A note from the editor

In the five years since I first had a chance to edit The New River, many things have changed for me. I graduated from Virginia Tech’s creative writing MFA program, joined the VT faculty, and slowly returned to my roots in the digital world as a computer-mediated writer. I replaced my trusty black MacBook with a MacBook Air, and my beloved T-Mobile Sidekick with a BlackBerry, and then an iPhone, and continued to read anything and everything people on my Twitter and Facebook feeds threw my way.

I’ve tried my hand at Twitter fiction, written loads of picononfiction and micropoetry disguised as tweets, and workshopped poems in late night Facebook Messenger sessions. And I’m now the Web Administrator of The New River, meeting with current VT MFAs serving as managing editors every semester to facilitate the process of moving an issue from idea to digital form to living breathing website. I’m still hypertexting it up, yo.

Digital writing is very much a part of my life, from tweets I constantly read to apps I engage with on my iPhone to web-based work I view on the biggest monitors I can find (thank you Apple for the Thunderbolt monitor!). And judging from the works that constitute the Spring 2014 issue, digital writing is very much alive and kicking as demonstrated by authors across the globe.

One area of digital writing I personally find of much interest is mobile-based digital texts, such as apps, SMS writing, or web-based work designed for optimal viewing on smartphone or tablet devices. Mobile-based digital texts grab your attention through your device, pulling you into their literary world. Take Alan Bigelow’s intriguing “My Life in Three Parts” out for a spin on your iPhone or Android phone and you’ll see what I mean.

Another area of digital writing that continues to gain notice is game-based works. One that caught my eye, “a short interactive narrative/game” collaboration between Andy Campbell and Christine Wilks titled “Inkubus,” can be played in a web browser, or in standalone apps on a Windows or Mac OS X computer. In “Inkubus,” the reader plays a teenage girl navigating her digital world, a highly interactive, fascinating, almost addictive challenge.

The always surprising, highly engaging, and occasionally controversial digital writing genre netprov makes an appearance via “Mem-Eraze,” conceptualized by Mark C. Marino and Rob Wittig. “Mem-Eraze” at its heart is a reconstruction of lost digital images (“online social scrapbooks” hosted on the fictional Mem-or-Eaze Inc. servers and lost to offline catastrophes) using ordinary household objects. Scroll through the “Mem-Eraze” archives to find dozens of photographed memories re-created with all manner of items, from vodka bottles to hairbrushes to chocolate candies.

Friend of The New River Jason Nelson returns with "Camberland," an “interactive creature” or an “interactive poetic exploration of adventuring” in collaboration with Alinta Krauth, in which the text follows you around the screen as you navigate through each section of the work, creating textual paths or activating sound clips in the wake of a cursor.

I am pleased to feature in this issue works from two emerging writers from City University of Hong Kong. Wendy, Mak Wing Lam’s “Image of Text” incorporates a portion of the Book of Ezra as a way “to discover the hidden images from text and explore another way to read ‘text’” as the words reform into abstractions with each mouse click. Lucien Lau’s e-poem “Our brains are designed for work” draws the reader into a jarring, color splashed space in an attempt to “describe the chaos inside our minds” during stressful times.

As an old-school ‘net user, I always have love for a good old-fashioned hypertext. “Footnotes,” a “telescopic text” story by London-based writer Joe Davis, uses the jQuery JavaScript library to feed that love. The construction of “Footnotes” allows the reader to build—and rebuild—the narrative through the choice of clicking a hypertext link. So deceptively simple on a surface read, but what lurks beneath the computer-generated text doing narrative operational work is what makes me swoon.

In other news: I still do not enjoy rejection, but I do appreciate the time that the authors of this issue’s submissions took to reach out to me with their works. The process of reading through the submission queue brought back fond memories; it’s been a minute since I’ve rolled in Editor Mode, and I find I do miss it sometimes. A special note of recognition to the many undergraduates from City University of Hong Kong’s School of Creative Media who submitted work.

Much respect goes out to Ed Falco for the opportunity to edit The New River a second time—and for his patience, as always—as well as gratitude to Dr. Timothy Luke and my faculty colleagues in the Virginia Tech Department of Political Science for unwavering support. Shouts to Dr. Jeremy Hunsinger of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Department of Communication Studies for continuing to be a gentleman and a scholar. A tip of the cap to Jordan Fifer, a reporter at The Roanoke Times, for directing me to one of this issue’s contributors. And a thank you to Judson Abraham, a second-year graduate student in Virginia Tech’s Political Science MA program, for keeping me on task this summer.

A note about the background photos accompanying this issue: the Moss Arts Center, a multi-million dollar arts & performance facility, opened on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus this past fall and quickly became part of my on-campus lifestyle, giving me regular opportunities to attend musical and spoken-word performances, gallery openings, or just pass by on my way to/from my office on the Upper Quad. Its striking architecture arrests my eye perpetually on the lookout for great beauty (a la the recent Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film) and doesn’t let go, and sometimes on the walk back downtown from campus I find myself departing from my usual path to walk along the jagged concrete sidewalks lining the building’s front. These photographs, taken near dawn a few weeks ago, capture fragile moments between my campus life and my downtown life, when the rest of town is waking up and I’m headed home to get some rest before getting back up and taking on another lazy/busy summer session day.

Wherever you may be out in this digital world, I send you my best wishes from the 16 Original Squares of Blacksburg, and I hope you enjoy this issue of The New River.

Josette Torres, July 7, 2014