Computer-Generated Books

Friday 22 July 2016, 2:16 am   /////  

Here’s a first effort (drafted, initially, at 2am on July 22) at a bibliography of computer-generated books.

These are books in the standard material sense, somehow printed, whether via print-on-demand or in a print run. I may include chapbooks eventually, as they certainly interest me, but so far I have been focusing on books, however bound, with spines. Books in any language are welcome.

So far I have not included books where the text has been obviously sorted computer (e.g. Auerbach, Reimer) or where a text has been produced repeatedly, obviously by computer (e.g. Chernofsky). Also omitted are computer-generated utilitarian tables, e.g. of logarithms or for artillery firing. Books composed by a process, but without using a computer, are not included.

I have included some strange outliers such as books written with computational assistance (programs were used to generate text and the text was human-assembled/edited/written) and one book that is apparently human written but is supposed to read like a computer-generated book.

I’d love to know about more of these. I’m not as interested in the thousands of computer-generated spam books available for purchase, and have not listed any of these, but let me know if there are specific ones that you believe are worthwhile. I would particularly like to know if some of the great NaNoGenMo books I’ve read are available in print.

Updated 11:43am July 22: Since the original post I have added Whalen, Tranter, Balestrini, and five books by Bök. 5:35pm: I’ve added Thompson and Woetmann. 8:37am July 23: Added Bogost. 8:37pm July 24: Added Bailey, Baudot, Cabell & Huff, Cage x 2, Huff, Hirmes. October 12-14: Added Archangel, Seward, Dörfelt.

Archangel, Cory. Working on my Novel. New York: Penguin, 2014.

Bailey, Richard W. Computer Poems. Drummond Island, MI: Potagannissing Press, 1973.

Balestrini, Nanni. Tristano. Translated by Mike Harakis. London and New York: Verso, 2014.

Baudot, Jean. La machine a écrire. Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bogost, Ian. A Slow Year: Game Poems. Highlands Ranch, CO: Open Texture, [2010].

Bök, Christian. LXUM,LKWC (Oh Time Thy Pyramids). San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. MCV. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. Axaxaxas Mlo. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Plaster Cramp. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Bök, Christian. The Combed Thunderclap. San Francisco: Blurb, 2015.

Cabell, Mimi, and Jason Huff. American Psycho. Vienna: Traumavien, 2012.

Cage, John. Anarchy (New York City, January 1988). Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988.

Cage, John. I-IV. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Carpenter, J. R. GENERATION[S] Vienna: Traumawien, 2010.

Cayley, John and Daniel C. Howe, How it Is in Common Tongues. Providence: NLLF, 2012.

Cayley, John. Image Generation. London: Veer Books, 2015.

Chamberlin, Darick. Cigarette Boy: A Mock Machine Mock-Epic. [Seattle]: Rogue Drogue: 1991.

Chan, Paul. Phaedrus Pron. Brooklyn: Badlands Unlimited, 2010.

Daly, Liza. Seraphs: A Procedurally Generated Mysterious Codex. [San Francisco]: Blurb, 2014.

Fuchs, Martin and Peter Bichsel. Written Images. 2011.

Hartman, Charles and Hugh Kenner. Sentences. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon Press, 1995.

Heldén, Johannes and Håkan Jonson. Evolution. Stockholm, OEI Editör, 2014.

Hirmes, David. Directions From Unknown Road to Unknown Road. [Handmade edition of 10.] The Elements Press: 2010.

Huff, Jason. Autosummarize. [McNally Jackson]: 2010.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler-Henry. Apostrophe. Toronto, ECW Press, 2006.

Kennedy, Bill and Darren Wershler. Update. Montréal: Snare, [2010.]

Larson, Darby. Irritant. New York and Atlanta: Blue Square Press, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. World Clock. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2013.

Montfort, Nick. Zegar światowy. Translated by Piotr Marecki. Krakow: ha!art, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. #! Denver: Counterpath, 2014.

Montfort, Nick. Megawatt. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2014.

Montfort, Nick, Serge Bouchardon, Carlos León, Natalia Fedorova, Andrew Campana, Aleksandra Malecka, and Piotr Marecki. 2×6. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Racter, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. Illustrations by Joan Hall. Introduction by William Chamberlain. New York: Warner Books, 1984.

Rosén, Carl-Johan. I Speak Myself Into an Object. Stockholm: Rensvist Förlag, 2013.

Dörfelt, Matthias. I Follow. Series of unique flip-books with computer-generated aspects of animation. Made by the artist. 2013-present.

Seward, Rob. Death Death Death. VHS Design LLC, 2010.

Thompson, Jeff. Grid Remix: The Fellowship of the Ring. San Francisco: Blurb, 2013.

Tranter, John. Different Hands. North Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1998.

Walker, Nathan. Action Score Generator. Manchester: if p then q, 2015.

Whalen, Zach. An Anthrogram. Fredericksburg, Virginia: 2015.

Woetmann, Peter-Clement. 105 Variationer. Cophenhagen: Arena, 2015.

Megawatt Reviewed

Monday 29 December 2014, 4:44 pm   ///////  

The first review of Megawatt has appeared (originally in German), and it’s quite a detailed analysis of the book, its relationship to Watt, and how the code and output text, in their presentation here, relate. The review is by Hannes Bajohr at 0x0a.

Here is the automagical Googly translation.

The English version of the review was posted January 3.

NaNoGenMo 2014: A Look Back & Back

Friday 19 December 2014, 11:26 pm   //////  

There were so many excellent novel generators, and generated novels, last month for NaNaGenMo (National Novel Generation Month).

I thought a lot of them related to and carried on the work of wonderful existing literary projects — usually in the form of existing books. And this is in no way a backhanded complement. My own NaNoGenMo entry was the most rooted in an existing novel; I simply computationally re-implemented Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt (or at least the parts of it that were most illegible and computational), in my novel generator Megawatt (its PDF output is also available). For good measure, Megawatt is completely deterministic; although someone might choose to modify it and generate different things, as it stands it generates exactly one novel. So, for me to say that I was reminded of a great book when I saw a particular generator is pure praise.

Early in month, Liza Daly’s Seraphs set a high standard and must have discouraged many offhand generators! Liza’s generator seeks images and randomizes text to produce a lengthy book that is like the Voynich Manuscript, and certainly also like the Codex Seraphinianus.

Allison Parrish’s I Waded in Clear Water is a novel based on dream interpretations. Of course, it reminds me of 10,000 Dreams Interpreted (and I am pleased, thanks to my students from long ago, to have the leading site on the Web for that famous book) but it also reminds me of footnote-heavy novels such as Infinite Jest. Let me note that a Twine game has already been written based on this work: Fowl are Foul, by Jacqueline Lott.

I found Zarkonnen’s Moebius Tentacle; Or the Space-Octopus oddly compelling. It was created by simple substitution of strings from Moby-Dick (one novel it clearly reminded me of), freeing the story to be about the pursuit of an octopus by space amazons. It wasn’t as polished as I would have liked (just a text file for output), and didn’t render text flawlessly, but still, the result was amazing. Consider how the near-final text presents the (transformed) Tashtego in his final tumult:

A sky-hawk that tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its unnatural home among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Lazerbot-9 there; this spacebat now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between the hammer and the plasteel; and simultaneously feeling that etherial thrill, the submerged robot beneath, in her death-gasp, kept her hammer frozen there; and so the spacebat of heaven, with archangelic shrieks, and her imperial beak thrust upwards, and her whole captive form folded in the flag of Vixena, went away with her spaceship, which, like Satan, would not sink to transwarp till she had dragged a living part of heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.

Sean Barrett wrote two beautiful generators (at least) – the first of which was How Hannah Solved The Twelve-Disk Tower of Hanoi. Deliberate, progressing, intelligent, and keeping the reader on the edge of her seat – this one is great. But, that generator (drafted by November 9) wasn’t enough, and Barrett also contributed (only a day late) The Basketball Game, an opera generator that provides a score (with lyrics) and MIDI files. It’s as if “I got Philip Glass!” indicates that one is rebounding.

Eric Stayton’s I Sing Of takes the beginning of the Aeneid as grist, moving through alternate invocations using WordNet. I like the way different epics are invoked by the slight changes, and was reminded of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler.

Sam Coppini’s D’ksuban Dictionary, although also just a text file, is a simple but effective generator of a fictional language’s dictionary. Less like the Devil’s Dictionary, more like the (apparently unpublished) lexicon of Earth: Final Conflict. I’m sure literary works in D’ksuban will be forthcoming soon.

Ben Kybartas’s Something, Somewhere is wonderfully spare and evocative – more Madsen than Hemingway.

Finally, Thricedotted’s The Seeker is an extraordinary concrete novel in the tradition of Raymond Federman’s Double or Nothing. The text, based on wikiHow, is good and serves well to define a protagonist who always wishes to do right, but the typographical framework is really excellent.

These are just a few comments before NaNoGenMo goes as stale as a late-December pumpkin. I hope you enjoy tis work and other work that was done last month, and that you keep an eye peeled for further novel generators – next November and throughout the year.

Megawatt, the Paperback, Can Be Bought

Tuesday 9 December 2014, 9:53 pm   //////  

… from the Harvard Book Store.

And if it’s digital data you’re craving, it’s also available for free as a PDF and as an EPUB. And the code that generated these books is free software.

Megawatt

Saturday 29 November 2014, 1:13 pm   //////  

Megawatt coverThe fruits of my National Novel Generation Month (NaNoGenMo) labors are now online; the Megawatt generator is available as a single 350-line Python file, while the novel it deterministically generates can be obtained as a PDF, megawatt.pdf or in epub format, megawatt.epub. From the program’s docstring and from the preface to the book:

Megawatt is the title of both a computer program, the source code to which you may be reading, and the output of this program, which in many ways is like a standard novel and which you may instead be reading. This note appears at the beginning of both.

The program Megawatt is based on passages from Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt, first published in 1953 but written much earlier, when Beckett was aiding the French Resistance during World War II.

The novel Megawatt leaves aside all of the more intelligible language of Beckett’s novel and is based, instead, on that which is most systematic and inscrutable. It does not just recreate these passages, although with minor changes the Megawatt code can be used to do so. In the new novel, rather, they are intensified by generating, using the same methods that Beckett used, significantly more text than is found in the already excessive Watt.

(Please note: The following information is handy if you want to, for instance, modify the program and generate a PDF or epub yourself. You don’t need to do this to read the novel. You can download it in PDF: megawatt.pdf or in epub format: megawatt.epub.)

To produce the novel in markdown format, run megawatt.py (a Python 2 program) with TextBlob (a text processing library) installed.

% python megawatt.py > megawatt.text

To produce PDF and epub documents, use pandoc:

% pandoc -V geometry:paperwidth=5.5in \ 
    -V geometry:paperheight=8.25in \ 
    -V geometry:margin=.7in -o megawatt.pdf \ 
    megawatt.text
% echo '% Megawatt' > info.txt
% echo '% Nick Montfort' >> info.txt
% pandoc -o megawatt.epub info.txt megawatt.text

Megawatt was written/generated for the second NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month) in November 2014, and is free software.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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