#WYOA: week four

Most of this week was devoted to the first paper, which was due today. The students brought rough drafts on Wednesday for peer review—which actually worked pretty well, for once—and Friday’s class was cancelled so that I could hold individual conferences.

Monday was our only “fun” day; I introduced the students to the “choose your own adventure” genre—only one of the fifteen had read them as a child, which sort of surprised me. I gave them a brief lecture on the history of the genre (Edward PackardSugarcane Island, RA Montgomery, Bantam’s CYOA series and spinoffs, Scholastic’s short-lived knockoff, French experimental literature from the early 1960s, &c). I showed off my recently-acquired ex-library book-club edition of The Third Planet From Altair (from 1979, before it was re-issued as CYOA #7).

Then I had the students form groups of three—which required more prodding than I expected, especially considering it’s not the first time I’ve done it—and gave each group a CYOA novel out of my private library (which sounds pretentious as hell, for some reason) (the novels were The Abominable SnowmanThe Perfect PlanetThe Island of TimeJourney Under the Sea, and Twistaplot’s Secrets of the Lost Island, if you were curious). The students spent most of class mapping the texts; they noticed the preponderance of unhappy endings, the outsize consequences of minor decisions, and the relatively simple branching structure that defines the genre (or these examples of it, anyway).

To end the class, I showed them this map of The Third Planet From Altair (which I found by googling the name of the book)—I could have given it to them as a guide, since it’s what I wanted them to do, but I think/hope they learned a bit more by fumbling with the task for a bit. Then, to give them a sense of the complexity of To Be Or Not To Be—which we started today!—I showed them this:

the poster of the book, which I wished I'd bought during the kickstarter campaign

…which is totally nuts.



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