January 1, 1904
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12 Steps Of Interruption

Stuart Moulthrop

1.  At the time of Dryden, I was grinding a seriously stupid axe against Interactive Fiction, which like South America had stolen our name, had the smell of A.I. on it, and seemed to me Insufficiently Literary.  (Ring IRONY GONG loud and long here.)  I liked afternoon because it moved interaction cues (clickable words) into the narrative discourse, rather than interposing a command line.  I had hit on the same notion myself, long after Michael did, when we were both wandering around the low-rent parts of New Haven mutually unbeknownst.  He'd put the idea gloriously to practice, which I instantly and forever admired.  Hence (for me) No Interruptions.  For John I think the phrase had a different valence, coming closer to his sense of "modally appropriate interaction," or as he once memorably mumbled into a dictaphone I later filched, "the mailbox as mailbox."  Self-identity.  An owl is an owl is an owl.  Seamlessness... immersion, even.  Beam our then-selves onto some Ferengi knock-off holodeck, there to repeat Professor Murray's course in lucid dreams.

2.  I have since recanted.  See the interview Noah did with me in Dichtung Digital, where I own to thinking very foolish things about I.F.  See also the bonus disc of Get Lamp, where my confession is caught by Jason Scott's camera.  Interruptions are just fine, thanks.  So are in-your-face interfaces.  I have nothing against a command line, and am even learning to stop worrying and love the Dialogue Wheel in Mass Effect.

> no kidding

> I never trusted the Spectres

> explain the change

^ doqend)

3.  Explain the change, as Michael Stipe always says.  As the oughties wore on, I learned a few things about interfaces and the code they spring from; became literate in different registers of writing, specifically the writing-forward called programming.  Thus my priorities changed.  Doing things with code seemed at least as important as doing things with prose.  I stopped trying to subordinate code-systems to language-systems and began to explore more equitable relations. A few years later, someone we both know handed me a prize with Douglas Engelbart's name on it, and – absolutely no bull -- this confirmed the change.  Engelbart has always believed in the perfectibility of humankind through understanding of its systematic, symbolic practices – call it bootstrapping, call it co-evolution, call it HyperTalk or Javascript if you must.  To think of oneself in this line of work is transformative.  It was about this time I stopped Writing The Novel In My Head.  If you've never suffered from this syndrome, it's a tendency to look at experiences as vignettes reducible to more or less elegant prose; persons as characters; situations as arc-segments.  The condition is fairly harmless, no worse perhaps than tic or echolalia; but I feel better without it, more ready actually to write.

4.  Yet of course, I am No Proper Writer! – haven't been to writer school, don't polish my words enough, link low and cross-continuous thoughts.  I guess I am just another ranter with degree, mere parodist or burly-skew.  Anything they allege.  Nolo fornicans contendere.  (Though say any similar thing about Michael Joyce where I can hear it, and just you see what happens.)

5.  I love me some Tablets much as the next geek, those pretty lap-size fetishes of intimate computing.  By all means, iPad my cell, granting unto the device its peculiar deviancy.  I like my Kindlings, my old Marvels and fresh indies, can click my way around the Riven isles or stand for hours in the Strange Rain.  E's good.

6.  But strokes will differ.  Some people believe fundamentally in the electronic book, and may they go flipping pagewise to harrypotter heaven (if there is such).  The logic of tablets seems more Mosaic than Mozilla: thou shalt this, but don't ever touch me like that.  Maybe these are indeed little perfs of fluency, soul-pillows, kits to build a dream on.  Okay, so maybe they're not *computers*...

7.  But this is not about computers.  It's about books.  Books won't die, and the world will always welcome novels, backlit or otherwise.  I've found that a tendency to attack anything that doesn't look like a book or a novel (or the sorts of novels one writes) appears in inverse proportion to belief in the previous sentence.

8.  I'm not so much interested in sentiments of refinement.  If your lone criterion of the literary comes down to perfluency, or immersion, or hypnosis, well all right then.  That's a way to be, and good luck with all the novels, inside and outside your head.

9.  In our phosphoroptic republic of letters, differences were still allowed last time I looked (don't ask, you can never tell).  Not all the generations of Jobs will be people of e-book.  Some will stray, too shiftless for thou-shalts.  I am such.  I wish I could believe with all my heart in the Holy and Revealed Interface Guidelines, the Invisible Computer, and the Ascended Steve.  But I am not that kind of code monkey.  My prophets are still alive (Engelbart), still cantankerous (Nelson), and still infinitely capable of surprises (Joyce).

10.  I persist in regarding the tablet as a device, made not revealed, one among all the Moores allowed by Law.

11  For any serious playing, you'll have to pass the keyboard.

12.  So hold the No Interruptions, please, and spare the perflooey.