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The Interview with Judy Malloy about Uncle Roger

This interview of Judy Malloy, conducted by Grigar and Moulthrop, took place in the afternoon of Friday, September 6, 2013 at Malloy's office at Princeton University and followed after Malloy's traversal. It is divided into 13 video clips that capture much of Malloy's thoughts regarding the development of Uncle Roger and other works, such as its name was Penelope. A sound file that condenses the 100+ minutes of taped interviews can be found on this page. Grigar wrote the commentary, giving care in providing a summary of each video clip. Readers are encouraged to watch the videos and gain a good appreciation for Malloy's depth of knowledge about programming, art, early digital culture, and other topics.
Malloy Interview, Part 1, "Humble Beginnings"
This video clip focuses on the origins of Uncle Roger, beginning with Malloy's professional connections with those involved in art and technology in the mid to late 1980s, as well as early projects like the card catalog (1981) and "Bad Information," leading to the development of Uncle Roger. We learn that she began writing the 75 lexias that constitutes Version 3 in August 1986 and published (at ACEN housed on the WELL) the first lexia on December 1, 1986. Thereafter, she released 1-2 lexias each day. Of note, the audience participating online commented on and responded to her work as it was being delivered. Because of the way the work was distributed and allowed for audience participation, Uncle Roger may be considered one of the first social media works of literature.

Malloy Interview, Part 2, "The Chip Industry and Uncle Roger

In this video clip Malloy discusses the background of Uncle Roger, a work she calls "a cross between a Renaissance jig and Jane Austin," with Uncle Roger functioning as a "Falstaffian" character in the story. The story's first two parts are set in the male-dominated 1980s computer chip industry in the Silicon Valley where piracy was common; the final part, "Terminals," shifts to the female-dominated word processing industry in the Bay Area. The tech-savvy audience reading the work at ACEN, many of whom were involved in these industries, would have been familiar with the zeitgeist, plots, characters and places found in the work.
Malloy Interview, Part 3, "Structural Differences"
Malloy talks about the structure of Uncle Roger, including the differences between the versions produced for the Apple IIe and the IBM PC, and reveals the way she created an "ending" for the work. She also points out that "A Party in Woodside" and "The Blue Notebook" were both created as database narratives and "Terminals," as random access (meaning, the reader would not be able to control the lexia that would be evoked). The video ends with Malloy recounting the structure of the story: "A Party in Woodside," action taking place at a party; "The Blue Notebook," recollections involving five storylines (what she refers to as "paths;" "Terminals," a wide range of memories, some coming from the first two parts of the story. In all, Jenny's voice is the dominant one, a rarity in fiction of this nature.
Malloy Interview, Part 4, "Avant Garde Qualities"
In this video clip we learn about Malloy's background and the various genres of literature that she pioneered. Malloy came from a background of producing artists books and doing performance art, particularly cabaret in the tradition of the "jig." Because of this experience, she views drama as the model on which Uncle Roger is built and calls the work "satire." The work is one of the first to experiment with the: 1) serial publication, 2) database novel, 3) generative text, and 4) participatory work. She mentions that she was influenced by John Cage's work of generative poetry published by ACEN.
Malloy Interview, Part 5, "Challenges and Thrills for Readers"
This video clip focuses on the way early digital literature, like Malloy's, challenges the reader, where the reader is expected to put together the story in a way different from print literature. Malloy, who began her career as writer of artists books, book installations, and performance art, clarifies that she came to write Uncle Roger as narrative poetry––that is, the 50-character limitation served as a constraint that forced Malloy to think like a poet in developing the work.
Malloy Interview, Part 6, "Art Community and Feminism"
Malloy discusses the community with which she associated ––that is, Art Com Electronic Network––and the differences between it and the one that arose out of Eastgate Systems. She relates how she came to move from ACEN to be published by Eastgate. The conversation shifts to a discussion of the feminism inherent in Malloy's work and her connection with cyberfeminism generating out of the beginning of 3rd Wave Feminism.
Malloy Interview, Part 7, "A Retrospective"
In this video clip Malloy reflects upon the qualities of programming behind the net and boxed versions of Uncle Roger that are missing from the web version, specifically focusing on the Boolean logic making it possible to combine keywords on the command line. She tells us that this aspect of Uncle Roger provides a richness and complexity to the work. She also reveals that her early background in computing began in 1969 when she programmed a technical library for a company associated with NASA.
Malloy Interview, Part 8, "Creating Art with Digital Technology"
Malloy discusses the technological and artistic influences upon her work. We learn that she was not inspired in the beginning to use computers because the one she used, in 1969, was an IBM 1160, which had no screen. In her discussion about artistic influences she talks about the work of Lew Thomas and Sonya Rapoport. Malloy claims that her own work is 1/2 visual art and 1/2 writing.
Malloy Interview, Part 9, "Uncle Roger's Innovation and Audience"
Malloy names three innovations that emerge from her work: 1) envisioning "lexias" as building blocks for narrative, 2) developing textual links, and 3) publishing her work in a social space with a "vision of audience." She returns to a discussion about the "flatness" of the web version of Uncle Roger, suggesting that this characteristic may be the reason why the work does not get attention, despite its availability.
Malloy Interview, Part 10, "Interactions and Readings"
This video clip moves into a discussion about audience feedback and the isolation artists and writers may feel. Malloy cites an example of her watching an audience interact with its name was Penelope at a gallery show and, then, making changes to the work based on that feedback.
Malloy Interview, Part 11, "The Nature of Critique"
The conversation about audience feedback continues and includes Malloy's views on the difference between audience feedback and critique. Malloy talks about the lack of competition between artists in the early days of days of digital literature, a situation that she believes has changed over time. She mentions the importance of Mark Marino's work with critical code studies for opening up code as a platform for literary critique.
Malloy Interview, Part 12, "Poetic Narrative and the Future of Writing"
In this video clip Malloy talks about how she views herself as an artist. She begins by calling herself an "electronic writer" and "a poet who works with narrative." She goes on to detail a database product she produced with BASIC, a program she began using in 1990, and talks about the potential of "electronic writers," and "makers of electronic literature." She emphasizes the importance of the "buzz" stemming from exhibits, courses, and other activities for building interest.
Malloy Interview, Part 13, "Limitless Potential"
The interview concludes with a discussion about the limitless potential of electronic literature. Malloy points out that she sees this potential because of the abundance of tools and the vision of individual artists. She talks about current work, one that has her "scoring" text based on musical notation. 

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