Underbelly in The Future of Reading?

The Future of Reading? An Exhibition of Digital Literature

Bank Street Arts, Sheffield, UK, from 22 Oct to 14 Nov 2014

‘The Future of Reading?’ exhibition shows how recent forms of experimental writing use digital technologies to enable new ways of reading, which complement and sometimes challenge more established media like books, films, and videogames. It includes Interactive Fictions (IFs) and electronic text adventure games, hypertext and hypermedia fictions, Flash and App-based fictions, kinetic poetry, and literary videogames.

A screenshot from Underbelly

I’m thrilled that my work, Underbelly, features in the exhibition in Gallery 3: Engaging the Senses. There are many wonderful digital and pre-digital works in the whole exhibition tracing the historical development of digital literature. Check out the online version of the exhibition, which will remain on the Reading Digital Fiction website indefinitely:

Read Digital FictionThe exhibition, curated by Dr. Alice Bell and Prof. Astrid Ensslin, is part of the Reading Digital Fiction project at Sheffield Hallam University and Bangor University, funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and sponsored by the Electronic Literature Organisation (ELO).

Also, earlier this week, as part of the Reading Digital Fiction project, I was delighted and honoured to give a Creative Writing Master Class in digital fiction for the MA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.

runran’s Revolution of Words

Randy Adams RIP

Randy Adams,  media mixeur and founder of the collaborative creative community, R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (remixworx), passed away peacefully in Nanaimo, Canada, with his wife JoAnn by his side, on 25 April 2014. He published his bio posthumously on Facebook. Today there will be a celebration of his life in Departure Bay, Vancouver Island. This is my virtual offering.

run the [creative] program randy

Screenshot of 'end of the rainbow' remix
R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX sprite

That’s how Randy Adams, aka runran, unpacked his digital pen name in the comments under one of R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX’ earliest blog posts, scream to be remixed, in December 2006, shortly before I joined. I will always be thankful that runran founded remixworx, an ongoing collaborative space for remixing digital media, not least because, as long as it remains online, we will always be able to run the [creative] program randy. His spritely spirit – and spirited sprite – runs throughout, inspiring, spawning, mixing, melding, entertaining, provoking, mutating… Let the tags lead you on a merry dance. For instance, of the many characters shedding digital debris, perhaps ponder the codeman or cyborg or, if you peer into the shadow moment and look inside, you might sense runran in imaginary places. Explore.

Randy initiated and enabled so much online creativity, literally hundreds of remixes, and earlier collaborative projects too that predate social media, like the enchanting Imaginary Post Office where he was postmaster. From our first virtual meeting at the trAce Online Writing Centre, where he inspired me to become a digital writer and artist, to our years of creative remixing, I will treasure my association with runran and all the cross-pollinations he inspired.

Screenshot of A Revolution of Words, an interactive composition by Randy Adams and Christine Wilks
Click the image to play A Revolution of Words, an interactive composition by runran and crissxross.

A Revolution of Words (Dec 2013) is the last creative collaboration that I worked on with Randy while he was battling against the side-effects of chemotherapy. It invites the speculative reader to Spin the Revolution and thus a play on words becomes a game of chance where meaning is at stake. The words are all runran’s, he chose the images too, and I did the codework. So try our useful online tool to find new meaning in your life. Give it a spin and see which dictum, watchword, slogan, epigram, mantra, motto, pitch, patter or spiel fortune favours for you!

I will miss collaborating with my dear friend, runran, as will many others. For instance, see In Memory of Randy Adams 1951-2014 by Sue Thomas, founder of the trAce Online Writing Community, Jeremy Hight’s An Interview with Randy Adams at Unlikely Stories  and Remembering Randy Adams | Electronic Literature Organization. Also see Leonardo Flores’ review of  “[con]artist” by Randy Adams at I Love E-Poetry.

My E-Lit Workshop at Festival of Writing

What are playable stories and how to start writing them

Computers and the internet have given birth to a new literary genre – Electronic Literature, or E-Lit for short. The genre covers a wide range of forms, from digital poetry to literary games and playable stories. The one thing all E-Lit works have in common is that they’re created on a computer and meant to be read using a computer or mobile device. Many are freely accessible to read or play on the internet. In this workshop, we’ll look at some examples of e-lit, playable stories that I’ve created, and how you might go about starting to write your own.

That was the title and description of the workshop talk I gave at the Festival of Writing 2013 in York on Sunday 15 September. I showed some of my own e-lit works and discussed how I approached writing them (e.g. about writing Fitting the Pattern or a peek into the process of creating Underbelly). Then I shared some suggestions of useful tools for writers who want to start creating their own born digital works.

Want to start writing your own digital stories or poems?

Here are some suggestions of web apps and writing tools you might want to try:

  • slid.es – a web-based editor for creating presentations. Here’s a wonderfully witty example from renowned e-lit author, Alan Bigelow, My Life in Three Parts, which he created using the source JavaScript framework that slide.es is built on, reveal.js.
  • Prezi – a powerful zooming presentation tool that you can use online, on your desktop or on your iPad/iPhone. Böhmische Dörfer is a very moving example of what can be achieved, created (in English) by Alexandra Saemer:

“Böhmische Dörfer” is a piece, created in Prezi, about the impossibility of reconstructing the failing memory of a traumatic historical event : the “March of Death” of the Sudeten Germans from Brno in winter 1945.

  • Storynexus – a platform for exploring interactive story worlds and writing and creating your own.
  • Scratch – a platform for programming your own interactive stories, games and animations.
  • Webmaker – “a global community that creates the web by making, teaching and remixing” – an open source project from Mozilla.
  • Varytale – a publishing and writing platform for interactive books.

Useful tools for writers and digital writers alike:

  • Scrivener – a “complete writing studio”, it has just about everything you need for researching, writing, structuring and revising your projects.
  • Scapple – a freeform text editor, similar to a mind-mapping tool.
  • Evernote – a powerful notetaking, web clipping, scrap-booking that helps you “remember everything”.

soma suture

Screenshot of soma suture
Screenshot of soma suture – click to play

my last remix of 2012

an animated e-poem created in Flash
click to play -> soma suture

(opens in new window/tab)

Truck :: n. a self-propelled vehicle for carrying goods is a blog exhibiting a cornucopia of digital art, e-lit, net art, animations, writing and poetry by a wide range of artists and writers. A few weeks ago Erik Rzepka, Truck’s curator for the month of December, invited me to contribute something. So I created soma suture, which I remixed from Turning Away Toward + rawVamp + some texts from various posts at Truck in December. As a remix, soma suture also appears at R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (a little differently).

Today is New Year’s Eve so soma suture is obviously my last remix of 2012 but it may also be the last remix I create in Flash. I love working in Flash but I’d like to create e-lit for all kinds of screens and devices, including mobile. So… Do I feel a New Year’s Resolution coming on?… WTF!… Yes… I resolve to make future remixes in JavaScript and HTML5 in 2013!

Happy New Year!

Scenic trail of remixes

A crissxross trail < R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX

one remix player’s scenic route through remixworx

A new work! It’s a kind of meta-remix of my personal creative journey through remixworx, our collaborative online remixing project. Conceived as a poetic interactive infographic with lots of multimedia animated content, this ‘scenic route‘ presents a sample trail of 33 out of the 100 remixes I’ve created since joining the remixworx group blog in January 2007. The trail includes a text commentary about my experience of remixing and co-creating over the past six years.

This particular crissxross remix trail formed the core of my presentation for the ELMCIP conference on Remediating the Social in Edinburgh, on 2 November 2012. Remixworx founder, Randy Adams, also presented at the conference, remotely from Canada. He gave an overview of the project and showed a couple of remixes (bookish version 1.3 and Notes Noir) before giving a live online VJ performance of the Visual Poetry Generator 0.1, accompanied by a spoken word and music soundtrack. Below is a sample screenshot from VPG 0.1.

Sketch 1
Randy Adams’ screenshot of random animation created by a Flash engine called Visual Poetry Generator (VPG 0.1), used for VJ sets

See more images in the remixworx flickr pool. You can also see a video of our conference presentations on the ELMCIP bambuser channel.

Chris Joseph, another prolific remixer who has been in it from the start, couldn’t make the conference but he contributed to our section in the Remediating the Social catalogue (free download).

interactive storytelling, digital art & writing by christine wilks