Publishing on the Internet can reveal the creative process of writing and track the evolution of ideas. That notion is what first intrigued us about the possibility of publishing Floyd Kemske's work-in-progress, his third novel, a yet-unnamed story about the parallels between corporate takeovers and vampirism. Catbird Press, and Floyd's editor there, Robert Wechsler, were intrigued by the idea of kinetic publishing, and bravely agreed to use the Internet as a creative palette for Floyd's book as it developed from first draft through final manuscript.
Initially, we structured the online drafts of the novel to invite interactivity with the reader, threading links through the first draft, to the editor's comments on the first draft, to the second draft, to the editor's comments, and so on. We invited the Internet audience to participate in naming the novel, to be published in the Fall of 1995. We saw our function as a kinetic "bookstore" as follows: to set up a fluid structure through which reader, artwork, and author can interact.
The effects of this interaction, the ultimate deterministic power the reader wields over the work of art in the electronic environment, became clear to me in 1993 when OBS published our first fiction on the Internet, Stephen King's short story, "Umney's Last Case." At that time, the multimedia "killer app" browser Mosaic was a new program, and, excited about the prospects of contextualizing or linking the story to other resources on the net, I called King's publisher, Viking/Penguin, with a few ideas for links. At that point, we were experimenting with lots of ways to format online texts: Adobe Acrobat, Voyager Expanded Book, ASCII, and Mosaic. When I proposed the linking, I was stopped immediately by the editor: "No way. That will change the author's meaning. No links." We did manage to slip one link in there -- a dog barking on a server in North Carolina-- but Viking's immediate recognition of the power of linking, the power wielded by the interactive reader, told me I was on to something important.
That "something important" reveals itself to a significant degree in "The Lidsky Files", where we are exploring ways that the reader can determine and change the prose work of art he experiences on the Web--and then share his kinetic interpretive reading with others thanks in part to the URLs he leaves behind. Through dynamic contextualization, the creation of external link sets on various URL-illustrated themes such as the literature of vampirism, supplemented by modern examples of vampiristic corporate takeovers, the novel assumes a nonfiction, popular culture spin. It changes.
The result of our "interactive reading" is a new kind of reader-directed, collaborative experience. Importantly, we witness the invocation of the theme itself in "The Lidsky Files", as the reader effectively takes over the novel itself, perhaps robbing it of its artistic individuality as a novel in progress by one author. More than plagiarism, the vampirism of texts online may point to a wholly new kind of reading experience.
When reading and publishing on the net, one might accept as one of the basic tenets inherent in the architecture of a distributed network that privacy doesn't exist, and that copies don't matter. What then? How do we begin to interweave our thoughts and ideas, while recognizing integrity and value such that each reader can access and read materials best customized to what he needs or wants to know at a particular time, and each author can receive recompense for original thought which furthers the aims, either expressed or implicit, of a civilized society? Only through experimentation, through letting readers loose in the garden of digitized ideas, can we begin to recognize the patterns of thought which emerge, and ultimately assign values and worth to collective thought. "The Lidsky Files" represent a first step in that direction.
To further that goal of discovery, our reader, in this case, Lidia reading Kemske (hence the name "Lidsky files"), will, with posting of these files, cease her anonymous role as reader, and assume the mantle of link editor, weighing and incorporating and posting the suggested readers' versions of Kemske's novel in progress, so that this book might become a working pointer document to the potentials of real-time, online creative fiction, which potential is nothing less than the morphing of one mind into another toward the end of the collective and creative evolution of consciousness through storytelling.
A Note from the Link Editor
Interpreting and contextualizing a work of art is an act of freedom on the part of the reader. Interpreting a novel that is being written, for which neither title nor end exists, incites the reader to creativity and inventivity, gives him the feeling of becoming... almost a writer himself! This is a dream that many readers share, and with the advent of the new publishing medium, this dream may come true.
That this may happen points to a spirit of equality and democracy currently permeating the act of artistic creation. In this spirit, Floyd Kemske opens his work to us, readers, accepting the risks of seeing us taking liberties with it. Since our interpretations are based on our knowledge, taste, and personal experience, they will always be subjective and partial. They can never fully explain the author's text, they can only add to or subtract meaning from it. As one of the first readers to impose my interpretation on Kemske's text, I must express my gratitude for his accepting this hazard. While doing so, let me point out, that I, the reader, will also be read and interpreted. In collaborating with the writer to create a collective work that is published online, readers cannot live incognito any longer. Their thoughts can be read through their links.
To experiment with link editing, I chose a fragment of Chapter 10 of Kemske's novel. Other readers wishing to participate may decide to refer to the novel as a whole, or to chapters of their own choice.
TO THE LIDSKY FILES...
Floyd Kemske is the author of two novels, both published by Catbird Press: "Lifetime Employment" (1992) and "The Virtual Boss" (1993). Both novels take a fresh approach to corporate culture that is both comic and horrifying. Kemske's books have been highly praised both by book reviewers and by business and computer publications. WIRED said, "There are shades of Orwell, Kafka, and Woody Allen's Sleeper in "The Virtual Boss". [...] Its scathing assessment of the corporate mentality is dead-on." Library Journal said that in "The Virtual Boss" Kemske created "the most intriguing computer character since HAL in "2001." And David Warsh, the business columnist for the Sunday Boston Globe, wrote, "There is more truth in Kemske's account than in all the consultants' babble for the next 12 months. Oh, how I wish they would put him on the cover of Business Week." Before he became a novelist, Kemske edited such trade magazines. Now he is a freelance writer and publicist on the side, and lives in the Boston area.
Laura Fillmore started the Online Bookstore (OBS) in 1992, after running Editorial, Inc., a book production company and literary agency, for ten years. She started her career in book publishing at Little, Brown & Company in 1977. The OBS has pioneered the field of book publishing on the Internet, and has created a space on the Internet where readers and browsers can freely explore online books, and purchase books or files from many publishers. As well as actively publishing online, Laura Fillmore and the team at OBS regularly consult with publishers about their Internet publishing and marketing needs, and frequently participate in conferences and seminars worldwide on the subject of Internet publishing.
Lidia Gheorghiu Zalevski was born and raised in Transylvania, Romania. She worked as a teacher, translator, and journalist, and afterwards partially followed Pierce's voyage towards the West. She learned to understand computers in Germany, where she spent 8 years working as a trainer, developer and consultant for Softlab, a large software company based in Munich. She moved to the New World last year. There, she became entranced with Laura's ideas on online publishing -- which she accidentally came across on the Internet -- taking on the most interesting job that the industry has to offer: that of a link editor at OBS.