10 Classic Speculative-Fiction Works Reinterpreted As Word Clouds
A brainwavez.org Literary Feature

South Africa By: Mandy J Watson on 3 December 2010
Category: Books > Features
Tags: #horror, #speculative_fiction, #vampires
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What happens when you take the text from 10 classic pieces of literature and use it to generate word clouds? The short answer is: some hits, some misses, and a few surprises. The longer answer is: rather attractive results (in most cases).

The following project started a few days ago as a late-night attempt to keep my brain awake by playing with words and a typography generator but it soon turned into a week-long challenge in which I kept rerunning some of the attempts to see if I could generate a better illustration that more aptly reflected the contents of each novel.

To start, I picked 10 classic speculative-fiction novels, short stories, and novellas that are in the public domain and can be found at Project Gutenberg. I chose only one by each author and used all the original text (not the Gutenberg additional notes), bar the chapter listings at the beginning of the books, where applicable.

Next I pasted all the text of each novel into Wordle, which randomly generates appealing word clouds with the size of each word indicating its relative frequency. Wordle allows you to choose from a large selection of fonts and layout styles. It also has preset colours as well as an option for you to pick your own. I used a combination of both, depending on which novel I was working on and whether there was a suitable palette for it in the application.

I kept the default setting of 150 words but I switched off the setting that removes numbers from the listings. I also tried to switch off the setting that removes common English words but it wouldn't let me - perhaps that is for the best.

Finally, I reran the random generations using different layout options, occasionally changing the font, though rarely as within the list there was usually one font that represented the novel perfectly. (Occasionally two fonts, which then made the choices far more difficult.)

When I was happy, I took a screenshot. The only image that I edited afterwards was the Dracula one, for that subtle point that is beyond the ability of the application to generate itself. I couldn't help myself. Forgive me!

As you can see from the results, some were more successful than others but some interesting patterns and highlights also emerged. I'll leave you to find some of your own but two that caught my attention are that the word "one" is a very frequently used in literature, and "death" and "dead" appear almost as often as "Mars" in A Princess Of Mars.


Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea By Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1869-1870) By Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Gutenberg.org Jules Verne | Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
Wikipedia Jules Verne | Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea



Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde By Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (1886) By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
Gutenberg.org Robert Louis Stevenson | Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde
Wikipedia Robert Louis Stevenson | Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde



A Princess Of Mars By Edgar Rice Burroughs

A Princess Of Mars (1912) By Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)
Gutenberg.org Edgar Rice Burroughs | A Princess Of Mars
Wikipedia Edgar Rice Burroughs | A Princess Of Mars



The Time Machine By HG Wells

The Time Machine (1895) By HG Wells (1866-1946)
Gutenberg.org HG Wells | The Time Machine
Wikipedia HG Wells | The Time Machine



Alice's Adventures In Wonderland By Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1865) By Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Gutenberg.org Lewis Carroll | Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
Wikipedia Lewis Carroll | Alice's Adventures In Wonderland



The Picture Of Dorian Gray By Oscar Wilde<

The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1890) By Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Gutenberg.org Oscar Wilde | The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Wikipedia Oscar Wilde | The Picture Of Dorian Gray



Frankenstein By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Frankenstein (1818) By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)
Gutenberg.org Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley | Frankenstein
Wikipedia Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley | Frankenstein



The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow By Washington Irving

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow (1820) By Washington Irving (1783-1859)
Gutenberg.org Washington Irving | The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
Wikipedia Washington Irving | The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow



Dracula By Bram Stoker

Dracula (1897) By Bram Stoker (1847-1912)
Gutenberg.org Bram Stoker | Dracula
Wikipedia Bram Stoker | Dracula



The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz By L Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1900) By L Frank Baum (1856-1919)
Gutenberg.org L Frank Baum | The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
Wikipedia L Frank Baum | The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz



Update: This article has been featured on Neatorama! Thanks everyone! Geekosystem and BuzzFeed have also sent us traffic.
Update 2: Douglas Coupland tweeted about the post, which sent a whole new wave of people here from Twitter. Thank you, sir!





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