“There’s no reason why the simple shape of a story can’t be fed into a computer.” — Kurt Vonnegut, “On the Shape of Stories”
There’s no reason at all.
Announcing the Story Shaper App!
Here’s a demonstration.
Vonnegut also mentions that “people don’t like stories below the line.”
Adam Rapp’s Children of the Wolves is one of the darkest books I’ve ever read. The writing is brilliant. The story is thought-provoking. The reading is painful. It’s only a 160 pages but I procrastinated finishing it because it was just too agonizing to return to this realistic dystopia.
I call it realistic dystopia in constrast to the scifi and/or fantasy dystopias that are so popular now. Interestingly, teens have little interest in realistic dystopias. Ezra from my teen book club made an epic rant about this book that ended with the verdict that if the author was this down on humanity that he should just kill himself.
My theory why? The lure of scifi/fantasy dystopias is that teens end up saving the messed-up world that adults created. In a realistic dystopia, they can see no way out. There is no salvation.
There is that one spike in the wave though, one redemptive act by the miserable teen who never got a break but did one good thing on his way out of the hell his life had become.
I haven’t even mentioned the video game for which the book is titled. It’s a rich, haunting metaphor — the kind that English teachers would love to discuss. But no English teacher would dare to bring this book into the classroom. At least not now. But maybe in the future . . . Remember that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was too hot to teach in the 50s and still faces the occasional challenge though it’s been recognized in Great Britain as the book most recommended by librarians and #5 on the all-time great list, just after Jane Austen’s Pride and Predjudice.
The Story Shaper App could be an interesting option for student assignments. It’s in the same category as Kyle Tezak’s Four-Icon Story (one of the all-time favorite DS106 assignments) that I’ve shared with my classes of English teachers. Both assignments give readers an interesting way to begin their critical reflection on a book. And I do mean critical because the value of such a book is in its power to make us question our assumptions.
Really simple to create the Story Shaper App — I did a mashup of two tools with free options, CoSketch to draw and Screenr to record. CoSketch has, as implied, a real-time collaborative function that I’d like to explore, too.