By Jamie Lee Cue
Brian Kim Stefans is an American Poet who is well known for focusing his efforts on the art of digital poetry, having two works featured in the first volume of the Electronic Literature Collection. His pieces take advantage of the use of flash, focusing not on the words themselves, like typical poetry, but on movement, and as in Star Wars, One Letter at a Time, each individual letter themselves. Thus, asking the reader to do something that they may have never imagined doing: read a story one letter at a time.
With the use of a plain white screen and what looks to be basic black Times New Roman font, Stefans takes on a new perspective of Star Wars Episode IV, from that of George Lucas’ typewriter. Who literally, as the title suggests, takes you through the classic tale one letter at a time.
Stefans uses as many applications made available to him as possible to make his work different from a typical book that you would read; using flash, sound, making his piece run by itself, and focusing not on words but each individual letter. The reader, therefore, is not asked to connect with the plot or the characters, but rather, to connect with each letter and punctuation mark that flashes before them.
Each letter that flashes across the screen engages the reader in trying to keep up the with the story, and if not then at least it acts as a form of entertainment, as it hypnotizes the reader, at least for a while anyways. The non-interactive nature of the piece makes it extremely hard to keep up and form the words in your head from every single letter that comes at you. However, it is this use of flash and possibly this difficulty that keeps the reader interested in the piece, if not the story itself. However, the lack of control the reader has in the adjustment of the piece can seem rather frustrating if actually trying to depict the story by each letter.
Taking a minute to look at the piece, we realize that this was the experience that George Lucas went through, sitting at a typewriter for hours on end typing in every single character that comes together to create the phrases that we have grown to adore. For we all remember the movie and book trilogies but forget to go back to the beginning where it all began: as plain black type being imprinted on the simple white paper.
Complete with the classical sounds of the typewriter keys, his piece keeps you hypnotized, for a while at least. If you cannot keep up with the speed at which the letters are thrown at you, you find yourself in a trance staring upon the black shapes among the white background, which is still, after all, its purpose: entertainment.