Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

Join our Facebook group!

Join our mailing list!

An Interview with Mark C. Marino
by Jeremy Hight

Jeremy Hight: Who are some of your influences?

Mark C. Marino: I know this will damage my snob rating, but Douglas Adams played a pivotal role in my early development. He's the first transmedia artist (radio, tv, Infocom games) I really felt I got, and the humor in his work had me laughing out loud. The Hitchhiker's Guide itself gave a postmodern, metafictional dimension to the work that I loved—though I didn't have the words for it at the time. But in general, I suppose I lean toward humor and experimentation, folks like Calvino, Cortázar, Borges. (Is my snob rating rising?) Their wit delights me. Yet when I come across prose stylists—like Ondaatje—I just swoon.

From the e-lit world, my influences are definitely Judy Malloy and Michael Joyce—and no doubt all the weird and wonderful artists of the Electronic Literature Organization—from Special America to Erik Loyer.

I also have project-specific influences like Julia Alvarez on "a show of hands" and Anna Deavere Smith and, of course, you on "The LA Flood Project." (Can I count you since you helped create that project?) I think maybe I'm too easily influenced!

JH: What are you working on right now?

MCM: Currently, I've been working on developing Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House, an anthology of interactive children's stories (for ages 7-12), built on the Undum system I used for "Living Will." They're choice-based tales built around a magical foster care home run by a loving woman who may be (well, probably is) a witch.

The best part is I'm writing the stories collaboratively with my two kids (now 9 and 11). It's so neat to see how they're developing as storytellers in their own rights. They have so many insights into what makes children's stories fun and meaningful. Together, we plan out plot twists and little bits of interaction, but basically I consult them on everything from the story to the illustrations (by the mind-blowingly talented Brian Gallagher). In fact, they pose for all of the illustrations and then give feedback on the drafts.

JH: What are Tempspence and SpeidiShow all about? How did you come to these novel ideas, and how did you get the parts to all come together as they have?

MCM: Both those projects were dreamed up with my netprov partner Rob Wittig. Netprov is a form of improvised online writing we've been developing for some time. Netprov often involves playing fictional or fictionalized characters. Sometimes it involves a bit of reality bending. Now, enter Spencer and Heidi—literally when Spencer entered my writing class, one of his last at the University of Southern California.

You can see Spencer and Heidi explaining some of the theory here behind SpeidiShow here. For my part, I'd say these two projects are about the public performance of everyday life, the pursuit of personal notoriety, and the surreality of reality TV. They're about creating pop art with fans (along with other artists) and about playing games with onscreen personas. And of course, they're about the insane world of HOLLYWOOD.

They're about things that have never existed before: contemporary reality TV and the explosion of social media. But they're also about eternal quests—like our need to be seen. Tempspence wants nothing more than to emerge from obscurity, the very thing that would end his run as the voice behind Spencer Pratt's Twitter account. He's also balancing the fun of the masquerade with the desire for authentic revelation of his true self, a struggle embodied in his romantic struggle between his duel loves Una and Duessa.

JH: "Living Will" is a fascinating work and has a nice combination of elements of classic interactive works and a fresh sense of storytelling. What inspired this work, and how was the process?

MCM: Two things inspired "Living Will." The first was the death sentence of a faculty friend of mine, Mike Grady of Loyola Marymount University, a boundlessly talented teacher who found out he had pancreatic cancer. His decline cast a pall over my more optimistic visions. His story—or its abrupt curtailment—sent me into a building, unfocused rage, and that anger drove the early work on that story—even though it expressed itself in the form of humor. Irony, the best friend of bitterness. But once I got started, I fell into these riffs on Heart of Darkness (and Things Fall Apart) and then, I don't know, Downton Abbey and Bleak House. The language itself and the character just kind of took over.

The other influence was Undum itself. When artist Joe Peters (recently featured at ELO14 for his own work) first showed me the Undum authoring environment, I fell in love -- the look and feel of the system was too tasty. I couldn't (and still can't) get enough of it. Also, because Undum by defaults writes the new text chunks on the bottom of the current page, Undum solves a major problem with hypertext. It relieves that sense of disorientation that readers report when they follow links to places they experiences as far removed from their starting point. Not to mention, the default layout is just lovely and bookish, to use a term from my colleague and collaborator Jessica Pressman.

As you point out, there's also a heavy influence of classic works in "Living Will"—but here I'm thinking more of interactive fiction than some of the more modernistic works of e-lit. You're a character playing a kind of game. Again, it's a bit like, say, Bureaucracy or maybe a Lemonade Stand of death and probate.

JH: What brought you to digital narratives? What aspects first grabbed your interest? How have your interests and sense of what is possible evolved over time?

MCM: Formally, George Landow was the person who introduced me to digital narratives—as part of his Hypertext Theory class at Brown, where I was an undergraduate. That and a conference held by Robert Coover called Unspeakable Acts, Unnatural Practices. Informally, it was definitely those early interactive fiction works, Deadline, Hitchhiker's Guide, and even the tawdry Leather Goddesses of Phobos.

When I was starting out, though, literary hypertext defined e-lit. So I guess I started out with a sense that anything was possible in e-lit, that readers wanted as many options as possible, that fragmentation was the inherent digital aesthetic, that non-linearity was by definition cutting edge and innovative. That maximum choice = maximum pleasure. Turns out, that's not quite true.

Some psychology studies a few years back showed that people actually prefer fewer more meaningful choices in life, and I extrapolated this out to interactive narrative. And the more I've grown in my storytelling, the more I've become invested in the development and deepening of a narrative over time. Starting with "a show of hands," I began to think about e-lit as a relationship between writer-author and reader-author that was geared toward a more fluid experience, with a current, rather than a disruptive barrage of choices. Although, looking back at "12 Easy Lessons to Better Time Travel," I see a lot of linearity there, too.

It's just with "Mrs. Wobbles" I've become very interested in giving readers an experience that has maximum narrative pull and only as much interactivity as the moment warrants. So while I admire recent work on complex, combinatoric narrative generators, that's not really where I am as an author right now. I've got some work to do in the realm of storytelling, and those needs trump building more exploratory systems. I guess I'm building more roller coasters than fun houses these days.

JH: What is the relationship between your scholarly output and research and your creative works?

MCM: My scholarly work and my creative projects are like interlocking subroutines. It's no coincidence Occupy MLA was born while I was studying the Transborder Immigrant Tool, interviewing its creators, and learning more about the practices of the Electronic Disturbance Theater. I was inspired by their ethos of disruption of larger political narratives, their humor, and their sense of the humanity of these larger-than-life issues.

Also, since I've been promoting the exploration of computer source code, I'm very conscious about what I put into my code. Never know who might go poking around in there. :)

JH: Has our sense of reading changed in recent years, and is this drawing more attention to e-lit works?

MCM: It seems so. I attribute a lot of this to the spread of e-readers and the role apps have played in recontextualizing people's experiences of individual works. Apps help people conceptualize the sense of a reading object with a novel interface. Frankly, they've made my job (and yours) explaining e-lit so much easier.

Jeremy Hight is a Staff Interviewer at Unlikely Stories: Episode IV. You can learn more about him at his bio page.

Mark C. Marino is a writer and scholar of digital literature living in Los Angeles. He is the Director of Communication of the Electronic Literature Organization. His creative works include "Living Will," "a show of hands," "Marginalia in the Library of Babel," "The Ballad of WorkstudySeth," "@occupymla," and "Reality: Being @spencerpratt." He has successfully organized a number of artistic collaborations, incuding the recent SpeidiShow, an elaborate transmedia netprov that he developed with Rob Wittig. He was one of ten co-authors of 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching) at the University of Southern California where he directs the Humanities and Critical Code Studies (HaCCS) Lab. His complete portfolio is at MarkCMarino.com.

Pin It       del.icio.us