The cover for Zac’s Haunted House, sans animation (Via Kiddiepunk)
In an ever-increasing digital landscape, authors are challenged every day to keep the literary world alive — whether that means sparring with Amazon, joining Twitter, or building interactive websites for their books. Now one longtime writer has decided to go all in by releasing a haunting story made from what is perhaps the Internet’s favorite image format: GIFs.
As Vice notes, longtime poet, critic, editor, and novelist Dennis Cooper recently debuted Zac’s Haunted House, a free digital or “HTML” novel available to download online or click through on its designated website. Complete with a cover, a table of contents, a preface, five chapters, and an afterword, the novel strings together a series of eerie, gruesome moving images to tell the story of a terrifying Frankenstein-esque encounter. Made of a series of black-and-white images (interrupted, sometimes, with splashes of red), the work is reminiscent of the those jerky silent films of yore — a surprising achievement considering his medium has become so familiar to anyone who browses the Internet.
The idea sprouted from a feature Cooper had been working on for his blog, in which he’d group together a series of “photo stacks” that represented an idea or a theme. Eventually a GIF or two slipped in, and that’s when he got the idea to make fiction out of them.
“That idea excited me, partly because, as much [as] I love writing language-based novels, I’ve always wanted to submerge the story/characters/plot much deeper within the novel’s structures than I’ve been able to,” Cooper told Vice.
Chapter Two of Zac’s Haunted House (Via Kiddiepunk)
Though Cooper’s haunted story may be one of the first times an established writer explored the genre of the “GIF novel,” it’s not entirely a new concept. Last fall, my colleague Rob Walker wrote about a collaboration between animator Mattis Dovier and the band Wild Beasts to create a GIF-made comic book with a soundtrack. The project involves a choose-your-own-adventure element, allowing you to watch/listen to two separate tales: one about a human experiencing a robot’s world and the other about a robot exploring a human’s world, with a different song for each.