Pub Ex Machina: The Revolution Will Be Digitized
Sullam employed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the thematic variations and avoid repetition. Beyond the granular details, there are bigger issues at play. For instance, is it the same book now?
“At what point are we moving away from the novel entirely and moving into a new art form?” asks Danielewski. “Expectations need to be put aside and managed differently. … We didn’t want to get too ahead of the text itself so that it became an animated movie of sorts. That’s where we spent the most time [on the project], determining what not to do. At what point are we moving too many letters around? At what point is there too much sound? At what point are we interfering too much with the whole experience?”
It’s a question Danielewski will grapple with as he and Sullam convert the more intricate House of Leaves and Only Revolutions into digital formats. (The two started with House of Leaves but “that was so immense and complicated that we backed down” and tested the waters with the much shorter Sword.)
How best to navigate this new intersection of media while remaining true to the original works, which are hybrids of text and design themselves?
“I’m concerned with image as well as text,” explains Danielewski, who’s quite aware of the cognitive minefield through which he’s tip-toeing. “There’s something that language does—it tickles certain parts of our mind. It registers in a way that image doesn’t. … There’s also something about image that’s tremendously powerful and highly mnemonic. … My vocation has always encountered this bifurcation between image and text. And maybe there’s a third part with music. What my books do, I’m coming around to, is explore that world between them. It’s not one or the other. It’s actually that liminal place on the threshold of image, on the threshold of language, that maybe conjures, tickles, enacts something that’s a little new.”
When you put it that way, it’s almost a comfort to know that Danielewski’s the one on that front line where ebooks and multimedia meet—testing the limits, fully aware of the implications.