A note from the editor

Over the past fifteen years, The New River has published digital literature in all its expanding media expressions. For this issue, I was drawn in by the opportunity to focus our journal on deepening the hypertext co-narrator role. Inspired by the generative text design of two of the pieces included in this issue, I wanted to focus the journal on works that required the reader to input original ideas in order for the narrative or creative expression to move forward. The stories, games, and multi-genre interviews in this issue all require the reader to become a part of the work, to type in information and opinions, or choose who they are in a “study,” before the story, game, or cultural critique can go on.

These interactive experiences are increasingly complex for the reader. While one piece may generate a new text from the reader’s input, other pieces close the chasm between reader and text with continuous feedback. No longer limited to simple links and static images, new media now literally speaks and moves. Our experiences as readers in a piece like “The Qi Project” are sensorial and hypnotic.

To bring new works to the screen, I reached out to those who were working with new media all over the world—in other journals, this journal, new media organizations, and in new media undergraduate and new media MFA programs. Through the expanded call, we’ve networked with writers inspired to express their creativity using video, audio and generative text.

The pieces in this issue were chosen for their duality. Developed to entertain and make the reader think deeply, the creative works we’re presenting invite the reader to ponder the origins of scholarship, question definitions of human identity, reflect upon who we are as patients or relatives of the ill, and carefully ruminate on the nature of our cultural belonging.

The Works

“Of Studies”: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to author a culturally influential text—to be a part of the philosophies that have shaped Western thought? Eric Lemay makes a generative text out of Francis Bacon’s Essayes, giving the reader the opportunity to reshape the classic text into a personalized contemporary composition, which reflects the reader’s experiences. Input your ideas and really see what it is to experience your life through the perspective of a cultural theoretical lens.

“Rememori”: Christine Wilkes has transformed concepts of a contemporary literary classic and given the reader an opportunity to become a part of the world of Alzheimer’s in “Rememori.” In the reproduction of a child’s game of Memory, Wilkes makes a play on the Morrisonian term of “Re-memory,” which proposes the idea of people remembering that which they haven’t lived. In “Rememori,” the reader becomes a character losing memories they never had or becoming the fading memory of a fictive character. Playing “Rememori,” the reader performs the part of a number of concerned individuals in the life of an ailing Alzheimer’s patient. The poignant experiences of mental deterioration resonate within the player as she attempts to match ideas, concepts, images. This makes interaction with “Rememori” a game that is an experience in lyrical prose.

“Survey”: F.J. Bergmann’s twisted world of diagnostic tests uses cynicism and humor to taunt the reader into participating in a personal evaluation of their cultural apathy. The reader answers diagnostic questions posed by a narrator whose evocative tone volleys from patronizing to mocking to bullying, pushing the reader beyond hesitation into full involvement with the work. The background design creates an enigmatic mood, as the reader feels immersed in a mysteriously overcast environment, which serves as backdrop to this mentally prying, speculative adventure. Here, cultural criticism walks through the back door, popular artists are made analogous to wild animals, and the reader is prompted to laugh as he evaluates himself. Ominous music combines with the acerbic language of this survey to keep the reader engaged and excited to repeat the process with all new answers, in hopes of seeing a new, wry assessment of his cultural persona.  

“The Qi Project”: Nanette Wylde’s piece pulls the reader into the work in every sense. Whether one starts by reading the insights others have shared on humanity or by listening to the interviews, which reveal a vast range of thoughts on the subject, one will find riveting and captivating ideas. Ostensibly, participating in “The Qi Project” as a reader is an experience in relinquishing oneself to the work on the screen. The prompt to “look” could as easily be a prompt to “feel”, “focus”, or “meditate”. The graphics pulse and the reader is given a slow, calming rhythm to match as she focuses on the serene center of the project. I mirrored the pulse with my own breath, which unavoidably made me think more deeply about others’ ideas. Finally, with the prompt to “WRITE,” “The Qi Project” invites the reader to jump in and participate by becoming a co-author in this sensorial experience. Wylde’s work let’s you see, hear, and feel her subject. In the Qi Project we engage digital writing as a tree bearing the fruit of diverse media. Taste it.

By Khalilah Boone