thanks to you both.

I like the idea of having options at the bottom of every page, maybe three: the next chronological story (which would likely switch characters' POV), that character's next chronological story (which would likely skip other events), and then maybe the author's order (which might jump back and forth in time, like a traditional novel does).

I suppose I could offer six links and include all of the above, only with the previous stories rather than the next one.

One of my discontents with other hypertexts is how quickly they can feel aimless.  What I'm trying to offer that different is many different entry points and many different ways to navigate the story, and to make the vignettes satisfying reading without necessarily needing to go forward or backward at that moment.

The tagging issue is one I've thought about and why I'm strongly considering moving the work off wikispaces. The tags are really inflexible. You can only create a page based on one tag and the pages are automatically sorted alphabetically with no way to modify it (or at least without some serious hacking). For example, if you pull a page based on the "fiction" tag, then you get them listed in order of title. So if I had an "Erik" tag then there's no way to order them in any other way besides alphabetically based on the title. I thought about titling each story with a number but that's both a) aesthetically ugly, and b) clumsy.

Good feedback on the links too, and I'm in agreement. I suspected that linking to mundane things cluttered up the page too much.

I've also mulled a time stamp as a header. It's probably not clear, but there are some significant jumps in time (in the biggest, Utter Loss of Being takes places 16 years before Alessandra).

Patrick, I love the idea of bringing in more realistic concerns too. I probably won't get into the nuclear issues in this particular novel but my hope is that I can attract enough of a following to do a second one of these.

The other thing I would mention, to either of you, is that you should feel free to write stories of your own based on this world if you want and add to the Rivertown wiki. I have to keep Calypsis as a single-author work unfortunately (and I do mean unfortunately) or I can't use it as my dissertation.

Again, thanks so much for your feedback. It's tremendously helpful! Hope you're enjoying the work. These vignettes are pretty first drafty but I'll be tightening them up in the coming weeks.

thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 10:57:06 AM »
Just to let you know, I'm taking a short hiatus from adding new vignettes to the site. We're going on vacation and I won't have a reliable Internet connection. I'm planning on tightening the prose in the existing vignettes and thinking more about the structure.

When I met with my advisor, he also thought tagging the stories better would be key (which means I'll be migrating it from wikispaces at some point). He also suggested that the narration become less chronologically driven and more game-like, so that readers could either begin with a randomly selected story or could "find" stories by doing search strings. He basically wants more interactivity between the reader and text.

In short, the "final" project (whatever that is) will probably look a lot different than what you have been reading. Hopefully when I start experimenting with these alternate interfaces you'll still be around to give some feedback, having read the more traditional/chronological structure. What I want to avoid doing is writing a novel, chunking it to 1K-word bits, add some hyperlinks and be done with it. Having said that, I want it to be a pleasurable and not frustrating reading experience. Too many hypertexts wind up being dissatisfying reads, I think.

Anyway, thanks for all your input. I'll be back at in earnest around August 1.

Setherick

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 11:17:30 AM »
I agree with moving it off of wikispaces. Have you looked into Wordpress to see if it has an appropriate setup for your purposes? You should talk to Ross about Wordpress since he's used it to great success with the RPPR main site.
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thergenrader

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Re: Calypsis
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2011, 12:14:46 PM »
I'd thought about WordPress too since I'm very familiar with it. The key would be finding a good theme to use and it does have Comment and tagging features. Maybe I'll fuss around with that too...

It's good to think about this stuff at 20K words rather than 80K!