By Ellen Efstathiou
The Computer Science and Creative Writing departments do not have much in common. One involves a lot of math and data and the other involves hiding your emotions inside characters that definitely don’t have anything to do with you. Needless to say, there isn’t a lot of overlap.
Although, Computer Science isn’t as removed from the arts as it might seem. According to the Oberlin website, Computer Science has the most double degree students in the college, so there is clearly some connection between Computer Science and the arts. The TIMARA department is a perfect example of this. Even outside of Oberlin, there are video games, graphic design, and many other fields that combine the two mediums—including something I found on the WOBC website.
The other day, I was on the WOBC website curious if the online streaming happened to be working yet. I went to the “Recorded Shows” link. At the top of the list of recorded shows there’s a link that’s labeled “Parent Directory.” I thought to myself, “Huh, I wonder what’s under that link,” and clicked on it. What I found was a bunch of other links to various interactive short stories.
The page is labeled “Index of /~jmeltzer” and from what I’ve been able to find through the short stories and from googling, the short stories belong to Julian Meltzer. He graduated from Oberlin in 2018 with majors in Creative Writing and Computer Science. He was also the Operations Manager at WOBC from 2017 to 2018, which is how I assume the WOBC website and these short stories ended up just a few clicks away from each other.
There are a few things that all the stories have in common. They are all about family and complicated relationships with family members. They are also all presented in fragments, though there is some variation in how the fragments are shown. Some of the stories will show you everything in chronological order no matter where you click. For example, All the Fish have Died shows dialogue one line at a time on opposite sides of the page to indicate different speakers. Another story, Reincarnation, shows a different paragraph depending on which word you click on. I still haven’t figured out how all the paragraphs fit together for this one. Then there’s We Were Sirens. This story took me a while to figure out how to read. It flashes between three different stories and scrolls sideways instead of down. If you pause while scrolling for too long, the story changes.
All the Creative Writing classes that I've taken at Oberlin have emphasized being experimental with your work. This can mean being experimental with what you’re telling a story about, the form that your story takes, or how the story is presented. This sentiment is emphasized so much that the class I’m taking this semester, Experiments in Narrative Fiction, hasn’t felt that different from other Creative Writing classes I’ve taken. It’s just more overt in this class than others.
The short stories that I found through WOBC are a great example of being experimental in your Creative Writing. They’re also a great example of Creative Writing and Computer Science being used together, and go to show that science and the arts are not as far away as they sometimes seem.