March 27, 2008

Obsession of the moment: "The Reprover/Le Réprobateur"

The Reprover/Le Réprobateur, by François Coulon

Long-time readers will know that back when I was a creative writer myself (mostly in the 1990s), one of the forms I heavily gravitated to is the decidedly experimental one of hyperfiction; or that is, in the most simple terms possible, long-form stories that are somehow presented in a way that is different from the traditional Western way of presenting stories. So sometimes that means that the presentation itself is shuffled up -- think of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, for example, where instead of reading from the first page to the last in order, you actually jump around from back to front and back again -- while other times it means that the invisible three-act structure we're so used to is gotten rid of, with the storyline itself not following the usual "beginning, middle and end" that we're so comfortable with.

One such hyperfiction author, for example, is French artist François Coulon, one of CCLaP's readers and a fellow 39-year-old like me. (That's why François originally wrote, in fact, to wish me a happy birthday, which occurred earlier this month.) François happens to be the creator of a hyperfiction project called The Reprover (Le Réprobateur); I just got a chance to play around with it myself this week, in fact, and loved it so much that I simply had to make a mention of it here. Because to start with, The Reprover is no mere story told through existing technology; François and his friends in fact actually programmed a standalone application to run the project, with versions for both Windows and Mac, creating a much tighter and slicker experience than if trying to shoehorn this project into a browser window or the like. Because that's the second thing to know about The Reprover, is that it's highly experimental in nature, in a way I've literally never seen a hyperfiction artist work before; basically imagine a funny and obtuse short story, told through three visual images, a video, a poem and a witty title, but now with each of these elements being clickable and taking you to yet another causally-related story with its own title, poem, three images and a video. And now imagine being able to roll your mouse over each poem and get alternative text to appear, sometimes strengthening and sometimes distorting what the poem originally said, in a slightly different way over and over each time you roll your mouse. And now imagine the whole thing held together through a 3D table of contents, basically a giant polyhedron that you can spin in space to see how the various stories all obliquely connect to each other.

Whew! It's a great project, a time-sucking one, a story with so many playlike options that you can find yourself suddenly killing an entire afternoon with it; and then all this is merely helped, of course, by the expansive promotional website that's been created for it too, including these hilarious little videos by François full of that kind of bombastic absurdist humor that the French are so good at. ("It's art you can double-click on! It's literature meets electricity! We weren't drunk when we came up with this, we were creative!") I encourage you to stop by the site if you get a chance, check out all the free promotional material, and perhaps purchase a full copy of The Reprover yourself.

P.S. Curious as to how this project got its name? Well, apparently François and his friends were talking one day about how it is that they all seem to have lost that little voice inside of them, telling them when they were about to make a bad decision in life, and how great it'd be if you could simply hire someone to follow you around and be that little voice for you. That's what The Reprover is about -- a simultaneous history of Gildas Noblet, one such voice of conscience, the training he had to go through to become a reprover, and all the various situations in life where his help is needed.

Filed by Jason Pettus at 9:03 AM, March 27, 2008. Filed under: Design | Literature | Literature:Fiction | Movies | Profiles | Reviews |