With Those We Love Alive

“With Those We Love Alive” by Porpentine starts with the iconic black background; I’m just obsessed with the background color, the color you start with says a lot about your piece. There is nothing but a heart emoticon on the homepage, which is a bright fuchsia, I would say. Upon entering the work, it said, “Before living this life, have a pen or a sharpie nearby, something that can write on skin.” I took this metaphorically, assuming what I was about to encounter would conquer my heart, soul, mind, and body. I also found it very interesting that a page was dedicated to the colorblind community; that was a very thoughtful touch to this piece.

As I moved past the initial starting pages, there was a message, “nothing you do is wrong,” which was very assuring. Often with e-lit, I am worried I will do something incorrectly or mistaken what the text is trying to present. After that short passage, the screen turns a blue/purplish color, and the reader is asked to pick the month they were born in, leading us to our role in the story. I was an artificer; I made things in this empire; the empress allowed me to stay in her palace and explore.

The next line said, “something is rising from the lake”, and as you click the letters, bold and fuchsia, it answered the question, “From an inky black lake covered in the remains of dead brown leaves, the empress emerges. Her skin is larval, and it floats across the water like the carcass of a pale leviathan while her attendants stand at the edge, ready to pick the wet plant matter from her.” What strange, artistically written words that left me confused. The reader is then asked to wait; wait until you are needed because you are a mere artificer, and she is the empress who is getting her skull cleaned? WHAT TYPE OF GROSS MONSTER?

I became an active participant in this grotesque fantasy land, playing a text game. Wandering the palace and the city, wondering that kind of empress I was dealing with and when I would next hear or see her. As I visit the balcony, it felt like a nightmare, “death jungle chokes the land to the north” reminded me of the scene in Game of Thrones where if you looked out of the castle, all you saw was dead bodies. As I once again click on the bolded pink text that says the throne room, we get a visual of what the empress looks like, her majestic beetle horns and eyes burning with cold fire. The fun part about that was we can choose what she looks like since each sentence contains three words, which we can play around with, which was an excellent way of adding in some choice since I felt like I had none in this piece.

As you wait for something to happen, you take a nap; you meditate, timing the lengths of your breath, you look over a lake, and build things for the empress. I started enjoying my life in the palace, as I quickly became my character without noticing it. The story was simple, yet so complicated. Everything sounds enjoyable, but it isn’t. You think you’re at peace until you see a dead body looking at you from the lake until you are breathing her ashes while you meditate and until you wake up, and the empress summons you to do something. Why was I still here? Why was I working for this monster? Why was I worshipping her like everyone else? I guess it is because I am thrilled and intrigued by this very experience. In the end, I finally meet an old friend, and over me, loomed a long lost romance? However, I could totally be making that up in my own head.

This is one piece of e-lit I have explored in its full entirety. This piece was very suggestive, so I feel like my analysis will be very different from my classmates. To me, it was a horrible, complicated experience, yet a fascinating one. And I finally figured out what this piece really reminded me of, The Hunger Games! I kept referring to The Game of Thrones, but I was thinking about the best dystopian novel out there!

Blog 7: Thoughts on With Those We Love Alive

When I initially thought about what to write on for this week, I felt more comfortable going with Icarus Needs. I liked the simplicity of it. You enter into this silly dreamworld of Icarus and run around finding pieces to unlock the different doors and barriers. I could run my eyes quickly over the comic book-like panes of action and feel a little tickle of humor at it all. No scary feelings. Nothing too deep. My first impression of With Those we Love Alive was the sound of a loud NOPE resounding inside of me. The words associated with it like “mob violence” and “trash struggle” felt too heavy. But it continued to lurk in the back of my mind, so finally, I gave in and decided to do what it took to go through it.

From the confusing navigation, to the repugnant imagery, I found Those we Love Alive to be very disquieting. It felt strange to walk through this world that was stripped of anything human, except maybe you – I’m not even sure I was a human. This being stripped of humanity isn’t just a fun element of sci-fi, it is a dramatized journey of trauma. This story is incredibly powerful in the way it gets at the steady feeling of dehumanization that occurs with trauma and how the world can take on a grotesque and foreign appearance. That is one thing I love about the genre of sci-fi and I am researching more about for my own e-lit piece. Sci-fi is this crazy genre that lets people break the bounds of reality to say powerful things ABOUT reality. And it many ways, we need the strangeness and otherworldly settings of sci-fi to actually pack the punch we want.

Despite how disturbing it was to see rat children and slime children running around the streets, and nightmares oozing out in the canal, I was drawn into the story and kept wondering who I was and why was I making a choice(?) to use my skills to serve this “skull empress” (Not unlike my own real world thoughts – isn’t society itself a kind of oozing creepy skull empress?). At the same time I was thinking about the choices I was making and the way those around me were choosing to act. I wanted to connect to someone, but I also felt myself wanting to be completely separate from what was going on around me. At one point in the game, I had the choice to lick the fluids of the skull empress off the ground – and I did it. I wanted to do something that made me feel connected to all those who were being so worshipful of this being – a being that, ironically, I helped create and adorn with various weapons and armor. And yet, at another point, when there was a mob situation happening, and I was asked do I want to be part of the whole or be my own person, I said I was my own – I was separate from the filth and anger and vileness.

I think the element of this piece that really nailed home the desire to be separate from the ugliness around us, and that really helped me become the most connected to myself, was the drawing. On a basic navigation and memory level, I found it to be helpful in remembering where I had been in the story. On a more deep and personal level, I found it made me search myself for how I would use pictures to represent words like “shame” and “pain”. I found I could never quite find the perfect representation, but that the symbols I eventually settled on were a surprise to me. I could trace my path through the story and through my own heart each time I looked down at my arm.

Overall, this piece didn’t sit well with me – but it sat regardless and is still quietly waiting for me to come back and think about it and feel with and through it. I feel like this e-lit piece is genuinely one I would go through again – even if was just to go back to the lake and breath again.   

Post #7: Adding Your Own Flavor to the Piece

The reading for this week was yet another interesting one. With Those We Love Alive, by Porpentine, is a twine game or interactive game (with hyperlinks and various layers of codes) that works as a piece electronic literature. I would argue the that it does the job very well, with the way the reader interacts with the piece and goes about reading it. In a nutshell the story it’s very interesting as well: A story of fantasy in where you design artifacts for an alien empress. It’s dark and filled with both aspects of life and death.

I found the story itself to be very immersive with the way that I progressed each time. But perhaps this is because it really feels like a game (some sort of video game that I played when I was younger). And this type of game is one that is too familiar to many of us today. I say this because in the past when I was younger, I found myself playing these type of games in the computer at the library. But instead of words it was with pictures, and clicking on different parts of the picture would take you to new ones. So then again who doesn’t love games, in one form or another? This can be seen as the icing on the cake with this piece, as it works similar to a hook providing a bigger layer of interest and fun to the reader.

There is not a lot of images, since there is only text about the story and background audio music. This is because this piece is heavily focused on the story. But even so it’s interesting nonetheless. Being able to choose between different selections such as eye color, birth month, and your element, makes it feel personal as if you are designing for yourself the type of artificer you can be for the empress. And then you get to meet the empress as she rises from the lake, and her larvae skin loads across the lake. And as the story of progresses it focusses on the empress and you continue to be given choices on how to interact with her. The idea of hyperlinks being placed throughout the text, as they are bolded and colored, is fascinating as it doesn’t take away from the literature and literary style.

But as a reader, I really had my own experience of it. This being one where I felt that I was playing a game heavily on character creation. And in such a game I would create a character keeping in mind the empress. Each time I was given the option to select or design for myself, I felt as if I was adding a new piece or part to my own character through customization. To be honest I never in the past had the opportunity for such personal customization from just reading someone else’s fictional work or even from another electronic piece of literature. Because of this this piece felt original and very eye opening to the possibilities that can happen with an elit piece.

Icarus Needs and The Hero’s Journey

I would first like to point to the appreciation of the simplest navigation that is this game. This genre of literature for this Hypercomics, where the road goes through a narration of webcomics that solely relies on the reader’s navigation. This game took me approximately 27 minutes to finish. After 10 minutes of playing around with moving Icarus, I started to understand the navigation and goal of the game. The up, down, left, and right arrows act as the controls to move Icarus. The piece is set as a narration quest to find Icar’s love Kit. The navigation is pretty simple after playing around with it. 

Outside of the interface of navigation, I would like to go into further depth of discussing the content of the piece. Interestingly enough, while I was experiencing Icarus’ tale, I could not help thinking of The Hero’s Journey. I learned about The Hero’s Journey as an undergrad student, but I was reintroduced back to it just recently by one of the college students I tutor I work with. Since Icarus is on a journey/adventure to find his love, I thought it would be cool to break this piece down within the steps of The Hero’s Journey!

Breaking It Down

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. In the beginning you set up your hero (or heroine) and his story, then you throw something at him that is a great source of conflict and takes him into a whole heap of trouble. After facing many foes and overcoming various obstacles the hero saves the day and wins the girl.

If only writing a movie was that easy…

Below you can find the 12 steps that make up the Hero’s Journey.

The Ordinary World 

We are first introduced to Icarus as his awakening from the floor of the house is on. He wakes up and realizes that he fell asleep playing the game again. From this, we know the Ordinary World for Icarus is house, and the coach (he fell asleep on).

The Call of Adventure

From playing the game, I realize that Call of adventure seemed more apprean than The Ordinary World (since we first introduced our protagonist on the floor). But nethertheless, The Call of Adventure for Icarus is when he realizes he must find his girlfriend, Kit. 

Refusal of the Call 

I would not necessarily say Icarus refused the call to the adventure (I believe he wanted to find Kit very badly!). I would say he was more so surprised where he ended up and that he had to save Kit.

Meeting the Mentor 

Does the little narration voice guiding Icarus count as a mentor? In my perspective, the narration voice asks as a guide for Icarus (in player mood, the voice kind of gives subtle directions on what to do next.). I found the voice very useful!

Crossing the First Threshold 

Icarus is navigated through a common household, outside, under water, in a blimp … I think the threshold was crossed numerous times.

Tests, Allies, Enemies 

I think this attribution of The Hero’s Journey is what made this piece so engaging. Icarus is put against many obstacles and foes, and it’s our job as the readers to help Icarus! The special literary part of this piece is the literature is found through conversation with the: narrating voice, enemies who after Icarus, items that must be achieved, and the search to find Kit. Who said video games can’t teach reading?

Approach to the Inmost Cave 

This portion of The Hero’s Journey is displayed when we are being chased towards the cliff by the angry mob (he stole the mud ball). This where he finally finds Kit.

The Ordeal 

I would say the biggest ordeal at this point in Icarus is when he is falling out of a hot air balloon.


Icarus’ end reward was finding Kit (even though it seems as if she is saving him in the end).

The Road Back/Resurrection 

There was not too much of these two portion of the journey that was evident in Icarus.

Return with the Elixir

Icarus finally awakes from his dream and learns… to never sleep while playing the game!

Overall Experience

I enjoyed the entire experience of this piece! I would arguably say that this is my favorite one!