8 April 1999

Newspoets win international hypertext novel contest, go to Brown

Scott Rettberg calls William Gillespie to tell him the good news

AP (Associated Poets) London - The ridiculous hypertext novel the Unknown is one of the first place winners of the Trace/Alt-X hypertext novel competition. The competition was judged by Robert Coover, who is also a character in the Unknown, which makes him admittedly uncomfortable. 

Quoth Coover: "The Unknown" perhaps most exemplifies the original intentions of the award, being entirely text-based with no special effects or multimedia enhancements, a "traditional" (if ten years or so of activity can constitute a tradition) hyperfiction, genuinely multisequential and massively rich in story material, following the imagined adventures of three supposedly rich and famous collaborative writers on a mock book tour all over the world. The author or authors (I don't know who "William," "Scott," and "Dirk" are) is/are a bit overly conversant with the literary vanguard for my own comfort as the judge of this competition (I am myself for a brief window or two a character in the story, and there is even a visit to Brown University), but in the end I felt the piece was so much more substantial than most of the other entries (and funnier, too, one might add) that it did not deserve to be punished for that reason.

One of its more impressive achievements is to locate a frame (the endless tour) that allows for a great range of wildly variant stories without need of a linear chronology, always naggingly troublesome to a hyperfiction.

Newspoetry editor William Gillespie, Chicago correspondent Scott Rettberg, and Cincinnati correspondent Dirk Stratton, have all been invited to Technology Platforms for 21st Century Literature, a conference at Brown university, a prestigious ivy-league school that probably would never admit any of the authors of the Unknown into their program. The conference will feature, as its very first event, a live reading of a fictional scene in the Unknown in which the Unknown are invited to Brown to give a reading. After that, Scott and William will score a little of the old B.U.C. and visit various picturesque locations in Vermont and New Hampshire, take photos, romance and romanticize the open road, and fictionalize some of Scott's old friends. Then, on to the tolerable Albany New York, for the award ceremony at the Associated Watercolor Painters annual conference, where William hopes to buy books, get a publisher to look at the forthcoming print Newspoetry 1999 compendium (forthcoming Spineless Books/Unknown December 1999 - all you Newspoets can look forward to a copy in your X-Mas stocking).

Then, back through Cincinatti to the American center of art and culture, Urbana, Illinois, for an open recording session party at the Studio 109 studios with engineer, songwriter, and all-around really nice guy, Paul Kotheimer, and hopefully other newspoets as well.

Finally, the Unknown will be paid a modest honorarium to return to their alma mater - Illinois State University - and give a reading using (and this has been their dream) one of those overhead projector computer monitor thingies. Curt White will be in attendance, along with numerous other mentors, perhaps, if he's not too pissed off.

And then they will get in a fight and break up, and Dirk will cut a solo album (Dirk Stratton: The Unknown Unplugged) while William moves to L.A. and starts a macrobiotic diet, and Scott erases both of their names from the hypertext and approaches Terry Gilliam with his idea for the Unknown screenplay.

So, all you Newspoets, we might start getting some strangers looking at our poems. There's a link to this site from the Brown conference page. But, with no hit counter, no way of finding this page via search engines, a convoluted URL, and a generally primitive site look and structure, I am confident that we will be able to retain the aura of intimacy and obscurity that is so comforting in a medium like the internet.

(Once William realized that everything he wrote in the Unknown was going to come true, he quickly wrote a scene where Dirk and Scott ended the war in Kosovo, which he is afraid the Unknown might have caused.)

Newspoetry at Spineless Books