Welcome. With this number of the New River we manage for the first time to bring a visual artist onto our digital pages. Leslye Bloom's work is not hypertext, of course. It's visual art created through experimentation with digital technology. It is included here because it provides another piece of the answer to the question posed in the first number of the New River: what kind of art will be made with hypertext and hypermedia? The distinction, in any case, between visual art and hypertext has always been a complex issue. Hypertext is not another manifestation of the linear narrative, with its roots in the oral traditions of storytelling. Hypertext is something different, more closely connected to the first scratchings on cave walls than to the first tales told around the fire. Art like Leslye Bloom's, arising out of the digital image, seems exactly appropriate, then, to the content of the New River.
Working with, among other soft- and hardware, Photoshop, GraphicConverter, Color IT!, Pagemaker, Kodak Picture Transfer Application, Photoenhancer for Kodak, Posterworks, a Kodak digital camera, a Power PC with a monster motherboard and graphics accelerator card, Zip and MO drives, a Nikon slide scanner, LA Cie color scanner, and a flat iron, Bloom creates unique final images of intriguing depth and complexity. In the stained-glass-window-like panel of Tranquility, for example, Bloom uses her various technologies to add sensuality and texture to what would otherwise be an interesting photo montage, making it something different, a digitized merging of painting and photography. I find much to admire in these pieces: the way, for example, under an umbrella of petals the crane looms above a solitary figure on the shoreline in Tranquility. Or the way Ms. Bloom's hand subtly disappears, in Me with Jamaica Apple, to be replaced by the silk screen of her hand rendered on the T-shirt she's wearing. Or the way the very air seems scratched and marred around the ominous black cenotaph in Salutamus. These are pieces that reward your attention.
I'll hope for more opportunities in the future to present the work of visual artists.
Also in this issue, Curtis Harrell returns with an ambitious hypertext poem, the title of which can't be correctly rendered outside of hypertext. The four words that comprise the title--Nightmare, Wanders, Fathers, Song--are hidden in the black field of the opening screen, to be found by readers as they explore with cursors. The title thus changes from reader to reader. It may include all four words, as in "Song Wanders Fathers Nightmare," if the reader sticks around the opening screen long enough; or the title may simply be "Nightmare," or "Song," if the reader follows the first link found. You see the possibilities. In this new poem, as in "Turning Away," published here a couple of numbers back, Harrell brings a traditional lyric sensibility to the digital fields of hypertext poetry.
In the last few months--as anyone reading this has no doubt already noticed--several digital reading devices have made their way to market, including the Everybook, from Everybook, Inc.; the RocketBook, from NuvoMedia; and the SoftBook, from Virtual Press. This strikes me as a significant development in the progress of hypertext. These products are not being marketed with hypertext in mind, of course. They envision--accurately, I believe--a world in which the incredibly costly business of printing, warehousing, and distributing the traditional book is replaced by the immensely more efficient downloading of digitized books into reading devices. In such a world, all of Faulkner's books and all of the important books written about Faulkner's books could be contained on a single chip popped into a single reading device, organized and navigated with hyperlinks. In that near-future world, where the context for hypertext writing and art is established; where young people grow up reading on hand-held computers and navigating text with hyperlinks; we can expect to see the evolution of new kinds of writing and art, the beginnings of which we are exploring here first in the New River.