VIdeo of My PRB Reading

Thanks to host Joseph Mosconi, I read at the Poetics Research Bureau in Los Angeles from two recent computer-generated books. Sophia Le Fraga and Aaron Winslow read with me on this evening, on July 21.

I have now posted 360 video of my readings of both The Truelist and Hard West Turn.

Montfort’s Poetic Research Bureau reading of July 21, 2018

I read from The Truelist (Counterpath, 2017). The Truelist is available as an offset-printed book from Counterpath, as a short, deterministic, free software program that generates the full text of the book, and as a free audiobook, thanks to the generosity of the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, its Wexler Studio, and PennSound.

After this, I read from Hard West Turn (Bad Quarto, 2018), a computer-generated novel about gun violence in the United States, the first of a series. Each novel, copy-edited by the author/programmer, will be re-generated annually for release on July 4. Hard West Turn (2018) is available in print in a very limited edition, only 13 copies for sale + 3 artist’s proofs. The short free software program that generated the text is available as well. The first draft of this project was done as a NaNoGenMo (National Novel Generation Month) program in November 2017.

My @party Talk on Computer-Generated Books

I just gave a talk at the local demoparty, @party. While I haven’t written out notes and it wasn’t recorded, here are the slides. The talk was “Book Productions: The Latest in Computer-Generated Literary Art,” and included some discussion of how computer-generated literary books related to demoscene productions.

Computer-Generated Books

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. (Updated June 23, 2017: I added the first chapbooks today.) 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 using a formal 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 in 2016 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. Updated in 2017 June 12: Added Morris, Pipkin. June 23: Added Clark, Knowles 2011, The Maggot, and four chapbooks: Knowles & Tenney, Parrish, Pipkin (picking figs…), Temkin. September 5: Added Mize. Updated in 2018 September 18: Added the first six Using Electricity books, Montfort, Perez y Perez, Parrish, Zilles, Bhatnagar, Läufer; also, Montfort 2018, King Zog, Goodwin. November 29: Added the three Constant 2013 books.

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

Audry, Sofian. for the sleepers in that quiet earth. Boston and New York: Bad Quarto, 2018.

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

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

Balousek, Matthew R.F. and Emma Stewart. Exchange of Letters. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, third installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Gold Chocobo. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, fourth installment. Mount Vernon, 2018.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Or, the Whale. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, second installment. Santa Cruz, 2017.

Balousek, Matthew R.F. Post Meridiem. A Hive of Mechanical Wasps, first installment. Santa Cruz, 2016.

Baudot, Jean. La Machine a écrire mise en marche et programmée par Jean A. Baudot. Montréal: Editions du Jour, 1964.

Bhatnagar, Ranjit. Encomials: Sonnets from Pentametron. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

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.

Clark, Ron. My Buttons Are Blue and Other Love Poems from the Digital Heart of an Electronic Computer. Woodsboro, Maryland: Arcsoft Pub, 1982.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: James Joyce & Rabindranath Tagore & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: Rabindra[na]th Tagore & Virginia Woolf & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

Constant Verlag Brussels. The Death of the Authors: Sherwood Anderson & Henri Bergson & Their Return to Life in Four Seasons. Brussels, Belgium. 2013.

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

Friedhoff, Jane. it is a different/friction. 2015.

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

Funkhouser, Christopher. Electro þerdix. Propolis Press. Least Weasel Chapbook Series. 2011.

Goodwin, Ross. 1 the Road. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2018.

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.]

King Zog. Google, Volume 1. Jean Boîte Éditions: Paris, 2013.

Knowles, Alison, James Tenney, and Siemens System 4004. A House of Dust. Köln & New York: Verlag Gebr. König, 1969.

Knowles, Alison. Clear Skies All Week. Onestar Press, 2011.

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

Läufer, Milton. A Noise Such as a Man Might Make. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Maggot, The. Heroic Real Estate Otter of the 21st Century. lulu.com, 2013.

Mize, Rando. Machine Ramblings. n.p., 2016.

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

Montfort, Nick. Zegar ?wiatowy. 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. Global Poetics series. Los Angeles: Les Figues, 2016.

Montfort, Nick. The Truelist. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Montfort, Nick. Hard West Turn. Cambridge: Bad Quarto, 2018.

Morris, Simon. Re-writing Freud. York, England: Information as Material, 2005.

Parrish, Allison. The Ephemerides. Access Token Secret Press, 2015.

Parrish, Allison. Articulations. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

Pérez y Pérez, Rafael. Mexica: 20 Years–20 Stories [20 años–20 historias]. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2017.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself. Austin: Raw Paw Press, 2015.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. no people. Katie Rose Pipkin, 2015.

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.

Stewart, Emma. My Lovers Learn About the Economy of Debt. n.p., n.d.

Stewart, Emma. Slapping Bandaids on Earthquakes: Thoughts about life under surveillance. n.p., n.d.

Temkin, Daniel. Non-Words. Edition of 100, each with unique words generated by same algorithm used in @nondenotative. n.d.

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

[Tiar, Louis-Charles]. Let us Now Praise 5,202 Persons. n.p., n.d.

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.

Zilles, Li. Machine, Unlearning. Using Electricity series. Counterpath: Denver, 2018.

NaNoGenMo 2014: A Look Back & Back

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

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.