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Lady (p.4) or the Tiger (p. 167) at WRT: Writer Response Theory




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Road sign with arrows pointing down-left and down-right

I’ve been thinking about “The Tiger, or the Lady” by Frank Stockton as an UR-text of CYOA, and I remember advice on creative writing I once heard: there can be only one “Lady and the Tiger.” But I’ve been thinking that perhaps there is room for a few more versions of that tale:

  1. The story ends when the princess first meets her lover.
  2. The story ends before the man is sent into the arena.
  3. There are three doors.
  4. There are four door.
  5. There are n+7 doors. (Oulipo)
  6. There is one door, but we do not know if the tiger is alive or dead.
  7. The princess begins a Sheherazade-style filibuster.
  8. The King attempts to permanently remove the ability to filibuster.
  9. The story ends with additional IF options to Go North, South, East, or West, or take inventory where some discovers they have a key in their pocket.
  10. The intro instructs the reader that there are several paths through the story.
  11. The story ends with a meta-fictional interruption about reading the story.
  12. The stories end hyperlinks to the beginning.
  13. The story links to information about tigers, arenas, lovers.
  14. You read part of the story on a sticker in the Colliseum and must choose whether to look for lions or ladies on the streets of Rome. (Rettberg)
  15. The story of the Princess as an old woman revolves around the moment of her lover’s choice, and her grandchildren who are building her coffin.
  16. The story plays out in Eduardo Kac’s DNA.
  17. The story seeds various fragments including threesomes with lady and tiger, the tiger having an identity crisis, etc.(Coover).
  18. Behind the door, is another person confronting two doors, and behind one of those doors an endless set of forking doors (Borges).
  19. As the poor lover, you fight the lady and the tiger to reach the King, who is boss of this level.
  20. The story ends in a multiple choice quiz What’s behind the door? a) The lady, b) The tiger c) Robert Coover d) Journey. (Eggars/Sterne).

Writers respond thus:




9 Responses to “Lady (p.4) or the Tiger (p. 167)”

  1. 1 Jeremy Douglass

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    21. The story subdivides into smaller and smaller slices of time as the lover turns the knob, grinding eventually to a halt that cannot resolve the Schrodinger’s Tiger dilemma (Calvino, after T-Zero)

    23. The lover chooses the door with the tiger, however he is not eaten, breaking the perfect binary of the King’s justice. Overwhelmed by providence, the people elevate him to kingship, where he lives a long and unhappy life with the princess he that only knows betrayed him.

    23. The princess indicates one door, however the prince chooses the other, and finds it empty. Whether the lady ran off, or the tiger escaped (or both) was never known - nor do the princess and her lover in the long arguments that followed their marriage ever resolve whether he reversed her choice because he could not live happily without her (noble sacrifice) or he did not trust her (betrayal).

    24. The tiger fiercest tiger in the land was also the loyal pet of the princess - while the most beautiful lady had been jilted by the lover for his royal affair. Happily, he chose the door with the tiger [see 23, sans betrayal] OR Tragically, he chose the door with the lady - and was stabbed to death.

  2. 2 Jeremy Douglass

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    Mark - we’ve talked a few times about benchmark fiction. Would you consider using Lady or the Tiger as a piece until we find a better one? In your broader imagining of it particularly, it has all the elements that I was looking for….

  3. 3 Mark Marino

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    Excellent idea. I like that it is a “classic story” and it is short enough that we might be able to better show its possibilities. But we should first check copyright issues. Does it have enough dialogue for the chatbot implementation?

  4. 4 Mark Marino

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    On second thought, the work would not have to have dialogue to be presented in chatbot form, as Christy’s “The Villager and the Teenbot” demonstrates.

    But I do think copyright is important, considering Stuart Moulthrop’s experience with “The Garden of Forking Paths.”

    Nonetheless, we should find a work that is short, well-known, widely-accessible, seminal in ergodic/interactive/electronic/cyo fiction, and out of copyright.

    If not “Lady” perhaps an excerpt of “Sterne” or the Quixote? Thoughts?

  5. 5 Christy Dena

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    I should clarify here Mark that I don’t really see my Villager and Teenbot story as being indicative of botfiction. I use bot software but I could of easily just used a form-database interface. My intention was to have the single input-response transmute at a certain point in the story into a more natural language interaction. So, I’m not sure if we should consider that type of interaction a form of botfiction. Are perhaps I’m being too strict — the software can be used for anything. But I guess this forces the issue of defining just what botfiction is.

    Botfiction encourages conversational-type interaction. I don’t want to say natural language because some bots have a drop-down menu of choices. I guess my story (of having words typed in to get a response) still fits into this category though. Perhaps we’re getting types of botfiction interaction here?: Natural language, predefined, single-response…

  6. 6 Jeremy Douglass

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    Ah - a manifesto-style definition of what botfiction is and isn’t. Christy, I smell a new post…. :)

    If you do work on such a thing, I have one particular request (that you can of course ignore - write away and then I could try to follow up): where does the IF “Galatea” fit in - is it botfiction or not?

  7. 7 Jeremy Douglass

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    Mark, Christy, it strikes me that rendering Lady Or The Tiger (LOTT) as a bot conversation makes sense given that it is presented as a kind of oral tradition - we wrap the story matter inside a citizen spectator or main character who is eager to reminisce about it. Perhaps, as Mark indicated in the CYOA list above, the bot persona would be an older person whose mind wanders, and who doesn’t always remember the story in the same way….

  8. 8 Jeremy Douglass

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    I have excellent copyright news. Gutenberg is distributing LOTT - which explains why it is publicly available on dozens of websites.

    Short and punchy, thematically relevant, known but not used - we may have a benchmark fiction text!

  9. 9 Mark Marino

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    I like these ideas.

    Re: Christy’s comment on bot fiction: I wonder if we don’t need to differentiate between the processess or algorithms that produce bots and algorithms set up to be chatbots (conversation agents). Perhaps in benchmark fiction we would separate these.

    It sounds like the challenge will be to establish the categories for benchmarking clearly:

    Here are some early thoughts (but, Jeremy, benchmark fiction probably deserves a more full posting).

    Here are some examples: (this is not an attempt to create a definitive list)
    Applications: FLASH, WordPress, Storyspace
    Programming Languages: AIML, (Jeremy, IF languages?), javascript, html
    Genres of stories:
    IF Adventure, Chatbot Fiction
    Various crossmedia combinations.

    So for chatbots, we distinguish between the benchmark test of implementing the story in AIML as a chatbot or perhaps some other format, such as a storytelling bot (simple-response).

    Jeremy, let me get back to you on Galatea

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