Re: Books for course on electronic texts

Tom Maddox (tmaddox@WELL.COM)
Sat, 12 Oct 1996 14:44:25 -0700

>Stone is interesting
>because she lives the pomo, being a transexual. Her use of language isn't
>exactly typical pomo theorizing. In the book, there are some long
>stretches of narrative interrupted by heavy theorizing and some really
>playful writing too.

Eek, that sounds just like the kind of pomo theorizing I don't want to
inflict on undergraduates--or on graduate students for that matter. The
"playful" quality of most academic writing comes across to me as incredibly
labored, like Al Gore getting down. (I'm not specifically accusing Rosie
Stone of this, by the way; merely responding to your recommendation.)

The pomo theory stuff I often find ugly, pretentious, and deluded, to tell
the truth. Words such as problematize, hegemony, aporia; goofball
constructions on the order of con/pre/de/teXtualization re/con/inversion
(cha cha cha); labored puns; brain-boggling syntax; ritual invocation of
sacred names; generally, a sense that one is being addressed by a Master of
Major Arcana--oh well, I do go on, and I'm being cheerfully unfair, but the
hell with it; I began struggling with with this stuff in the late '70s, and
I feel I've earned a little attitude.

>>Maybe I should include some of this stuff, though I think Postman's silly
>>and Birkerts is teary. Tuman I haven't looked at.
>Well, I agree. They both have this nostalgia for good old days of book
>learning (Tuman does too, perhaps to lesser degree). I guess it boils down
>to whether or not (and how) you want to deal with the debate.

I don't. I'm much more interested in having an analytical/phenomenological
look at the effects of electrotext on reading and writing, as to which, see

>>>Say, you aren't the Maddox who wrote that famed cyberpunk story, are you?
>>If that's "Snake Eyes," yes I am.
>Yup, that's the one. Actually taught that one in a computers and writing
>course at UT. The students did a lot of head-scratching over that one. I
>liked it, they were ambivalent.

Glad to have been the proximate cause of student head-scratching. Well,
whatever its merits, that one's had legs. Been anthologized here, there,
and everywhere. I'm indebted to Bruce for picking it. By the way, I'm in
the process of putting my published short stories online and restructuring,
i.e., HTMLizing, Halo, my novel from Tor, and my columns for Locus
magazine, both of which are currently available from the WELL Gopher.

>Tom, after reading your reply, I realize that I am not all that sure of
>what you *do* have in mind. Whatever it is, it sounds like a blast.

Well, I'm only beginning to clarify it for myself. Imagine Wittgenstein
and McLuhan using a word processor, also web surfing and using Storyspace,
&c., and talking it over as they do. This is not a matter of embracing any
particular methodology or set of assumptions, let me quickly add, more a
matter of attitude.

So I'm interested in involving the students and myself in an attempt to
understand the primitives, if you will, of word processing, hypertext, and
so forth from the point of view of both reader and writer. Much theory,
even when I find myself in considerable agreement with it, seems to me to
leap over these basic understandings, to theory's loss. I mean, I've never
talked to anyone who seemed to me to understand what word processing really
does to writing, never mind how we read and understand spreadsheets and

And I don't have any particular conclusions in my pocket. I want to
explore the writing and reading spaces of electrotext as they are
experienced by human beings in the act of working with them.

Thanks for your interest.