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They Did What?: 

Read a novel made entirely out of animated GIFs


It’s about a haunted house…we think.

It finally happened. Literary doom-mongers may have alluded before to the death of the written word, but the end could arrive sooner than anyone expected if a new experimental novel is successful. Zac’s Haunted House, from American author Dennis Cooper, was written entirely in animated GIFS.

Cooper’s ‘visual novel’ is available to read (or should that be watch?) for free online, or it can be downloaded to be viewed on your smartphone or tablet. The ebook might be more accurately described as a novella, consisting of just five short chapters – but then, there’s not really a precedent for this kind of thing is there?

Having had a read through Zac’s Haunted House, the narrative is understandably difficult to grasp – although it’s probably fair to assume that it’s about a haunted house. The GIFs themselves are culled form a long history of film and moving image, curated to form scenes of undeniable tension, such as this from chapter one;

GIF novel GIF novel

You’re on the edge of your seat, right? That’s only the beginning though (or at least near the beginning), and at other points in the story Cooper masterfully combines disparate GIFS to create a the feeling of falling (see chapter two), or terror (see the rather more graphic chapter four).

Before we go bemoaning the decline of civilisation, it’s only fair to get some perspective. Kiddiepunk, who published the ebook, explains on its website: “Instead of gathering materials from language, sentences, and the developmental character and narrative possibilities allowed and restricted by written fiction, Cooper has turned his characteristic inventiveness on the animated GIF, employing GIFS’ tightly wound, looping visual possibilities, nervous rhythms, tiny storylines, and their status as dismembered, twitching eye candy to compose a short novel of unexpected complexity, strangeness, poetry, and comedy.”

We won’t say anymore, leaving you to read Zac’s Haunted House for yourself. Let us know what you make of it in the comments below.

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