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Kirstin Krauth

Josephine Wilson and Linda Carroli’s latest collaboration cipher ( is a work in progress sharing similar themes with their award winning hyperfiction water *always writes in *plural, and starts from the traditional, “the book is open.” A kaleidoscope of scenes and settings—pages from a book, shelves, a comfortable armchair, a computer screen—place you from the start and demand a response: are you alone? You have new mail, and are suddenly manipulated, part of the detective work, controlled by the text. Older modes of communication—love letters—take on new forms. Electronic casanovas. We search, via M, for love and red blooded passion through “the spaces created by the interplay of writing and the surfaces of the world.”

The masses are skittled, and huddle in tiny groups in isolated bunkers, tuning their VCR’s and pressing their mute button.

Television and its impact on our history and vice versa—see the walls coming down, see communities obliterated—is filtered via satellite and modem. You either wear red or you don’t. It doesn’t suit me but I go for “jealous red lipstick.” Sexy communist cartoons. A landscape of interior decorating—delicate hands folding paper, Tarot cards featuring the fool, beads to peer through—where I become Alice in Wonderland. We are looking for answers and head off to Amerika where “bodies are redundant”, treated like “junk.”

I find a new word, one that fits me well—steganography: the art and science of communicating in a way which hides the existence of the communication. Messages hidden within messages. Penetrating space. M is learning to write. She is hunting for C. She loves and fears the alphabet as it begins to shape her. This is not the story of O (although her sleazy French teacher wishes it was). Chaos or control? The choice is yours.

Xander Mellish’s integration of short stories and cartoons ( began 6 years ago in New York as a series of posters plastered around the city, with the beginnings of a short story and a phone number inviting readers to find out the ending. After speaking to callers and spying on readers, Xander jumped online. With strong black and white graphics alongside a collection of satirical stories based on New York obsessions and conventions, the site is funny and sharp. It could be even better with a sense of connection between image and text, a reworking so that the graphics become more than just illustrative.

In “The Big Money” Mellish uses her knack for picking out others’ insecurities, and twisting them, to good effect:

Billy Dose was wondering if the baseball cap he was wearing to hide his hair loss was, in fact, making his hair fall out faster. He was also worrying that it made him look dimwitted, like the type of man who might actually care about baseball…“How are the Yankees doing this year?” she asked. “The Yankees?” “Your cap,” she said.

The central character, Veda Bierce, a hungry and homeless woman who gatecrashes the same party, moves on to Hollywood…well actually California…where she becomes an actor with regular court appearances, specialising in “on-the-job accidents, all unprovable soft-tissue injuries.” Other site highlights include “Matchmaking Creeps” where an ex-flight attendant uses software programs to wreak havoc on former lovers, reaching almost American Psycho proportions; and “Joel Faure, The Melancholy Male Model”, which takes self-obsession to new depths, tracing the vacuous thoughts of a solipsistic cartoon hunk, a series of vignettes proving that “beautiful people have terrible love lives”: Joel on the catwalk in Paris dreams of the violinist he can never have; Joel searches for enlightenment and gets centred: The Buddha turned to page 168 of that month’s Vogue, which had me next to a Lamborghini. You exalt in your apartness, he said.

Karen Hudes’ exquisite graphic narrative Dot Cum ( - expired) features intersections with a number of digital artists—Susan Hudes, Ethan Cornell, Anu Schwartz, Miguel Heredia, Kartini Tanoto, Kat Kinsman—with an engaging opener: Unlike the human kinds we know, synthetic personalities may take eons to decompose. So we sniff out traces of Dot, who works in Cyberdello, where she records visitors’ profiles. Sleeping in halfway stations, she becomes adrift and isolated, in a floating world where faces disintegrate and worlds collide; a graveyard for avatars. There’s Musk, trapped between the walls, “his link back to cloud-covered terra firma had snapped in silent hands.” The virtual imaginations of writer/artists run riot to produce elegant combinations—Japanese prints, Gothic, sci-fi, corrupt cities, scratched surfaces, black and white ink drawings, organic, sprouting photography, erotic delicate objects—and dreamlike spaces where every click is a treat. Dot thrives and mutates, into a new sphere—the cyberafterlife, “perhaps made of paper.” But there are hints of closer worlds: You have an outside here, don’t you? Of course, dear, where else would everyone smoke.

RealTime issue #35 Feb-March 2000 pg. 23

© Kirsten Krauth; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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