When I came across this piece of electronic literature on I <3 E-Poetry.com I was initially very excited, because I saw that it drew inspiration from a short story by Angela Carter that I love. Her story, “The Company of Wolves,” is a reworking of the traditional story of Little Red Riding-hood that spends the first three and a half pages beautifully describing the sinister wolves. Angela Carter does an amazing job of making the reader sense something ominous in the story before picking up on the familiar tale. She also manages to make the readers feel afraid of the wolves and sorry for them at the same time, through beautifully crafted lines such as “The long-drawn, wavering howl has, for all its fearful resonance, some inherent sadness in it, as if the beasts would love to be less beastly if they only knew how and never cease to mourn their own condition.” The story is twisted but wonderfully written, and ends in a somewhat strange sexual encounter between little red riding-hood and the wolf–who is described at the end as “tender,” suggesting that perhaps the display of love has tamed him.
Anyway, I went into exploring this work of electronic literature with the hope that it would be an interesting extension of her story story, or a similarly interesting adaptation of the original Little Red-Ridinghood story, but was sorely disappointed at what I found. There were no words in the program other than the initial “Once upon a not so far a way” that the “reader” clicks on. The plot would have been extremely confusing if I had not already known about the Angela Carter story. It begins with Little Red Riding-hood being handed a basket from her mom, then the “reader” clicks on a picture of a forest in order to shift to a scene with Little Red Riding-hood walking through a forest. She is followed by an animal that appears to be a raccoon, and then the scene changes to her being approached by boy with very hairy arms (who I know from the description is a boy/wolf).They don’t have much of an interaction other than looking at each other, and then little red riding-hood starts picking flowers and falls asleep in the middle of the forest.
The “reader” has the option of making her dream or just waking her up, and the dream is the most interactive portion of the story, but I was very confused as to the purpose/ what was happening during the dream. It dead ends at this scene (which I don’t understand at all) for a few moments until you hear an alarm clock beeping, and return to Little Red Riding-hood laying in the field.
The rest of the story moves very quickly, as the reader sees the wolf/boy approach the grandma, zoom in on her scared face, and then see little red riding-hood approach her grandma’s house. She finds the wolf/boy laying in the bed, and then the last scene is her laying on the bed. She appears to be pregnant (?) and the wolf creepily pulls up her eyelid as she is sleeping (or at least I hope she is sleeping and not dead).
My experience with this work of electronic literature was similar to seeing a movie made out of a good book. Something about another person’s visualization of words isn’t satisfying. I think that is the main reason why I am skeptical of electronic literature of this nature. Part of the experience of literature, mainly fiction and poetry, is the reader’s imagination. Nobody experiences texts the same way in their mind, and that is the beauty of it. The black and white words on a page of a book become transformed into a vivd world in the reader’s mind, and I do not think that process should be expedited by someone else creating those images for us. When the experience involves images already present on the screen, it reduces the possibilities associated with a given work literature. While I am a die-hard fan of print literature, I can appreciate the merit of some forms of electronic literature that craft words in a different or unique way, such as the words flashing across the screen at different paces. Yet even so, I believe that part of the craft of writing is creating the same reading experience only using words and punctuation. Perhaps the craft of writing is expanding to include other techniques such as this, and I am still willing to include those types of works in the genre of “literature,” but nevertheless I find it less impressive. However, when electronic literature takes the form of “RedRidinghood,” where it is more of a video game, I do not believe it even comes close to counting as literature.