News · 10/01/2011

Writer In Residence, October 2011

I became serious about writing — or at least became serious about wanting to become serious about writing — while working at a series of office jobs with plenty of time to kill on what there was then of the web. Some days by learning HTML, and others by writing stories, and it was as natural a combination as learning to play Interactive Fictions while I was learning to read years earlier, or when I began teaching later and assigned Michael Joyce beside James, and Natalie Bookchin with Borges. I suspect those intersections are generational rather than personal, so I’ve wondered for a while now why there’s so little overlap between the spheres of online and electronic literature; they seem like such natural companions.1 So in hopes of encouraging more crossover and awareness, it’s a great pleasure to announce that Scott Rettberg will be our Writer In Residence for the month of October.

In the introduction to his dissertation, Destination Unknown: Experiments in the Network Novel, Scott asked,

How does one tell a story that isn’t simply distributed on the network, but that is native to the medium? What possibilities does the electronic environment offer writers that the print environment does not? How can we write literature for people who spend much of their reading time on the Internet?

He has not only been asking and answering these questions as a scholar, but as a practitioner and producer of diverse works including Implementation, a novel written with Nick Montfort and distributed on stickers; Kind of Blue, a serial novel for email; and experiments with generative fictions and poetry generators. He also co-edited volume one of the Electronic Literature Collection. As we’re told in his collaborative novel project The Unknown,

We are frontier-obsessive creatures. From America, could we be otherwise? This is not all the stuff ofdomination. One would hope. To know what is not known. This is the limit and the expanse and the ultimateundoing of all horizons.

But how can we explore the spaces between understandings of things?

How can we begin to question how we remember, not what we remember?

How can we know the totality of what we do not think?

His work has been exploring those frontiers for years, but also the ergodic spaces that always leave room for more voices — after all, as Scott and Nick Montfort wrote in their sticker novel, “everybody’s got a story in Implementation.” That kind of playful collaboration, and the production of works that both speak and expect others (their readers) to speak, should appeal to the indie lit world with it’s emphasis on community and generosity.

And with that, I’ll make room for Scott and whatever voices he brings with him this month to speak, and I hope you’re as excited to listen as I am.

1. Lately, though, I’ve been encouraged by the appearance of works like Matt Baker’s hypertext novel The Numberless, and Emily Kiernan’s Great Divide, not to mention Mike Meginnis’ Interactive Fiction email project.