Kathi Inman Berens storified some nice media elements relating to the 2013 electronic literature exhibit and reading at the MLA Convention.
Soft Skull Press · 368 pages
William, congratulations to you – and Soft Skull Press – on the new, big publication of Keyhole Factory, which some might think is your first novel. Actually, your intensity of writing would humiliate Roberto Bolaño. You have at least eight books (some pseudonymous, some collaborative) available via your press Spineless Books, which publishes other people’s work as well. You share a quality with George Perec in that you are a graphophile, and you share another quality with him in that you are an incredible writer, imaginative on all levels, as you demonstrate in Keyhole Factory. It’s great that Jeff Clark designed the cover. I think I see why he used the picture of the monkeys. They’re voyeuristic subjects; we’re watching them as if through a keyhole. That one in the middle looks back, making us nervous. If they were people they’d be eating lunch or making love or watching TV or something, and we’d fixate on that. But they’re monkeys, so we just notice that one of them is watching us. You think?
How It Is in Common Tongues
Cited from the Commons of digitally inscribed writing by John Cayley & Daniel C. Howe
NLLF [Natural Language Liberation Front] · 296 pages
Some seek diamonds in the rough on the Web; others mine from this lode of language mud and darkness. This profound document was fashioned with snippets of pages, with the search engine, and with the novel first publised as Comment c’est – using all of them quite perversely. Samuel Beckett’s 1964 How It Is describes a person moving and not moving through the mud, alone, not alone, and then once more alone. Cayley and Howe, bending the service known as Google to their literary purposes, have located every phrase of the novel on Web pages where no reference to Beckett is made. For instance, the first words, “how it was I quote,” are found in a New York Times excerpt from Elie Wiesel’s And The Sea is Never Full. The phrase is provided, the URL is given in a footnote … and the same is done for every other phrase in How It Is. The result is an edition of Beckett’s book made of text that was literally found on the Web. The only thing funnier will be the Beckett Estate’s response.
I discuss the history and context of electronic literature in this article about the new digital novel The Silent History. The article, by Eugenia Williamson, appears in Saturday’s print edition of the Boston Globe.
The Silent History certainly looks like a compelling project.
Another just-released digital novel which is also quite compelling, although it doesn’t have the same PR apparatus behind it, is Queerskins by Illya Szilak, designed by Cyril Tsiboulski. Although I’ve not read a great deal of this new novel yet, I’m impressed by its multimedia and literary engagement with a difficult aspect of recent American experience.
Queerskins explores the nature of love and justice through the story of a young gay physician from a rural Midwestern Catholic family who dies of AIDS at the start of the epidemic. Queerskins’ interface consists of layers of sound, text, and image that users can navigate at random or experience as a series of multimedia collages. Images of the mythic and the everyday, the sacred and the profane, from banal vacation footage to vintage burlesque, interact rhizomatically with text and audio monologues to subvert preconceived notions of gender, sexuality, and morality.
Queerskins can be read online for free, and it can be reading using free software; an iPad is not required. Although I’m a fan of location-based and other innovation and respect those working on all sorts of platforms, what I’d like for the future of literature is for it to be like this – fully accessible on even a public library computer and Internet-connected laptops throughout the world.
Zuzana Husárová and Nick Montfort up the ante for experimental writing by examining the category of “shuffle literature.” What is shuffle literature? Simply put: books that are meant to be shuffled. Using formal reading of narrative and themes, but also a material reading of construction and production, Husárová and Montfort show that there are many writing practices and readerly strategies associated with this diverse category of literature.
News of a strange new social network, Monolyth, reaches us from December of this year and from Chris McDowall.
To sate the great appetites of the system, which will only publish messages at least 140,000 characters long (and will abbreviate longer ones), authors turn to unusual techniques.
One of these is generating massive texts using modified versions of Taroko Gorge, one of which is included in the blog post.
In the “Michelangelo” room of the Portofino Bay hotel, at Ascendio (the latest and last in a long series of Harry Potter fan conferences), just down the lagoon from The Islands of Adventure and the Harry Potter area of that theme park, Flourish Klink presented her interactive fiction, “Muggle Studies.”
(In Michelangelo the women come and go, talking of rooms…)
We had a reading/playing of the game, to start, in the People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction public reading style. It worked well; another option would have been to “demo” the game using the successful format we tried out at the New School, Penn, and some Purple Blurb IF readings. The audience was game to try commands, though, and a volunteer read the game’s text aloud.
Then, Flourish provided some context, describing a bit about IF and Inform 7.
Given the vigorousness of fandom and the way interactive fiction production continues apace, it’s particularly good to see a demonstration of and call for more crossover work.
Developers of digital storytelling systems, take note: The call for papers for the Fifth International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling is now out. Conference to be held November 12-15, 2012 in Spain.
We have an amazing Spring 2012 Purple Blurb lineup, thanks to this academic year’s organizer, Amaranth Borsuk, and featuring two special events and readings by two leading Canadian poets who work in sound, concrete, and conceptual poetry. The Purple Blurb series is supported by the Angus N. MacDonald fund and MIT’s Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. All events are at MIT and are free and open to the public.
Monday, March 19
Author of Carnival, The Black Debt, Seven Pages Missing
Professor and David Gray Chair of Poetry and Letters, SUNY Buffalo
A central figure in Canadian avant-garde writing, Steve McCaffery’s work spans sound poetry, generative and iterative text, experimental prose, performance art, literary criticism, and visual poetics. A member of the Four Horsemen sound poetry ensemble and a professor of English at SUNY Buffalo, he is the author of over a dozen influential books of poetry, twenty chapbooks and four volumes of critical writing. His works include CARNIVAL panels 1 and 2, Panopticon, The Black Debt, North of Intention and Rational Geomancy: Kids of the Book-Machine (with bpNichol). With Jed Rasula, McCaffery edited Imagining Language, an anthology for MIT Press.
Monday, April 9
Open Mouse / Open Mic
Featuring Alexandra Chasin, Ari Kalinowski, and YOU
Please join us for an open mic featuring D1G1T4L WR1T1NG for a variety of platforms, from immersive projections by Ari Kalinowski to generative fiction for the iPad by Alexandra Chasin.
Bring video art, interactive fiction, SMS poems, hypertext fiction and poetry, text generators, and any form of electronic literature you’ve got up your sleeve! This event is co-sponsored by the Electronic Literature Organization.
Alexandra Chasin is the author of Kissed By (FC2), and Selling Out: The Gay and Lesbian Movement Goes to Market (St. Martin’s). She teaches Writing at Lang College, The New School. Ari Kalinowski runs the Intermedia Poetry Project.
Thursday, May 3
Professor of English, University of Calgary
Co-sponsored by the Visiting Artist Series and WHS
Author of Crystallography, Eunoia and The Xenotext.
Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House Press, 1994), nominated for the Gerald Lampert Award for Best Poetic Debut, and Eunoia, a lipogram that uses only one vowel in each chapter, which won the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize and is the best-selling Canadian poetry book of all time. He is also author of Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science (2001). His latest project, The Xenotext, encodes a poetic text into bacterial DNA that will produce proteins in response—yielding another poetic text. Bök has created artificial languages for Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Peter Benchley’s Amazon.
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Friday, May 4
Co-sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, SHASS, WHS, the Arts at MIT Visiting Artist Program, and the MIT Communications Forum
An afternoon of discussion with theorists and practitioners from MIT and beyond who are concerned with the shape of books to come.
Christian Bök (University of Calgary)
Katherine Hayles (Duke University)
Bonnie Mak (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Rita Raley (UC Santa Barbara)
James Reid-Cunningham (Boston Athenaeum)
Bob Stein (Institute for the Future of the Book)
Dene Grigar, vice president of the Electronic Literature Organization and one of the organizers of the excellent e-lit gallery and reading here at the MLA Convention, just gave a great presentation about the importance of platform in the development and reception of electronic literature. I was pleased initially to see that there was not only this presentation with “Platform” in the title, then very interested to hear about her work in a lab with original older computer hardware and her discussion of platform differences and changes through the years.
Even more surprising is that Ian Bogost and I have managed to advance part of our diabolical plan to have people use five long, colored rectangles stacked on top of each other:
In the Boston area? Please join us for a talk by
Creator of Wishbringer, Trinity, Loom, and other interactive fiction and graphic adventure titles
and professor of practice, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
“Beyond Zork: Games & Interactive Fiction”
Monday, November 28, 5:30 pm
MIT’s room 6-120
Brian Moriarty built his first computer in the fifth grade. He began publishing games in the early 1980s and in 1984 joined legendary text adventure company Infocom, where he authored three award-winning interactive fiction titles, Wishbringer (1985), Trinity (1986) and Beyond Zork (1987). His first graphic adventure game, Loom, was published in 1990 by Lucasfilm Games to wide critical acclaim.
Sponsored by the Angus N. MacDonald Fund
As always, this Purple Blurb event is free and open to the public.
An exhortation for those creating or researching electronic literature to please submit to Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, the 2012 Electronic Literature Organization conference. The gathering will take place June 20-23, 2012 in Morgantown, West Virginia. A juried Media Arts Gallery Exhibit will be held from Wednesday, June 13 through Saturday, June 23, 2012 at The Monongalia Arts Center. Registration costs have been kept down to make it easier for writers and artists who don’t have institutional travel support to be part of the event.
The deadline for abstracts & proposals is November 30, by the way.
Normally I only mention events that I’m attending or organizing, but I want to announce this Boston-area event even though I’ll be in Chicago and won’t be able to attend.
It’s called Dangerous Readings, and is sponsored by Eastgate Systems. Check out the page to see how you can participate.
Congrats to Andrew Plotkin (a.k.a. Zarf), interactive fiction author and active member of our local People’s Republic of Interactive Fiction, on the release of his first iPad app: My Secret Hideout. It’s not IF per se, but an interactive narrative toy – or, as Zarf says, “It’s an interactive toy… or rather poem… or artwork… It’s an interactive textual art generator set in a treehouse!” It has no score, possibly because life doesn’t work that way.
Here’s another article about my talk today in Passo Fundo. It’s in Brazilian Portuguese, and has a less maniacal photo accompanying it than did the last article I mentioned. The Babelfish provides this translation into English.
Like my collaborator Noah Wardrip-Fruin, I have come to Brazil for the winter. But not to a nice warm part of Brazil — I’m in Passo Fundo, in the far South, at the 14th Jornada Nacional de Literatura. Here, it has been cold outside, but there has been great excitement about writing and literary art.
I have been correctly identified as a space man as I’ve shown and discussed interactive fiction, poetry generation, and other forms of electronic literature.
I gave a longer talk this morning about these topics, which was translated into Brazilian Portuguese as I spoke. Tomorrow, I will speak on a panel in the main tent to about 5000 people about certain types of “convergence” in writing and literature. The type I will address is a convergence between authors – collaboration.
A collaborative story by Jesse Ashcraft-Johnson, Eleanor Crummé, Alex Ghaben, Cisco Gonzales, Ray Gonzalez, Boling Jiang, Nick Montfort, Shannon Moran, Kirsten Paredes, Carter Rice, Tyler Wagner, and Jia Zhu
“Mr. President, can you summarize the events of the G-6 conference?”
“First, a bunch of world leaders surrendered their favorite prostitutes. Then, we all yelled ‘Yeehaw!’” That was what George H. W. Bush thought, anyway, as he delivered a quick straight answer to the question.
“Mr. President, what was your holiday message to the troops?”
“I told the boys: either step up to the challenge or there will be no Christmas presents this year.”
When the photo-op smiles fell away, there was a moment of hesitation between Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney and Mexican President Salinas. The prepared statements about NAFTA were left on the podium, the talking points and teleprompters left in the press room with the reporters. Music swelled outside closed doors. “Well — either we dance or we lose ourselves in emerging global markets!” Bush blurted out, the twang in his voice inviting them to the hoedown.
Whiskey heavy on his breath, Bush turned to Salinas and elbowed him playfully. “Were you tutoring someone last night in long division? Either that was a very short 18-year-old or you might want to go see a priest. I hear they’re good with that sort of thing.”
He felt Mulroney’s eyes on him and turned abruptly. “Do you have a staring problem, boy? You’re looking at me like a damn homosexual. Either you face me like a man or spend the night. I’ll pound you ’till you’re tender.”
Mulroney flashed a smile, then started. A SWAT team was scaling the White House wall. “Look!” he said, gripping President Bush’s hand. “Either monkeys are flying out of your butt, or we should really rethink what we told the police last night. Maybe that anonymous call to the FBI tip line about hiding little boys in the attic wasn’t such a great idea.”
As their hands touched, Bush remembered the secret NAFTA initiation ceremony of the previous night.
Salinas had been pouring shots of tequila for a while. Stumbling up on top of the table, Bush called for attention and announced: “In order to promote unity, we must remove all barriers to our freedom. That includes our clothing.” Salinas nodded gravely, adding, “we must be pure and unfettered in body as well as soul.” There were noises of confusion from the others gathered there. “Hey, I’m from Texas, bitches. This is how we roll. Go big or go home!” Mulroney reached deep into his pants and pulled out a 12-ounce bottle of maple syrup. “Big enough for you, Bush?” he shouted as he chugged it down with a giant sucking sound.
One thing led to another. In the darkness, having slipped past the Secret Service, they ended up joining hands while riding bicycles naked down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bush was snapped out of his reverie by the arrival of the NAFTA treasurer who had come to brief the world leaders, who were inebriated once again, on the state of the budget.
“First, take off your clothes,” Bush told him. “Then we’ll talk … “