The writing of Sam

This story was written as a parody of Sarrasine, by Honore de Balzac. To call it purely thus, however, would be sorely inaccurate. In the course of writing Sam, I inevitably drew ideas and inspiration from material I had covered throughout the course of Telling stories in Cyberspace, as well as many other areas outside of the classroom.

Ideas from Sarrasine

  • Title characters

    The most obvious connection between the 2 stories would be the titles, Sam and Sarrasine. The ambiguity of the name "Sarrasine" as a masculine or feminine name is significant in light of La Zambinella's identity as a castrato, while the name "Sam" becomes significant after we discover that it is short for Samantha. Both these issues only come into light very late in the text, as both authors deliberately keep the identity of these 2 characters a mystery for a significant duration of the story.

  • Illusions

    Both Sam and Sarrasine are naive characters blinded by love, projecting their illusions on the "women" they loved. Sam believed that Anne was as serious about their relationship as she was, though Anne's own words tell us otherwise - she was merely confused by the intense physical attraction she had toward Sam. While Sam deemed their first time as the most beautiful thing she had ever experienced, Anne's description of it was merely "play". Sarrasine's overwhelming passion too, made him so sure in his belief that La Zambinella was a woman, despite the latter's outright hint, "And if I were not a woman?" Both characters' naivety stem from a life of recluse before these loves - Sam's frequent escapes to the airport and Sarrasine's isolation from the fashionable society. These only made the arrival of Anne and La Zambinella respectively have all the more impact on their lives, and it made their losses subsequently all the more unbearable.

  • Gender

    The role of gender confusion in causing the downfall of relationships - between Sarrasine and La Zambinella, and between Anne and Sam - is common in both stories.

  • Storytelling

    Storytelling is another concept explored in both works. Both stories have two layers of storytelling, with characters telling stories to other characters to evoke certain emotions in them - the narrator of Sarrasine wishes to impress his lady friend, while Sam tries to impress upon the doctor her love for Anne. Both storytellers, however, fail to accomplish their intents.

Ideas from other sources

Michael Joyce's Afternoon was probably the next biggest influence on Sam - Lolly's homosexual tendencies toward her clients in Afternoon are clearly reflected in Sam's title character. The structure of Sam was also greatly influenced by this story.

The lexia Two Deaths was born on a bus on my way to campus. I was thinking about a scene from the movie Hackers where Emmanuel was peddling a compilation of music from artists who "asphyxiated on their own vomit", as well as another scene from a travel show involving a goat's head stripped of skin and horns in a French supermarket. At that particular moment, the bus drove by the Warren golf resort which is just next to NUS. I remember looking at the hedges that run parallel to the road, and thinking that anyone desparate enough to want to enter the resort could very easily crawl through the thin barrier of shrubs.

The idea of chopping the hand off a corpse came from an episode of Ally McBeal, in which a man loved his wife so much that when she died, he just could not let go, and he resorted to taking a power-saw to her. The shaving of the hair came as an afterthought.

The abruptness of the lexia End is an imitation of Harold Pinter's style, a playwright whose plays such as The Homecoming and The Lover are full of perversed sexual undercurrents.


There are many half-loops in the sequence of the lexias, in which the reader would read for example the first version of hands, go through other lexias which further explore the relationship, then come back to the second version of hands after reading about the deaths.

This idea of loops and almost identical lexias came from Afternoon. More accurately, the idea came from my interaction with the software Storyspace, from seeing how lexias are connected to one another in a hypertext. One is no longer longer limited to a 2 dimensional text - one could in fact circle around, go backwards and forwards and with good effect.

This method proved invaluable to me, as I was agonizing over how I could best reiterate Sam's obsession over Anne's hands and hair, thus explaining the significance of the mutilated body.


The story is framed by 2 yellow-background lexias, the prologue and the epilogue, to mimic the book S/Z by Roland Barthes, from which our class read Balzac's Sarrasine.

Anne's lexias have a distinctively feminine background, while Sam's lexias are an ambiguous khaki.

The font RGB colour code for the lexia End is "#FFDEAD", just to add a more morbid dimension to the html.

Cutting and pasting

To complete the collage that is Sam - a considerable number of lexias from the story were written months ago, even before I enrolled into NUS. I keep an online diary, the background of which I have used for Anne's lexias.

Many of the details, such as the shampoo Anne uses, her favourite coffee, and the places she used to go to, as well as some of the poetry, are taken from this diary.

It was rather strange, writing myself as a dead bi-sexual.

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