The First of Many Frankencorpses

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The Frankenstein Exquisite Corpse began with this passage from Frankenstein:

“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window-shutters, I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.”

In 1934, an edition was published with this woodcut by Lynd Ward illustrating the paragraph.

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I sent the image, without any information about its original context (and strict instructions not to google it), to Yoz Grahame who answered a call for a writer on Twitter.

His reaction was this text:

I reach for support and find velvet under the rubble. I look up at more velvet, towering wings bathed in candlelight, going up and up and up to the bombed-out ceiling; then sky, stars, flashes of the battle.

“It’s too late for new, Mara!” She’s on the stage, capering around the candles. She bends to add another mark, then straightens up. Straight arms, straight teeth, eyes ready to pop. “It’s time to try some old.” The chalk tumbles from her fingers but I don’t watch it land: I’m looking at the curtains, because that can’t just be candlelight, and then the claws appear.

This text was then sent to the artist Sara Hames, who responded with this image:

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The image was then sent to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, where five people were given the chance to describe the image in a creative manner. They were paid $1 each, and spent an average of two minutes, 15 seconds on their responses. Although this is higher than most Turk rates, only three people attempted it in the first two hours.

I have no idea who or where they are except for their anonymized IDs.

Worker A1GKEEI844CEKI:

The face of a Dead woman covered in her shroud that will be with her for all time. She will be buried with this and this will be the last image of her ever made.

Worker A21YQXPL0SNNR2:

Travelling too far out of the intricacies of universe, space, and even time itself can lead you to a middle age woman who controls everything that happens in the universe.

Worker AOPG07J95DDJT:

She spoke lies to me, I sensed this, but I could not hear them. Yet I could see it somehow, the bottom of her face melting away into what appeared to be a sculpture of silver, bone-like wire and fleshy triangular patterns. None of it made sense; the silver giving way to buried treasures and diamonds, colors flowing off into the distance… I wondered, as I watched her, if this spoke her true desires, wealth and freedom and pleasure beyond compare. But all I could see, all that stood before me, was a monstrously beautiful mystery.

This was the first forking event we defined, currently containing three possible new paths, though many others could also be started based on the above creations. By maintaining their connection to the original Frankenstein, perhaps in the digital margins of the e-book, and updating them continuously, we could trace the ripples created by the source material’s ideas. This kind of book consciously embraces its descendants.

You Are Playing the Game

By Rick&Brenda Beerhorst, // ccby2.0
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By Rick&Brenda Beerhorst, // ccby2.0

By Rick & Brenda Beerhorst, // ccby2.0

Click here. Play the Frankengame.

Report your points total in the comments.

The next stages could include:

• Automatically pull out short sentences from a text

• Assign difficulty ratings according to their readability score

• Play with your favorite books

• Have everyone at a dinner/party agree to play the game.  People can call each other out at any time for saying what others think is their book phrase. If you’re right, you get 5 points and they have to get a new phrase. If you’re wrong, they get 10 points. See how that changes people’s conversation patterns.

• What else?

In the Beginning Were the Words

Image by Simon Breese
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Image by Simon Breese

Publishing is the act of enabling collaboration between a writer and a reader.

I build new worlds, and construct lenses to change how you see existing ones.

The worlds I create are singular ones, spaces for everyone to inhabit as one. I leave each behind for people to experience, while I get busy constructing the next, and once that is ready, I offer passage to its entrance. A string of unique worlds, one after the other.

I am the creator, the first cause, the organizer of matter. But without your knowledge and imagination, nothing I build matters. I only build the universe, you have to live in it. I create, I step back, and I hope.

That was then.

Now I am also omniscient. I can see what you are reading, on what devices and when, how fast you are reading my words, when you stopped and never returned. I follow you as you read, hoping to gauge how you feel as you do. I hear you when you cry out that my actions are unjust, unpleasant, insensitive, wrong. I am always listening.

I am not an uncaring presence. I want to learn how to make you feel better about my words, about what it will take to make you read more. I want to serve you and to nourish you in ever more effective ways.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. For I am the writer, the creator who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

The singular worlds are over. Now I am constructing universes, parallel and connected. They are of the same origin and structure, but with significant differences in how they are experienced, each tailored to how and what and why and where and who you read and when.

Some of these universes deliberately maintain the previous relationship between reader and myself. Others bring me closer to the ground and elevate people above the land to a middle point where we share our tools, creating and improving what is there through a co-authorship centered around my construct. Together we fork even more universes and mental spaces, connected and joined yet different in ways small and big. Now we are omnipotent.

Reading has always been a solitary experience. Now it is a unique one as well, with an overarching conceit that we can share. No single person could, would, should visit all of the universes created by the pattern. Your reading experience is your own, and the infinite library is filled with one book.

There is one book and one Spirit, just as you were called to one reading when you were called; one book, one text, one creation; one writer, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as the writer apportioned it.

The words are the beginning. This is now.

You Cannot Stop Me. Help Me.

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If I want to use a book as a paperweight, the author cannot stop me. If I want to use a book to level a chair, to flatten a flower, to use as a weapon, the author cannot stop me.

If I want to draw all over the pages, to carve my name into the words, to change the meanings with a scalpel or a Sharpie, the author cannot stop me. I can give my copy of your text to my dog, just to see what happens. You cannot stop me.

I want to take your text and give it to my algorithm. I want the words to react and to change. I want to create a million skewed copies, each with its own imperfections and improvements, for different readers, for different interactions, for new creations. I want to create fertile ground for a thousand flowers to bloom from a single seed.

The writer / philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti is quoted as having said that our souls all come from the same paper, but what makes us unique is the creases formed in the paper from all the folding and unfolding of our life experience. Give me your work in a thousand identical pages, and I will let the crowd start to fold.

Why I’m Here

Public domain image by Jimos
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Public domain image by Jimos

The page is terrifying and liberating. I want to layer it on top of my ideas, to place the world around it and beneath it. I want it to lock down my thoughts so I can keep them on my shelves and look back on them like memories.

Writing freezes a moment and reinforces our memory. Soon the words are shaping our collections of recollections.

I like to sit inside books when I open their hinges, and to feel protected by their fixed boundaries. As soon as those boundaries are taken away, dissolved, reshaped to include everyone at once and nobody in charge, how do I stay on the path? Why do I feel like I need a path? I experience the world through my own experience, and I only hear one voice at a time in my head, writing my narrative for me, as I do. If we open the page to the cacophony, what does it sound like?

You can never cross the same river twice. Can we ever read the same book as another person? Can we ever write the same book as a group?

If we try to organize, to funnel and then filter the best and worst ideas, how much are we going to reinforce cultural assumptions and push away divergent thoughts and experiences?

Words were created to fix information and to lock it down so that it didn’t change whenever we might look at it. If the words keep changing, how long before we start to break them?

Who is the author? Once the text is out there, do they ever stop being the author?

Bay Area author Rebecca Solnit: “Writing is the act of saying to everyone and to no-one what you cannot bring yourself to say to someone.”

Is the future of reading the act of everyone talking to someone, instead of vice versa?

I am here because I don’t know if there are any answers. But I want to find better questions.