Jacob Lawrence, "The Migration of the Negro" #34 (1941)
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration of the Negro No. 34.
The Negro press was also influential in
urging the people to leave the South.
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

Update 2019

I've been posting daily bits here since 2002; naturally my interests and techniques have evolved.

At first I was exploring the concept of "fiction blogging", writing short pieces which the world eventually tagged "microfiction". Typically I would interleave multiple narratives or experiment with other "postmodernist" narrative techniques intended to imply a broader canvas. The content was frequently "confessional": I was still caught up in the ideology of storytelling which I later came to reject. Many of these pieces narrate experiences related by friends; retell well-known stories; or are highly stylized and fictionalized versions of events I took part in. They were fairly widely published in the incunabular online literary world of the time. I suspect editors of that day liked them because they're easy to consume.

In time I became more interested in nonlinear narrative, algorithmic narrative and poetry, and computer-mediated narrative. Much of this interest is fueled by the experience of TriadCity, where many of the techniques I and others employ have been tested in a mature and large-scale work. My pieces here became more abstract, less dependent on semantic content, more about pure music. Many are mosaics, cut-ups, or algorithmically-assembled, with no semantic content at all. The intention is for them to sound pretty when spoken out loud.

This, and vignette. In my realist writing I've been a vignette-icist since childhood. Once upon a time I'd write all day in spiral notebooks I carried everywhere. I thought, I'm practicing to write novels one day. Later in the Internet period I lost interest in novels, and per the above in linearity in general. Yet at the same time I came to feel that vignette is a lovely form in and for itself. A successful vignette does all those Postmodernist things: particularly, it implies a larger canvas. It resonates with echoes of bigger worlds. I'm for that. Now I write with a phone or a tablet, frequently of street encounters or simply people watching. 'Cos, why the fuck not?

The feeling I want to convey here is restlessness. Dissatisfaction with the shoehorning of traditional narrative concepts into digital media. The search for new forms.

Below is the original essay I wrote explaining "fiction blogging" in 2002.

Blogging as Cubism (2002 essay)

In my opinion, Kafka's Diaries are where the literary practices we now call "Postmodernism" began.

His notebooks are more complex and interesting than their commonplace title implies. He'd move freely between conventional diary form, sketches for stories, hilarious ink drawings, and complete short works of fiction. As published their editing downplays this heterogeneity. Still they read with a fascinating dreamlike texture.

Their heterogeneity is their "Postmodernism". By bringing multiple orders of narrative into collision, Kafka explored what you might reasonably think of as ontologies of text. Where each order of narrative is its own literary "world", and they bump into each other with unpredictable consequences.

It seems to me that if you take blogging seriously as a space for literary narrative, Kafka's practices are natural signposts. The space encourages you to be arbitrary. You can move with great freedom between diary, fiction, essay, book review, grocery list, or any other formal possibility which suits your thematic purpose from moment to moment. If you group the results you can explore their unexpected interactions.

Think of it as parallax. Modernist parallax was about multiple subjectivities perceiving events within their individually flawed points of view. Postmondernist parallax is about bringing multiple orders of text into relationship.

Analogy with Cubism seems reasonable. The Cubists implied three dimensional objects by juxtaposing multiple two-dimensional planes depicting the object from different points of view. Substitute texts for planes and you're off to the races.

My writing here and in TriadCity frequently explores these ideas. Where individual pieces may be nothing more ambitious than exercises or vignettes, when you bring them into relationship they can turn out to resonate in unexpected ways.

Please have a look at the Collections page for examples. Here's a collection of strong pieces to start with. And, here's the publication history.

Please also check out TriadCity. I believe that textual virtual worlds are an important form of literature. They're particularly good at fulfilling the formal and thematic agendas of Postmodernism. Along with other scholarly fora, The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism agrees, citing TriadCity as its culminating example of literary Postmodernism. This is further explained here on the SmartMonsters website. There's also a good Wikipedia article on TriadCity.

Thanks! Please use Facebook to contact me or comment on the writing. Please use the share buttons at lower right to share with your friends.