Day Six: Orphic Phantasia.

The old adage goes that “you should not judge a book by its cover” and though it is a virtuous sentiment it is not one that is typically followed. Welcome to day six of my 31 Days of First Impressions Challenge! In this challenge I will be reading the first entry or chapter of a different serial (or web fiction) and then give my first impressions on them be they good or bad. In short: I will be judging a book by its cover.

Today’s serial is Orphic Phantasia by Dary Meredith.

Site Design:

Orphic Phantasia’s website is a joy to be on. The background image of a moon is both beautiful and slightly haunting, and the site navigation does not break the illusion of magic that the image portrays. With a simple design I was able to find everything I needed quickly. The “First Chapter” button is the only one that becomes highlighted when scrolled over, a design feature I think is brilliant to guiding newcomers. There is also a drop down menu featuring each chapter and book, a feature I am sure is very useful for return readers.

The Hook:

“Aliza entered the forest. She might have looked an adult, but at heart she was still just a child, naive and ignorant, and still afraid of the dark. When you spent most of your life living underground, you knew about the things that hid in the shadows — and Aliza Adel knew those things better than anyone. That was why she was here.” – Orphic Phantasia, Prelude.

This hook is enhanced by the background image I previously mentioned, they work hand in hand to create a sense of wonder… but something is amiss. I was compelled and drawn into the story very quickly by this. Whatever spell this serial is concocting, I am seduced by it.

The Chapter:

The chapter goes on with some beautifully written prose. Much of what is written does not yet quite make sense, but that is its allure. Much of what is being written about is akin to dream driven Tulpa not quite made physical. The prelude is short, but interesting.

This next part was my favorite thing about my experience being on the site, and yes, “experience” is definitely the word. At the end of the prelude I was brought to another page, one that had a slow forming poem that fades into view line by line. The sense of magic that this site has been trying to create? This is its crescendo. It isn’t perfect though, I thought the poem was a little too long and found myself being a little impatient as I waited for it to end, but this is not a big criticism. At the end of the day I still thought it was very cool and improved my time on the site.

The Verdict:

I am blown away by the impression this serial left on me. I would absolutely continue reading and would go so far to show somebody it just to see their reaction. The site’s design and bells and whistles do not feel gimmicky, and they activity complement the mysterious writings within. I can easily see someone setting up a web page like this and overdoing it. I can see something like this falling apart or falling short because they used too many bells and whistles, but here, it works, and it works well. At the end of reading the first chapter I found myself excited for the possibilities and strengths that fiction can have by using the internet as a platform.

Orphic Phantasia can be found at http://www.orphicphantasia.com/ and you can vote for it on The Top Web Fiction Guide here.

Join me tomorrow for my impressions on Nippoten’s serial Entirely Presenting You, or check out my own serial:

You Kant have Breakfast

Rev. Fitz
Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is a writer, illustrator, and amateur Electrical Engineer who lives in Seattle.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for looking at the site! I’ve got to ask though… what browser were you using? It looks like I need to fix the code, because the site shouldn’t be displaying those dots down the bottom left of that screenshot… (This is the problem with coding your own site design: there are so many different browsers and resolutions that it’s near-impossible to get it working on everything 100% of the time!)

    As for the poem, I think it would work a lot better if I could play its musical inspiration – the first movement of Beethoven’s “Quasi una fantasia” (aka Moonlight Sonata) – along with it, but autoplaying music on websites is a big design no-no.

    But yeah, we studied the influence (and possibilities) of New Media on fiction in the second year of my degree, and I drew on some of that when it came to developing the story. It’s not exactly using the medium to its fullest potential (as, say, a non-linear, multi-media or interactive work might), but, at the same time, it wouldn’t really “work” as a straight novel. That will become clearer in time, when the present narrative starts to frame stories, and stories within those stories (we also studied a lot of oral storytelling traditions…).

    Also, amusingly, given your praise, I’ve always considered the site to be rather bare-bones. I’d like to include a lot more secondary information to compliment the main story, such are articles, essays and diary entries written by various characters. Just producing the story itself is work enough, though (and I’m not even releasing stuff at a regular rate)!

    Again, thanks for the review. I’m really enjoying this whole first impressions feature!

    1. Of course! Thank you for reading them! I am glad that I have got positive feedback so far.
      I use Firefox on OS X. Site design can be VERY frustrating, I too ran into a lot of problems with the navigation on my comics looking different across platforms.

      Secondary content would be great, but honestly the simplicity of your site is one of the best things about it. If you choose to do more with it I hope that you do not sacrifice what you have built.

  2. @Dary While I applaud you for your restraint in not autoplaying music, maybe it could be an option button? That does sound lovely.

    Personally, I found the opening paragraph a little confusing. She is (or feels?) naive like a child, but also she knows about the shadows better than anyone?

    1. I did consider having the option, but felt like it was just complicating the design. Also, it felt very Geocities!

      As for the opening paragraph: you could be a genius with a Masters in Quantum Mechanics, but still fall for a simple confidence trick…

      It also serves as an indication of her self-esteem, particularly at this point in time.

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