IFComp and The Unofficial Sea-Monkey(R) Simulation

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The twenty-third annual Interactive Fiction Competition, IFComp, is now open!  This year, I’ve entered The Unofficial Sea-Monkey(R) SimulationIn some ways, it’s a period piece, akin to some forgotten DOS game from the late ’80s.  The official blurb is:

Sometime during 1987, your father comes home from work–late, as usual. He tosses a small box onto the kitchen counter. “Here,” he says, “you wanted fish. You get these. Let’s see how you do first, and then maybe we’ll get a real tank.”

However, I did toy with a shorter blurb before ultimately deciding it was a bit too cheeky:

A story about growing up, as mitigated by brine shrimp.

There are eighty entries this year–by far the most ever.  There are a lot of great-looking games out there, and I’ve had the pleasure of beta-testing one of them.

Head on over to the main website and peruse the continuing renaissance in interactive fiction.  Anyone can serve as a judge in the competition.  You just need to play and consider five games in earnest before rating them.

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I, for one, welcome our compupoet overlords

Recently, I’ve expanded my exploration of computer-generated art from visual art (see The Art of the Bot) into my home domain of poetry.  This summer, I’ve been working with neural networks to rewrite many of the poems I’ve written over the past twenty years.  So far, I’m fortunate to have some lit mags interested in this kind of experimentation.  I was particularly fortunate to work with Empty State, which published five such poems written this way along with an essay exploring the writing process and whether or not poems (mostly) written by a computer can have meaning.

Eunoia Review published “ritual”, another computer-collaborated poem, and next year Palaver will be publishing another five poems along with an interview.

Kitschy title for this post aside, it’s been a very strange way to consider poetry.  Even though I’ve really enjoyed the creation of the poems, I still don’t know how I feel about the project–if it’s artistically innovative or barren.  But working with a computer, so far, has been a fascinating exercise in liberation from the tyranny of grammar, mechanics, and sometimes even sense.

 

ArtyBots

In my spare time, I’ve been building Twitter bots that create art.  It’s been a fun and interesting project, and I’ve created a separate, detailed post about them that muses on the intersection of art and computers.  Check out the art I couldn’t make, but my programs could!

Roundup: Goodwill and dimes and air mattresses and more

I’m happy to share a few pieces that have appeared online in the last few months.

r.kv.r.y is a great journal whose sole theme is recovery–broadly construed, in a host of contexts.  Naturally, it seemed like the perfect place for some of the cancer sonnets I’ve been writing.  They published a brief moment of our family going to Goodwill.  Then, I was grateful to be interviewed for r.kv.r.y by Sarah Sadie about the experience of writing an accumulation of sonnets which all circle around the same cancerous subject.  At one point I use the phrase “inchoate vitriol,” which seemed apt for certain days of treatment, especially in the beginning.

Speaking of sonnets about cancer, The Maynard published two of them, along with recordings of me reading them mellifluously.  Both are about seemingly small things:  how I slept on an air mattress immediately following my wife’s first surgery, and about the calendar she used to compartmentalize the number of days remaining of radiation.

And finally, I continue to explore and publish surreal little works of flash fiction.  I’m grateful to have two new pieces up at The Cossack Review: one about a widow who leaves behind an inheritance of seven million dollars entirely in dimes, the other about someone who claims to be an agent who represents the stars–actual stars that are giant balls of fiery gas, not non-combustible Hollywood ones.

 

Playing music, finding light

In a case of life imitating art imitating life imitating art imitating life (or something like that), Fox Adoption has published the virtually true story (in sonnet form) of “the band that i’m in.”  I am indeed in a band (I play banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, accordion, and whatever else they tell me to play), and we indeed have a song about William Henry Harrison.  In fact, you can listen to a live version of the song right here!  We’ll throw in a kazoo solo for free.

Also, Roanoke Review was kind to interview me on the basis of one sonnet I wrote about Legos (and, to be fair, growing up and cancer and my son and healing and stuff).  I say, “I get tired very quickly of poetry that’s all broken. I want poetry about being whole,” and I think that accurately reflects my feelings about a lot of poetry today.