Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw, is the electronic literature piece I have chosen from the ELC1 to review this week. Deviant is a visual narrative, a with story with no words or voices, simply an interactive animated story. It recreates the true story of an 11 year old girl in 1696 Scotland who was believed (at that time at least) to have become possessed by evil spirits. She blamed up to twenty local townsfolk for her possession, accusing them of being witches; an investigation was held and seven were found guilty. One of the men killed himself in jail, the other three women and three men were strangled, their bodies burned. It is now generally thought that Christian was most likely manipulated by the local priest and doctor.
Donna Leishman’s Deviant is as strange as the story of Christian Shaw. The story starts with an upside down tree. When reader clicks it an odd little town appears. There are four large buildings, a treed area with a lake, a church and a small house on the left, apart from the rest of the town, as well a large hill in the foreground. One of the trees has a ladder going up to it, like a tree house. The reader, who must seek out clues with the mouse on the screen to see parts of the story, first notices that the buildings make music when you run the mouse over them, eery electronic organ music that makes some of the trees grow larger and blossom. The blossoms can be knocked to the ground by the reader. This weird, childish activity sets the tone for the story.
This is the first electronic piece that I don’t want to give to many details about what unfolds because it is a story, with a beginning and end, although possibly not ordered like one would find in a book; to tell you what happens would spoil it. I will say that Leishman has created the first piece of electronic literature that really got to me. It was scary, not in the horror movie sense, although maybe it actually was a little bit, but mostly in the tension that is created by the cheerful yet disturbing design and churchy music. It made me feel the same way I did when I saw the movie There Will Be Blood, tense and on edge. It was so atmospheric that I felt like something fucked up was going to happen at every movement of the mouse. And every time I watch it I see a new clue, another glimpse in strange Christian’s childlike (and possibly demonic) mind, which adds to the haunting feeling it evokes. This is the first piece of electronic literature that uses the platform perfectly. It is my favourite so far.
I know the author, Donna Leishman, has discussed Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw in this blog, but I have chosen not to read it until after I am finished my review, and then any extra things I have to add after reading her post I will put in the comments section.