The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Z. Danielewski

“A 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL who finds a cat” has always been the tagline for Mark Z. Danielewski’s new serial novel, The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May (TFv1). And indeed, no spoiler alert needed, over the course of the eponymous “rainy day,” May 10, 2014, Xanther will do just that. But before her LA story even begins, readers must work through 40-odd pages of coming attractions (“New This Season”), the book miming the look of the televisual serial with textual “trailers,” opening billions of years in the future and rewinding through the present before settling in an African cave during the Middle Paleolithic. This front matter foreshadows a planned 27-volume work that would, if realized, likely see the publication of the final episode in 2027.

The “main feature” of TFv1 concerns the events of May 10 and follows nine primary characters, including Xanther and her parents, all of whom are assigned unique fonts to evoke their distinct modes of speech, backstories, and “Affect-Intersectional Motivations.” As the hours unfold, the narrative ranges widely, moving from Echo Park to Venice Beach, Singapore to Mexico, incorporating multiple languages, dialects, and genres. By the end of the day Xanther will rescue and reanimate the cat that will become her “familiar,” a supernatural animal seemingly destined to be her guide and protector, and this cat is just one of many nonhuman entities, animal and technological, that are themselves characters. Readers even meet “Narcons” (TF-Narcon3, TF-Narcon9, and TF-Narcon27), nigh-omniscient Narrative Constructs that edit, ventriloquize, and otherwise give voice to characters whose “data points” they claim to know in their entirety.

Such a wide-ranging, multivoiced novel invites readings from many perspectives and areas of expertise; it is perhaps best read in a group, and reading it together inspired our collective response. As reviewers at the outset of a multiyear project, all we can offer is an inventio, the first steps in the direction of developing a critical heuristic, the concepts, questions, and techniques with which sense might begin to be made of this serialized work, the scale of which will eclipse even Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle. It is not incidental that the Ancient Greek rhetorician Hermagoras of Temnos should appear just nine pages into the primary narrative, because what one must do at the outset of any inquiry is identify the concrete elements: who, what, when, where, how, in what manner, by what means (quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis). Bloom’s taxonomy of learning is referenced on the same page, and in its terms our work is less to evaluate (Bloom’s highest level in the cognitive domain) than it is to annotate, mark, and comment upon as we start to familiarize the unfamiliar.


There is much about TFv1 that is familiar, and readers will quickly recognize the trademarks of a Danielewski project:

  • typographic play, including the use of color, that is exuberant yet highly systematized;

  • page layout that modulates the pace of reading, with the material presentation of text itself part of the content of the work;

  • puzzles and ciphers in the form of acrostics, anagrams, etymological riddles, collages, and suggestive epigraphs;

  • intensive intertextual references, situating the volume within a massive cultural archive that encompasses everything from Norse mythology to Lady Gaga;

  • vernacular and academic writing in continuous interplay, the virtuosic and raw language of ordinary speakers intertwined with elite literary and philosophical discourses (a dynamic that extends to his audiences).

Readers will undoubtedly come to The Familiar expecting these features, which have characterized Danielewski’s writing since House of Leaves (2000). And to an extent the new novel fulfills these expectations. But Danielewski is clearly cognizant of readers approaching his work with well-honed interpretive tools and now-formulaic ideas about bookishness, metafiction, remediation, and post-postmodernism. Part of the fun of The Familiar, then, is how it thwarts and gently mocks the “Einstellung effect,” the mechanized, habituated mindset that confronts new problems with old solutions, preventing a clear view of the actual problem at hand. The challenge for practiced readers of Danielewski’s work will be to learn to read the novel they have, rather than the novel they imagine it to be. At 880 pages the first volume of the series has the heft of the author’s previous “big” books, and its parceling of single sentences across multiple pages accelerates the pace of reading. Yet in many ways, it is distinctly unlike the author’s previous work, and as a result will perhaps frustrate readers expecting a familiar game.

The game that many readers of TFv1 will anticipate is puzzle-solving. House of Leaves is perhaps first and foremost a reading lesson, but for all of its sophisticated engagement with Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, John Hollander, et al. — the Yale canon of the 1980s — and in spite of its strong implicit cautions against the Henry James fallacy of reading solely in pursuit of the “figure in the carpet,” House of Leaves has left in its wake a class of readers trained to seek puzzles that will unlock its “true” hidden meanings, well-primed by the many guides to reading and their detailed accounts of the text’s manifold secrets (for example, hexadecimal code on its endpapers can be converted into an audio file featuring Danielewski’s sister Poe singing “Angry Johnny”). Witness too the author’s spoiler poster for Only Revolutions: a reading guide that doubles as a cryptographic key, revealing some of the novel’s underlying numeric, topological, and semantic patterns. The pursuit of the cipher and its solution is not without its pleasures, and readers of The Familiar expecting Easter eggs will not go wholly unrewarded if they are willing to do some hunting. Figuring out the rationale for minutiae such as font choices will be enjoyable and necessary: for example, the detective Özgür, one of the nine main characters, is rendered in Baskerville font, recalling The Hound of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes; the manservant jingjing’s narrative is rendered in Rotis Semi Sans, the font used for street signs in his native Singapore. And there are in fact a plethora of rabbit holes — one of them Danielewski’s short story “Clip 4,” published in Black Clock (2012), which is referenced throughout TFv1, supplying readers with a piece of the insidious puzzle that is the organization VEMTM.

But however enigmatic, this new novel cannot be read as a “code to decipher,” as is House of Leaves. There, a reader’s search for narrative clues/clews is inextricably connected to the central Borgesian conceit that the book and the labyrinth it describes are one and the same. But The Familiar has grander ambitions: it is not so much a labyrinth as it is a planetary map. For the duration of its projected print run, with the first 10 volumes reportedly under contract, The Familiar will ask us not only to ponder the very small (for example, why is “familiar” in pink when “house” was in blue?), but also to consider fundamental questions about subjectivity, connectivity, and temporality — in other words, being (“self-worlds”), being with others, and being across time, from the deep past to the distant future, as well as in an immediate present, here “one rainy day in May.” That readers should be asked to contemplate being and time while reading serially — time out of joint with the “on-demand” immediacy of our contemporary socio-technical milieu — seems entirely apposite.


The Familiar shares certain family resemblances with contemporary fiction classified as “experimental” and “multimodal.” For example, a typographic owl appears in the closing pages of TFv1, previewing the second volume (TFv2: Into the Forest is slated for publication in October 2015) and recalling the typographic shark that swims across the pages of Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts. This broad category of experimental work, which includes everything from Steve Tomasula’s VAS to Anne Carson’s Nox and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes, continues to expand as authors make greater use of desktop publishing and layout platforms such as InDesign, and as publishers exhibit greater willingness to blur the boundaries between traditional print and graphic fiction. (TFv1 contains an excerpt of a graphic narrative that itself implies the first installment of a serial text.) Like many artists’ books, The Familiar is resolutely committed to exploiting and reimagining the possibilities of the codex, while at the same time nostalgically evoking the form of the Victorian book, from its spine to its serial format. (Danielewski’s “atelier,” comprised of the artists and translators credited at the end of the novel, has been instrumental in the realization of this design.) With its glossy pages and vibrant colors, The Familiar is a beautiful, shimmering surface that is at the same time an in-depth exploration of the relations between word and image. A keyword here for Danielewski — one of five provided in the elaborate front matter — is “signiconic” (sign + icon), which describes and prescribes a mode of perception that is neither verbal nor visual, but partakes of both. Making sense of the intricate collages and the visual poetry of raindrops scattered across the pages will enact this hybridized way of seeing, the linguistic sign so entangled with the pictorial that cleaving them apart would be practically and conceptually impossible. How many raindrops? This question plagues Xanther, as well as the reader, throughout the text, letters-as-rain constellating patterns at once semiotic and sculptural.


Danielewski TFV2


Numberless though these raindrops may likely be, numerology plays a key role in the novel, along with magic and mythology. Hence The Familiar’s tightly coordinated cast of nine main characters: Xanther and her parents (her mother Astair, studying for a PhD in clinical psychology, and her father Anwar, a game designer); the East LA gang member Luther, who must decide whether to give a break to a kid named Hopi; jingjing, whose “auntie” tian li has the cat before it magically disappears from her tenement house and reemerges in a Venice Beach rain gutter; the Mexican traveler Isandòrno, whose visit to the El Tajín archaeological ruins and encounter with a fortune teller are shrouded in superstition and magical realism; the wizard-scientist Cas, a survivalist on the lam in Marfa, Texas, with her partner and a techno-occult Orb that seems to be both oracle and surveillance device; the Armenian cab driver Shnorhk, whose brief LA story begins to open up into questions of injury and memorialization; and the detective Özgür, whose narrative voice and investigative treks across LA explicitly evoke Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. He do the police in different voices, indeed.




On this point too Danielewski’s series will be strange, perhaps even estranging, both practically and theoretically. (Imagine a contemporary television series asking viewers to follow an episode filled with unsubtitled Klingon, Dothraki, or Parseltongue.) While the novel as a collection of voices is a deeply familiar idea (think Mikhail Bakhtin on heteroglossia), The Familiar ups the ante by requiring most readers to use a Singlish dictionary to make basic sense of jingjing’s narrative, much less unravel its many comic puns. So too even “native” Spanish speakers might stumble over instances of ordinary dialectical speech not usually rendered on the page (“¿Q-vole?”). William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, and Gertrude Stein have all shown us that voice and accent can be simulated. Indeed, Richard Wright was so moved by the style and voice of Stein’s “Melanctha,” in which he heard “the speech of [his] grandmother,” and so perplexed by the critical response, which questioned Stein’s appropriation of a language not “properly” hers, that he staged a reading of the text for an African American audience, who not only understood but responded with enthusiasm. And herein lies a crucial question for The Familiar and indeed literary representation itself: in what sense can we speak about markers of authenticity within a text? The social perspective would insist on the empirical, on the tracing of a line from a text to real bodies and experiences. The semiotic perspective, on the other hand, holds that voice is simply a series of codes revolving around a claim of authenticity. The Familiar balances the two by incorporating the work of a half-dozen “native” translators and self-reflexively enacting that imitative quality. The announcement of its performance comes two-thirds of the way through, from TF-Narcon9, who breaks into the story with a simple Braille-bracketed ⠮hi⠝ before proceeding to articulate the precise parameters for the performance of different characters, not least of which is that MetaNarcons Do Not Exist.

Ironic self-reference is perhaps the most familiar game of all for a nation of teleholics who, in David Foster Wallace’s account, have been fully conditioned by the mechanics of metatelevision, which has both stimulated our desire to watch and taught us how to respond. Much has been written of the shaping of the contemporary novel by technology, media, and information, but in its overt remediation of serial television — its projected print run featuring a new volume every six months — The Familiar invites us to think even more extensively about the place of the novel as material object, and even of “slow reading” in a media environment dominated by streaming, browsing, tagging, linking, bookmarking, and binge viewing. TFv1 is not resistant to the siren call of the next episode, but it can be read as a response to the complex televisual serials of our moment, importantly resisting through its form the reduction of narrative to plot, happening, or event. If “book” and “television” are locked in a death embrace, then their struggle may mirror that of Sherlock and Moriarty above the Reichenbach Falls: what cannot be defeated must be assimilated, even if it takes you over a cliff.


The interruptions by TF-Narcon3, TF-Narcon9, and TF-Narcon27 suggest that they too are embedded somewhere in The Familiar’s diegetic world. They see, voice, and know the manifold permutations of the characters, but they are “programmed,” operating according to strict yet contradictory parameters. In other words, the Narcons do not constitute a frame, or outer matryoshka doll, nor do they look in on the novel from a bird’s (or owl’s)-eye view. Turtles then — or is it cats? — all the way down. Theirs is a comprehensive and yet strangely distorted perspective: “like moons or large planets […] endowed with understandings beyond [their] grasp,” they observe the world of The Familiar as if through a wormhole from some distant universe.

The novel begins in this distant universe, addressing the reader from a future so far-flung it verges on the extra-dimensional, only to fall back to a cave dwelling scene 243,243 (that is, [2+4+3=9],[2+4+3=9]) years in the past. These instances of refocusing across epochs challenge linear historiography, forcing readers to search out echoes and fragments that chroniclers would otherwise ignore. For those of Danielewski’s readers who join this search expecting to find a thicket of frames that careful mapping could eventually untangle, a mind-bending reeducation will be in order — while House of Leaves elaborates mediated discourses in sets, The Familiar works in skewed logarithms. On this new scale Michel Foucault’s teachings are more pertinent than ever: if history is a conversation we happen to hear while awash in the noise of a crowded bar, there’s no telling how many other histories are out there. Similarly, there’s no telling how long it would take to lend an ear to the “dull sound beneath” that conversation and recount a multiplicity of others instead. If we could listen in on each one, one rainy day in May might end up being thousands of years old and reach billions of years into the future — the moment when all information vanishes from the universe and all conversations cease.

Danielewski’s novel casts its characters into a kaleidoscopic play, a shuffling of parallax views. Although their voices are insular and literally separated chapter-to-chapter, the characters are conjoined in a planetary embrace: some chew the same brand of gum, they all hear the same strangled call of a distressed cat, and their individual story arcs — marked with colored timestamps on “dog ears” in the page corners and tracked along abstract timelines in the center margins — strongly hint at intersections and coalescing in volumes to come. (The crucial link is the cat, which passes hands from tian li to Xanther.) The characters’ lives are shot through with reciprocal echoes, like a message that “could find a place to stick and even if it went unobserved at that moment, it could be heard at some other moment.” On Xanther the novel seems to stick most, perhaps because she too senses that there is “a conversation going on, you know, like somewhere out there, somehow parallel to the one you’re having with yourself, like in your head, or even with someone else.” Are discussions “somewhere out there” or “in your own head”? Do they add up to some greater whole, or do they fall, like rain, into countless tiny holes, into a chasm Xanther mispronounces “catsum”? The answer may be found in the supernatural “cat-sum” math of a familiar somewhere over the course of the next 26 volumes.

The amount of information Danielewski’s project will generate is enough to make any processor — including Xanther’s brain — seize up. Unable to chunk the world’s data into manageable units, she cannot help but ask recursive questions that leave her teetering on the brink of a seizure. Much of TFv1 turns on the ability (or lack thereof, in Xanther’s case) to subitize with varying degrees of accuracy and confidence. “Image subitizes language,” explains Anwar, who takes remarkable custodial care of his daughter’s education; to subitize is to rapidly “quantify without counting,” like knowing the values of dice at a glance. But to rely too heavily on this anticipatory mode of apprehension risks missing the trees for the forest. Astair does precisely that: when Xanther brings home her impossibly small and waterlogged cat, her mother, expecting and hoping for a massive Akita, slips into cognitive dissonance. She relives the encounter, which lasts only as long as it takes her daughter to walk through the door, over 15 stammering pages, attempting to register, render, and digest this new familial configuration. In this early moment of the series, to “keep things still or at least steadier” in the universal medium of a headspace, of a world, is the modest ambition of many Danielewski characters. If the edges of things were just a bit clearer, one could see how a thing casts shadows on everything else — and, by consequence, what passes between them.

In order to understand how Danielewski constructs a universality grounded in perspectivism and a conversation among characters that in many cases never converse, we must return to typographic play and page layout. Although the text itself forges some links between the characters’ determinate worlds — Xanther and Hopi share a social media page, the bloody murder of a hacker is common knowledge in both Cas’s and Anwar’s circles — similarities in its design are arguably more pervasive and memorable. One example is the cat’s cry. Xanther alone heeds and responds to it, but only after the unknowable, tiny sound has reverberated through each of the other characters’ narratives, nearly always accompanied by an ellipsis on a blank page. These shared moments stand in stark contrast to a surrounding text with far less continuity on its surface; presented in boxes, lines, and circles, alternately broken up and crammed together, The Familiar’s nine overlapping lenses in some ways testify to the distinctness of “IDENTITY Sets.” Danielewski avoids total insularity, however, by grounding his reader in a visual code that transcends character differences: graphic design represents time and cognitive space. Fonts and white space combine with genre tropes to communicate personality traits, the pace and structure of characters’ thoughts, how much they choose to — or are able to — reveal about themselves, and other psychological complexities that both set them apart and draw them together. For instance, Astair’s stammering inability to accept the cat when Xanther brings it home is manifested in an actual splicing up of Xanther’s incredulous exclamation (“Mom, it’s a cat!?”) over five of the aforementioned 15 pages. So too is Shnorhk’s fractured cultural identity mirrored in the blank swaths scattered throughout his testimonial narrative, while the graphic holes in Cas’s apocalyptic tale impart to the reader how little she knows about the Orb even as she clings to it, her last hope in a world that doesn’t know it is already ending. The characters’ minds are laid out on the pages for us to “grok” them — that is, as Robert A. Heinlein wrote when he coined the term “grok” in Stranger in a Strange Land, to understand so thoroughly that we merge with the objects of our empathetic imaginations. The Familiar’s version of “grok” is “subitize,” which helps explain why Danielewski termed his mode of composition the “signiconic”: if readers know “how not to look” then they can subitize each page by conjoining word and image (sign and icon) and therefore grok the book’s world through what the author terms a “third perception.”

The character-centric graphic design of The Familiar is partly why it so challenges readers expecting to read it vis-à-vis some imagined Danielewski formula. Consider the architectural page layout in House of Leaves. Readers follow, on paper, Navidson’s labyrinthine journeys through the house, reading him up ladders, through doors, and around corners until they are lost in walls and spirals of text that, however disorienting, still represent physical locations. Conversely, the layout of The Familiar, or at least of TFv1, predominantly maps the mind and its interiority. We see this distinction quite clearly when Xanther reaches for the cat in the chapter “Litter”: her complex series of movements in lying down and reaching into the storm drain is described in a simple block of text, while the subsequent non-location-oriented phrases are spread out, indicating her perception of its distance — and perhaps her fear — as she hopes “to find it, / reach it, / and bring it back.”




Even taken together, these examples are just the tip of a massive iceberg. The novel is a concrete poem of nine cognitive nowheres, and its design reveals personal anxieties and prejudices of which even the characters may be unaware or in denial (for example, Özgür’s half-empty pages representing everything he does not know and everything he loses in the subsuming of self in police procedure, or Isandòrno’s boxed-up narrative graphically mirroring the animal crates with which his story ominously ends). This cognitive entanglement of text and image does world-revealing work that could never be achieved by lyrical realism or modernist narrativity: as jingjing says, “words need worlds in order to be worlds.” But One Rainy Day in May is just the start of a 27-part world, and Danielewski seems to imply that his readers can, via subitization, make it familiar.

Of course this implication is in no way absolute. We might like to think that we can fully apprehend and know these characters, but their interior experiences are inaccessible — not incoherent or unreliable, but rather negotiated and constructed. In The Familiar, characters are language, and language is always an apparatus. While the characters’ fonts do distinguish them, it quickly becomes apparent that their thoughts are often incomplete and relational. Xanther’s father Anwar daydreams [in a nested style {of parentheticals}] of someday being able to “standard output” both his thoughts and those of others, only to find that he is unable to directly access even his own mind. By contrast, Luther consciously suppresses “unsavory” thoughts, spitting to avoid speaking the alien, poetic language that almost reaches the tip of his tongue. Özgür admits to an even greater enclosure: eventually he finds himself thinking not of Chandler’s Marlowe, but instead as Marlowe might, framed by the apparatus of his own language.

Nowhere is this apparatus more dramatically foregrounded than in our encounter with the aforementioned Narcons and their commentary throughout the work. It comes to a head in the Narcon interlude, a group of pages without numbers and timestamps in which TF-Narcon9 breaks the fourth wall more dramatically, directly addressing the reader and detailing both the Narcons’ omniscience and the radical limits of their self-knowledge. While subitization theoretically allows the world to be instantly and almost already known, for The Familiar’s characters the unknowable (and the unspeakable) dominates, and the Narcons cannot possibly fill in all the gaps. TF-Narcon9 makes an attempt — calculating the characters’ speaking patterns, movements, and glucose levels, manipulating their respective voices like puppetry — but these attempts are necessarily removed from the incalculable real. Likewise, Xanther’s remove from the rain that sheets across the novel’s pages in text-streams makes it dangerously unknowable, like a “cat-sum,” or the formula 0x∞ — unknowable because rain is the negative, uncountable space of “water with holes in it.” For the Wizard, Cas, peering into the mystic technology of the Orb is always a strange window into the lives of others, “beyond the keep of oneself.” And in the novel’s app-driven social media landscapes such as the “Solosphere” and the “Horrorsphere,” voices and identities echo and speak past one another in a pattern of conversational coherence and chaos.


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The narrative landscape of TFv1 is filled with digital media: in addition to mobile chat apps and online forums, there are phones, email accounts, and voice mailboxes, many overflowing with spam due to an alleged viral marketing campaign run amok. The novel has much to say about social media forms, not least because it is so self-aware of its own partial constitution by and through them. During the campaign that preceded publication, for example, followers of Danielewski’s various social media accounts devoted 27 months to puzzling over biweekly posts at 12:11 PST, first of stars decrypted from black squares with coordinates, then of steganographic messages encoded in the stars. The cumulative result of their decoding was a preview of a preview: the text of a coming attraction in the front matter of TFv1, “Our Common Horrors/Astral Omega.” It is not incidental that such a mode of speculative anticipatory reading is the mode of the serial (will Dorothea ever love again? does Little Nell die?). Similarly, crowdsourced collective readings and interpretations by readers are well under way, enabled by the publisher’s early distribution of advance uncorrected proofs to a wide community of forum members, academics, and students — we reviewers among them.

These digital interactions echo the collaborative aspects of the novel itself, its own production bearing the traces of labor distributed both spatially and across digital platforms. Because even as it insists on its own book form, The Familiar slips from medium to media, just as authorship itself becomes a kind of media in its dissemination across cultural networks, as Matthew Kirschenbaum explains in his recent LARB piece, “What Is an @uthor?” As we remodel our definitions of media, we alter our standards for authorship, and Danielewski clearly has his finger on the pulse of both these changes. In the complex circuits of its production, circulation, and reception, the project of The Familiar, less singular narrative world than discursive universe, helps us to understand that authorship can only ever be the name, signature, or category that coordinates the flows of conversation among a multiplicity of human and nonhuman agents. In other words, “author” is that which takes custody of inscriptions, utterances, gestures and organizes them into a set for which it will serve as the identifying marker. In this sense, at least, MetaNarcons do exist.


In the coming years Danielewski anticipates publishing many more volumes of The Familiar. It is in many ways a deep and vast archive in the making, encompassing millennia of knowledge from Paleolithic tool use to Electronic Arts, from Battlestar Galactica to Jakob von Uexküll, and from the Tang dynasty poet Tu Fu to Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s recent Poet Laureate. The intertextuality readers have come to expect from all contemporary cultural production is in this context less a game than an exercise in custody (another of the keywords for the volume), a responsiveness to our collective archive that also alerts us to our responsibility to learn, preserve, and converse. The navigation of these different regimes of knowledge is facilitated — and not incidentally made more enjoyable, as we reviewers can certainly attest — by the suturing of different modes of expertise that are at once disciplinary, cultural, linguistic, and generational. In this respect, The Familiar is the quintessential series for the era of crowdsourcing, sharing, collective intelligence, and teamwork.

How, then, will the new teleholics-cum-“novelholics” make sense of this new work, this “living book,” as it evolves over the years? What forms of attention will it compel and what practices and communities of reading will it inspire? And if the series remains incomplete, will speculative fan fiction emerge to finish what Danielewski has started, transposing The Familiar into the very media forms it so underscores? Any literary narrative is likely to expand the reader’s world “beyond the keep of oneself,” but the process of rendering The Familiar familiar must of practical necessity be both individual and collective, as looking at a page with multiple writing systems quickly indicates. A story willing to ask readers to make sense of jingjing’s polyglossia remains radical, even in the context of massive forums prepared to dissect each frame of a TV serial such as Game of Thrones. And while it has common ground with other massively serialized fictions and their own cultures of criticism, advocacy, and fandom, response to The Familiar will probably differ from the response to series such as Harry Potter: whereas that hermetically sealed Wizarding World easily lends itself to the pleasures of emulative fanfiction and cosplay, the vast unrealized expanses of The Familiar are a kind of siren call for readers to fill in the gaps. For this endeavor, they will need a full arsenal of sense-making practices, from interpretation to speculation, to make the questions raised by the text “manageable. Or better: answerable.”

In this sense, they (we) may need conversation most of all.


Jeremy Douglass is a researcher on interactive narrative, digital art, and games.

Caterina Lazzara studies English and psychology at UC Santa Barbara.

Rita Raley teaches in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tyler Shoemaker is a graduate student in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

LARB Contributors

Jeremy Douglass is a researcher on interactive narrative, digital art, and games. He teaches in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is a co-author on 10 PRINT (MIT Press, 2012) and Reading Project: A Collaborative Analysis of William Poundstone’s Project for Tachistoscope {Bottomless Pit} (U Iowa Press, 2015).

Caterina Lazzara studies English and psychology at UC Santa Barbara. Her work has appeared in Prick of the Spindle, A Hundred Gourds, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @TrinaLazzara or check out her blog at

Tyler Shoemaker is a graduate student in English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he works on literary theory, theories of media and media history, and the digital humanities.

Rita Raley teaches in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has published on subjects ranging from Global English and universal alphabets to tactical media, dataveillance, machine translation, and electronic literature.


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