My work centers on playful ways in which machines can augment human creativity, whether by generating unreadable books, composing “poetry”, synthesizing photography, or providing new ways to tell stories. I’m an amateur researcher of 19th century utopian novels and have a lifelong interest in interactive fiction.
Procedural art & code
Seraphs: A mysterious codex (2014)
A computer-generated book based on the Voynich Manuscript.
Displayed at MIT Libraries as part of Author Function, a 2018 exhibit on computer-generated books. Featured in The Pacific Standard.
A letter groove (2022)
Produces cut-up images in the style of artists’ books out of rare and interesting manuscripts.
A physical book: Undigitization
Makes a digitized book “physical” by rendering it in a simulated space where properties like gravity, friction, and velocity are applied. Live demo Read more
The days left forebodings and water: Generated blackout poetry (2016)
Creates artwork in the style of Newspaper Blackout Poetry using natural language processing and optical character recognition. Featured on Waxy.org in 2016.
Random chance: Computer-imagined surrealist montages (2015)
Generated compositions that resemble photomontages in the style of early surrealists.
Color problems (2020)
A generator based on the works of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel (1842-1939), who hoped her original color analyses would inspire others to study “whatever originals may be at hand in books, shops, private houses, or museums.” A collaboration between myself and Mel Dollison to allow anyone to be inspired by her abstract, modernist style employed in the context of everyday objects and photos.
Saga III: Recreating the first computer-written teleplay (2015)
A reimagining of a 1961 computer program that generated the screenplay to a Western, filmed by CBS television. Source code and history of the project. Invited contribution to the Workshop on the History of Expressive Systems.
No solitude in the caves of spring (2017)
An alliterative poem by a neural net:
Ants and all ages are all about—active as buds are bound by black, bubbles burn by maple blackbird body, but burst before birds before building branches back. […]
A pickler for the nowing ones (2021)
A translator and generator to produce text in the style of A Pickle for the Knowing Ones (1802) by noted eccentric Timothy Dexter (1747-1806). The final output is an entry in National Novel Generation Month 2021.
I publish hypertext interactive fiction using my open source framework Windrift, which allows for rich user interfaces and experimentation. There are many example stories in the manual and in the Windrift Playground.
An interactive mystery, playable in a web browser, about utopian ideals and bookish delights.
Harmonia is one of those rare pieces of interactive fiction where the author has woven a unified experience out of crosshatched decisions in writing and systems design, with the weft amplifying and supporting the warp.
– Bennett Foddy, designer of QWOP
Best Use of Innovation and Best Use of Multimedia, 2017 XYZZY Awards. Finalist for Best Story and Best Implementation. Third place, 2017 Interactive Fiction Competition.
Stone harbor (2016)
An interactive detective story, playable in a web browser. Interview about the development of the piece with Emily Short. Source code. Portuguese translation by José Carlos Dias.
Fourth place, 2016 Interactive Fiction Competition, and finalist for three 2016 XYZZY Awards including Best Writing.
The Ballroom (2019)
Modifying something that seems trivial can overturn the whole chain of events, adding entire stretches of paragraph to the page and radically changing the existing ones. — Interactive Licktion review
A short “mutable story” in which a complete narrative is always present but can be manipulated by the player in sometimes surprising ways.
Best in the Back Garden audience ribbon, Spring Thing 2019 festival
First Draft of the Revolution (2012)
A marvel—an exploration of the space between the mind and the page the likes of which I’ve never experienced. — Kotaku
An interactive epistolary story I commissioned from Emily Short. I worked on the design and implementation with inkle (80 Days, Heaven’s Vault)
Best Use of Innovation, 2013 XYZZY Awards.
Research on utopian novels & early sci-fi
A survey of early utopian and dystopian works by woman, from the period between 1850 and the early 20th century.
An original biography of an obscure author of this period. Anna Adolph, her novel Arqtiq, and a uniquely American personal history.
Unveiling a Parallel (1893)
An exuberantly feminist and sex-positive utopian novel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Robinson Merchant, one an experienced author, the other a business leader and independent spirit.
A triumph of the hollow earth genre, Etidorhpa by John Uri Lloyd takes the reader on a hallucinogenic journey with instantly memorable illustrations.
Journeys to the Planet Mars (1903)
A winking hoax or an elaborate act of self-deception? Journeys to the Planet Mars is a deeply-felt book by spiritualist Sara Weiss, who wrote and illustrated it under the direction of “spirit guides” at the end of her long life.
The Ostrich for the Defence (1912)
The Ostrich for the Defence was William Hile’s novel-length advertisement for a doomed venture to achieve world peace through ostrich farming.
Freeland: A Social Anticipation (1889)
After Austrian economist Theodor Hertzka published the immensely popular Freeland he took a disastrous next step: attempting to realize his utopian plan in an inhabited region of Kenya with a hapless mob of dissolute European criminals. The reckless affair would end in shame, despair, and violence.
Loma: A Citizen of Venus (1897)
A clairvoyant being from Venus saves the young mother of the messiah and preaches values of free love and eugenics. “Doctor” William Windsor wrote Loma to capitalize on the utopian novel trend and use it to sell phrenology, quack science, and curiously modern gender politics.
Young West: A Sequel to Looking Backward (1894 )
Solomon Schindler, a radical Reform rabbi in Boston, authored this surprisingly good sequel to Edward Bellamy’s classic utopian novel as a uniquely colorful series of editions.
Essays & tutorials
Ethical collaborative storytelling (2022)
Conscious decoupling: lumping and splitting (2022)
Natural language processing for programmers (2017)
Machine learning basics for everyone (2017)
Safety imperatives in AI and generative art (2017)
Early videogame art (2016)
Great engineering culture (2015)
The job that games do (2013)
What we can do with “books” (2012)
What makes for successful digital-first literature: it must be immersive, non-trivial, and participatory.
Interactivity in EPUB 3 (2013)
Independent client work
Manicule (2018, 2022)
Manicule, developed under the direction of Whitney Trettien as part of Digital Book History, is an open source React webapp for exploring the physical structure of rare manuscripts. Scholars can provide page-by-page annotation both of the content, binding, and layout of notable volumes. Live demo
The prototype for CC Search indexed a corpus of over 10 million publicly licensed images from museums, libraries, and individuals, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Europeana, and the New York Public Library. Coverage: Newsweek and TechCrunch. Technical notes
Label This! (2016)
Label This!, for University of California, Davis, helped users explore and describe the library’s remarkable collection of historic wine labels.
On the Emily N. Vanderbot project in the New York Times (Oct, 2018)
Press release announcing membership on the Board of Directors of the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (Aug, 2018)
Interview for Atlas Obscura along with other Interactive Fiction Competition winners and organizers (Nov, 2017)
Podcast interview with Harvard Business Publishing on artificial intelligence and machine learning for publishers (Oct, 2017)
Photoessay and interview in Topic about mentorship relationships among women (Aug, 2017)
Podcast interview for Moonshot on AI and machine learning (July, 2017)
Interview about the relationship between interactive fiction and AI, featuring Emily Short, Lynnea Glasser, and Bruno Dias (Nov, 2016)
Ebooks in the cloud (Wired, 2011)