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.

Liza Daly

Procedural art & code

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.

Interactive fiction

The Windrift logo

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.

Harmonia

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.

Read more

Image like a 19th century postcard of a large house, with a tear at the bottom. The word Harmonia is in handwriting.

Stone Harbor

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.

Read the story

The title Stone Harbor over a picture of a beach in shadow

The Ballroom

A two-tone image of a chandelier with the words The Ballroom Liza Daly

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.

Read the story

Best in the Back Garden audience ribbon, Spring Thing 2019 festival

First Draft of the Revolution

A piece of parchment and some glowing text that says Rewrite This

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)

Read the story

Emily Short‘s design notes

Best Use of Innovation, 2013 XYZZY Awards.

Research on utopian novels & early sci-fi

Her stories

Old French Fairy Tales, illustrated by Virginia Francis Sterrett

A survey of early utopian and dystopian works by woman, from the period between 1850 and the early 20th century.

Arqtiq (1899)

“‘Resolute’ Under Sail For the Last Time”

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)

“Cover of Unveiling a Parallel”

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.

Etidorhpa (1895)

Black and white detail of an eyeless figure and a 19th century man in a cave

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)

Yellow and red book cover for Journeys to the Planet Mars

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)

Red and white book cover showing an ostrich

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)

Green book cover with the words Freeland and a decorative illustration of a tree

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)

Red book cover with an image of a being floating over the earth

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.

Essays & tutorials

Printout from an old computer, words say COMPUTER and SYNTAX CHECKER

Natural Language Processing for Programmers

A series on learning to manipulate text with computers, in five parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Generating text with context-free grammars
  3. Classifying naughty stories
  4. Developing world models

What we can do with “books”

What makes for successful digital-first literature: it must be immersive, non-trivial, and participatory.

Screenshot of a page from the book

Interactivity in EPUB 3

Covering embedding JavaScript and other forms of interactivity into EPUB 3 publications.

O’Reilly Book cover, text reads “EPUB 3 Best Practices” and a drawing of a goat

Rich design publications with EPUB 3

A tutorial for IBM Developerworks on using CSS3 media query, HTML5 navigation, and MathML in EPUB 3 publications.

A poem and an illustration, text reads “The Swans”

Digital monograph technical landscape

A report prepared for the UK academic funding organization JISC on digital publishing, ebooks, and scholarly communication.

Example of some math with equations

Independent client work

University of Pennsylvania:
Manicule (2018, 2022)

A computer interface showing an old manuscript

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

Creative Commons:
CC Search (2017)

Two paintings of a woman on a beach and a group of children

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

University of California, Davis:
Label This! (2016)

Two orange vintage wine labels, words read Muscat and Apertivo

Label This!, for University of California, Davis, helped users explore and describe the library’s remarkable collection of historic wine labels.

Media