Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media Volume 1

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

From the ELL Website:

Written and produced by the Electronic Literature Lab Team––Dene Grigar, PhD; Nicholas Schiller, MLIS; Vanessa Rhodes, B.A.; Mariah Gwin, Veronica Whitney, B.A.; and Katie Bowen––Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Born Digital Pre-Web Media provides scholars with access to fragile, seminal works published on floppy disks and CD-ROMs between 1986-1996, including:

  • Sarah Smith’s science fiction hypertext novel King of Space (1991)
  • David Kolb’s hypertext essay “Socrates in the Labyrinth” (1994)
  • J. Yellowlees Douglas’ hypertext narrative “I Have Said Nothing” (1994) 
  • Thomas M. Disch’s text adventure AMNESIA (1986)
  • Rob Kendall’s hypertext animated poem A Life Set for Two (1996)
  • Judy Malloy’s generative hypertext narrative its name was Penelope (Version 3.0, 1993)
  • Mary-Kim Arnold’s hypertext narrative poem “Lust” (1994)

The book features 85,000 words of artist biographies, descriptions of media, and critical essays; 350 photos of artists, works, and their original packaging; and 55 videos of artist readings and interviews and Live Stream Traversals.

Critical essays include:

  • “Contextualizing Sarah Smith’s King of Space
  • “Untangling the Threads of the Labyrinth in David Kolb’s ‘Socrates in the Labyrinth'”
  • “Saying Something about J. Yellowlees Douglas’ ‘I Have Said Nothing'”
  • “Remembering the 1980s with Thomas M. Disch’s AMNESIA
  • “Love and Loss in Robert Kendall’s A Life Set for Two
  • “On Memory, the Muse, and Judy Malloy’s its name was Penelope
  • “Repetition in Mary-Kim Arnold’s ‘Lust'” 

It also offers scholarly resources and versioning and publication information about each work.

Pull Quotes: 

Rebooting Electronic Literature is an open-source, multimedia book that documents seven pre-web works of electronic literature held in the Electronic Literature Lab (ELL) library at Washington State University Vancouver. The seven works selected for this project are among the most unique and fragile. Sarah Smith's King of Space (1991), the first documented e-lit work of science fiction, was produced with the early hypertext authoring Hypergate. David Kolb's Socrates in the Labyrinth (1994) is one of a handful of hypertext essays produced during the pre-web period and certainly the only one focusing on philosophy. J Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing" (1994), which—along with Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story—appeared  in  W. W. Norton & Co.’s Postmodern American Fiction (1997), the only works of electronic literature ever published in one of Norton’s many collections. Thomas M. Disch's AMNESIA (1986) is a text adventure game, the only published by Electronic Arts and one of a handful authored by a prominent print writer. Rob Kendall's A Life Set for Two (1996) is an animated poem programmed by the artist in Visual Basic. Judy Malloy's its name was Penelope, Version 3.0 (1993) is a retooling of Version 2.0 (1990) by Mark Bernstein from the original BASIC program into the Storyspace aesthetic. Finally, Kim Arnold's "Lust" (1994) packaged with Douglas’ in The Eastgate Quarterly Review, Volume 1, Number 2 is a hypertext that straddles the genre of fiction and poetry.

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Storyspace 1987
Hypergate Mark Bernstein 1988
Visual Basic 1991
King Edward James Terry
Narrabase Judy Malloy 1986

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
Eastgate Systems, Inc.
Eastgate Systems, Inc.
134 Main Street
02472 Watertown , MA
United States
Massachusetts US

Research Collection that references this Critical Writing:

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Davin Heckman