The Mistress of Nothing - American advanced reader’s copies

27 May 2010 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

Today I received 8 copies of Touchstone Fireside/ Simon & Schuster’s Advance Reader’s Edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in the post.  Here’s a photo of them on my desk.

To date the publication process of this American edition of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ has been so interesting.  The attention to detail over the manuscript itself was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  The ms went through two stages of copy-editing, the first for typesetting and Americanisation of the text, the second for proofing, and that in itself was an eye-opener.  And these Advance Reader’s Editions (in the UK these are called ‘bound proofs’) are lovely - it’s a very very nice bound paperback edition of the book, ‘not for resale’, full colour front and back covers - the only thing to distinguish it from a rather nice trade paperback edition is the slightly cheaper paper.  I can’t wait to see the actual hardcover edition!!!  It is going to be a thing of beauty! 

Pah to audio enhanced mutlimedia ebooks!  What was I thinking?  These Advance Reader’s Editions smell lovely!

The Electronic Literature Directory 2.0

27 May 2010 in | Comments (0)

So you bought an eBook but still have no e-lit?  Announcing: The Electronic Literature Directory 2.0

                                                                      Contact: Mark Marino
                                                                      (310) 420-4481 or
                                                                      Director of Communication
                                                                      Electronic Literature Organization

Los Angeles, Calif. (May 25, 2010)—What good is an iPad if you only read 19th-century novels? The Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) wants you to spend less time fretting over your gadgets and more time exploring new literary forms.

This June, ELO announces the Electronic Literature Directory 2.0, the latest version of its online directory of 21st-century electronic literature, full of novel interactive works, like:

Inanimate Alice:

And that’s just the beginning….

The Directory will officially launch at Brown University at the fourth International Conference and Festival (, June 3-6, 2010, hosted by professor and poet John Cayley.

“Print books on a Kindle are not electronic literature. E-lit uses computer processing to deliver new forms of story, poetry and drama,” says ELO President and University of Illinois professor Joseph Tabbi. “And we’re even seeing works that, while they’re clearly literary, fit none of those settled genres inherited from print.”

The works in the directory run the gamut from the first pieces of e-lit, such as Michael Joyce’s “afternoon,” to Jhave Johnston’s 2009 “human-mind-machine.” Authors include novelists, such as Kate Pullinger; poets, such as Stephanie Strickland; and literary scholars, such as N. Katherine Hayles of Duke University. The Directory includes international e-lit authors Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (South Korea) and Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez Ruiz (Colombia).

The latest version of the directory leaves behind the static layout of version one to take up the “Web 2.0” model of collaborative curation through a wiki structure. “However, unlike the just-about-anything-goes format of the Wikipedia, the Directory relies on the review and detailed annotations of an extensive directory review board,” says Davin Heckman, who currently coordinates the working group and teaches English at Siena Heights University.

“The Directory is ready to serve you some outstanding 21st-century summer reading or novel novels for your Fall 2010 syllabus,” says Heckman.

“Did you really buy that iPad just so you can read Sense and Sensibility? Reading print books on your iPad is like using your e-mail to send Morse Code,” says Mark Marino, Director of Communications of ELO and writing professor at the University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

Although just in its initial stages, the working group has vetted more than 150 works and has as many more in the pipeline of this ever-expanding collection. Along with artistic pieces readers will ultimately find critical essays on electronic literature and venues for publication.

At the June conference entitled “ELO Archive and Innovate,” ELO will honor Robert Coover, whose New York Times essays ushered in and out the “golden age” of hypertext. Coover’s son Roderick appears in the Directory with his work “Unknown Territories.”

This year, ELO will also be publishing the second volume of its Electronic Literature Collection. To view the first volume, go to

Media passes to the conference are available upon request. Contact Mark Marino at (310) 420-4481 or

More electronic literature is just a click away!

Inanimate Alice: Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph
A multimedia online novel in four episodes set in China, Italy, Russia, and the protagonist’s “Hometown,” featuring a girl growing up in the 21st century. Reader participation and interactivity increase as the series progresses, reflecting Alice’s engagement and influence in her environment as she grows older.

Roulette: Daniel C. Howe and Bebe Molina
A language game for readers, a single work that can be read in roughly 64,000 ways. The lines of the poem shift every time readers interact with one of the three lines of the poem.

The Jew’s Daughter: Judd Morrissey with Lori Talley
An interactive, non-linear, multivalent narrative. A hypertext, but one that transforms the text (rather than just linking from one stable text to another). As soon as the reader moves the mouse over highlighted keywords (links), segments of a page replace one another fluidly.

JB Wock: Eugenio Tisselli
JB Wock is a self-described “English-speaking blogmachine” created by poet and programmer Eugenio Tisselli. JB Wock, a PHP script, searches the web for a phrase that it “likes” (from a site that publishes notable quotations), “twists” these phrases by substituting synonyms, and publishes the results daily on its blog (which also includes a comment feature, inviting readers to respond).

slippingglimpse: Stephanie Land and Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo
A 10-part generative Flash poem combining videos of ocean patterns with text.

Sydney’s Syberia: Jason Nelson
A poetic meditation on urban space presented through a Flash-based “infinite zoom” interface, which Nelson has repurposed and re-titled as “infinite click and read.”


Founded in 1998, The Electronic Literature Organization is a non-profit, multi-institutional organization that draws together an international body of artists and critics.


Geek Camp 3

25 May 2010 in Future of Publishing | Comments (5)

Last week I went along to Geek Camp 3 at Free Word - my first time at this event.  Lots of opportunities to talk to people, set up to encourage discussion around key topics - this worked really well for me as I have a stupid tendency to talk to people I already know at these events, and I managed to break that habit at Geek Camp 3.  There were some interesting presentations too - from the Literary Platform people, looking for ideas about how to manage the success of their project, as well as how to create revenue from it; and also from the Lazarus Project, a fascinating look at Cambridge University Press and its very successful print-on-demand resurrections from its 450 years of accumulated backlist.

The Lazarus Project (which doesn’t seem to have a website) takes books from this backlist, gets them scanned in India, copyedits, tidies up the file, and reproduces original cover here in the UK, and makes them available for between £15-20 as print-on-demand.  Alistair Horne, the speaker, said they only need to sell 4 or 5 copies to make this financially viable.  He used the example of a splendid book called ‘The Complete Bibliography of Sponges: 1598 to 1754’ which they had brought back to life - and have now sold 22 copies.  An interesting look at the potential economics around print on demand for backlist titles.  Tell me again how publishers figure a royalty of 25% on ebooks - which, afterall, remain as a digital file so don’t even have printing costs -  is fair? 

It was a good evening, but I came away with a weariness about our endless discussions about the future of publishing - and I’m not a publisher, lord knows how they stomach it.  For the time being, when it comes to these kinds of events and discussions, I’m going to try to focus more clearly on writing - the future of literature, what literature and good writing can offer in the digital age.  Good writing, and good reading - these are the things that matter to me.  How will we read in the future?  Will the novel as we know it today fundamentally change?  Is the investment we writers ask of our readers worth it?  I’m not talking about the £7.99 - or less - you hand over to buy a book, print or digital.  I’m talking about the hours and hours readers spend with our work - the time they spend reading.  No other cultural producers require such a huge investment of time.  Opera might be long, but it’s nothing compared to reading a novel.  Does this matter?  Will this change?

Extract from WMD - A Revision

19 May 2010 in | Comments (0)

Battersea Power Station

If you click on the link to WMD - A Revision in the menu above, you’ll come to my work-in-progress; I’m republishing my first novel (which came out in 1989) and commenting and annotating it as I go, section by section.  I’ll be adding photos and other media eventually.  Here’s an extract from my commentary on Section 11.  Go to WMD - A Revision if you want to read more.  This photo was taken by Wendy Falconer.

Wow.  Okay, there’s a lot to parse here. Living in Vauxhall, as we did, we were all horribly fond of the Battersea Power Station.  In the 1980s there were two great construction projects that captured our imaginations.  First was, of course, the Isle of Dogs and Docklands, which became Canary Wharf, one of Thatcher’s Enterprise Zones.  I used to go to the Isle of Dogs with my friends in the early 80s before construction began; we’d ride around on our bikes and romanticize the wasteland.  It took a long time for Canary Wharf to succeed and its status as a kind of North American-style adjunct to the City’s financial district means that it still isn’t a part of town I frequent, but that’s because I’m not a banker, and none of my friends are bankers either. 

The other great construction project that obsessed us was, of course, Battersea Power Station; but unlike Canary Wharf, this project has absolutely failed to thrive and has gone through countless takeovers and buy-outs and planning applications.  It pops up in the news every now and again as someone else takes it over and then fails to raise enough money to do anything with it. 

But to me in the 80s the building was emblematic of so much – the decline of industry, of course, but also, a failure of imagination of sorts.  I went on a tour of the building shortly after it was de-commissioned, before whoever bought it knocked so much of the actual building down.  It was truly a thing of analogue 1930s beauty – the control room was all hardwood parquet floor and big round dials and shining pipes.  The idea of turning it and all its riverside splendour into a theme park and shopping mall was depressing when all around it lay a part of London that was quite seriously deprived and gloomy. 

This chunk of text kind of encapsulates everything that is both awful and wonderful about WMD.  Some very bad writing, but lots of energy and ideas.  We really did have conversations like this.  We really did talk about slavery and class and art and ideas. 

However, the idea that a couple of artists would get such senior-sounding jobs on such a prestigious building project is, frankly, a little unbelievable.  Sigh.

To read more, including the actual extract this commentary is based on, go to WMD - A Revision.

Forgetting to Blog

18 May 2010 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (5)

I’m currently having one of those odd, in-betweeny times - not quite ready to start my next big fiction project, still very distracted by the GG and the forthcoming publication (Jan 10) of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in the US, waiting to have various trips confirmed, ash cloud allowing, spending much too much time following links I learn about via Twitter, distracted by various uncertainties at DMU - just plain old distracted, discombobulated even. 

The cure for this will be to get started on my next big fiction project - really get started instead of fiddling about endlessly, opening and closing files, starting and abandoning research… But I’m not ready yet.  Or at least, that’s what I tell myself. 

A bird flew into my window today.  Great thud.  Scared me.  But it flew off again, so that’s okay.

Squirrels are stripping the clematis of its blooms - they sit on it and pull the flowers off one at a time and eat them.

There’s a mouse in the house that won’t take the bait and instead appears at odd times doing strangely bold dance moves before scampering off again.

Looking forward to GeekCamp tomorrow night. 

And that’s about it from me.