This page is aimed at reading groups (also known as book groups) or other groups of readers who are interested in discussing digital fictions in detail. The material can also be used by individual readers who want to think about digital fiction in greater depth.
Below you’ll find some recommendations and also some specific discussion questions for each text. In addition, we’d also suggest thinking about how each text utilizes the digital medium to create a particular kind of reading experience and/or to explore its central themes. So, for all texts:
- How does this text utilize the digital medium in ways that would be lost if it were converted to print?
- How does written text work alongside other forms of storytelling such as images or sound or film?
- How does interactivity enhance the story? Does the interactivity parallel the text’s themes and/or metaphor in some way?
- What is the role of the reader in this text? How much power do you have? Does this make a difference to your experience – and enjoyment – of the text?
Depression Quest is a fiction/game produced in Twine software. The story allows readers to explore the thoughts and feelings of someone living with depression.
- What techniques does the text employ to pull the reader into the fictional world?
- What techniques does the text use to allow users to empathize with the main character?
- How does this text address the experience of mental illness?
- How does Depression Quest compare with other fictions (across media) that deal with psychological issues like depression and anxiety? In what ways does this text put mental illness in a different light from other texts?
- Depression Quest’s publication sparked a community controversy about what makes a game a “game”, about journalism in the gaming community, and about treatment of women in the gaming community. Do the themes and structures of the text itself relate to the so called “gamergate” controversy? Why or why not?
The Futographer is a short story told in hypertext and produced using Twine. It explores issues around social media, online anonymity and privacy, and computer-mediated communication more generally. The Futographer is available online but can also accessed as an e-book and thus read on e-readers.
- How does it feel to read a story about “you”? Do you feel implicated in what is happening?
- How does the text build suspense and/or create a sense of surprise?
- On what basis did you decide which choices to make? Does this kind of text allow you to explore possibilities you might not otherwise have in the real world?
- In what ways do the issues raised in this text reflect wider concerns about social media and online communication more generally?
- What role do social media sites play in society? What responsibilities do they (or should they) have?
Flight Paths tells the story of Jacub, an immigrant who hides in the landing gear of an airplane in order to reach England from Pakistan, and Harriet, who lives in West London and with whom Jacub forms a friendship. It is told over six episodes and is available online. (NB: this story requires ‘Flash’ to work and it therefore won’t work on iPhone or iPad).
- What techniques does the text employ to show the different lives of Jacub and Harriet? Think about the page layout as well we sounds and images.
- According to the project website, an article published in The Guardian newspaper inspired Kate Pullinger to write Flight Paths. Read the article and discuss the way that Flight Paths fictionalises the events in the article. Consider the ways in which Mohammed and Jacub are depicted in the each text.
- Explore the political issues evoked by the text. How does it connect to contemporary issues surrounding immigration, refugees, and asylum seekers? What issues does it raise about human rights, workers’ safety, and socioeconomic inequalities across the world? The project website has a range of resources on these issues to support your discussions.
- On the Flight Paths project blog, the authors ask people to “send us your ‘Flight Paths’ inspired stories, texts, fragments, anecdotes, memories, musings”. In what ways can digital media give a voice to readers?
- Author Kate Pullinger later explored the issues raised in Flight Paths in a print novel called Landing Gear. Read both texts and reflect on the way that each addresses the same themes. What is gained or lost in using either print or digital?
Inkubus is a 3D immersive digital fiction that puts readers quite literally into the skin of a young girl and allows them to experience the seemingly hopeless world of online and offline bullying, obsessions with appearance and ‘fitting in’, and more general difficulties facing today’s youth in relation to finding their own identity. (NB: you may need to download some software to read this piece. Please see the instructions on the Inkubus website).
- To what extent is Inkubus a game? If it is a game, what and who are we playing (against), and what is at stake for the main character?
- What techniques does the text employ to show relative degrees of dis/empowerment in the main character?
- Explore the kind of social, behavioral, and psychological issues evoked by the text. How does it connect to contemporary debates surrounding body image, able-bodiedness, and the role of parental intervention in the development of young people, and girls in particular? Additional reading suggestion: Carla Rice’s Becoming Women: The Embodied Self in Image Culture (2014).
The Resources for Readers page has a selection of other digital fictions that we recommend. All materials are based on our research and teaching at Sheffield Hallam University (England), Bangor University (Wales), and the University of Alberta (Canada).
We hope that you enjoy the works and discussing the issues that they raise for fiction, for reading, and for the world outside of the texts.
Please add any other recommendations you have or report back on your discussions in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!