Individual Work
We Prepare to Die

We Prepare to Die is a digital comedy narrative published by Alan Bigelow and written and directed by Earl Gray. It was published on its original platform in 2019 and was then published through The New River Journal in the fall of 2020. The narrative is created by group of individuals who produce web-based comedy in the means of videos, texts, memes, audio, interactive elements, and visual representations of social media produced together to create episodes. Anyone can access We Prepare to Die by clicking the link below or by browsing The New River Journal website. We Prepare to Die is the 6th episode in the series, which follows four main characters: Jordan, Cj, Karen, and Gabe as they learn of the impact of climate change and begin to prepare for the impending apocalypse. We Prepare to Die is made with HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, making it available and viewable on laptops, desktops, phones, tablets, and other devices. However, it is best for viewing on a laptop or desktop computer, as the larger screen allows the user to have a better viewing experience, the small phone screens make for smaller, sometimes warped, text, picture, and video. Each episode offers unique interactive opportunities for the users, using your cursor or touch screen device allows the user to be taken to different elements of the pages. These include pop-ups to games, quizzes, polls, and some questionnaires. As well, there are some witty fake ads and cutaways that are relevant to the situations within the episodes, that add an extra component to the episode to add to the symbolism.

Users press either the space bar to navigate through each page and element or, if using a touch screen device, can simply swipe the screen to interact with the episode. Through this, the users will see how each character is preparing for the inevitability that is the end of the world, each through different variations of humour. Within the last couple of decades, those who have either grown up with the creation and rise of the internet (millennials/zillenials) or, grown up with the internet completely at their disposal (Gen Z) seem to have been using various aspects of the internet to express themselves. A lot of the time, using humour as a coping mechanism for the parts in life that seem bad, sad and/or scary, which is exactly what users can expect when navigating through We Prepare to Die. With the users being able to interact with this digital narrative through the use of videos, texts, animations and more, the user is able to understand what the storyteller is trying to convey in a way that one simply cannot get from reading text in an article. Each element lends its hand into helping to tie the story together.

In her article Electronic Literature: What is it? Katherine Hayles focuses on the popularity of digital literature, surveying hypertext fiction, network fiction, interactive fiction, locative narratives, installation pieces, "codework," generative art and the Flash poem from the 1980’s and how it’s popularity has grown throughout the years. She states in her article that electronic literature is, in a sense, “a “hopeful monster" (as geneticists call adaptive mutations) composed of parts taken from diverse traditions that may not always fit neatly together” (Hayles, 2007). However, We Prepare to Die is a wonderful example of how these parts can, in fact fit neatly together, and shows how literature is actively progressing at the same pace as the technology we use. People in today’s day and age use social media on the daily and so making a digital narrative that mimics the ways in which we use social media and technology is an incredibly smart way to get people to interact with the literature. In that sense, I do not think I would associate electronic literature with a “hopeful monster” in the way that Katherine Hayles does.

As well, the interactive aspect of seen in the screenshots below, I think it is a very interesting way to keep the users engaged in the information within the literature. There are multiple games within the episode that encourage the reader to unscramble a word while a 30 second timer counts down to “death.” The user must use their cursor click and drag the letters to unscramble the word and when the word is right or the timer runs out, the user still “dies” as a comical way to show that death is inevitable, while drawing the user in on a personal sense as if to say that they have control over their death. We Prepare to Die provides a unique outlook on the idea of death and climate change, by pulling its audience in on an interactive and personal level, it can provide comedic relief on a subject that is generally deemed a negative subject.

Author statement: 
An ensemble web comedy using a mash-up of videos, texts, animations, memes, interactive elements, and social media. In this episode, can the group face the ultimate test?